“I love you, Violette.”
It wasn’t the first time he had ever said those words to me, it wasn’t even the first time in the entire day that we had spent together. But when he held my left hand and surreptitiously slipped a ring in my ring finger, as we stood and stared at the lake beneath us, those words hit harder than they ever had. He held my hand tightly and we turned towards each other. Oh, what a truly beautiful evening it was. Families who were on picnics were packing things up while their children spurned to leave the swings, innumerable couples were walking hand in hand, stopping every now and then for a quick laugh, a punch on the arm, or a kiss, the ducks in the seaweed lake underneath the little bridge we stood on were quacking about, in twos and threes, and Kris and I, we couldn’t stop blushing. Love was in the air all right, on that fine Valentine’s Evening, in 2016.

“Yes!” I said, smiling really wide. I had answered a question that was never put into words. My jaw had started to hurt. I knew Kris felt the same way I did, because when I hugged him, with both my hands tugging on his black sweater’s neckline, I could feel his heart beating right next to mine. I don’t know if this usually happens, but the pace felt almost the same. It was just the right amount of unusual. I kissed his ear and looked up at the sky, while still hugging him. It was getting darker – the azure sky with clouds scattered like little balls of cotton we were admiring only a while ago. With one final squeeze, we let go of each other. I placed my left hand from his neck on to his face. I stared at the ring. The oval amethyst in between shone alongside its diamond studded border on a silver plated band. He turned his face and kissed my hand. I put my right hand on his left-side cheek, and pulled him in for a kiss. My hands went into his hair and he held me tightly around my waist. Neither of us wanted to let go but the fact that we had just got engaged hit us both at around the same time; we pulled apart, looked at each other, grinned, jumped and kissed each other again. When we finally stopped kissing, he held up his right hand for me to hold, while I still had my arms around his neck. I just didn’t want to let go.
“You know it’s time to go,” he said with a smirk.
I put my fingers between the spaces his fingers left for me, and we both let our hands down.
“Oops!” I exclaimed. “Gotta be careful with that.”
“What happened?” Kris asked.
“I think you got the wrong size, hon.” I shifted the ring in my finger. It slid easily in and out.
“WHAT? Oh man, I had one job! Argh! You’re not an eight?”
“Seven, love. Seven.” I said, with a smile, with my right hand’s index finger and thumb still playing with my engagement ring.
Kris put his hand over his mouth and didn’t say anything for a while.
“Relax! It’s no big deal. We’ll go get it exchanged,” I told him. When he still didn’t speak up, I asked, “We can get it exchanged, right?”
“Yes, yes we can. That’s not an issue. I just can’t believe I screwed this up. This day was supposed to be perfect!”
“It is! Relax, it’s just a ring. I had a lovely day today, Kris. The lunch was amazing, so was the make-out session in the car when we pulled over on that empty street on our way here, the walk in the park with the crisp air in our hair, and now this,” I flashed my new ring; “you’ve no idea how thrilled I am to go show this to Mumma. She’s going to love it!”
“No no no, give it back to me. I’ll get a size seven and bring it to you tomorrow. Don’t tell Joanna just yet, please.” Kris looked depressed.
“No fucking way!” I put my hands behind my back.  “I’m keeping it. It’s mine now. We’ll go get it exchanged together and the argument ends here, this is it, this is the finish line,” I said, and brought my right hand in front of his face and with the index finger, traced his lips from left to right, something I’ve always done, and still do, which signifies that it’s time for him to seal his lips.
Before he could even try and say another word, I gave him a quick peck on his lips, which signifies a final seal on the seal, held his left hand with my right and started to walk. I had stuck my left hand’s thumb between the ring and the middle finger, to prevent the ring from falling off.


It was warmer inside the car once the heating had started to take effect. I removed my coat, folded it a little, and kept it on the car’s back seat. I put my hands out so Kris would give me his coat as well, but I could tell he was still kind of morose about the ring size fiasco.
“Kris, honey, you’ve got to let it go. I promise you. First thing tomorrow, okay?”
“The place doesn’t open until 11, and we’ve to be at work by 10, you know that, Vee.”
“Okay well then, lunch time. We’ll drive to the place during lunch hours. We can do that, right?” I put my hand on his shoulder, the hand with the ring.
“Yeah, but Vee, Joanna is going to hate me. She’s already not a fan or anything and she’s probably going to say ‘Oh he can’t even get your finger’s size right and you agreed to spend the rest of your life with that loser?’ or something like that.”
“Hey okay, first of all, bad imitation. Second, in all these years, she has hardly ever liked any guy that I’ve been out with. But I know her and I know that she likes you. Dad turned out to be a total jerk which is why she hates men and the only date of mine she would prefer over you would have to be Marion, I think, when I had the whole ‘I might be bisexual’ phase going on in college.”
We both chuckled.
“Seriously though, Kris, listen to me,” I held his face and looked into his eyes. I love doing that. “It’s been more than two years. And you’ve even been to our stupid extended family parties Aunt Karen can’t stop throwing. And do you remember that one time an old couple had cornered Mumma about her not having a job and raising me alone and shit, and you had come to her rescue?”
“Yeah,” Kris smiled. I was relieved to see him smile. “I could see her getting extremely uncomfortable and gulping down her wine like a maniac and I just went over to ask her to help me find you, even though I knew you were throwing up in the bathroom upstairs.”
“Alright, we didn’t have to remember that part.” I rolled my eyes and continued, “Besides, Mumma’s not the only one who hates Aunt Karen’s parties. Those things are day-time nightmares; they suck all the ‘thanks’ out of Thanksgiving.”
He laughed and said, “Oh man and I thought my grandmother was the crazy one.”
“Oh, we both know your grandmother is much much much better than Aunt Karen,” I spoke and waited as he removed his coat, then folded it and kept it on the back seat next to mine.
“I remember Joanna took me to the backyard and we talked about how irritating most of your family members are. And then you joined us after around fifteen minutes, looking and smelling like total shit and your mother stroked your hair while I rubbed your shins.”
“Yeah,” I said, looking out the window. “Helena didn’t even bother offering me another dress. So much for being a first cousin. Not like I expect too much out of her, considering the kind of sister Aunt Karen has been to Mumma. An absolute shitfest, this family has become ever since Dad left us and my grandmother died.”
“Hey, let’s not open doors to territories we can at least avoid in our heads, okay?” Kris held my chin and kissed me.
He started the car and soon we were out of the parking lot and on the road.
“I’ll have to make it up to Joanna though, right? We’ll also go to that fancy liquor store and get her a bottle of wine tomorrow.”
“Red!” We both said at the same time, and laughed.
“Erm, excuse me, Kris? What about making it up to me?” I raised my left hand and made a puppy face, to show how hard it was for me to keep my thumb sticking between two fingers.
“Alright! Let’s find that empty street again, I’ll pull over and take you to the back seat, or the woods, whatever you prefer, your majesty,” he winked at me.
“Shut up and take me home,” I couldn’t stop blushing. I stared out the window looking at the different people in different cars, trying to guess what they were talking about and then I zoned right out until Kris turned up the volume of the stereo.
‘I Saw Her Standing There’ was playing, and we suddenly started to sing along. We held each other’s hand tightly and kind of started dancing – bobbing our heads, and tapping our feet. It was the first song we ever danced together to. It played at a work party and we were both very drunk and back then we didn’t even know what song it was but we knew that it was fine as hell. And so were we, together.


“You sure you don’t want to come in and say Hi?”
“Oh no. I’m not walking through that door without a bottle of your mother’s favorite red, okay? Just tell her my grandmother called with an emergency or something,” Kris kissed me on the cheek.
I grabbed my coat from the back seat and we both got out of the car. All the lights downstairs were on, save the ones of the study, and the lights in my mother’s room were also on so I guessed she would either be downstairs watching T.V. and drinking, or upstairs in her room reading a book and well, drinking.
I hugged Kris and we kissed passionately. The lipstick must have come off entirely, I thought to myself.
“All okay?” asked Kris.
I chortled. “Yeah! Now drive away before my mother sees you without a bottle of wine in your hand.”
He held my left hand, touched the ring and the ring finger and said, “I really love you.”
“And I, you, Kris. I love you.”
A final peck on the lips and he was back in the car. He drove away and I walked towards my house. I don’t know why but I decided to be on my own for a while and I sat down at the top of the staircase on the front porch. I wrapped my right hand around my left, felt the ring and my hands, my feet, and my face getting cold. When I couldn’t take the cold anymore, I got up and rang the bell. No answer. I rang it again; and again, and again. Finally, I got out my keys from my coat’s pocket and unlocked the door. The wind was getting more vigorous and cold with every passing second.

