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Stained Steel

By Søren Salander All Rights Reserved ©

Horror / Adventure

Blurb

We will hear: “Lay down your hearts and souls! Want not! Feel not! Do not fulfill your desires! Relinquish your individuality! Deny your humanity!” And we will answer: “NO.” Revolutionary runaway queen Dorothy Dahlia is the newest member of Dissentia, a secret sect of women with dazzling purple eyes. After battling mental health institutions and escaping imprisonment for “speech crimes”, Dorothy and the rest of Dissentia seek out sorceresses, outlaws, philosophers, homeless artists from the Omission Circle, trans-gender goddesses, and even the wacky foot-tall doll “Mazel Mollipops” to aid them in their fight for freedom.

18 Candles

“I was deep into a wonderfully clarifying kind of rage.”               –G. Willow Wilson


Lights out. A large cream-colored finger flies through the air and finds its target—a small cream-colored light switch on the side of a light blue kitchen wall. The only light now comes from the candles in the center of a mahogany dining room table. Eighteen of them, shining their glowing hot melty faces through the darkness as they trudge across a sea of inch-thick vanilla frosting.

Their light dances across the smiling faces of those who have gathered around the table to watch the fires burn into oblivion, illuminating tiny bits of skin or fabric. From what little the dying wax soldiers can reveal, one can make out the basic outline of at least a couple of grown men, a few women and two little silhouettes of what can only be either dwarves or children. Not a moment passes before the whole congregation of shadowed figures joins their mediocre singing voices in a timeless chorus of celebration.

“Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you…” a tune more recognizable than the name of Jesus Christ, and perhaps even Ronald McDonald. On this particular occasion, the familiar ritual was slightly different from the norm. Not a soul in the room was having a birthday. It seemed to defeat the purpose of the party altogether. “Happy birthday, dear…”


“Aah! Damn it!” A spattering of dark red flies wildly across the little bedroom, glimmering eerily in the glow of the black-lights and violet lava lamps that fill the otherwise unlit space with neon luminescence. “Damn it!”

Splat. The spattering splatters across a canvas set upon an easel, near a dark wall beside a full-sized bed. It’s soon followed by another volley of rage. These spatter-splatters quickly and furiously bloody the once-neat and shapely bit of madness...which has already made its home in the confines of the 24’’ by 36’’ once-white world of art. Beneath the redness lies an uncannily realistic-looking heart made from various deep shades of blue, black and purple. The heart is complete with arteries, veins and ventricles—not like the hearts one would find on a Hallmark Valentine’s card—but Salvadore Dali seems to have influenced the creation. Each section of the pulsing dying thing is shaped differently than its counterparts, as if the whole thing is being viewed inside a spatter-splattered funhouse mirror.

It’s a beautiful, horrible thing. A peek into my soul. I reach out and brush two fingers across the wet sea of glowing color, smearing little waves along the way. The heart is my heart, of course, only I’ve prettied it up a lot. A sea of red gushing out the back of a cheese grater would be a better representation of my feelings.

He’s gone. He’s dead. He’s not coming back, and neither am I. They’ve killed me too. I died when he took his last breath. They murdered my soul, and thought they were doing me a favor! They thought they were doing what is “right”. “Upholding justice”?

Bullshit. I press the power button on a remote with my left hand, still holding the paintbrush in my right, and aim it at the little flat screen TV in front of me. I don’t need to see what pops up on the screen. I know what will be there already, but part of me still needs to see it. Has to. It’s like a crime scene.

“…found dead in his apartment early this morning. The cause of death is still unknown, although suicide has been ruled out. Alleged rapist John J. J---”

Click. The screen fades to black, pulling the formally dressed blonde news anchor and her unhappy report down into the depths of nothingness.

Bullshit! You killed him! You all did!” They did. They may not have murdered him physically, outright, but it was bound to happen. This is what they wanted. This is what they think is best for me. The outcome they believe is “moral” and “proper” is that which destroys me. How can this be? Why is upholding cultural norms worth watching me wither and die? All of them wanted him to die…even my own family.

The TV remote crashes against the floor---though it’s more of a thump; the floor is light grey carpet---and I splash my brush down into a glob of black paint. I’m not quite finished. Speaking of my loving family, they are having a party downstairs. Today is my eighteenth birthday. They’re joyously celebrating the day I finally gain my human rights. They’re celebrating my fiance’s death. They think I should be happy that he’s gone…John Janglehorn. Candidate for state senator. Dead at thirty-one. They thought he was using me, manipulating my “impressionable” young mind.

