Old tanya gillock (a sho.., p.1
Old Tanya Gillock
A Short Story
By C.M. Blackwood
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2017 C.M. Blackwood.
A title of LION & LAMB Publications.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.
It was very late in the evening. Old Tanya Gillock was sitting in her rocking chair by the parlor window, looking out into the treacherous darkness, watching the way the thick, sticking snow whirled in dizzying circles through the yard.
Tanya was seventy years old. Her hair was blanched white from ordinary suffering, but her skin was hardly wrinkled. Her limbs were still fairly supple, and her eyes were still admirably bright. She wore her hair in a tight bun behind her head, because it gave her a feeling of control over the wild storm without. Her hair was even pulling a bit, but she refused to let it down. She could have twisted it into a braid; she could have put it up in a clip.
She could have even worn it loose around her shoulders, no doubt the most comfortable option at this time of night. But then, that would have made her feel too vulnerable. There’s a strange hot feeling that comes all round your face, when you wear your hair down at any time except bedtime.
No – she preferred the bun. She preferred the slight pain it gave her, reminding her that something else existed, apart from the wild storm that was raging outside the window.
Some people might have called old Tanya Gillock beautiful. She was the only Tanya in Westborough County. There were many Marys, and many Alices, but she was an outlaw. She had Tanya Tucker’s name. She was a sparrow in a hurricane.
Only a short while earlier, freezing rain had clattered down from the sky, pelting the roof of the old farmhouse, hammering the tired body of the ancient Volkswagen out in the drive.
What an awful noise it had made! It was what Milton’s Pandemonium must have sounded like. Old Tanya imagined Satan presiding at the Infernal Council, and she shivered as with an invisible wind.
She heard Chopin’s “Funeral March” floating on the same wind. It was being played with crystal clarity. She knew that her ears weren’t really hearing it – but the sound wasn’t lost to her mind.
When she was a child, people had said that she was over-imaginative. She saw princesses where there were none. She feared sorcerers where there weren’t any.
And then she went back to pitching hay with Daddy.
She thought on the past for a few moments: of Mama’s warm gravy on the Christmas goose; of Daddy’s tender hands tucking her into bed at night, even when he was so tired after a day of farming. He’d left the farm to Tanya, because all his other children were dead. Only two more: one dead from an accident with a thresher, and one gone to Jesus from too much drink. He drank and he drank, always thinking that it would bring him peace.
But it brought him to Jesus, in the end – and that was the same thing as peace.
Tanya kept her eyes glued to the window. It was a bad night for traveling, but Betty had insisted on going out to fetch the order from Murray’s. If she hadn’t, she and Tanya wouldn’t have been able to start on their work the next morning.
Tanya had the farm, but shortly after she inherited it, the soil turned barren, and there was no life left to wring from it. She’d cried on Betty’s shoulder, countless times, wondering whether they would both die.
“I’m no farmer,” she cried, as Betty held her in her arms. “I’ve let my father down. Do you think God is punishing me for being weak? Do you think He hates me, Betty?”
“Of course He doesn’t,” Betty answered firmly. “God loves everyone the same. If this has happened, it’s only because it was His will. It’s only because He has other things in store for you.”
Now, Tanya sat at the window, the nerves in her back pinched with anxiety, her arthritic hands aching after another day of toil. The life of a tailor wasn’t an easy one. Mama didn’t sew those blue jeans in ten minutes.
She wished Betty would come back. She was starting to worry.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. The old woman’s head snapped up, and she looked towards the doorway of the parlor.
Who could be calling at this time of night?
She struggled up from her chair, putting a hand to the crick in her back, and shuffling towards the doorway. She went out into the narrow entryway, and turned to the right, where the wide front door stood. There were two frosty panes of glass at the top of it.
She thought she could decipher the outlines of a man’s face. A young-looking man. A handsome man.
She shuffled towards the door, and paused just in front of it, leaning her head forward. “Who is it?” she called.
“You don’t know me,” a man’s voice answered politely. “But I’d like to speak with you.”
The old woman was confused.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t open the door to strangers.”
“But I’m not a stranger,” the voice returned. “You know my name. Or at least – I’m sure you know some of my names.”
A horrible chill passed all up and down the old woman’s body.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
“You may call me Damien,” the voice replied. “Many people associate me with that name. It’s strange, though – because the only evil people with that name are fictional. Do you remember Father Damien of the lepers? He gave his life for those damned people. And have you heard of the saints, Damian and Cosmas? They were brothers and physicians. They accepted no payment for their services, and some people saw them as heroes. But the Roman emperor Diocletian ordered them to recant their Christian faith. They refused; and they were crucified, stoned, shot through with arrows, and finally beheaded.”
The man blew a breath through his lips, and whistled impressively. “Whew!” he said. “What do you think of that? It’s strange that they should call me Damien. Or, at least – strange that they should give that name to my accomplice.”
Old Tanya held her breath. She thought she was hallucinating.
She had been known, these past few years, to take far too much whiskey after supper. No doubt that was the cause of all this.
She wished Betty were here. Betty would set it right.
“Miss Gillock?” the man’s voice inquired. “Are you still there?”
Tanya wanted to slip away from the door, and hobble up the stairs to her bed. Surely the man would go away. Surely he wouldn’t force his way in.
“Miss Gillock?” he repeated.
“I’m here,” she whispered.
She knew that he wouldn’t go away. If she went upstairs, he would come to her window, and go on talking.
“Ah, yes,” he said, almost compassionately. “You are debating the wisdom of speaking with me. I can understand your skepticism, but I feel I should let you know – there are very few people who have managed to slip away from me, when I did not wish it.”
Tanya swallowed thickly. “What do you want?” she demanded in a quavering voice.
“Ah!” the man replied. “It seems you’re not as bold as I thought you were. It often happens that way. To put it simply, Miss Gillock – what I want is your God-given soul.”
Tanya swallowed again, and asked, “Why would you admit it?
“Because people are stupid,” the man replied. “And besides – you haven’t let me finish. You haven’t let me tell you what you’ll get in return.”
“I don’t care,” Tanya breathed.
There would have been no conceivable way for any human being to perceive these quiet words, through the thick wood of the front door. But this man heard them well enough.
“You say that now,” he wheedled slowly. “But you haven’t let me explain all the best parts.”
“I don’t want to hear,” Tanya said.
“Well,” the man said, “the fact is that I have no pressing engagements at the moment. It’s hard to believe, isn’t it? But anyway – let’s get started.”
Tanya held her breath. She had no idea what was going to happen. Probably nothing – but what if something did happen?
“Go into the parlor,” the man said. “See what I’ve brought you.”
Tanya didn’t want to go. She wished she could have made some sort of wish – rubbed some sort of magic lamp – and made the man go away.
But she supposed that wasn’t the way of things.
So she took a deep breath, and passed back down the entryway corridor. She turned left into the parlor, and looked around in the lamplight.
It didn’t take her long to notice the sparkling piano in the corner of the room. She sucked in her breath, and walked towards it slowly.
She hadn’t seen a piano since she was twelve years old. She had spent her entire childhood with that old black piano – and then her father had sold it. Sold it because he drank too much that harvest, and hadn’t
Old Tanya Gillock (A Short Story) by C.M. Blackwood / Horror have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on15 votes