Once I was inside the house, I removed my boots and went looking for my mother. I went to the living room. The T.V. was off. The kitchen was empty too.
“Mumma?” I shouted as I took to the carpeted staircase. There was a red stain on one of the steps that wasn’t there in the morning when I left for the date, so I deduced that Mumma had poured herself some wine and took it upstairs while already tipsy, dropped a tad on the stairs, and must’ve passed out in her room reading.
I knocked on her door. “Mumma?”
No answer.
I opened the door and went inside. The light was on, her bed was made, The Scarlet Letter, the book she had been reading, lay in perfect condition on the bedside table. My heart was beating really fast. I noticed that her phone and her earphones weren’t in the room so I thought she must be taking a bath. I knocked on the bathroom door.
“Mumma? Are you in there? You’re freaking me out okay?
Hello? Mumma?”
I thought she couldn’t hear me because of the music in her ears, and I didn’t want to walk in on my mother taking a bath. So I decided to call her but I remembered I kept my phone on the island top downstairs. It was a habit. I ran downstairs and phoned my mother. I was just walking up the staircase when I heard her phone ringing somewhere in the living room. She had left it on the sofa. I dropped my phone next to hers, her phone still ringing. My heartbeat was shooting up and my throat was getting really dry. I slowly walked to the foot of the staircase. My mind was stuck on Mumma’s phone’s ringtone. When the phone finally stopped ringing, I ran upstairs. The ringing continued in my ears though.
I knocked on her bathroom door one more time.
“Mumma, I’m coming in!” I felt choked up but somehow got those words out of my mouth.
I turned the knob and slowly opened the door. I peaked inside. She indeed was in the bath. But it was red.

I stood at the door a long while. There was an empty wine bottle on the bathroom floor, with a broken glass lying next to it, and some spilled wine. A blade lay on top of the pool of the spilled wine so I knew it wasn’t just wine. My mother’s head was resting on the edge of the bathtub. Her face, her neck, and her breasts were pale. The rest of her body was immersed in the red water. My eyes ran from the mix of water and blood to the mix of wine and blood. A chill went down my spine and as much as I wanted to move, I couldn’t. I was frozen. I don’t remember how long it took me to walk over to the bathtub, but when I finally did, I sat beside her and just glared at her. Her hair was still wet and the tips were dipped in the blood water. I knew she was left handed so the cut had to be on her right hand. I placed my own right hand on her cold, deadpan face, and with my left hand, I reached into the bathtub and pulled out her hand. It was a straight cut – vertical. She knew what she was doing. I couldn’t look at it for too long so I let her hand go. I reached in for her other hand and held it tight. I kissed her wet hand and tears had started seeping down my face, dropping straight into the bathtub. I wanted to scream but I obviously couldn’t. I let go of her hand and looked at my own. My ring was missing. Frantically, I put my hand inside the water again and after a bit of fiddling, found the ring. It was right next to my dead mother’s hand. I touched it, was about to pick it up, but I couldn’t. Instead, my hand moved on to hers, and I traced the vertical cut she had marked herself with. I touched the swollen skin around it and I thought of the amount of blood she must have lost. Not that I needed to think about it at all, it was pretty clear because of the color of the water in the tub. I took the water and splashed it on my face. To this day I don’t know why I did that. It stank of my mother. I splashed some more on my face and let my hands stay there. I got up and walked over to the sink. I looked at the mirror, my hands still on my face. The kohl had spread around my eyes and my fringes were wet. I removed my hands. I was still crying. My lips looked like they never had any lipstick on in the first place. I took the towel beside the sink and wiped my hands and then my face. I let it stay there for a while because I wanted it to soak up all the water on my face. Or maybe I let it stay because I didn’t want to look at my mother. Nevertheless, if not directly, once I threw the towel on the bathroom floor, I looked at her, but only because she existed in my peripheral vision. I turned around and walked out the bathroom door. I opened the first drawer of her bedside table, seized the bottle containing her sleeping pills, left the drawer open and walked out of her room. I went downstairs straight to the kitchen; I was shivering. I swallowed ten of her pills with water, went to the living room and picked up my phone. I didn’t look at the time but there were around five missed calls from Kris and a lot of messages. I could feel my insides twisting but I knew I couldn’t return his calls or reply to the messages. I threw my phone on the floor. I then picked up Mumma’s phone and dialled 911.
“911. What’s your emergency?” Emergency, Ha! I sighed.
I told them where I lived and hung up the phone. I had started to feel drowsy. I threw my mother’s phone next to mine on the floor, put on the T.V. and curled up on the couch. I don’t even remember what program or what channel was on or if it were just advertisements. I closed my eyes and the picture of my mother and I swimming in Aunt Karen’s swimming pool, from one afternoon when I was a teenager and had recently learned how to swim, came to me. We were holding hands and we were under the water, smiling at each other. The swimming pool water in the picture behind my closed eyes soon turned red, and I’m positive a deep sleep must have arrived that night, long before the police did.


The Eerie Town of Alp Curie (Part IV)

If you’ve read Part I, Part II, and Part III, you may proceed.


Even with her back to the bar’s entry gate, she can tell someone has just entered the place. Eloise turns around in her seat to check, with her half burned cigarette lingering lazily between her fingers. Upon his entry, the man moves straight towards the bar and fixes himself a drink. He has hair similar to Tom Cruise’s in the movie The Last Samurai, only, Tom Cruise pulled it off better.
“Hey, you! You want a drink?” the man makes Eloise an offer.
“No, thanks, I’m good.” Eloise continues to pull hard on her cigarette.
The man is now walking towards Eloise’s table, where she is smoking away her time, unwelcomed.
“Do you mind if I sit here?”
Eloise looks around at all the empty tables in the bar. “There are, as you can see, a lot of empty tables here. Why do you want to sit with me?”
The man with the long hair, wearing a batman t-shirt, pulls out a seat and sits in front of Eloise anyway.
“We have business to discuss,” he says after getting comfortable in the seat, his drink in his hand.
“Business? I’m sorry but who are you again?”
“Ah, of course, introductions are due!”
The man takes two long gulps of his drink and extends his hand towards Eloise and sings with a sly smile, “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?”
She’s definitely not in the mood for jokes anymore, she has brimming questions that need to be answered, and conversing with another strange creature from this town is the last thing she wants. She ignores the man’s extended hand, puts out her cigarette on the table, gets up, and starts to pick up her stuff.
“Okay! Okay! Relax! I’m Gavin. I’m the one who phoned you, Eloise.”
Eloise freezes and looks hard at Gavin. Her feet had given up, but she feels better now. Gavin is finally in front of her.
“You’re Gavin? The ‘House for Art’ Gavin?”
“Yes! Can you sit back down now please?”
Eloise had lost all hope, but it’s all coming back to her. She can speak to Gavin, the man she had been waiting to see all day, and finally get started with her new career. She sits back down.
“I love your work!” Gavin put his hand on Eloise’s portfolio bag. “You’d be a star with us. You will finally be able to ‘express and impress’, as you had mentioned in your letter to us.”
Eloise can’t think of anything to say, so she manages a gentle smile.
“I know it must’ve been a tough day for you; new town, different people, peculiarities walking on the street, peculiarities climbing up the walls. This place is fucked up, but we call it home. And maybe soon you’ll be comfortable enough to do the same thing.”
“What?” Eloise’s heart’s beating faster now. “Call it home? I already have a home. And that’s where I want to be. I want to go home.”
“I – I’m afraid you can’t now, but hey – ”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Just, stop freaking out and listen to me!” Gavin’s voice is louder now, carrying more depth. “I faced similar problems when I arrived here. It was a sheer shock. It felt like someone had abducted me from everything I knew and dropped me on a land where nothing made sense. I was in denial for several months. But then one day, I thought about how important my work and passion is for me. And since then, my life, if you could call it that,” he stops for a slight chuckle, “my life has never been better. You can give this a shot too, Eloise.”
“Look, Gavin, I have no idea what you’re talking about. And you are freaking me out. My legs are cold and I feel like my body’s going to give up any minute. Just tell me how to go back home. Do I take the bus again? From where it dropped me?”
Gavin starts to talk but both their heads turn to the bar’s entrance. A beautiful woman with her green hair tied in a bun is walking towards them.
“Hey there! Remember me?” Betsy asks.
“OF COURSE!” Eloise replies gleefully.
Betsy turns to Gavin, “enough for today, okay?” and back to Eloise, “sweet pea, why don’t you come home and stay with me tonight, and we can all have a nice long chat about things tomorrow?”
“Betsy, no! I need her to get the art gallery going.” Gavin stands up to face Betsy, “And now that there’s no going back, we might as well just tell her the truth.”
“The truth about what?” Eloise is also standing up now, looking at both Gavin and Betsy, one by one.
“The truth about you, Miss Eloise. And the truth about this place,” says Gavin.
“And that is?” Eloise is shuddering now. She doesn’t want to know because she knows she probably does not want to hear what these people have to say, but the words have slipped out anyway.
Gavin looks at Betsy.
And finally, in a low voice, Betsy looks at Eloise, and says, “You’re dead.”

