Flash Fiction by Emily Deibler
Through the Dark Woods
I have always related to Faust, even when someone can look at him and tell he's an idiot. Why drink in the nectar of words, inhaling yellowed pages and dust, for eternal damnation? But to rip apart the fabric of monotony, to have a demon by your side, a companion—what is Hell to the slings and arrows of modern life? Where men can be made of too many teeth, and I am stagnant, alone, digging dirt out from under my nails.
That is what Limbo is, Hell, just nice enough no one can see the bloodstains.
I am both Frankenstein and the monster, wanting to be cherished and loathed, bitter and cold, bristling but sad-eyed. Bearing my teeth. I want to be a witch who makes love to her demons, receiving a love I've never had, yarrow instead of rue. But what if I'm not a scholar or witch, but the demon? Mephistopheles moonlighting as Helen of Troy.
Maybe, but I'm bird-bones weak and ugly. Even when I sleep I cannot escape my flawed body. I have dreams where I have a toothache. I tug and I yank, blood staining the white sink and carnation-stippled wallpaper. My gums are obstinate, unrelenting, always bleeding.
Too long I have wandered the woods—lantern a sputtering whisper in the night, needles and pins pushed into the sole of my foot, going deeper, reaching my knees.
It is like I am always red, menstrual cramps all over me. Men hurt me; women run from me; ghosts gnaw on my skin. I am a bad victim. Victims are supposed to be inspirational, alive to make others feel better for their strength and pity. I want love, but oh look, there’s that aloof bitch. She never talks, so she must hate us. When they don't talk to me—do they hate me? I don’t belong here, too little sulfur. I always thought I should take the pomegranate seeds and eat them, wait to be taken, settle for those who possess and trap me until, I’ve realized, Hecate resides in the Underworld too, her moon-face guarded, her magical world spinning, witch-goddess-mother made into the Devil.
For me, hexes and love potions are the same.
My room reeks of vinegar. I go out. The kiss of Death waits for me as I wander twisting paths and men with red shirts follow me, my legs wobbly, Lilith hooting in the clouds, crickets as big as my hands screaming as the neurontin kicks in. God, they're all in the summer trees, watching. They ate the stars.
Am I weak? This is not a dream. I am followed, and no moon protects me, but I live, self-perpetuating. No matter the trials, the monsters, the dragons, I survive with my scraped knees and bruised lips, unconquered. But the wolves—they weave in the brush, elusive. What is it with people and wolves? How many wolf print shirts can one own? But a fairy tale wolf is a whole different beast; a fairy tale wolf remembers everything.
I thought I was little docile Red with her basket of boysenberry muffins, ready to go to Grandmother's house, smelling of earth, roses, cat piss, lavender, a colostomy bag. (Yes, Nanny, I'll mix the strawberry and blueberry syrup on your pancakes next time.)
But back to the bloody dream, when I pull out the tooth, it is rotten but long and curved. Why be the frightened Maiden (never the Mother or Crone, no love or weddings for me), twisting in my sheets with each clinging panic,
or the doomed scholar
or the witch,
or the demon,
clinging to my shawl,
when I was born to be the wolf?
A native of North Georgia, Emily Deibler is a published poet and author. Her short story “Deer in December” was published in TL;DR Press’ Halloween 2018 Horror collection, NOPE. She has also published her poems “Turkey Hunting,” “Patty,” “Samantha,” and “Daughters of the Sun.” Her debut novel, Dove Keeper, came out in October 2018. She can be found on Twitter at @emilydeibler. She is a regular contributor to Marías at Sampaguitas.