I AM ONE OF THE DEAD GIRLS IN SEQUIN COSTUMES. Only, I am not dead.
Together, we lay in a line on our backs, frayed ropes wrapped tight around wrists and ankles, cutting into flesh. Alive, I hold my breath, struggling to keep my stomach and chest completely still. For weeks, I have pretended to be one of them.
At half past eleven, the heavy violet velvet curtains are pulled back. Strobe lights are switched on. Davy, the stagehand, hauls the bodies up. Every night, I have to fight the urge to surprise them all, to start wiggling my hips, doing a tap dance, standing on my head, flailing my arms and legs, just to show that I am alive, I am here, I am living. Instead I always remain corpse-like. My body powdered white, my lips cracked and dried, my eyes clamped shut.
MARIONETTES, WE DANCE. Our matching pale pink patent leather shoes hover above the slick surface of the stage. I imagine we're schoolmates playing jump rope when an atomic bomb goes off and our spirits and shadows are frozen, latent images on the air. Forever, we're hanging on high, never to come down or touch the ground.
The audience does not know I am alive, they can't sense it, I guess, for they continue cheering and tossing coins, aiming for my head. Cold stings my cheeks, forehead, eyelids. They like me more, because they think that I am dead. Living girls complain too much, they laugh.
During the part of the performance where the men are allowed to rush onto the stage, do with us as they please and Davy hides in shadows, supervising, I talk to the girls in my head. 'Well, did you know, girls, that I had a skinny uncle married to a fat aunt, oh yes, and they bred white cats and painted the whole entire house blue, even the ceilings and floors, so that when the cats moved about, jumping from book shelf to table, from windowsill to floor, it looked as if clouds were floating on some sort of demonic breeze.'
A girl, sometimes, will lean against me. I will hold her hand just for a second, squeeze her fingers, careful not to pry one off. Best friends, I think, we're in this together.
No one ever notices, though. No one is ever looking at our hands.
A HILL OF NAKED BODIES. Davy drops the rope and we tumble downward, once again. Dust swirls around us like talcum powder. In the dark, I wait for the jingle of his keys to stop and for the bolt of the door. Then I sit up, begin searching for our sequin pointed bras and skirts. I never had a doll as a child, but now I have five, full-sized ones that I dress up and tuck into bed every single night.
'Girls,' I whisper, 'my father was a tadpole and my mother kept him in a little glass high on a bookshelf and sometimes when I talked to him, he would not even notice, but my mother said that he understood, so keep talking, always just keep believing, and so every afternoon I sat for an hour with my cheese sandwich and told my father about school lessons, which boys pulled my pigtails, how the ducks at the lake all flew away and I did that forever, not missing a single day, until I decided to be a dead girl last week.'
On the street, a siren wails. A mouse scurries across the floor. Fleas leap from limb to limb.
Despite it all, I can't stop smiling: I love all of my dolls, all of my beautiful dead girl sisters.
is a witch and lives on the moon. Her work has been published in NANO Fiction
, Paper Darts
, and Metazen