There’s a pause now. It’s like time has stopped for her, and so has every sensation a human body is capable of experiencing. Her heart is sinking, and her limbs have gone numb. The bulb outside the restrooms has stopped flickering. It has gone out. There’s darkness there, and there’s darkness here, slowly creeping into Eloise’s gut. She can’t move, she can’t think; there are so many questions she wants answered, things she wants to scream, but there’s a lump in her throat totaling her incapable of making any sound.

“The people who run this place – you will be taken to them eventually – established this town a long time ago,” Betsy continues to speak. “Their vision is simple. Not everyone who dies has to actually die, they can just live again, in a normal, small town like this one.”
Eloise shoots a look at Betsy, “NORMAL?!”
“Well, we’re trying,” says Gavin. “For the longest time nobody wanted to do anything. The whole place was just like a zombie land. People were depressed and had absolutely nothing to do. We can survive for years without water and food because, well, we can’t die anymore now, can we? But we’re changing that. We’re trying to make something out of this. So that there’s actual life and jobs and food and parties like in the real world. And hey, bonus! We’re all immortal now.”
“I still don’t get it,” Eloise sits down in her seat. “How and when did I die? How do people come here, what the hell is going on?”
“We get them here,” replies Gavin. “We have a chemical factory here, which I’m sure you must have come across. A genius brewed a lethal fragrance once and the people here carry it on now. They say he’s the one who opened this place, like ripping reality and making what’s unreal a part of what’s real.”
“Nobody knows the whole truth about this place,” interrupted Betsy, “and you don’t need to either.”
“The car! The lady in the car! A lady dropped me to the town’s entrance and the car smelled great and I thought I had taken a nap but had I actually died?” Eloise turns her gaze towards the cigarette buds on the table.
“Lucy, yes! That’s Lucy. She works for us. We asked her to pick you up, and well, rest I think you’ve already figured out,” Gavin takes his drink’s last sip. “I think I’m going to make myself another one of this. Anyone wants a drink?”
“No thanks, Gavin,” Betsy replies.
Eloise prefers to remain silent.
“Honey, we have figured everything out for you,” Betsy sits next to Eloise and out of thin air, conjures a key in her hand and presents it to Eloise. “Here, this is your apartment’s key. I live in the same building so if you don’t feel like staying alone tonight, you can stay with me.”
Tears are rolling down Eloise’s face. She’s still staring hard at the cigarette buds.
“Take her with you, Betsy.” Gavin is back at the table.
“She won’t even move, look at her.”
“So why don’t you touch her hand and take her with you?”
“Misuse my gift, you mean?” Betsy looks at Gavin and Gavin shrugs in return.
Eloise can hear everything. She can hear the witch and the art gallery owner talking, she can hear her heart beating faster than she thought it was capable of, she can hear herself running out of breath, as if any moment she would have a panic attack and collapse. But she can’t move.
“Hurry up, Betsy. She needs rest,” Gavin puts his drink down on the table.
Betsy closes her hand in a fist and the key disappears. She puts her hand over Eloise’s. “Look at me, Eloise,” she says.
She doesn’t think she has it in her to look at anybody but Eloise’s face turns and she looks directly into Betsy’s eyes.
“Let’s go,” Betsy says, gets up, and pulls Eloise up by her hand.
“I’ll take care of the portfolio bag and see you girls tomorrow,” Gavin is back in his seat and drinking again.
The girls reach the bar’s gate, holding each other’s hands and Eloise turns around to look at Gavin opening her portfolio bag. She wants to scream. She wants to run away. But Betsy’s hand is warm and it’s too cold outside. She looks beside her at Betsy, with tears streaming down her face, tightens her grip on the witch’s hand, and walks with her into the mist, to a place she has to now call home.

The Eerie Town of Alp Curie (Part III)

If you’ve read Part I and Part II, you may proceed.


Eloise couldn’t help but wonder how a town as odd as Alp Curie could possibly feel even slightly comforting. Maybe it’s because of Betsy, she thought.
She was the only passenger in the bus and even though it was quite frightening, Eloise found the strength to relax and look out of the window. She had expected the bus to go as fast as a monorail, since it already looked like one, but it didn’t. A lot of realizations hit her psyche like bullets as she stared out of the window – there was absolutely no traffic on the road, no signals, no bumps, no uphills, and no downhills. The roads were straight as a line. The town looked like it was fading away. The bright colors were getting darker, the quirky shapes were getting banal and the overall landscape shifted from being pleasing, to sour. A little while later, barren land on either side of a perfectly paved road was all Eloise could see. And then the bus stopped. Eloise’s heartbeat shot up.
“Why are you stopping in the middle of nowhere?” she shouted at the bus driver and a chill went down her spine.
“Relax, lady,” the driver laughed, “I’ve only stopped to pick another passenger.”
Relaxing was the last thing Eloise was capable of while in this town. A really thin figure with closely cropped head boarded the bus after a few seconds. The figure stood and talked to the bus driver and from the voice, Eloise deduced it was a woman. She was wearing a trench coat and carried a very lady-like purse. The bus had started moving again but the woman and the bus driver were still talking. Eloise closed her eyes and rested her head against the window. She took a deep breath and imagined what her life as an artist would be like. She visualized the art gallery she had not yet seen, and an exhibition of her art. She pictured Bree and herself, standing side by side, with wine glasses in their hands, laughing over something trivial. Eloise had dreamed of this since she was in high school, had been sketching and painting since, but had never thought of it as a profession. Growing up with Dali and Munch and Magritte, all Eloise ever wanted was to be recognized for what she was good at and for the longest time only a few friends took interest in her work and she was thankful for them. But everything was about to change for Eloise. Perhaps not in the way she had imagined it to be, but a change was about to materialize nevertheless.
She slowly opened her eyes. What she saw on the window, where she rested her head a few seconds ago, sent shivers down her spine, fierce enough for her to jump up. The window bore the reflection of the face of the woman who had been talking to the bus driver. The woman had an average sized oval shaped face with full lips and a sharp nose. Her eyes, however, were precariously, unusually, big, and she was looking right at Eloise with them. She turned to look at the woman directly. That was probably the most uncomfortable gaze Eloise had ever been at the receiving end of. In a hasty attempt to maintain her distance, Eloise hit her head on the window.
The strange woman’s straight face gave way to a smile.
“Err, hi! I – I’m Eloise!”
The woman leaned her face closer to Eloise’s without a word.
Eloise swiftly stood up.
“If you could, err, excuse me; that would be –” Eloise picked up her portfolio and briskly made her way through the woman’s perfect long legs, to the front of the bus. She couldn’t help but wonder why the woman chose to sit next to Eloise when the entire bus was blatantly empty.
“What’s wrong, lady?” The bus driver asked.
“Could I just stand here for the rest of the ride? I feel kind of queasy sitting down.”
“Sure, suit yourself.”
“How much time until we’re there?” Eloise bent to look outside the window.
“We’ll be there in a heartbeat.”

