Horror and Thriller Fiction posted June 9, 2017

This work has reached the exceptional level
A thriftstore acquisition takes on a life of its own.

The Wheel

by acmoore

Final Words Contest Winner 
The author has placed a warning on this post for language.
Etta Mae's lips became suddenly plumper and redder, and a blush of rose came to her cheeks, as her fingers lightly cradled the shape of the turning clay on the wheel. A smile emerged from somewhere deep inside her. She felt better now, better than the situation seemed to call for. She craved a cigarette, but she had decided to resist the urge a couple weeks earlier in favor of the idea of whiter teeth, fresher breath, better health. Or, really, if the truth were to be told, it was mainly because he believed that she could not quit. "I can quit whatever I want, whenever I want. Oh, that bastard," she told the unformed clay. She was speaking of her former husband, Efram. "He thinks he will be happier with that yoga instructor and I guess in the end I don't blame him."

Her fingers dipped into the center of the grayish blob, as daintily as a hummingbird going in for a sip of nectar. She had made so many lovely bowls finished with utterly unique glazing techniques and sold her work worldwide. Efram had always been looking on as she created things, since the start of her career, through the birth of their twins. Now, she was painfully aware of his absence. She missed her children as well. He had taken them after he pressured her to go into a substance abuse clinic, telling her it was the only way to save their marriage, and that he would be waiting for her when she came back, but of course, he wasn't. "It was all a lie, the whole marriage, my whole life," she told the wheel.

She felt intensely lonely, yet still as if something or someone was watching her. She felt the hair on the nape of her neck tingling and wished she had closed the window, but that window, it was so old and heavy and always so hard to shut, so she had decided against it. She worried that the Narcissus flowers she had on the window sill would get a chill on this damp evening in late May, which seemed so uncharacteristically harsh.

She told herself, "stop thinking about it, all of it." The clay was perfectly centered, she thought. She coated her hands with a little more slip and delved deeper into the heart of the lump of clay. It was beginning to look like something as it got a bit wider and a bit taller. Whir, kick, whir and Etta Mae became immersed in the making. She felt entirely severed from the pain for a change.

She wasn't mad anymore. When she had come home, her husband had changed the locks and she had to go to stay at their summer cottage, which he had always hated anyway.

The place was shabbily furnished. He had also cleaned out their joint bank account, so she took a little out of her own savings to make a few humble improvements and buy a little comfort. She became faintly aware of the scent of whiskey and her perfume, emanating from her pores. She wondered if it was by fate, or by accident that she happened upon the sturdy old pottery wheel at the thrift store on the quaint town's main street. She had been so happy that they were glad to give her an even better deal than she had expected, as if they were very motivated to see it go. "Their loss. No one else would know how to work this thing like me."

As she put the finishing touches on the piece she had been making, beads of cold sweat appeared on her brow. She felt worried again. As she poured another shot for herself, she jumped at the sound of a raspy voice, "You don't work me. I work you. Make another. Make more. Kick, kick, kick. What's a lie is a lie and what's true is true. You don't work me because I work you." The wheel had spoken.

Etta Mae could not help herself from doing as it said. She tried to fight it, but the compulsion was far too strong. More clay, form another flawless piece, cut it free with the wire, set it aside to dry...she did this over and over until all the clay she had was gone.


Some Mennonites passing Etta Mae's property had seen a bewildered looking woman digging in a creek bed for clay. They paused in their passing and wondered at the sight, thinking it was somewhat unusual. They whispered "blessings" toward her, not knowing that it was too late for such things.

Etta Mae's emaciated body was found, crumpled up beside the wheel with her final piece of greenware cracked up beside her. She had managed to etch, "can't stop help" into it with her fingernail as she drew her last few breaths. When Efram came to clean out the cottage, he felt so sad when he saw her message. "Damn her drinking!" he cursed as he threw the half empty bottle of booze against the wall and left, deciding he would just let the property management company clean up instead for a little more money.

Once he was back in his car, he looked at his phone to proofread the ad: "Quiet, affordable rustic cottage for rent. Perfect getaway for artists. Equipped with potters' kick wheel." As he drove away, he called the manager back to approve it.

Writing Prompt
Your character is going to die within moments. What are the final words? Describe the circumstances of the pending death.

Final Words
Contest Winner
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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