The Privileges of Womanhood
Age had its privileges, and pretending to be deaf was one of them. Unfortunately for Amelia, she was only 20. The only thing she had resembling wrinkles were the dark bags under her eyes. And the man on the bus in front of her was still glaring.
“Eh?” she tried again.
“I know you can hear me! I saw you talk to the bus driver!” The man finished off his sentence with a triumphant flourish of his red nose, up and down and up again. Amelia decided one thing then and there: she would never ride the campus bus again. Even if she was late for class. She’d just get a bike, go green and healthy. It was not worth having to deal with these drunk, patronizing, moronic fraternity assholes who seemingly grew and spawned with the mold under the seat. There was always one of them on the bus! Always! She decided to try another tactic.
"No habla inglés.”
She didn’t think it would work given the fact that she practically glowed in the dark. Hell, she was so pale that moths bounced off of her all summer, but he was drunk enough that it seemed worth a shot. The frat idiot stared at her with increasing perplexity before his face started twisting up in disgust.
Oh fuck, she thought, fuck fuck fuck. She looked around the bus, but everybody seemed to be religiously looking at phones or textbooks, or just plain asleep. She was on her own. The frats thick lips drew further back, and Amelia prepared to pull the pepper spray out of her purse. She’d grabbed it about 10 seconds after boy stumbled over to her, just to be safe, and it looked like she might have to use it after all.
“Achoooooo!” The puffy faced nitwit sneezed a mighty sneeze, spraying globs of spit and pale snot all down the front of her overalls. The wispy excuse for a mustache that hung like a rotting blond possum from the boys upper lip flapped like a shutter in a tornado, and Amelia would later swear to God and Jesus and her best friend and her worst friend and her mom and her grandmother that at least a dozen vomit-yellow hairs drifted to the floor, dislodged by the destructive force of the sneeze.
Amelia jumped back, arms held out like a scarecrow, shaking like a dog. “What the fuck man?! What the fuck is wrong with you! You- you- you pissant little motherfucker! You lumpy little shit, you- She stopped to take a few fast breaths, then continued. “You sorry excuse for a functioning human, toxic and smelly and, you know what? If I had a time machine, I'd go back and give your parents a condom! No no, what am I thinking, you obviously came from a broken condom. I’d go into debt, just to pay for your father to have a vasectomy and for your mother to have her tubes tied! No, I’d make your father move to Spain and your mother to Alaska! I’d never let them meet!”
Frat boy looked up at her, confusion writ on his sweaty face. “Who are you again?”
Amelia pepper sprayed him.
First I would find my first kiss. I gave it to a boy about my age to hold, and he ran away with it when I wasn't looking. Than I would look for all my stuffed animals that my Dad threw out after the RV was infested by rats, spreading hanta virus and the bubonic plague. I would like to stack the two-first kiss and stuffed animal collection-together, delicately placing a giraffe on top of an orca, and cradling my first kiss in the gentle curve of the orca's side. My stuffed monkeys would be at the top and bottom of the pile, providing figurehead and support in equal measure; cradling my bunny and my bear and my stolen kiss. I would stack them together, all soft things I held so tight to myself that I knew not what to do, when the pressure of my grip flipped them out of my arms, and into those of rats and boys.
Second, I would go looking for my innocence, which I belive I left in a middle-school bathroom, but I would noy pick it up. Instead, I would gaze upon it, noting the curves that light and life and errant drops of piss reflect from, and the sharp edges that I didn't know were there when I still wore it like a one-piece pajama suit.
I would reach it to touch it but stop short, stop before contact is made with my fingertips. Didn't I earn where I am? This school and this world may have ripped this shell off, but I shrugged and twisted while it did, ripping it that much faster. I don't want this back. Didn't I bleed for where I am? I did. I don't want my innocence back.
I don't think I want any more really big concepts back. I want back people that I've lost, both to life and death. I want time back, it not for time itself, but for the things I could have done with it. I want money back, for the same reasons. I want the weather back and the snow and the reasonable heat, I want my trips to New York back. And I don't want anything else back. Aside from my virginity.
And the Aaron Rodgers of my childhood, but that's another matter entirly.
Willow-Weeds and Bleeding Dimes
The Grandmother’s Tale
A woman, old beyond counting years, screams from her wheelchair. She screams and screams and screams, her hatchet face violently carved in lines and crevices, valleys of bunched and pulled skin. Her words flow out, slick and viscous and evil green. They splatter the room, have been splattering the room, for years. The walls are covered, crusted with dried green and brown and white build up like congealed fat in a pan. Another, younger woman stands before the crone. Her appearance you cannot describe, but you know her. You have known her forever. You have never met her. She is pale, paler than paper, a sour face, dyed blue hair. She has dark brown hair in an afro, and deep brown skin. Her eyes are blue, her face is the shape of a heart. She has yellow and blue striped skin, and a scruffy, white beard on her too-wide bottom jaw. A lantern jaw. She is a nothing, a no one, you cannot see her. There is nobody in the room besides the despicable old woman. The young woman in front of the crone nods to you, and you nod back. The vile slush spewing from the crone's mouth never hits the younger woman. It passes around her, through her. Your entire body is soaked, wrinkled in the stuff. The young woman kneels in front of the old. She slaps the crone, hard hard. The old woman's jaw slams shut, her neck clicks when she turns her head back. The young woman says, listen.
The crone listens.
