Black Petals Issue #104, Summer 2023

Home
Editor's Page
BP Artists and Illustrators
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
A Question of Money: Fiction by Eric Burbridge
Behold, a White Horse; Fiction by Spencer Jepma
Crawling Flesh: Fiction by Michael Stoll
Elm Weaver: N. G. Leonetti
Hunger: Fiction by Mark Jabaut
Mr. Fuzzypants: Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
Stop the World: Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Road Less Taken: Fiction by Albert N. Katz
The Washer Woman: Fiction by Sophia Wiseman-Rose
Underneath the Sheet: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Shining Up Grandma: Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Children of 666 Middle School: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Bleed: Flash Fiction by Liam Spinage
Good Times: Flash Fiction by Ronin Fox
Time Lost: Flash Fiction by Bruce Costello
Unhappy Shadow: Flash Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
Cemetery Road: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Chasing Desolation: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Detroit Jurassic: Poem by Joseph V. Donaski
Colonia Somnia: Poem by Bianca Alu-Marr
The Precipice: Poem by Bianca Alu-Marr
Dread: Poem by LindaAnn LoSchiavo
Home Movies: Poem by Christopher Hivner
Peppermint Twist: Poem by Christopher Hivner
There's Always Tomorrow Night: Poem by Christopher Hivner
Joke: Poem by DJ Tyrer
Ceramic Duck: Poem by Pete Mladinic
Choice: Poem by Pete Mladinic
To Stop the Killing: Poem by Pete Mladinic
Reaper: Poem by David Barber

Sophia Wiseman-Rose: The Washer Woman

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Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose 2023

The Washer Woman

 

Sophia Wiseman-Rose

 

Up until recently, Jocelyn Cameron had been financially struggling as a model and actress who supplemented her income with occasional escort work. But suddenly, she had become the fortunate recipient of a sizeable inheritance, shifting the course of her life forever.

Great aunt Tilda had sadly passed away, yet her final gift to Jocelyn was a large old family home (a 16th century Hall house of a type usually only found in the Lowlands, or so she was told) and a tidy sum of money that gave her the financial means to let go of her fears of the future.

Jocelyn struggled in the city, always throwing money into the bottomless ravenous hole that is London.

But now, with her inherited wealth, she was able to leave behind her worries and move on to her great aunt Tilda's splendid Hall house near the Cairngorm mountains on the River Dee, situated perfectly between heather-covered moorland and the Caledonian pine forest.

Her mother had come from Scotland, swearing she'd never go back. This may well have been some of the appeal to Jocelyn.

Jocelyn had never known her father, but her mother had recently married Bob— a small yet cantankerous man who provided for her mother, and whom she seemed to "adore". It was no doubt a father-figure thing, given Bob appeared to be the spitting image of Jocelyn's grandfather. How strange, indeed.

Her mother was a high-strung, superstitious woman who had often warned Jocelyn about the Bean-nighe, a mythical entity passed down through Scottish folklore for centuries. 

When the Bean-nighe was heard singing and seen washing clothing by the light of the moon, it was a warning that someone was about to die. Those who were brave enough to disturb her at her washing duties might receive either good or bad fortune; the latter being more likely, and with the risk that the person to disturb her, would most likely  be the future dead person.

Jocelyn had been scared of the story when she was a child, but now that she was an adult and a logical woman, she couldn't grasp why her mother would want to scar her with tales of her grandmother's death, or why she felt the need to add extra mythology to the story.

"I heard it," her mother had repeated to Jocelyn since she was six years old. "I heard it, moaning a guttural song; it was like that old Scottish lullaby, but with your grandmother's name sung in it! I was in tears, looking for my mother, scared that the Bean-nighe was going to come and get me. Then, I saw her. My mum. Hanging in the barn with her skin peeled off, bleeding, a wire around her neck. It was a …..horrible sight."

Jocelyn would often be petrified, unable to sleep at night imagining she could hear the lamentations of the Bean-nighe and her mother's warning: "Don't ever go to Scotland. But if you do, and you hear that song... run!"

It wasn't until she reached her mid-teens that Jocelyn realized how foolish her mother had been. It was obviously a deranged person who had savagely mutilated her grandmother—a madman. Maybe her mother had been mad too, if she attributed her grandmother's death to some phantom.

Her mother was undoubtedly an educated woman, but her social skills were lacking. She was nervous and condescending, and her grip on reality seemed so tenuous that life seemed more slippery, positively lubricated, whenever she was around.

Had her grandfather ever even been questioned?!

In place of bedtime stories, her mother would often tell her tales of immense tragedy and sorrow.

There were many about the possible terrors that awaited her, and they all converged on one main story—the gruesome death of her grandmother and the Scottish family curse, much like egg whites surrounding a poached egg yolk.  Jocelyn assumed that many of the stories were based on facts and served to keep her in a state of constant fear and vigilance, a feeling she had become all too familiar with throughout her childhood. But her mother's imagination had gotten too far-fetched; as the reasons she offered for these tragedies had become more and more supernatural. This made it easier for Jocelyn (and her therapist) to try and extricate her from the irrational fear her mother had instilled in her.

And now, here was Jocelyn, fearless and living in her mother’s forbidden motherland.

The air smelled sweeter, and the rain looked like heavy diamonds. 

Jocelyn wore her auburn hair down and walked for miles every day.  Whenever she visited the local village, she would venture to the pub and slowly start to befriend the locals. They were aware of her family's history and would exchange knowing looks when talking about it, but nothing more than that.

