Unholy Trinity: Nightshades by Deborah Tapper
Our church worships at the altar of the Unholy Trinity. Its gospels are delivered as a trio of dark drabbles, linked so that Three become One. All hail the power of the Three.
My big sister said if you tell lies, the bogeyman gets you.
He knows. And he’ll creep through the window in the middle of the night, cut your tongue out with an enormous pair of scissors and put it in his pocket.
But that’s not how it happened.
It was a bogeywoman, and she slid through a crack in the wall. She didn’t cut my big sister’s tongue out at all – she chewed it off with her long, sharp teeth. And she didn’t put it in her pocket, either: she swallowed it.
That’s the truth.
Because I don’t tell lies.
Someone’s shaking him.
He jolts awake. Three hulking men surround his bed. ‘You owe her,’ one says.
‘Owe?’ He sits up. He doesn’t owe anyone anything.
‘Three. Plus interest.’
‘You got the wrong guy.’
‘Two molars and an incisor.’
‘Teeth…?’ he says. ‘You’re the Tooth Fairy?’
‘I collect for her. Three plus twenty years’ interest – that’s fifty.’
‘This is crazy!’ He’s angry now. And scared. ‘I don’t have fifty teeth!’
‘That’s okay. She accepts other things.’
They pin him down. Open a case. He sees pliers, saws, scalpels. The man chooses shears. Grins, blades ready. ‘We call it parts payment.’
She’s under the bed again. He’s never seen her, but she whispers to him. He jams his fingers in his ears. Won’t listen.
His parents try therapy. Move house several times. It’s no good: she always finds him. He’s sixteen now, sleeping in yet another new room. He’s in bed when he feels her sliding in beside him. Bony hand on his chest. Her voice, whispering.
This time he listens.
The house is empty for months after he vanishes. Then another family moves in. Their son won’t sleep in that room. He hears things under the bed.
Deborah Tapper is fascinated by folklore and the supernatural, drinks too much strong coffee and watches too many old TV shows. She lives in the middle of nowhere with her understanding partner and writes at an old desk surrounded by five hundred pet bugs. If she’s not writing or thinking about writing, she’s probably either asleep or dead.
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Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative prose and poetry and has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her longer work includes the folk horror novels, The Five Turns of the Wheel, Reborn, and The Woodcutter, and the novellas, Bottled and Paused (all via Brigids Gate Press). Her dark poetry has been published in her collections Lilith Rising (co-authored with Shane Douglas Keene), Foundlings (co-authored with Cindy O’Quinn) and Metallurgy, as well as the HWA Poetry Showcase Volumes VI, VII, VIII, and IX and Black Spot Books Under Her Skin. She can be found supporting indie authors at HorrorTree.com via the weekly Indie Bookshelf Releases. She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org and on Blue Sky as stephellis.bsky.social.