The Young Women's Speech
“Willow-weed and choke vines, bleeding dimes and red seeds.”
Spin in a circle
“We all fall down!”
“Oh oh!, how we all fall down.”
Children's games and chants, stupid and nonsense and old magik, holding hands and spinning circular, dead branches and roots snatching at ankles; leaves wave with no breeze.
Magik, oh yes, old one. You have forgotten, I know I know.
You think in facts and trivia and white sciences — burning red lines of rigid knowledge forming the scaffold that hold your soft skull in place.
Well hear me now.
Burned fingertips and bloody knives, accidental cuts and oven kisses. There lies magik in these.
In family in one place and family in many singular places, in family cut and family reunited.
There lies magik in cooking a meal and building a chair, in helping a poor man up.
And magik lies there, in your indifference, your hatred for the queer and the brown and the strange language of the foreigner: magik that prevents the love that should be.
Bad magik always eclipses the good, the butterfly wings and the babies hand holding your own too-large fingers.
Bad magik stained the hands of the children of your youth, dancing in a circle, all a-singing of willow-weed and bleeding dimes. Bad magik stained their hands and their eyes as they saw you on the outside. You on the outside, looking in.
And looked away.
Smiling teeth dripping with blood the parents cannot see.
You are not our friend anymore.
There was bad magik pushed in your soul that day, old one. You never fit afterwards, poor woman.
No groups can have you, no friends would stay, family and husbands faded as soon as they appear. Dogs run and cats scream and funny little frogs refuse the crickets and flies you would feed. No nursing home makes you safe.
You were pushed out too far that day, and the magik bled into lines on your face and trembles in your hand, and cracks in your voice.
Magik pushes bitter out of you, like a bad stink, a funk that never leaves, only follows in a cloud. You poor woman. You’re too far gone. I cannot fix you.
I cannot fix you. But I can help you. I can make you leave. I can put you to sleeping, to dreaming, to a place where magik is pure and pure and nothing but. I can send you to the next life.
No, not heaven, you bastard cross-hugger. Your pale Abraham’s God exists in bedtime stories and nowhere else. I am speaking of the real place.
Quit your screaming now. You want this to end? You want an end? Yes? Fine, here, drink this, lean forward, good. Good.
The Grandson’s Tale
The young woman pulls the knife from the old woman’s heart, slipped neatly between ribs as the grandmother looked into an empty cup. She stands, wipes the blood on the crone's flimsy blue gown. She frowns, touches the crone's forehead, closes surprised eyes. Her skin grey and rough now, eyes slanted, teeth like needles. She is crying.
You leave. She pointed towards the door. You left. You found a bar. You only want to drink this day to tomorrow's world. You saw it on TV. Local news, the nightly body count. An investigative report on funding for local parks. Kids play in a field before a set of swings and a cracked plastic blue slide, hands joined, circular. They skip and sing, no sound. Their lips form words you well know, words of willow-weed and bleeding dimes. A blond boy in a bright red shirt stands outside the circle. His confused face giving way to an angry face. Hands slack at sides, eyes wide and searching for his friends from just that morning. He cannot find them. They dance and spin out of existence. He walks away, little shoulders hugging his ears. His light-up sketchers leave vile green footprints shimmering in his wake. They fade; grass dies. Desolation follows this boy now.
You look away, look to the football game on the other tv. You drink your beer with a passion, order another. Nobody seems to see the green evil caking your skin. You look away, down the bar, catch the eye of the pretty man around the bend of the long platform. He catches and returns your eye, sips his drink. You decide to take him home. You stand, walk over. Green flakes away in small bits as you move. It fades and drips and crunches away while he and you talk, you cannot brush it off, but it leaves with the pretty man's words. He kisses you, and your breath rises, halts. The last crusting falls away, a cascade, a dripping decadence of self-pity and hatred and loneliness. Desolation leaves you. You leave the bar, no longer thinking of crooked old women and sad boys in dying fields and red shirts. No longer thinking of young women with white and brown and red and blue skin and pointed teeth. No. This pretty man will stay, although you don’t know it yet. You will have no more green on your skin. Old magik blood will drip from your teeth, from bites you did not know you took. But you will not know it, oh Grandson No-Longer.
Title: Willow-Weeds and Bleeding Dimes
Age range: 16 and up
Word Count: 1141
Name: Abigail Rael
Why your project is a good fit: You're looking to discover and represent the new, up-and-coming bestsellers. A large and growing number of fantasy and horror readers are millennials and gen z-ers who love to read weird, original, and queer concepts and stories. But are there a lot of authors catering to the demographic? No. However, you're in luck, because that's exactly what I write, and what I intend to write more of.
The hook: Niel Gaiman-esque story with gen-z influneces and original horror concepts.
Synopsis: A young man visits his miserable grandmother in a home at the same time an angel visits the woman. In the angel's presence, he is able to see emotion as physical matter, and discovers things about his grandmother and himself he never knew.
Target audience: Queer readers who like weird fiction and horror concepts that explore our own humanity. People who read Lovecraftian/Gaiman/Tamsyn Muir type stories.
Your bio: I am a young writer with a wide-ranging array of influences and writing styles. My writing style usually focuses on prose, character, and dialogue, all of which I use to build the world my stories take place in. Some of my hobbies including reading too much, chopping wood, staring at the wall, and climbing onto roofs I shouldn't be on. I am from Santa Fe, New Mexico.