One night walking home from the pub, more than a bit tipsy, Jocelyn thought she heard singing. She thought she recognised the song. Sort of a sad lament but a melodic beautiful one. Jocelyn began to sing along.  “Blow the wind, blow;

Swift and low.”

She began to dance, turning slowly in the Moonlight as she grew louder, breaking into her creamy mezzo soprano “bhan bhan, bhan iri”.

She realised she was singing in perfect eerie harmony. But with whom? A woman with a deep contralto voice? A male tenor? She couldn’t place the timbre.

She gazed into the darkness and spotted somebody by the river Dee, illuminated by the moonlight.

They appeared to be busy washing their garments in the river. The figure stopped their rhythmic washing in the water, their singing gradually getting louder and stronger with each note. “'S MR MO MHULAD, ‘S MR, JO-CEE-LYN!”

Jocelyn trailed off, as the dark figure screamed out the next few words in a grotesquely, deep rattling tone

“GREAT IS MY SO-RROW. GREAT.”

Jocelyn was rooted to the spot, standing around 10 feet away from the figure, who was steaming and dripping with water in the chilly night air, seemingly lit from beneath by the will--the-wisp. The silhouette may have been small, but still menacing, and Jocelyn swore she could make out blazing eyes piercing through the darkness at her. She now believed in the Bean-nighe.

“Go on… fuck off, stupid bitch” the washer woman hissed. "It ain't me you need to be wary of, it's that fucking Bauchan goblin you damned Cameron women keep cozying up with."

Jocelyn attempted to shift away, but it felt like she was in a trance; her limbs unable to budge, like in a dream. 

“Can you not hear me?” The washer woman turned around and held aloft an item of clothing that looked like a dress that belonged to Jocelyn’s mother. Her mother was also named Jocelyn; could the song have been for her mother?

The frightened woman took a deep breath and willed herself to move; at first, marching in slow motion, and then willing herself to lean forward, and then running faster and faster, flying through the fields until she got to her home. As soon as she arrived at the house, she immediately jumped into the car and spun around in her driveway as quickly as possible. She noticed the tank was just over a quarter full, bloody hell, that wouldn’t get her very far. Driving recklessly, she sped to the main road whilst trying to put her mother’s address into the map app on her phone. She screamed in her mother’s address and was answered “I’m sorry, I don’t have a location for numb.”  She screamed and raged and pounded the phone against the dash. Finally, pulling over to the side of the road and typing in her mother’s address. And bursting into tears when it auto-corrected incorrectly. But she got it. 8 hours until arrival! She would drive through the night, but she had to let her mum know. Let her know that she had been right all along. She shrieked at her phone “CALL MY MUM”.

On her third attempt, the phone complied and began to ring loudly through her stereo speakers. It rang and it rang. “Come on mum answer the bloody phone for once.” Jocelyn’s mother would forever regard mobile phones with suspicion saying that she didn’t want to be at peoples’ beck and call 24/7

“Oh mum please!”

The voicemail picked up, repeating the phone number back to Jocelyn at a glacial pace, and giving her the agonising directions of how to leave a message, as if there was anybody, who didn’t know by now… ‘beeep.’

“Please, mum, mum, you were right. The Bean-nighe is real! I ran into her tonight. I saw the clothes she was washing.

Mum, it was yours it was your favourite dress. Mum, you’ve got to get away from Bob.”

Tears streaming down her cheeks. Oh, that woman that infuriating woman that she loved so much!

“Please, when you get this message, just run; go to the church. I’m on my way…..Mu-” Jocelyn was cut off as she heard the siren and saw the flashing lights in her rearview mirror.

At the police station, Jocelyn barely listened to the officers.

"0.21! Far above the legal alcohol limit!" They reprimanded her, yet she didn't appear to take notice. She pleaded with them to telephone her mother. To help her, as they snapped her mug shot and rolled her fingers in black ink, and then on paper to obtain her fingerprints. She kept on imploring them to contact her mum. She asked for her mother as they swabbed her cheek to collect her DNA. She kept begging them to please, send an officer to contact her mother.

Jocelyn was frantic, constantly raving about her grandmother being murdered and flayed, the ancient Cameron family curse and the Bean-nighe. Her ramblings were relentless enough that, despite her visibly intoxicated condition, the police arranged for her to undergo a mental health evaluation.

 

Jocelyn was confined in her cell, where she screamed and cried and pounded relentlessly on the door, only to be disregarded. It was close to 3 a.m. when the psychiatrist finally arrived and found Jocelyn, trembling, with tear-filled puffy eyes and vomit-stained shirt, begging them to contact the police in Hendon, London to inquire about her mother.

The psychiatrist, in hopes to comfort her, requested this be done. 

Jocelyn’s mother had been dead since earlier on in the evening before. So, Jocelyn could not have reached her in time to save her. The notification of her frantic voicemail was displayed on the old, rarely used, mobile phone with the Elvis phone case. The phone was resting below the feet of her mother's body in the kitchen where she had been strung up by a wire and skinned alive.

 

Sophia Wiseman-Rose

Sophia Wiseman-Rose is a Paramedic and an Episcopalian nun. Both careers have provided a great deal of exposure to the extremes in life and have provided great inspiration for her.  

 She is currently spending time with her four lovely grown children and making plans to move back to her home in the UK in the Autumn.  

 In addition, Sophia had a few poems in the last edition of Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine


https://www.artstation.com/sophiaw-r6

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