Bullshit. All minds are impressionable, not just the young ones. If anything, it was me who made him “bad”. They think I’m weak. They think I require their protection. They think I’m a fragile little doll. I am not. I am not the naïve little baby girl they make me out to be. I am Dorothy Dahlia. I am the cunning whisper at the window, an immeasurable darkness like a dream. I am the deadly nightshade, belladonna; my petals reach out far enough to brush against heaven and my thorns are sharp enough to send a soul to hell.

“…happy birthday, dear Dorothy…” I can hear them all singing downstairs, reminding me passive-aggressively that I should be celebrating too. To them I’m just a stupid little girl—the daughter they had when they prayed for a son—under a spell woven by a “sick, twisted pedophile”. They never even got to know him. If anyone is under a spell, it’s poor Xavier and Alice, my two younger siblings. They’re celebrating in my time of misery too, but only because they don’t know any better. They’re not yet old enough to really make up their own minds about things like that. Mother’s and Father’s words still ring as true in their ears as the voice of God. I’ll win them over yet. I will. Won’t I? That is my greatest ability, though it seems that my parents are immune to my mystical charm.

“…happy birthday to you!” In my mind I can picture eighteen candle soldiers, now mere flaming molten stubs protruding from the sugary marsh. Their very souls are blown out in a whirlwind of cheering mint-scented breath, leaving them lifeless as all those gathered ‘round them are swallowed by the overwhelming dark. The lights go out on the frosting battlefront. Dark wet blackness flies vigorously from my brush and joins the spatter-splat pattern of its bloody red ancestors, spraying my dark and glowing heart, completing my self-portrait.

Bubump. Bubump. It shivers and quivers, then delivers poisoned blood outward to an unseen body far off-canvas. I feel it flowing through my veins, reminding me to remember. I will remember today. Always. Though “always” seems so finite now, like it’s waiting to slip away. Something must be done. There is no reason left in my world, but I believe I’m destined to be the one to conjure it back up from the void and make the others see. Mazel Mollipops understands.

“Don’t you, Mazel?” Mazel is a little purple-haired girl who is sitting on my bed and leaning back against my pillow, contemplating the great philosophical dilemmas of life. Her cotton-stuffed ears have heard all my deepest creepest and her mouth of stitches shall never tell a single soul. She is the perfect confidante. She tilts her head to reply.

“Of course I do, those bastards! How can they rejoice at a time like this? Why couldn’t they be happy that you finally found love? They don’t worship God the Father, the worship taboo, stigmas…burn them with fire, girl! With fire, I say! Throw their luscious cakey confectionaries into the alleyways. Feast not on those foods, Daniel! Eat the veggies instead! Grind their bones to dust and rip their spleens from their backs!”

Miss Mazel Mollipops has a cute and friendly-windly face, but she’s a far different kind of stuffed fluff companion than Winnie the Pooh. She spits curses like a drunken sailor early in the morning, has an ego comparable to that of Narcissus, and vehemently refuses to take any amount of shit from anyone.

“If Satan ever tries to drag me to hell, I’ll make him my bitch,” she once sang in a whimsical voice while brandishing her vixen smile. That was Miss Mollipops. Mollipops, Mollipops, ooh Molli, Molli, Molli, Mollipops! La-la, la, la…

Mazel is off on another of her familiar rants, her whole body jittering and skittering with such intensity that one might think she’s having a seizure. Her fine stringy hair instantly transforms into a disheveled mismatch of fraying frazzle and flings wildly about her face.

“Ha!” I regard her with a knowing smirk, the kind you give to someone familiar when they present a quirk that’s struck you so many times before. “Calm down, hon, or your heart will explode and you won’t make it long enough to act out all of your gory fetishes.” I flip my brush over and bop the little squealer on the head with the wooden end, realizing that my hand shall now be as black as the color Mollipops wishes her soul could be.

The happy chant has ended downstairs, ominous silence now resting in its place. I’m certain that the “sad case” of the damsel in distress, Dorothy, is now being blabbed about below. Classy. The glow of the lights in the room pull me somewhere outside of space and time, a place that seems like somewhere and nowhere and everywhere all at once; a universe of glowing neon, nonexistent yet parallel to my own.

“Oh Mazel,” I begin dreamily, “I often feel that you’re a doll’s doll, or even a doll’s doll’s doll, or…know what I mean? Like I’m a doll. As if everything is staged, I’m made of wax and living in a dollhouse while some other bigger boy or girl writes the script and pulls the strings. Maybe they’re made of wax too, in the same boat as we are, only I’m lying on their bed while they dream that I’m talking. Maybe I’m just nuts.”

