Published in Vibewire’s Anthology “Are you alone”
Sally woke up stiff.
She felt like her limbs had fused into a fleshy mass. Knees bled into chest and her arms blended into her legs. Slowly though, slowly she tore the strips of skin apart and gently tested her protective shield to check it was still in place. It was icy cold to touch and unwaveringly solid.
Sally slowly stretched stiff limbs and felt the painful pin pricks as blood began to flow once more. She wondered if her blood was blue. Sometimes she wasn’t sure if she knew the colour of her own eyes. They seemed to change along with the whole shifting malleable world. It wouldn’t surprise her if blue blood coursed her veins and simply splattered red through the frayed, exposed and broken ends. She slowly cracked her knuckles and tilted her neck from side to side. She looked at herself in the mirror. She almost looked like a normal school girl.
The thought devastated her.
That a monster could look so normal. That the fiend, the liar, the thief within her could conjure such deception. It scared her. She could be living a world of monsters, preying on the unsuspecting. And what’s to say she wasn’t one of them?
She slid down the hallway. It was covered in a thin layer of ice and the chandelier had entirely frosted over – tiny pointed shards of glass tinkled and threatened to shake one another free in a shower of glittering razors. She hovered under the chandelier for a moment longer. Before skating into the kitchen.
Her mother was gliding around the kitchen, her gingham apron starched into stiffness. She pressed cold cheek against cold cheek and marvelled at the icicles that filled her mother’s pupils. She touched her father’s cheek with her own, his eyes fixed to the paper (perhaps they had frozen over) and his moustache thick with frost. The table was covered in a bright floral tablecloth with a tray of iced cupcakes in the middle. She picked up one with yellow icing and a pink heart stencilled on top.
She forgot about her sheath as sugary delight titillated her youthful wants and she felt her mouth fill with saliva in anticipation.
Expecting soft, sweet flesh; Sally instead ground her teeth against concrete and scraped her tongue across colourful ice. Frozen solid, she could only gnaw at the edge. Sally felt her eyes grow wet with frustration and she threw it at the wall. She saw a look of scorn flit through her father’s pupils. She could’ve been imagining it, but Sally knew how much her father hated displays of emotion; let alone the petulant emotions of a child unsatisfied. Sally’s mother followed the bounce of the cake as it rolled under the table. She threw back her head and from her open, laughing mouth flew shards of glass which hovered momentarily in the air before tinkling like chimes to the ground.
Sally stamped like a child and splintered the floor before stumbling to the door.
She stood and shivered for a second in the winter sun. Just for a moment she released her grip and let her shoulders slump and her knees buckle and her heart thaw a little. She bit her lip and felt the blood thick and warm. The tiny fire of hope within her rekindled. She passed the tiny ball of fire between her gloved hands as she walked; cupping them slightly to shield the flames from wind. She rolled it between her fingers and let herself believe, believe that maybe she was made of flesh and blood and spirit and soul like the rest of them. That maybe she wasn’t a monster dressed mockingly in school uniform and pigtails. Or that if she was, maybe she wasn’t completely evil. Maybe there was a little part of her that wasn’t disfigured, or mutilated or somehow deformed.
Sally stood between the old stone pillar entrance to school and watched the girls mingle. She watched them as they laughed and chatted and unselfconsciously touched each other’s hands and faces. She watched them and drowned in longing. Sally had friends. She had wonderful, kind, warm friends. But she could never quite believe, never quite trust; that they would love her if they knew.
Sally bit her lip. She would make sure that they never knew. She would keep her glass wall strong and she would resist the open hands that tempted her outside.
Sometimes she wondered how many others built transparent cages – to keep the others out, or to keep themselves in. She’d squint at passerbys in different lights to try and catch a reflection, some sort of shimmer or sheen to indicate that she wasn’t alone in her self-induced solitude.
It was all rather futile really, Sally knew that.
Even the strongest bubble can be popped. Even the highest wall can be torn down.
All it takes is someone to see right through her, and she will no longer be alone.
Note: explanatory text was as follows
The concept of being “alone” is a contentious one in our society. We seem to drift between needing constant stimulation and affirmation from others; and desperately craving solitude (only to find we don’t know what to do with it when we gain it.) As a society, we are taught to be “content”. We are taught that estatic highs and devestating lows are to be avoided at all cost, in favour of a protected, safe, kind of O-K. Life isn’t “O-K” so we box ourselves off to try and create an artificial safety zone. “Frozen Bubbles” is about creating that safety zone and realising that no matter how hard we try, our constructed isolation is as fragile as the next person’s desire to break through it.