This story had me at hello. I love the way Lisa draws you into the world from the first few lines. Lisa’s voice and style are right up my alley and perfect for our magazine. Without further ado…
The Sneeze by Lisa Wilton
Gertrude Billingsworth had always been sickly but her allergies were the real bother in her life. She couldn’t count on two hands the number of things that irritated her skin, her eyes, her nasal passages. Her insides were a delicate environment, reacting to the smallest speck of intrusion that infiltrated her system. Despite this, she had reached the ripe age of 84 and she maintained that she would only be dragged out of her existence kicking and screaming.
Her diet was extremely restrictive and she had given up going out to eat in restaurants years before. Instead, her butler Georgio prepared her daily meals with great care not to include anything from the extensive list of trigger foods.
Georgio had been with Mrs Billingsworth for five years now. Her previous butler, Mylo, had died after a lengthy service and she still missed him to this day but Georgio was finally beginning to catch on to the way she liked things done. She had almost fired him in the first month for making a culinary mistake that had her in bed for three days with a ghastly intestinal reaction but it was so hard to find a good butler these days so she had given him a second chance.
It was a bright sunny day and Mrs Billingsworth was gazing out of the french doors onto the garden with her binoculars, eyeing up the colourful blooms. She did love her country garden but had to have the flowers positioned far enough away from the windows so as not to be bothered by the pollen. She turned the knob on the remote control for the air purifier just in case. All the windows were closed but you could never be too careful.
She maneuvered her electronic wheelchair away from the window with a sigh and headed towards the library. Time for a little light reading before afternoon tea, she thought.
The grandfather clock ticked dutifully in the background as she leafed through her book clearing her throat every now and again. She hoped she wasn’t beginning to get a cold. Blasted summer colds were the worst.
Just as the clock struck three, the door opened and in came Georgio, jangling the tea pot and china he was wheeling through on the silver trolley. She frowned as she noticed beads of sweat across his forehead. It wasn’t that hot, she thought.
“Good afternoon Mrs Billingsworth.”
“Yes, yes,” she replied. “It would be better if it wasn’t quite so sunny outside. Too much bright light coming through the windows.”
Georgio took a long breath in through his nose and shifted his neck slightly in his stiff collar.
“Yes, Madam. What a bother it is when it is this sunny.”
“Are you mocking me, Georgio?” she asked, glaring at him over the top of her glasses.
He lifted the tray onto the table and started pouring tea from the china pot. He then took a step back and rested his hands behind his back, looking out towards the garden.
Mrs Billingsworth started to butter her scone and then paused for a moment, setting down her knife.
“Georgio, what in heaven’s name are you waiting for?” She sniffed a little and reached for the napkin. Perhaps she was getting a summer cold.
“Of course, Madam.” He gave a swift nod and walked briskly over to the door and out of the room.
Mrs Billingsworth shook her head and muttered to herself. Sometimes she did think Georgio a little stupid.
She blinked her eyes deliberately a few times but resisted the urge to rub them. Damned itchiness! She would ask Georgio for her tablets after tea.
Her mind began to wander as she was taking her first bite of scone. She was thinking about what she could place on the windows to reduce that irritating glare. Her thought was never completed, however, as she was jolted out of her head space and into an inexplicable place of weightless floating and a lightness of feeling.
She looked beneath her and saw her own body, slumped forwards in her chair, grey hair and forehead slap bang in the middle of her buttery jam scone.
What on earth is happening?!
She panicked a little and desperately tried to shake her head but felt no result.
She concentrated hard, summoning all of her effort and tried to raise her head. This time she felt the heavy weight of it, and a pain in her neck as she tried to lift her face out of her plate.
Her nose felt stuffy and there was a searing pain in her temples. The scone, which was stuck to her forehead now slowly lost its grip on her thin, wrinkled skin and plopped onto her lap.
Her ears were ringing as she desperately tried to regain control of her senses, looking around the room for answers. She felt liquid dripping from her nose and raised her hand to touch it. It felt warm and sticky and abundant. Her eyes throbbed with agony as if supplying the tremendous pain in her temples and it appeared that there was a piece of cloudy matter obscuring her vision.
She squinted at the blurred sight in front of her. She could just make out what looked like Georgio peeking through a small gap in the door. What was he doing?
She tried to call his name for help. “Geor…” but a monumental sneeze was building up inside her head. Georgio was still there, peering at her. He was not coming to help.
She looked down at her scone. The scone he had so carefully prepared and baked for her, two grey hairs now sticking out of the red, buttery jam on top.
Ah, ahh, AHHH, AHHHHHHH CHOOOOOOOOO!
She was weightless again, confused and horrified but the pain had gone. She had heard the sound herself, a loud, wet, explosive mess of a sound. She did not want to look at what was below her. Instead, she looked up at the door. Georgio was now coming in and he seemed to be smiling.
The smile faded quickly from his face and he lost the colour in his cheeks when he caught the full view of the mess in front of him.
Mrs Billingsworth desperately tried not to follow his gaze. She was losing grip fast and the light of the room was fading. Now she could not help glancing down at her former self.
In the darkness, she caught a glimpse of her now headless corpse surrounded by a crimson and pink nebula stretching out across the saturated table and towards the walls of the room. It was like a volcanic haemorrhage of violence, and there, in the epicentre atop a bloody china plate was a blood-soaked buttery, jam scone.
Lisa Wilton is a writer and photographer from Northern Ireland who lives with her husband, son and six pets. She’s particularly fond of animals, gaming and growing stuff in the garden.
She spent 13 years of her life teaching French and Spanish in high schools but can now be found taking photos or writing books, short stories and the occasional online article. Lisa loves to write horror, fantasy or sci-fi stories with a quirky feel to them and is currently working on her first science-fiction novel.
You can find more of her stuff at the following links:
Blog – lisawilton.com
Twitter – www.twitter.com/LisaZWilton
Medium – https://medium.com/@mishmao14
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Lisa-Wilton-1337098116375822/?ref=settings