“Oh!” She shouts out, understanding. “Everyone is nuts to someone, and no one is nuts to everyone. So, either everyone is or no one is! It’s a question without an answer, so you’re wasting your time with that one. Worry, worry, worry, about unanswerable shit! That’s what everybody seems to do. Be better than them.”

Her strange answer wins my gaze, and I discover her at the end of my bed. She’s trying to seduce a cotton cobra and a plush penguin into some kind of ménage a trois. I suppose that since there are few other creatures on her plane of existence lying about, mischievous Mollipops takes what she can get. Secretly I know she’s hoping I’ll come home with one of those big plastic remote-controlled robot things from the toy store…“Super Deluxe Ultimate Advanced Luxury Buy-me-Bot”, or something like that…I could go on all day long. So could he! I’ll leave her to her “not worrying”.

All of this keeps reminding me of him. At least Mazel has a snake and a platypus to love. I just have these fucking memories. John, or J.J.J., as I call---called---him, was the first man I met who didn’t treat me like an inferior female in dire need of a dashing prince. It shocked me at first, unfortunately. My father, a ruthless assistant district attorney, believes all women are to be provided for, not taken seriously and taught to feel guilty about having sex. He stopped loving me when he learned that I lost my virginity. So did he ever really love me at all?

Maybe he was just being the “protective father”, a bit overbearing, but I always felt something black and green and bitter sickly worming its way through my insides when he told me how wrong it was, how “immoral” I am for losing my “purity”. It made me feel like he was jealous, like he wanted me for himself! I tried to bury the feeling away. I’m probably just being crazy, right? Shit, I don’t know! What is crazy, anyway? Maybe Mazel is right. Maybe “crazy” isn’t even real.

My self-induced daytrip is shattered abruptly by a knock at the door. Knock. Knock-knock. Three times. The triple-knock greatly disturbs me, perhaps because it’s like a bully to all the other kinds of knocks. It’s also just too damn…common. Blasé. Devoid of creativity. When did I first hear it? I was too young to really remember now. It puts things into perspective. Such a short amount of time has passed since then. Does that mean that I’ll be dead in no time, looking back during my last moment, remembering how everything went by in a blink of an eye?

Damn, just a single knock would do! A quintuple knock! A four hundred fifty-seven in a row knock, though that would be a terrible waste of time. I have to keep my mind on the new, the fresh, the different. Not the old and cliché and rotting away into oblivion. Shit, do most people read so much into a door-knock? Knock. Knock. Knock. Agh!

The door bursts open. An explosion. Oh. My dad is a frightening man. Six feet tall, two hundred pounds of condescending wrath, as clean-cut as Dapper Dan and as self-righteous as the pope. He doesn’t care if I like him, as long as I pretend to out of fear.

“Come down to your party!” He’s extremely upset that I’ve missed the holy, essential, miraculous, life-giving birthday song. He would rather remove all of the skin on his body---all of it---than deviate slightly from any sort of tradition. I don’t know whether he is a human or a programmed machine. Maybe the two are basically the same.

“No. You know why.”

I rule in this house, ye ungrateful maiden! Thou shalt party! Thou shalt laugh! Thou shalt smile!”

“No. I am an adult. Put me out on the streets, if it has to come to that.” His eyes fill with unnatural rage. Oh, how he hates the autonomy of other living things! He begins to scream, but I can’t hear him anymore…or see him, for that matter. I’m just vaguely aware that he has turned the light on. His angry blue-black glowing eyes fade away. I’m gone.

It’s great to pass out when you’re stressed. It makes life easier. I’m swimming, flying, floating along the bottom of the sea. Oh! There goes Mazel Mollipops and her friends! What are they do---oh! Time to look away from the porn.

“Dorothy.” The water closes in all around me. What’s happening? “Dorothy Dahlia!” I can’t…can’t hold my breath much longer. Glowing, menacing lantern fishes bloop and flop by all around me, promising happiness, concealing betrayal and destruction. How human they are! They would do well in Washington D.C.

Maybe it’s good that I’m drowning. I feel no pain. At least I’m not being tortured on a rack or being burned at the stake. I’ll never hear father scream his hate at me again…maybe I’ll even see John. I’d do anything for that, then at least I could depart with him. Glub, glub! I have no gills! Ha, what a predicament! Though these shady fishes are wide awake, I’m falling asleep. It’s easy…easier than I expected, really. Better than I imagined. I’m an angel. I’m pretty and witty and wandering away. Maybe I’m not dying, but where the hell am I going? Surely somewhere, and the train is leaving the station. Time to go.

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