This is not my body.
Yes, there are the expected parts—arms, legs, hips, breasts—each in its proper place and of the proper shape.
Is he a monster, a madman, a misguided fool? I don’t know. I don’t want to know. But this is not my body.
The rot begins, as always, around the stitches. This time, the spots of greyish-green appear on the left wrist, and there is an accompanying ache, but not in the expected way. It feels as though there is a great disconnect between mind and flesh, a gap that yearns to close but cannot. I say nothing, but there is no need; Lillian’s weeping says it with more truth than words.
The hands are hers.
“Please don’t show him yet. Please,” she whispers. “I’m not ready.”
“I must,” I say. “You will be fine.”
“Please, please, wait until after the party.”
I ignore her. I have learned the hard way that hiding the rot is not acceptable, and while the flesh may be hers, the pain is mine and mine alone. I remember hearing him offer an explanation, but the words, the theories, were too complex for me to understand. I suspect that was his intention.
Lillian will still be with us; she is simply grasping for an excuse, any excuse at all. I understand her fear, but the rot could destroy us all.
Damien Angelica Walters writes:
With respect to openings, the same rules apply to both novels and short fiction. You want to grab a reader’s attention, draw them in, and give them reasons to care and to keep reading. In my short fiction collection, “Sing Me Your Scars” is both the title story and the first story to appear.
My goal for the opening was to offer a bit of mystery, a peek at the main character’s sense of physical dislocation, and a hint that this was not a result of her own doing.
From there, I move to the rot and the stitches, which hopefully ups the stakes and also gives the reader an indication that this story owes much to Mary Shelley. But the true hook to me is “the hands are hers.” That’s the sentence that provides the connection between the rot, the main character, and Lillian and makes it clear that this creation is not just a Shelley pastiche, but something new.
All told, it’s one hundred and twenty-two words. The next one hundred and nine up the stakes even more by revealing that the rot could destroy them all. So not only is the rot something the main character can’t take lightly, but it shows that she and Lillian are not the only occupants of this body. Also included in this section is another reference to the as yet unseen “him,” the true monster in the story.
All this information is conveyed on the first page.
It was a risk opening with a period piece, as most of the stories are set in contemporary times, but I think the story sets the tone well for the rest of the collection. A hint of darkness, a pinch of grim, and stories set a little off the expected path.
About the author:
Damien Angelica Walters’ short fiction has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume One, The Best of Electric Velocipede, Strange Horizons, Nightmare, Lightspeed, Shimmer, and Apex. “The Floating Girls: A Documentary,” originally published in Jamais Vu and reprinted in the Chinese literary journal ZUI Found, is on the 2014 Bram Stoker Award ballot for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction.
Sing Me Your Scars, a collection of her short fiction, is set for a March 10th release from Apex Publications, and Paper Tigers, a novel, is forthcoming later in the year from Dark House Press.
You can find her on Twitter @DamienAWalters or online at http://damienangelicawalters.com.
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