And indeed, they were. The bus stopped under a vintage lamp post where a woman stood with an umbrella in her hand, waiting to get on the bus. It looked like it had rained in that part of the town.
“Oh, hello there! I love your dress.” The woman said to Eloise, as she descended from the steps.
“Thank you, ma’am. And thanks to you too, sir,” she said, over her shoulder, to the bus driver.”
The driver smiled, and so did the woman with the umbrella. The strange woman with the big eyes never got off the bus and within a minute or so, the bus was on its way to wherever it was going.
Eloise stood underneath the damp lamp post and looked around. Betsy was right. She did like this part of town better. It wasn’t over-the-top quirky or unnaturally different; it was normal, slightly vintage, but normal. There were people in the streets, walking and laughing and talking. She started walking in the opposite direction of from where the bus came. The sidewalk was wet and people were walking on the roads once the bus had left. There were no cars or bikes or cycles in sight. A middle-aged man stood behind a kiosk on the sidewalk, handing out free popsicles to the people passing by. Eloise stared at him, contemplating if approaching him would be worth it. The next minute, she walked up to him. The man wore a hat with visible droplets of water on it, a three piece suit, and a very wide but genuine grin.
“Hello, young lady!” He greeted Eloise, handing her a pop. “Hope you’re having a lovely evening.”
“Err, no, thanks,” Eloise stammered, “I – I was wondering if you could help me look for a place.”
“Why, sure!” The man said, putting the pop back in the ice box. “Where is it that you wish to go?”
“I need to see Gavin at the House – ”
“Oh! Say no more!” He stepped out from behind his kiosk and limped towards where Eloise stood, with his hand pointing east.
Eloise stared down at the man’s legs while he continued to speak, “Go as far straight as you can until you reach the carmine colored factory tower – very noticeable – there should be no trouble finding that. Take a left when you’re facing the tower and you’ll find a dark alley in your way, the graveyard alley, and once you’re out of the graveyard alley, the art gallery’s huge neon sign will undoubtedly attract you to itself.”
“Thank you, sir. Thanks a lot. If you don’t mind me asking, what’s wrong with your leg?”
The man lifted up his trouser to reveal a tin leg, “I lost it in the war.”
“Oh, I’m really sorry. I’m sure the war story you have to tell must be an intriguing one. Anyway, thank you for the directions,” Eloise smiled and prepared to walk away.
“Perhaps someday I will tell you it. After all, the Vietnam War was full of flashing tales.”
“I’m sorry, did you say Vietnam War?” Eloise asked, turning around to look at the man in the hat.
“Yeah, why?” he asked with a smile.
“How old were you during the war?”
“Let’s see, the year was 1968,” the man clearly gave it a genuine thought, “therefore I must have been 22.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Eloise stared at the man. “If you were 22 in 1968, you should’ve been 71 by now, but you honestly don’t look a day older than 45. And I don’t mean to sound flattering, I’m honestly wondering how it’s possible for you to have served in the Vietnam War.”
The smile had vanished from the man’s face. “Listen, lady! I am one of the oldest inhabitants of this town. Just because I sell popsicles for free doesn’t mean you can say whatever bullcrap you feel like to me.”
“I bet you are, sir, but that gives you no right to lie about serving in one of the most important wars in the entirety of history as we know it,” Eloise had started walking again.
“I’m not lying! I have medals to prove it!” the man shouted in his adenoidal voice but Eloise paid no heed and continued walking in disbelief, shaking her head.

The pain in her legs was stronger than ever. Even though in the morning Eloise had no idea she would have to do an excessive amount of walking, she had put on her pair of fairly comfortable boots. Her decision of the same paid off for almost the whole day, but it had started to get dark, and her legs were gradually giving up. She kept walking on the sidewalk, vowing to not stop until she reached the carmine building the old man selling popsicles told her about.

It wasn’t a very long walk – Eloise realized when she finally stopped in front of the tower that was a slightly faded shade of carmine. The place looked abandoned, but a very sweet smell exuded from the area. She stood there a while, closed her eyes, and effortlessly breathed in the familiar scent, trying to recall where exactly she crossed paths with it. When she opened her eyes, she felt a little drowsy but almost immediately realized that she had an important place to pursue and should not be wasting any more time. It was growing darker by the second. She remembered the old man’s words and took a left while facing the tower. Gradually, she entered the dark, lifeless alley the old man called the ‘graveyard alley’. The path was narrow, and felt like it had been waiting just for Eloise. As she came closer to the tall graveyard gate, she picked up her pace. All she wanted was to be done with this alley as soon as possible. Two long strides and Eloise’s foot hit something. She looked down at a soccer ball that went rolling towards the opposite side of the graveyard’s entry. She fixed her gaze at the soccer ball, quivering with a certain indistinct fear.

“Sorry, excuse me!” A small figure brushed past her and Eloise let out a little scream. It was a little girl wearing a blue frock and a matching headband over her black shoulder length hair with bangs on her forehead. The girl picked up the soccer ball and took a nice and long look at Eloise, whose heart was beating out of her chest like she had stopped running halfway in a marathon she never wanted to run in the first place.
“Excuse me, miss? Are you okay? Are you new here? You look like you’re new,” the girl said in her sweet voice.
“I – I’m just, I don’t know. Yeah, I guess. This is my first time in this town.”
The little girl’s eyes beamed, “Wow! Do you like it so far?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Eloise said, clutching the strap of her sling bag at irregular intervals.
The little girl smiled at her and walked past her to the entry of the graveyard.
“You know, I would ask why you’re going into the graveyard, or why you even came out of there, but I’m going to guess the kids of this town are simply, weird.”
The girl stopped walking and turned around to face Eloise. Her face fell.
“Weird? I’ve never been called that,” the girl said in a low voice.
All of a sudden, Eloise realized what she had done.
“I’m sorry, sweetie. I didn’t mean it like that. What’s your name?”
“Charlotte”, the girl replied, her face still a little sullen.
“So erm – ” Eloise prepared herself for a small talk, “why are you playing in the graveyard?”
“That’s where we live,” the little girl replied.
Eloise either gasped or sighed upon hearing that, or let out something similar to a gasp or a sigh, but whatever it was, didn’t help much with the chill running down her spine.
“Where are your parents?” Eloise asked, inches away from giving up on the child and walking away in disdain.
“I used to live with my mother in a really small town, smaller than this,” she sat down on the concrete and continued. “After the fire, both of us moved here, my mother and I. And ever since, she has been working directly with the authorities and I’ve been living here with the rest of the kids.”
Before Eloise could speak, a boy came out of the graveyard screaming Charlotte’s name.
“I’m here, I’m here, I’m here!” She shouted and stood up to face the boy. He was only a tad taller than Charlotte, but must’ve been of the same age.
“How many times have we told you not to chat with the newcomers?” the boy whispered to Charlotte just loud enough for the entire empty alley to hear.
“Really, Dan, it’s not a big deal. Look at her, she’s just lost and scared.”
“Yeah, and not our problem to deal with.”
Might as well just ask them, Eloise thought to herself.
“Kids, I can hear you! Sorry for the lousy interruption during your playtime, but tell me something, are you ghosts? Why do you live in the graveyard?”
Charlotte opened her mouth to say something but the words flew faster out of Dan’s mouth – “We’re all ghosts, here. We’re all ghosts.”
He put his hands on Charlotte’s shoulders and took her back inside the graveyard. Neither of the two kids turned around for a last look at Eloise who was now standing in the middle of the dark alley, cold, and befuddled.

Eloise had started to feel a bit under the weather, but she continued walking towards the end of the alley, where she could faintly see a clearing. Once out of the alley, Eloise heaved a sigh of relief. She could finally see the place she had been meaning to reach since morning – The House for Art Gallery. It was a small building, its neon sign flashing the name ‘House for Art’ in a rather grandiose fashion. It was pitch dark inside the building but Eloise tried her luck with the door anyway. She didn’t want to accept that the door to the gallery was indeed locked. Frustration had settled inside Eloise’s gut, rendering her incapable of letting it out. She looked around, with tears rolling down her cheeks. All for nothing, she thought. She then spotted a cozy little bar, wiped her tears off her face and walked towards the bar with the open, welcoming gate.

There was no one in the bar – no bartenders, no kids, no spiders or clowns or witches – Eloise was all alone. She sat herself down at one of the tables, lit a cigarette, her second since morning, closed her eyes, and took as long a drag as she could muster. The gallery was closed. Her chance was gone. All she wanted then, was to go back home. And so she thought to herself –

How the hell do I get home?


Proceed to Part IV.

The Eerie Town of Alp Curie (Part II)

If you’ve read Part I, you may proceed.


