She did up her curls and fastened them with a golden comb, then sprinkled the Christmas tree with festive strands of silver. Chipping away at sticky tape with her fingernail, she unwrapped a box that she guessed might have been placed there thirty years before. When it was finally opened, the ghastly, withered fingers of a familiar hand reached out and plucked the comb from her hair—the curls coming undone one by one, and framing her bright eyes, which danced with shivering excitement. Without warning, the same hand reached out and grabbed her fingers, crushing and draining them of blood, until they turned white with surrender. Once the grip had slackened, her lips started to move, but her voice stayed deep down in her throat.
‘I’ve been waiting for your touch for a very long time—waiting for your embrace to smother my shadow.’
When Lacie was three, she swallowed her mother’s mood ring. In spite of ipecac syrup, copious quantities of laxatives, and even a hospital visit, the ring never reappeared. Eighteen now, Lacie imagined it illuminating her belly with the changing colors of her moods, or perhaps, even, controlling them.
The surprise of the chicks, scratching now at the fresh, fragrant mulch, made her feel yellow, worked where nothing else had that week—not the azure waves lapping at her feet, not the briny breeze, not the posh beachfront resort, the skin-clearing sun, or even her first (legal) passion fruit daiquiri. No, until Lacie, walking well ahead of the others, stumbled upon the clutch of tiny black and lemon-yellow chicks cheeping and chirping and scrabbling after their coal-black mama, ring around the rosie through the resort’s pristine flower beds, the mood ring somewhere in her belly glowed a constant, peevish vermilion, one shade shy of Veruca Salt red.…
You stay in bed for sixteen hours. When you wake up it is night, and you notice a strange sensation in your upper lip. Prickle prickle push. You examine the skin of your upper lip in a mirror and discover the bristle-like beginnings of three white hairs on each side of your philtrum. The hairs are unusually stiff and sleek. You continue over the next few days to watch the hairs grow progressively longer at night, then recede entirely in the daytime, and to notice other changes. Your incisors become pointy. The pupils in your eyes change shape. By the 5th day your bones are dislocating themselves, popping out of sockets from shrinking suddenly, head hair receding into your scalp and everywhere else hair sprouting like grass. By the 7th day your nightly transformations have you turned into an ordinary stripped grey domestic cat, indistinguishable from any natural-born full-time 24-hour cat. Since the transformations only take place when your lover is asleep, these changes in you have not yet been noticed. You exit the bedroom through the window, across the porch roof, down the tree, and away. You go out every night and watch scenes play out in the lighted windows of houses. …
I saw him resting under a tree, my tree. Or at least everyone called it my tree since the incident. But since it was being called my tree, however spitefully, I would claim it as such. So I’d say my bit and I’d kick him out from under my tree. Then, I’d watch him lumber off and I’d take a nice nap. It was a good day for a nap too, balmy and quiet. Much like the day that ruined my life. Just thinking of it made me bristle with anger. But I called upon that to fuel my speech and I scampered on over to him.
“I need to talk to you.” He slowly craned his neck to look up at me. He blinked his beady little eyes at me, and slowly, ever so slowly, opened his mouth. His mouth hung open for a few seconds before it closed with a click. Then he opened it again. And closed it. And opened it. This time, a tongue slid out and tasted the air. Then, back in. And he shut his mouth again. God, I knew he was always a mouth-breather but he could at least give me the courtesy of a response.…
I’m having a lovely time at Clockworld. At noon yesterday, three hundred grandfather clocks chimed at once. I had to cover my ears, it was so loud. They have clock-themed books, analog and digital clocks, and an entire room dedicated to Mickey Mouse watches. They even have pocket watches like the one your grandfather used to carry. I considered buying you one, but decided against it.
I know you forbade me to bring another clock home, but I did. I did it for me.