The Hanged Woman
In a two-story farmhouse atop a hill in the Ozarks, a man sits backward on a plastic armless chair in the attic, his forearms on the back of the chair, his head resting on his arms. His flesh is pallid, sores split his cheeks, his forehead. A brown recluse scurries out of his left ear, down his cheek, and pulls the carcass of its brother from his right nostril before entering his frozen agape mouth.
At night he is joined, though he no longer sees, the hanged woman. Her eyes bulge, unblinking, focused on the door that no one dares open after dark. The rope that hangs from the rafter, that forms the noose, creaks like a hammock in a summer breeze, and joins the other nightly sounds of the settling house, the pops and creaks and twists and pulls of locked door knobs.
A few nights ago, the boy forgot about the rule about not going into the attic after dark. He wanted to play with his train-set that had been packed away a few summers ago. When his parents realized where he was headed, his father rushed up the stairs after him.
The boy plays with his train-set in the mornings while his mother knits the shroud. He says, "When Daddy wakes up, maybe he can take me fishing, or maybe he can push me on the tire swing. I like the tire swing."
She does not raise her eyes from the shroud when she responds. "Now you know you have to be good honey, lest the hanged woman comes for you next."