Fight or flight, both alternatives wise in their own stead. But making a choice between the two is where wisdom truly lies. Eloise Sanchez is a strong woman who in spite of being scarred by what she witnessed at Barb’s café, decided to fight to find the art gallery. In all probability, she regrets to have chosen fight over flight now, but in the morning when she took on the misty path, repentance was non-existent. With the images of one hundred spiders crawling amidst their webs in her head, she trod on the road, hoping for better things to come her way. Apart from the lingering mist, the path was also slightly crisp, making her wish she had brought an extra layer of clothing. She could hardly see because of the mist which grew thicker with every step. The street was quiet and filled with empty kiosks and Eloise’s footsteps were the only source of noise; that, and the occasional laughter of the little boy that Eloise intended to follow. She was moving forward but she couldn’t tell where she was going. It felt like clouds had descended onto the land and had covered Eloise from all sides, preventing her from seeing anything at all. She took out her cellphone to check the time but it was dead.
The battery was 100% this morning, what the hell is happening?
She put her phone back in the bag and continued walking. There was something queerly peaceful about the path; enveloped by the thick mist, she wondered if that was what heaven looked like. Her divine thought was interrupted by the sound of footsteps behind her. At first she thought it were her own footsteps but she stopped where she stood to listen intently. The boy laughed again for six seconds and everything fell silent. The moment Eloise started walking, she heard the footsteps again.
“Who’s there?” she stopped and shouted.
The distant sound of the footsteps came closer in reply.
“Hello? Who are you?” Eloise turned towards the sound and slowly moved backwards, clutching her bag’s strap, desperately wishing to see something other than the white mist.
Almost suddenly, from behind her, someone grabbed her portfolio. They were trying to wrest it but Eloise’s grip was too tight to let the bag go.
“What the hell?” Eloise screamed and jerked her portfolio out of the captor’s hands. He was an old man wearing a dark grey watch cap with eyes as red as fresh blood, wearing rather dilapidated clothes.
“Give that to me, you stupid girl,” the man reached for Eloise’s portfolio again.
“You wish!” Eloise smacked her portfolio against the man’s shoulder causing him to fall on the road. “I didn’t mean to – err, I’m sorry.”
The man, still on the road, started laughing.
“What do you want this for, anyway? It’s my work, a few drawings on a paper. How’s it going to help you?” Eloise asked.
“Alright, you can give me the little bag then,” the man had stopped laughing and was struggling to get up.
Eloise reached out her hand and helped him get up.
“I can’t, sir. This bag is even more important than the big one, but I could lend you some money, if you want.”
“What the fuck will I do with your money, girl? Money might be the language in your world but it isn’t one here.”
With that, the old man walked away and Eloise wanted to stop him, but she couldn’t, for some reason uncharted.

The boy’s laughter became clearer, indicating that he wasn’t too far. The mist was beginning to thin for she could see the beautiful sight of the town again. The sky was clear and an excellent shade of a happy true blue. The road she trod had buildings in the shape of fruits on either side which made Eloise rather joyous. A wide smile started to appear on her face, but it vanished as quickly as it came when she saw the little boy standing right in front of her, his gaze fixed on Eloise. He must have been somewhere between eight to twelve years of age, Eloise guessed. The boy had hair as golden as the sun, and wore a plaid shirt with a white bow-tie and denim bottoms; with his hands held back, he flashed a canny smile.
“I see you met Odd Todd,” the boy spoke in his sweet velvety voice.
“Err, yeah, I guess I did.”
In the past Eloise has had some excellent relations with kids. Her sister’s children love her and every weekend they want to go to the mall with their Aunt Eloise. She never had a problem with any kid the three years she was a kindergarten teacher at the public school. But there was something imprecise about the kid that stood in front of her. She couldn’t read him, and the smile was nothing short of intimidating.
“What’s your name, lady?”
“Eloise,” she spoke, flabbergasted. “What’s yours?”
“I let people call me whatever they want.”
“I could call you Blaise,” she said with a smile.
“As you wish, ma’am,” came the reply.
An unusual period of silence followed. The kid continued to stare at Eloise, smiling all the while. Eloise wanted to stay and read the boy but there was no time.
“So, I am looking for a place, an art gallery. It’s called the House for Art. Do you happen to know where it is?”
The boy’s smile widened.
“It’s on the other side of town,” he said, “where the children live.”
“What children?”
“Children, kids, tots!”
“Aren’t you a child yourself?”
“What do you think?”
“I think you’re very much one,” Eloise giggled.
“Are you sure?” And with that, the boy’s eyes narrowed and his smile turned into a grin and within seconds, he started laughing.
Even though Eloise had heard his laugh before, this time, up close and personal, the laughter pierced her ears. She had a feeling that if the boy didn’t stop laughing, her ears will start to bleed.
“Stop! Stop laughing!” She screamed, covering her ears.
“I can help you if you help me.”
“Help you with what?”
“A project,” the boy replied. “If you would just follow me, please.”
“Err, no, I won’t. It’s okay, I’ll find my way to the gallery on my own.”
“No, please, I need your help. Nobody would help me,” the boy’s smile had vanished.
And for the first time, Eloise saw the little boy as a little boy and not a creepy kid.
“Okay, what is it?” Eloise gave in to his smile-less innocent face.
The boy took Eloise to a building which resembled a watermelon slice to perfection, juicy red with recurrent black dots for seeds. The building looked exceptionally real; Eloise had to touch it to believe it wasn’t really a watermelon slice.
“I hope you’re not afraid of clowns,” the boy said with his hands on the doorknob, the canny smile back on his face.
Afraid? Eloise laughed to herself. Her mind drifted to the memories of the day she dressed up as a clown for her nephew’s birthday and how very truly each and every kid loved her.

The inside of the building was much like the inside of Barb’s café, dark and sketchy, completely antithetical to its exterior. But like Barb’s place had chairs and tables and a slab to make coffee on, the watermelon building was abandoned in entirety save a single chair that sat right in the middle and the person who sat droopy on it. Eloise surveyed the whole place, closely inspecting both the walls and ceilings for any shocking creatures that might be crawling, waiting to attack her. To her relief, there were none.
The moment the little boy closed the entrance door behind them, utter darkness fell.
“Hello, Twinkle!” the boy said, and the top hat placed meticulously on the head of the person sitting on the chair, lit up. It tried its absolute best to illuminate the entire room and to some extent, it succeeded. Then, the person gradually stood up, and straightened himself, to face Eloise and the boy. Eloise stared at whatever was in front of her, with horror. It wasn’t a person; it was more mechanical than natural but it wasn’t entirely mechanical either. Half-machine half-man, perhaps? She tightened her grip on both her bags.
“Twinkle, this is Eloise,” the boy broke the horrific silence.
“Eloise, this is Twinkle Death, my project.”
Maybe Twinkle didn’t look like a twinkle, but he definitely looked like death. The face was painted stark white and around his eyes were huge circles of black. The mouth wasn’t painted, but masked. The masked mouth was widespread, just like that of an average clown, but the teeth were rotten mustard yellow with red paint in between them painted to represent fresh blood. The eyes of the clown were definitely those of a real person, Eloise could tell from their innate movement, but the body moved like it was some kind of robot.
“This is my project,” pride lurked clear enough in his voice.
“Project for what?” Eloise couldn’t take her eyes off of Twinkle Death.
“HALLOWEEN, of course!” the boy sprung up with acute enthusiasm.
“Alright, great!” Eloise hadn’t loosened her grip on the bags. “I’m gonna go now.”
She started to turn around but the boy grabbed her wrist. His hands were probably colder than ice, or so Eloise felt.
“Not yet!” the boy’s gaze penetrated her skin.
“Leave. My. Fucking. Hand,” she jerked her hand out from the boy’s grip, but at the same time, the machine-man-clown grabbed her other arm with his extremely hot, gloved hands.
“Aah! Thank you, Twinkle!”
“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT?” Eloise shouted with all her might, at the boy.
“Are you scared yet?”
Eloise didn’t know what to say. She was furious, but the fact that she would probably have been shivering if Twinkle wasn’t holding her arm, was sturdy proof of her fear.
And then the front door opened and in walked a lady donning a long skirt, a tank top, and a scarf. Her hair reached slightly above her knee and were a blaring coral green.
“NOT YOU BETSY! NOT AGAIN!” the boy cried with fury and Twinkle let go of Eloise’s arm, leaving a torn sleeve behind.
Eloise hit Twinkle with her portfolio bag once and just as she was about to hit him a second time, he turned around and sat on his chair, his top hat ceasing to glow.
“Enough, Ubel! This is the fifth time you’ve troubled a newco-” she stopped to look at Eloise, “a visitor, and this will not go unnoticed by the authorities.”
The boy wasn’t listening to the lady who looked only a little older than Eloise.
“Twinkle! TWINKLE!” Ubel shouted at his ‘project’. “What have you done to him, you witch?”
“What I should’ve done to you in the first place,” the lady replied.
This was all very new to Eloise; she couldn’t understand what was going on. She looked from the resting clown, to the furious boy, to the righteous lady, but failed to make any sense of her situation at all.
“Woman, if you will, please come with me, let’s get you some air,” the lady said to Eloise.
Eloise was panting. She looked at Ubel, who was suddenly in tears. Eloise had absolutely no sympathy for the boy and her lack of it was totally justified.
Just as they were about to step out of the place, the boy started laughing in between his tears; he laughed the same, sinister, laugh.
“Betsy the witch,
when your magic fails,
horror will enter your bones,
and we will all hear your wails.”

