Asmodeus's laughter, and mine, and the mirror girl's, and Her's, and Her children's, rising and twisting and hissing in the dank, humid air.
Inside the theater of the looking glass girl's chest, a velvet curtain twitched and parted, revealing serrate(more)d cogs churning against groaning wheels. Steam billowed through the rusting gears as the machinery retreated toward her spine, and a shadowbox stage descended from her collarbone.
Moon and star cutouts rose clockwise against the backdrop. Twisted trees grew from trapdoors in the floor. A tiny marionette in a flaring red coat dropped on slender strings to the middle of the stage. For a moment, the tableau was still, and my eyes followed the strings to their origin - wrapped around my mirror image's teeth. I glanced behind me, at Asmodeus, and startled at the sight of Her and Her children, ranged in a half circle on the soft sand, eye sockets completely engaged by the sinister pantomime.
A mechanical growl from the miniature stage pulled my gaze back around. The scarlet-clad marionette spun on her wires, searching for the source of the sound. Two glass-jewel eyes appeared at one corner of the stage. The marionette didn't see them. Whirring cogs behind the backdrop grunted and puffed to sustain the deepening growl. Through the black, rippling trees, the jerky, jointed figure of a wolf stalked the dangling marionette.
The little red-coated figure appeared to move, though she was still as the clockwork theater rolled away beneath her on hinges and pulleys, and the wolf crept ever nearer.
When the wolf was a breath away from her string-straightened spine, I hid my eyes behind my dirty, blister-covered hands. As the wolf's teeth shattered the marionette's wooden face, her snapped strings ripped teeth from my mirrored face. (less)
A ring shines on my finger now. Nails chipped, skin scratched. It looks out of place. Too luxurious for plain worker's hands.
Using a mop has left my palms callused. Who would know that mopping floors, even acres of floors, would actually toughen the hands like this?
The ring gleams solidly the way true jewelry does. I look at it sometimes just for the comfort in it. It's beautiful even through the thin latex of the disposable gloves I wear at work, cleaning. The mellow glow of good gold. The shine of the Canadian diamond, drinking in light happily after blind centuries in a rocky, northern dark. It is the best thing I own.
A calluous forms underneath the ring. My hands are always damp. 8 hours of scrubbing, wiping, mopping in a day. This ring has seen a lot. Junky's shit in the bathroom stalls, arterial blood that fans up the wall and across the crumbly ceiling in rusty coin-sized blots. Scrubbing patiently, reluctantly. Picking up the balled-up cummy tissues that fall down behind beds. Holding soiled laundry well away from myself.
I don't tell about my job at home except in small disgusting anecdotes with a funny spin and at work I don't share the news behind the ring with my co-workers. Our hair in pony tails, our gloved hands and bitching. Good news would make everyone feel awkward.
The tongs we use to pick up used needles are the same tongs you use at Safeway to pick up glazed doughnuts.
On my wedding day I will carry garden flowers, any thorns broken off. I'll smooth the torn tips of my nails and paint them a soft one-day pink. I will touch only his hand, thin glass stems, white cake.
"YES! Oh god, yes, of course yes!" Tears streamed down Alice's cheeks. Other couples having dinner in the restaurant around them clapped their hands in congratulation. Tom rose to his feet and kissed his new fiance.
Tom had been engaged four times before, this one made it five.(more) There had never been a date set with any of the other four, but that wasn't the point with any of those engagements, so he didn't expect it to be the point here either.
"I thought--when you wanted to go somewhere fancy--I thought you were going to dump me. This is... this is better!"
He smiled and hugged her. He already felt like he wanted to end it. I mean, that's how he had gotten to here actually, a combination of OH GOD I HAVE TO GET OUT OF THIS and I WANT EVERYONE TO LOVE ME. If Tom was honest with himself, it was that combination of emotions that had started him dating each of these women to begin with.
But Tom didn't have time to be honest with himself, he had friends and family to call and share the happy news with.(less)