OF MONSTERS is a series of flash fiction exploring what it means to be monstrous, and each piece, small and silver-wrapped, opens to reveal something different. In Dana Diehl’s “Child Star”, monstrousness is fame, and the feeling that your body is undependable, might any moment split like a seam. In “Jane Eyre,” Zach Doss explores the monstrousness of cutting someone to bits and reconstruction, of a love turned scientific and procedural. Monstrousness is having a fish in your heart, is a series a B movies where we’re just waiting to be attacked, is the pebbling in of a migraine, is being a different sort of person in your attic, is darkness, is senility, is the struggle to swallow. A topcoat of witchcraft. The hint of a tentacle in a pool. Monstrousness is being the person who wasn’t good enough to love. Is the dragon you can’t control. Is knowing how powerless you are.
The series is inspired by Melissa Goodrich’s debut collection Daughters of Monsters, a raw and magical book of spells, an honest yet harrowing look at the wonder and threat of the world.
Eudora cleans her mother’s house as her mother floats around in a white dress, coughing and smoking happily. Her brother, Anthony, mops the floor, and Eudora organizes her mother’s knick-knacks and picks up the white tissues she drops behind her. A friend arrives and shows Eudora the marble-sized diamond on her engagement ring. She says they’ve driven ten hours to be there. She looks unhappy. Eudora eyes the white farm boy, his jean overalls and blonde hair, before returning to the bedroom to get dressed. The dragon she keeps in a glass room of the house bursts into the bedroom as she lifts a t-shirt over her head. He claims he’s being treated unfairly because he wasn’t invited to the party. “Remember last Thursday?” Eudora asks, pulling on her jeans. The dragon huffs out and runs into Anthony in the hallway. “I can’t talk to her,” he tells Anthony. “It was Saturday. How can I talk to her when she doesn’t even know the right day?” There had been a fire on Saturday—charred wood and ash. Eudora doesn’t want her friends to see the dragon she houses. Not now. She doesn’t know anymore if she can control it.
Eudora finds herself at the bottom of a pool, a man standing above her with his face painted in silver glitter. As she swims up—with all her might because she knows she is in danger—she sees that the man is dripping wet and holding a telephone cord as if to strangle her. He does strangle her, and then she is the man, hers is the face painted silver, and the body is just a body that she kicks back into the pool. She takes the dead girl’s cell phone and car keys and drives away, frantically, as though she is being pursued, and ends up in a grocery store parking lot. Stopped at the crosswalk, she sees her mother walk by in a flowered dress, and she is herself again.
The sunlit penthouse is one of the last remaining zombie-proof places in the city, and Eudora has found it; she feels powerful, intelligent, invincible. Then four zombie-women in white dresses float through the open French doors. I’ll defeat them with my powers, Eudora thinks, and she readies herself, anchors her feet to the ground and raises her hands as if some force within her will sweep out and topple the undead women. When that doesn’t work, she places her hands on the women’s foreheads—her flesh appears golden against their swamp-colored skin—as if to manipulate their brains, disconnect their motor functions. But no power comes. She has no power. That’s the way the moon wanes.
Laura I. Miller is the Program Coordinator at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Her fiction appears in Mid-American Review, Psychopomp, Cosmonauts Avenue, Necessary Fiction, and Spork Press, among other places. She received an MFA in fiction from the University of Arizona. Photo credit by Amanda Tipton (www.amandatipton.com).