What Ubel said and the way he said it, with incessant laughter, sent a firm chill down Eloise’s spine, but seemed to have absolutely no effect on lady Betsy.
The moment they were out in the open, the door automatically shut and Eloise followed Betsy to a path that, she suspected, went further inside the town.
“What was all that about?” Eloise spoke when she finally found the courage to speak.
“You just met a bad apple, sweetpea.”
“Feels like I’ve been meeting only bad apples since morning. The café lady, the old kleptomaniac, and if that wasn’t enough, the sinister kid. And he called you a witch so if you really are a witch, I won’t be surprised if you turn out to be an evil one,” Eloise was clearly exhausted of even the anxiety that chilled her nerves.
“Do I look evil to you?” Betsy laughed subtly. “The kid you just met was Ubel. He’s unlike the other kids, who live on the other side of the town. I think you need to relax for a while. Come with me.”
“How do I know you’re not going to take me to a sketchy place filled with spiders or clowns, or worse, the walking dead?”
“Aren’t we all the walking dead?”
Betsy said it followed by a wink but Eloise didn’t quite understand what the joke behind it could possibly be.
“I would rather you help me find the place I’m looking for and really help and not play tricks on me.”
“I’ll help you; let’s just go sit on the bench for a while, okay?”
Eloise could swear there was no bench on the sidewalk but there was, a midnight blue bench just wide enough for two people. The girls sat on the bench and while Eloise sat tense and straight, Betsy relaxed and tied her long hair in a bun.
“What’s in the big bag?” Betsy asked, trying to make conversation.
“Sketches, a few paintings.”
“Oh! Going to meet Gavin, are we?” Betsy’s face lit up.
“Everyone knows Gavin in this town. He’s famous or something?”
“It’s actually a small town, err, what’s your name again?”
“Eloise,” she replied.
“Right, Eloise. It’s a small town in the sense that the inhabitants aren’t great in number, therefore on some level, we all know each other. But you’re right, Gavin is famous. He’s the town’s visionary,” Betsy spoke with a gleam in her eyes.
“How so?”
“Well, he came here from a big city so for the first few months he sulked and wouldn’t come out of his apartment. But then one day, he woke up and he felt like a change had transpired overnight, and he made some really big plans with the people who run this place and has wowed to make this place come to life. As you can see, it’s pretty dull right now.”
“That’s one of the most odd things actually, the streets are utterly deserted. There are kiosks with beautiful tents but no people, no hotdogs or burgers or souvenir shops.”
Betsy chuckled, “Those are mainly for aesthetical architectural purposes. And you’ll like the South of the town much better. That’s where Gavin lives.”
“I was supposed to meet him at 12 in the afternoon at the gallery and I have no idea what time it is now because my phone wouldn’t start and maybe I should just go back but this could also be my only chance of being recognized as an artist and I don’t want to give up on that,” Eloise was in tears. “Only bad things are happening to me in this town. I never should’ve come.”
Betsy wrapped her hands empathetically around Eloise.
“I’m sorry; it’s just that, I’m kinda tired of staying strong.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable sometimes, as long as you carry the hope to be strong again. Even if it’s buried deep inside you, don’t give up, my friend. Hope can always be dug out.”
There was something copiously comforting about Betsy’s smile.
“Now, let’s get you to Gavin. The gallery is also where he lives so he’s practically available all day long. He lives South side so you’ll have to take the bus.”
The two walked on and took a sharp turn to a street narrower than the others, also less colorful, and finally reached what Betsy claimed was the bus stop.
“The bus should be here any minute now.”
“You’re coming with me, right?”
“Oh, honey, I’m really sorry. I sure wish I could but I need to stay here. Not a lot of people live up here and most of the ones who do belong to Ubel’s category and they often frighten the visitors and that upsets the authorities,” Betsy explained.
Eloise could hear the bus approaching but all she could see was smoke.
“Oh, looks like the bus is here,” Betsy remarked.
Betsy stuck out her hand and in place of the smoke stood a bus which looked more like a monorail.
“Hop on, now,” the man on the wheels said in a husky voice while adjusting his baseball cap.
“Thanks,” Eloise said awkwardly to Betsy who replied with a wink.
Upon reaching the second step of the bus, Eloise looked back. Betsy hadn’t moved an inch.
“Are you really a witch?”
The man chuckled a husky chuckle in the background.
Betsy smiled and motioned her right hand towards Eloise’s torn sleeve which immediately fixed itself.
The doors closed and the bus began to move, but Eloise took her time. She stared at Betsy until she no longer could, and then turned to the driver.
“How much for the ticket?”
“Just go sit down, lady.”
Eloise thought it best not to engage any further in a conversation and walked towards a window seat in the back of the empty bus, lost in an utterly preposterous thought.


Proceed to Part III.

The Eerie Town of Alp Curie (Part I)

Eloise Sanchez has been sitting in a cozy little bar in a distant, rather unusual town for a while now and no strange occurring has been witnessed yet. This is by far the longest period of uninterrupted sanity, of normalcy, she has known all day. The bulbs in the bar are all functional; the one residing near the restrooms being a grave exception, flickering in the most intimidating way imaginable.
It is 10 p.m. and there’s not a single soul present in the bar except for Eloise. Under normal circumstances, this would have deeply bothered her, but she has been in this eerie town for twelve hours now and as long as she isn’t directly dealing with some anomaly, she is content.
Smoking her third cigarette now, the fourth since morning, she has a placid look on her face; there’s a level of panic she cannot hide, and hands that won’t stop shivering. A single question runs through her head as she smokes one cigarette after another –
How the hell do I get home?


Some 48 hours ago, Eloise, along with her best friend as well as her roommate Bree, sat by their apartment’s bedroom window, conferring the day’s events over some wine and a few lights.
“And that is why I have made the decision of never trusting the copy guy again,” Bree was finishing up.
“Better he fucks up a rough project than cost you your job on a real one,” remarked Eloise.
“It’s in the past now!” Bree shrugged, “What’s been up with you?”
“Well,” Eloise raised her glass, “I got a call today!”
“Wow, Elle! That’s fantastic news!”
For a regular artist, perhaps, it wouldn’t have been a very big deal, but for Eloise Sanchez, who left a secure job behind to pursue her dreams, a phone call from an independent art gallery was in every way a dream come true.

“It’s called the House for Art; a certain Gavin fellow phoned me to give me the address,” Eloise continued, running her hand through her long, straight locks. Even though the noise from the busy street preponderated the background, the clinking of the roommates’ wine glasses was distinctly clear.
“So, where is this place?” Bree enquired. “Somewhere in the city?”
“No, actually, it’s in a town nearby;” answered Eloise, “some place called Alp Curie.”
“Funny, I’ve never heard of it,” Bree had a quizzical expression on her face as she spoke. “Did you look it up?”
“I did, yeah. The town’s 15 minutes away on foot from the Finch subway station,” Eloise paused, “but there was no search result for the art gallery.”
“Well, maybe they aren’t well established yet, like it’s step one for both you and the gallery.”
Bree made a good amount of sense and Eloise decided to not dig deeper into the matter.
After a few trivial discussions, including one on Bree’s recent pixie cut, the ladies called it a night.

