Chuck Wendig’s latest flash fiction challenge ran over two weeks: the first week we were to write an awesome sentence, then this week, we were to pick someone else’s sentence and write a 1000 word story around it. I picked a sentence written by ‘miceala’ on September 26, 2014 at 7:44 PM. I will reveal the sentence at the end of this post as I think to reveal it now gives too much away Miceala’s avatar picture for her blog (http://quillaquiver.com ) follows and is somewhat appropriate:
I try not to look, but when I must—like every morning before going to work—I force myself to search between the flaming angry ridges, to hone in only on smooth skin, the remaining untouched flesh.
My once beautiful face.
Every time, I fail. My eyes—blue and unmarred—forever stop and focus on each line, tracing the raised intaglio threads until the whole of my visage has been traversed slowly, carefully, painfully, like Blondin tightrope-walking across Niagara falls.
Eventually, after applying mascara, I close my untouched eyelids and finish preparing to meet the world, to go to my job. I brush my teeth and hair and apply lipstick blindly. No need for blush or rouge.
Concealer? I can hear him laughing at that thought.
It doesn’t matter; I’ll never be beautiful again. It’s a habitual morning ritual. It’s not for me, anyway; it’s for my co-workers, although I doubt they look at my face either.
These scars are ropes binding my existence, my self-image, to my wounds. I can’t ignore them; they will never disappear. The doctors say plastic surgery will only disfigure me more; there are too many, too close together to fix. Even if my body didn’t reject the transplanted flesh, it would be hard and puffy in so many places I would look like Georges St-Pierre after a losing fight instead of just a Dinka tribeswoman.
But there were so many cuts. So many …
I honestly don’t remember every slice. Just the first ten or so. The knife was cold until it went white hot. Or maybe it was the blood that made it burn. He did it all in front of a mirror at my old apartment. He had to, in order to create his art while holding me from behind. Held my head just so, moving my face gently, tenderly. When it came time to remove the gag and ball he had crammed in my mouth, the better to make his final strokes, I was well past screaming, too far gone to cry for help.
I remember his final words before he slipped out, leaving me sprawled beneath the sink with my face painting the bathroom floor a bright and slippery red.
“Remember always, Dora,” he whispered. “You are my greatest creation. A masterpiece!”
Only my name isn’t Dora. It’s Lily.
Once—in a maudlin drunken fog—I searched the Internet for ‘Dora’ and ‘Masterpiece’. I found Picasso’s portrait: ‘Weeping Woman’ whose subject was his mistress, Dora Maar.
So I guess I get it now, but it still doesn’t help.
If only I hadn’t been feeling … experimental that night. What do I call it? Looking for Mr. Goodbar? A Mosuo sweet night? Exercising my prerogative to enjoy myself?
Everyone says it wasn’t my fault.
Of course, it wasn’t my fault.
Doesn’t matter now, does it?
At first, Van had been fantastic: intelligent, artsy, great sense of humour. I laugh. I take a chance. I take him home.
And he carves me up like an Easter ham.
I told the police who he was. They never found him. Big surprise. They were sympathetic and useless.
But I found him. In a chat room. I know it is Van; he uses some of the same lines and jokes that seemed so attractive to me that night. He uses them on other women. How many masterpieces has Van created, I wonder?
Sometimes I can’t help myself; I must touch the scars. All of them. It’s happening more often, now—almost every day in fact. Before, only my eyes traced the route of each ridge; now my trembling fingers also find the path. Some days, as I do this, it is as if the scars are speaking to me through my fingers, like Braille to Helen Keller.
Lately, though—maybe since last week—as I let my fingers do the walking, I hear the tiniest of whispers. At first, I think it comes from the pads of my fingers sliding along the hard ropey blemishes. Then yesterday the words began to clarify, like the discordant croak of a radio announcer rising up through the static hiss of white noise interference.
It’s coming from my face. It’s my scars.
This comes through quite clearly. A natural thought for me after what I have endured.
Hissed like Kaa the great snake in the Jungle Book. It makes my face tingle and twitch, as if pricked one last time by the point of the hot knife. Sometimes I weep.
For six days the two phrases repeated.
Today, as I get ready to go to work—listening to my face whispering a sibilant sing-song—I confess to thinking that if I do end it, it would be such a beautiful irony if I managed to do it with a knife—to slice myself. I believe I would finally reveal the masterpiece that Van intended, the final masterstroke, as it were.
Van mus-s-s-t go.
Now … this is a new one. I think it is a clever pun. After all, it is my mind producing the delusion, isn’t it? I think I’m pretty funny … at least I used to be. Then I hear the sequence arranged in a different combination.
Van mus-s-s-st go.
Last night Van made a date with a woman openly in the chat room. He gave GPS coordinates as if they were some kind of code. I know where he will be later tonight.
This morning I understand what my scars are telling me.
Van mus-s-s-st go.
I stop touching them and stare in the mirror. Eyes open, looking at my face.
All of my face.
All of my beautiful face.
Van mus-s-s-st go.
Perhaps I would be able to move on. Court closure. Carry on, if not healed and whole, at least sated and revenged. I would be every bit as tender as Van was. Then finally, the scars would stop whispering.
The sentence is, of course: “Then finally, the scars would stop whispering”.