Today we are excited to welcome Cynthia (Cina) Pelayo to Ink Heist with her story, “The Red Dress”. It’s an adaptation of one of Richard Matheson’s stories and she puts her own haunting spin on it that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. We’re honored to host “The Red Dress” and hope you enjoy this story as much as we did. Also, if you haven’t read her work yet, definitely pick up copies of Poems of My Night, Loteria, Sante Muerte and The Missing. Trust us, you don’t want to miss out on those!
“The Red Dress”
By: Cynthia Pelayo
©2019 Cynthia Pelayo
An Adaptation of “Dress of White Silk”, by Richard Matheson. Thank you, sir, for we are all legends.
“The Red Dress”
It’s quiet here.
Father has locked me in my room. He says it happened again. Maybe I was bad. Maybe. Only, it was not me. It was the dress. My mother’s dress. Mother is gone. She left us. Father says she’s in heaven. I don’t know how she can be in heaven if she’s dead.
I hear father now. I hear him closing the lid to the heavy wooden box, the box that holds mother’s dress. He’s crying louder now. I hear a click, as he locks it away. I wish he didn’t. I am angry now. The dress is beautiful, and it smells so sweet. I like to spread the dress across my mother’s bed, and I curl up against it, running my fingers down the smooth fabric, and resting my cheek on the shoulders, where I turn my nose into the material and breathe in the scent deeply. But I can’t lay with the dress ever again. This is why father is mad at me.
Today was like any other day. Gabriel came to my house. He comes over to play with me.
I have a playhouse, Legos, toy cars, stuffed animals, paint, Play-doh. I have all of the things that I want to play with because father buys them for me, because I can’t leave the house. Father told me not to go to mother’s room, and I hate when he tells me that. I love mother’s room. When it rains I go in there. When it snows I go in there. In the nighttime, I go in there and I dance and twirl on her lovely white and blue rug. I don’t make any noises when I do this, because I do not want father knowing when I am in her room. Mother’s room smells so sweet.
What I like most about mother’s room is the picture of mother, in a golden frame. Mother is pretty. My hair is black like hers. My eyes are black, blacker still. I like to sit at mother’s vanity, and I pretend I am her. I can smell her white dress even while I’m seated at her vanity. Her going-out-for-the-night-dress is what she called it. Father was afraid of mother. Father has his own room, down the hall with many latches.
If I listen hard enough, I can hear the dress move. I pretend to see mother sitting at the vanity. On mother’s vanity there are bottles of perfume, nail polish, lipsticks, eye shadow cases, and more, all of the things that she didn’t need to make her beautiful, because she was already beautiful, and she could lure anyone. I can hear my mother now saying “I’m going out and you can not stop me.” Father would cry when she would say this. She would take his face in her hands and say “Shhhh. No one can hurt me.”
When I would sit at mother’s vanity I would pretend to brush my hair, but I would take care never to touch mother’s hairbrush. Father removed all of mother’s hair from her hairbrush. Mother is so pretty. I love her so much, so much, even though she’s gone forever.
I think of myself kneeling on my mother’s rug, and in front of that box surrounded by roses. Fresh roses come every day from those who knew mother. I wish I could take the dress out and sleep with it everyday, but Father says I need to stay away from the dress or it will burn me too. He cries about the dress.
I never did bad things with the dress. I put it back neatly in the box, except for today.
Gabriel came over for lunch, as he does sometimes. He is the little boy who lives next door. Father went to take a nap. He reminded me not to play in mother’s room.
Gabriel said “I bet you never had a mother. You just made it all up.”
I got mad at him. “I too had a mother. The most beautiful mother.”
“Liar,” he giggled. Gabriel can be so mean.
I told him to follow me to mother’s room, and that’s when he hesitated.
“No,” he shook his head.
“You’re scared,” I smiled wide, so wide I showed him my teeth.
“I’m not scared.”
Gabriel followed me up to mother’s room. “It’s dark,” he said.
“It’s darker in mother’s room.”
“You’re making this all up,” he said, as we entered the room.
Gabriel was scared to see the roses around the box, but roses aren’t things to fear.
“This is my mother’s picture,” I pointed.
Gabriel turned white. “It smells in here.”
“It does not smell,” I growled. Gabriel was making me mad.
“Yes, it smells like sick people in here.”
“You want to see the dress, don’t you?”
Father is smart, but I am smarter and I had the key to the box. I opened the box with the key.
“That smells bad! Like garbage!” He covered his mouth.
“Be quiet, or you’ll wake father. He’s very tired.” I shoved Gabriel with my hand.
“I’m telling my mother that you pushed me,” he cried.
I pulled the dress out from the box and held it against myself, the skirt cascading open around my legs, sounding like falling dead November leaves.
“That dress is not white. It’s dirty.”
“It’s not dirty,” I held it up, smelling the arms, the collar. “It was white, once.” I finally admit. “But it’s red now. Mother made it red before she died.”
“It’s dirty!” Gabriel shouted. “I want to go! It smells! It’s ugly! She’s ugly!”
I got mad, and pushed Gabriel hard this time. He fell back against the vanity, knocking over mother’s things, the glass bottles and the hairbrush.
“My mother is the most beautiful woman in the world. Her dress is the most beautiful in the world.” I dug my fingernails into his face, slicing skin.
It was as if the dress moved in my arms, or maybe the dress moved my arms. Gabriel screamed, I think, but I just don’t remember. It grew cold. Ice formed inside of me, and curtains covered my eyes. I could see nothing, but I felt teeth and hands, and I heard my mother whisper: “Don’t let him say that about my dress.”
Father pulled me away from the dress. He separated me from the dress. I don’t know what happened, but I heard him screaming “It’s happened again!” Over and over. He dragged me all the way here, to my room, and he locked me in. I heard the hammering of nails outside my door, and no matter how loud I scream, no matter how much I beg he will not let me out.
I’m not scared.
He can keep me here for years, but one day someone will let me out. One day, someone will let me in. I’m not hungry now.
I’m still full.
Cynthia (Cina) Pelayo is the author of LOTERIA, SANTA MUERTE, THE MISSING, and POEMS OF MY NIGHT.