Over the course of the next day, Eloise extensively prepared for her meeting with Gavin, the gallery owner. She refurbished her portfolio, putting everything in proper order with a little help from Bree, and slept an ecstatic sleep.
When she woke up this morning, everything around her seemed usual, trite, but inside she harbored a huge cup of zeal, a tablespoon of anxiety, and a pinch of pride. She put on her favourite brown ankle-length boots and a frayed sleeve, straight cut, white dress. In her little brown sling, which she hung over her right shoulder, she meticulously placed her wallet, her apartment keys, her cellphone, a pack of lights, and her rainbow lighter. She grabbed her portfolio in the other hand and left her beloved apartment with absolutely no idea of what was to come her way.

The subway journey to Finch was fairly normal and Eloise’s spirits were as high as the drunken man who she had made the mistake of asking directions from.
“You don’t wanna go yonder, young lady,” the battered man said with an incessant laughter, leading Eloise to declare him a madman. Nobody else outside the station even knew about the town. She opened Google Maps and started following the navigation’s instructions, but after half an hour of interminable walking and reaching nowhere, she decided to go back home; it felt like the navigation was making her run around in a petty merry-go-round. A few minutes later, a woman in a small yellow car pulled over beside the pathway where Eloise stood adrift.
The woman rolled down her window and asked, “Do you need any help, dear?”
“Yes! I’m totally lost,” Eloise was panting, “I can’t find this place I need to go to. I’ve been looking for it since the past half hour and now I can’t even figure out the way back to the subway.”
“Woah! Calm down! Where is it that you need to go?”
Eloise found her strength amidst the panic and frustration and said, “The House for Art gallery in Alp Curie.”
To her surprise, the woman’s expression didn’t change into one of bewilderment just as those of many she had encountered earlier had.
“I can take you there,” the woman offered.
“Really?” Eloise’s eyes lit up; she was happy again.
“I only know the way to the entrance of the town though,” the woman added, “you’ll have to find your way to the gallery on your own.”
“Sure,” Eloise agreed and got inside the car.
After placing her portfolio bag in the back seat and putting on the seat belt, Eloise stretched her tired feet.
“So,” the woman who looked about the same age as Eloise started talking, “what’s your name, hon?”
Eloise smoothly breathed in the fragrance inside the car that seemed to have encapsulated her almost immediately, paying absolutely no heed to the woman’s question. The woman tapped Eloise’s shoulder so as to get her attention.
“I’m sorry, what?” It seemed like she had snapped out of her trance, but her droopy eyes clearly depicted that she was nowhere near of getting out of it.
“Your name, I asked what it was,” the woman smiled, not a tad surprised by Eloise’s trance-like state.
“Eloise Sanchez! What’s yours?” Eloise said with a wide yawn before swiftly drifting into a deep sleep.
The woman’s smile turned to a grin and she said to Eloise just as much as to herself, “I don’t think it matters.”

When Eloise awoke, the excessive noise of the car’s engine had suspended, and so had the beautiful fragrance that she had the fortune to enjoy.
“We’re there, Eloise!” She heard the woman say.
“Did I – did I just nap?” Eloise rubbed her eyes.
“The subconscious’ awareness of something precarious often stresses people out, sweetheart, decelerating their system.”
“What? Well, I should get going,” Eloise opened the car door, disoriented and wobbly. “Thank you, err, miss.”
She had only taken about three steps away from the car when the woman shouted her name from behind, “Oi Eloise! Aren’t you forgetting something?”
Already frantic and anxious, Eloise realized within a few seconds that she was missing her portfolio. She rushed back to the car, grabbed her portfolio, thanked the lady again, and started for the town.
The woman shouted behind Eloise once more, leaving her more perplexed than she already was, “Say hello to Gavin for me,” and disappeared soon after.
Eloise lit a cigarette in order to clear her mind before entering the town and embarking on what she thought was going to be a good journey but one that would turn out to be otherwise.

Printed in large, somewhat gothic alphabets on a gigantic board residing at the foot of a narrow alley were the words ‘WELCOME TO ALP CURIE’.
The moment she entered the alley, Eloise felt like some kind of energy wrapped itself around her, something sinister. Once out, with the hair on the back of her neck standing up, she couldn’t believe what she saw. The gothic welcome sign and the murky dark alley had created a rather bleak image of the town in her mind. But what was in front of her was one of the most beautiful sights she had ever had the opportunity to observe; the town was a concoction of manifold colors. There were buildings of almost every kind of color, from pastel to neon, and every shape, with little eating kiosks, similar to those in the city, with animated tents overhead. Within eyeshot, two identical sombre white buildings leaned a little towards each other, and between them, a neon purple water fountain splashed ever so cheerfully. The town’s landscape was extremely pleasing to the eye; it looked like it came straight out of a surrealist painter’s canvas. The only odd element to the beauty was that the streets were deserted and silent, save the noise emanating from the fountain.
The weather isn’t that bad, she thought to herself, where is everyone?
She took out her phone in a hope to navigate herself there, but there was no signal. The time was 10 a.m., she had two hours before her meeting at the gallery. It was an unfamiliar town and so she thought it best to ask someone for directions. She went inside a quirky, vault-shaped, pastel blue colored building with an effervescent board overhead which flashed ‘Barb’s café’.
The moment she opened the door, the deafening bell stuck to the inside of the door went off, startling Eloise. The bell was followed by a woman’s deep voice, “CUSTOMER!”
Eloise stood at the entrance of the café, listening to the instrumental music playing inside and anticipating whatever was to come.  The interior of the café was largely in contrast with its exterior; it was dark, with easily noticeable spider webs on the walls.
“Welcome! I’m Barb! I take it you’re new to town. Haven’t seen you around before, how do you like it? It’ll feel like home in no time,” the bald woman with a large tummy spoke without pause.
Eloise started to speak but was interrupted by Barb, “Come, have a seat. Any preference?”
Eloise, who always preferred a seat by the window, didn’t have much choice for the café was devoid of one.
“Err, anywhere.”
Barb grabbed Eloise’s hand and took her to a seat in the corner.
“Anywhere but the corner,” Eloise cringed at the sight of the filthy webs on the walls.
Barb then took her to the seat right in the middle of the place, chuckling under her breath.
“So, would you like me to get you the menu, or do you already know what you want?” Barb asked enthusiastically.
“Regular hot coffee, please, thank you,” replied Eloise with her eyes fixed on the table.
“Coming right up!”
Eloise took out her cellphone – there was still no sign of a signal and the time was already 11 a.m. What was an hour felt like mere ten minutes to Eloise.
“Err, Barb,” she spoke, still in disbelief of the hour, “can you give me the directions to the House for Art, the gallery?”
“Oh! Gavin invited you, didn’t he?” Barb stood beside Eloise with a cup of coffee in her hand.
Eloise looked up at Barb to answer her question, but her gaze shifted to the ceiling and she stood up at once, staring at the ceiling, quivering with fear. What was on the walls was only a glimpse of the real deal; the ceiling of the café was covered in large and dishevelled cobwebs which were home to around one hundred crawling spiders. Eloise wanted to scream, but no sound came out of her.
“Don’t worry, they won’t harm you,” Barb tried to reassure Eloise but she wasn’t listening; her eyes were fixed at the ceiling. It took her a while to be able to move again and with trembling hands she picked up her portfolio and started running towards the door. On her way out she bumped into a chair and fell, screaming, feeling like the obscure spiders had started to fall from the ceiling. Behind her, Barb shook her head with a sly smile on her face, “The new ones are always entertaining to watch.”

Once outside, Eloise had goose bumps all over her skin, and her psyche harbored vivid images of the grubby spiders she had just witnessed lurking above her. She was out of breath and was soon going to be out of time. She gaped at the time on her cellphone in haste – 11:30 a.m.
How on Earth?
Something was very obviously fishy. She looked around and everything was just as quiet and soothing to look at as it was before she had entered Barb’s crummy café; the purple water fountain continued to delight and the reticent streets continued to disappoint. Eloise thought about going back home but she had made it this far and her passion for art refused her to quit. She still had half an hour to figure out the way to the gallery and she was determined to do it. She had started walking towards the purple fountain when she heard the faint noise of a kid laughing, coming from the road opposite to the one where the fountain was situated. Eloise looked back at the narrow alley she had crossed in order to enter the town, and started walking towards the road covered in a slight mist, following the buoyant noise of, who would later turn out to be, a nasty little boy.



Proceed to Part II.


The strings of your guitar
played melodies myriad.
But they are now broken,
beyond repair.

The chain of your thoughts
made you dwell deeper than viable.
But it is now broken,
beyond repair.

The wheels of your car
drove to places non-existent.
But they are now broken,
beyond repair.

The nerve of your heart
made you do the ineffable.
But it is now broken,
beyond repair.

With your insides melting
and your soul decaying,
your blood spilling
and your gut screaming,

If I ask you on an utterly forlorn night,
“What’s beyond repair?”
Feel free, my love, to hold my hand
and whisper in my ear, ever so gently,
“I am, I am, I am.”

Dariella (Part V)

If you’ve read Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV of the story, you may proceed.


The first time I had overdosed, it was on benign medicines. I slept for longer than I usually did and when I finally woke up, after fourteen hours or so, my head buzzed and it felt like just another alcohol hangover and not like I had pushed manifold drugs down my system. The second time was on harsher medicines. It would have done the deed if I hadn’t in my greed taken that one last pill and choked on it; I remember a second’s choking and then puking everything out on my bedroom floor. And the third time, I had been caught in the act. I started taking pills when my parents had left the house but I had only taken eight of them when my mother walked in my room and wrested the tablets away from me and called out loud for my father to come in. Apparently, she had had an ‘intuition’ that something was wrong and decided to come back and check on me. And because of that, my psychiatrist reduced my medicines and started giving me mild medicines again, which sucked because I suffered more and more.
So when Dariella brought up the topic, I wasn’t irresolute. To me, she had always looked like somebody who knew what she was doing. And I trusted her. She was my only friend, my only ray of light, and I was hers. And if both our lights were to be put out together, being against that idea would’ve made me feel like a retard.

“What plan?” I asked her.
“Can a woman smoke her supposedly last cigarette in peace?” she retaliated. “I suggest you light one too.”
I did.
We smoked in silence, all the while looking at one another. I was hoping she’d say something and I could tell that she was hoping I wouldn’t.
When she finished her cigarette, she got up, opened her closet, and from a drawer extracted a tiny bottle; she came back to where I was sitting and emptied the contents of the bottle, letting all the pills and capsules fall on the bed. I picked one capsule up to read what it was.
“Yes!” Dariella smiled. “These will do I think.”
“You think?” I gaped at her stash. “These could kill like, five people.”
Dariella laughed and said, “I’ve been saving these since three months.”
“And you think this is the right time to use these?”
“Yes! Aunt Janine is out of town and we have beers too. The effect of the drug increases like crazy when taken with alcohol.”
She could tell I wasn’t swayed.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to do it,” she said after a minute’s silence, putting the drugs back in the bottle.
“No!” I stopped her. Her reverse psychology act had worked; the idea of death has always been too enticing to thwart.
I took the bottle from her and emptied it once again.
“Alright then,” she said, “let me get the beers.”
“I’ll put on the Floyd vinyl till then?”
“OH MY GOD, Yes!” she was so excited. “You’re the best, Lux. It’s like you can read my mind.”
I guess maybe I could; or maybe I was just reading mine.

I don’t remember now how many drugs we overdosed on that morning. But the bottle of drugs which could kill five people was emptied by two. Floyd was playing in the background, their album ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ growing distant by the minute as Dariella and I lay on her bed, holding hands. I think she went off before I did because I remember her hand’s grip loosening. But I stiffened my grip. I felt like I was falling and if I didn’t hold on to her, I would keep falling, with nowhere to land. Dariella was unconscious by the time ‘Time’, the third track in the album had ended. As for me, I was dolorous for the longest time and finally lost consciousness sometime in the middle of ‘Us and Them’, the sixth track –

“Black, and Blue, and who knows which is which and who is who…”


I slept for longer than people usually do. I slept for around four weeks and awoke in the hospital I had always hated going to, in the middle of November. I stayed at the hospital for one more week after I awoke from the coma and was then transferred to a psychiatric ward for treatment. My mother had discovered us around twelve hours after we had overdosed. Worrisome as my mother has always been, she had barged in when neither Dariella nor I had picked her calls and luckily enough for her, the door was unlocked. She told me she almost had a heart attack when she saw us in that stance, our hands touching, our bodies lying like inert leaves in the peak of Fall, and the dejected empty bottle of pills lying in between us. She had then called Dad and the hospital and Dariella’s Aunt.

In the one week I stayed at the hospital, I visited Dariella’s room as frequently as I could, usually at night, even though my mother and my doctor had forbidden me to do so. I would go and stare at her lifeless body and intensively listen to her rhythmic breathing. I would sometimes touch her face, hoping she would wake up but she never did. I would also play with her hair for fun, her blue dangly locks, and once or twice had passed out while in her room and that’s when the doctors decided it was time to move me to an asylum. After our musical escape from the conscious, I had hoped Dariella and I would be transported into a different world altogether, something like what existed in ‘Kneller’s Happy Campers’ the book or ‘Wristcutters: A Love Story’ the movie. But instead, my worst fear had materialized and we were both in the same world as before, one which changed at the velocity of light but cankered in the process, separated. Once in the asylum, every Saturday, my mother would take me out if my doctor said it was okay and we would go visit Dariella in the hospital. We hardly ever ran into her aunt and that is why sometimes a few of her hospital formalities were fulfilled by my mother.


The news that Dariella passed away in her coma came to me two days ago with my mother while I had just been given the electroconvulsive therapy. I couldn’t even react. She sat with me for hours at a stretch, holding my hand, forbearingly waiting for me to say something but I was in no position to do that. I remember my mind being wholly blank, like there was an experimental teleportation vortex inside and anything that entered was immediately teleported to a location unknown. When she left, she promised she would come and get me for the funeral.
Even though I didn’t expect her to, she showed up today in the morning with a black dress and shoes, and my favorite black coat. I put them on while she talked to my doctor.
“I will bring her back tomorrow,” she said to him.
“Perfectly alright,” replied my doctor. And turning his gaze towards me, he said, “Take care, Lux. And I’m sorry for your loss.”
I glared at him. I wanted to scream. ARE YOU REALLY SORRY?
When we walked out and towards the car, I realized Dad was sitting in the passenger seat. When he saw me, he got out and hugged me real tight.
“I love you, Lux.”
I smiled and got in the back seat of the car. Mom drove us to where the funeral was and it was indeed a sad spectacle. It was out in the open and a very few people were present. It made me severely depressed when I saw the only people at Dariella’s funeral ceremony were the priest, Aunt Janine and her boyfriend who didn’t even know Dariella personally, and my family. It appalled me that a girl so incredibly adept of touching lives in a magical, maddening way was being sent away by people who hardly even knew her. Nobody knew who Dariella really was. Nobody knew how bewitching her aura was, nobody knew how when she spoke, words felt like piercing tranquilizers, nobody fucking knew her at all. I was foolish to have expected people I didn’t know to be there, like some friend who knew Dariella from school, or an obsolete love interest. Even Gus and Trystan were nowhere to be seen; I wondered if they even knew.

After the ceremony, I sat in front of her tombstone and refused to move. Everyone else left but I stayed put.
“Sweetheart, let’s go,” my Dad said.
I refused to even speak.
“It’s okay,” my Mom whispered to him.
After a while, I impulsively got up and walked towards the car. My parents followed. We went to Panda Express for dinner where I cried like a little child, unable to even breathe.
When we got home, I was happy to see that it was exactly how I had left it. We stayed up and watched some supposed comedy show on TV for a while after which I was tucked in my bed by both Mom and Dad. I have been their only child, their only love.

I hate it at the loony bin even though I have made a few friends but I feel like a completely different person there. There’s not a single soul with whom I feel like my real self, like what I was with Dariella; everything I do feels like an act, like an incessant play. One of the people I know there is highly delusional and sometimes thinks everyone in the asylum, from the patients to the nurses and the authorities, is planning against him a callous conspiracy. He attacked me this one time, and I had an anxiety attack which enabled him to keep hitting me till the authorities interfered. But the next day he spoke to me ordinarily, pretending like nothing had happened.
Staying at the ward, with the other fucked up patients, the regular anti-depressants and the occasional shock therapies, makes me look from the outside very sane but on the inside I know I am sluggishly losing the battle. I cry and scratch myself to sleep every night I am there. But I can’t take it anymore. It’s time I reconvene with Dariella, or at least attempt to do so. “I have everything planned out,” she always used to say. Heaven knows, I can plan shit too.

I’m assured they’ve both gone to sleep now; it has been a long, hard day for everybody. I have locked my door from the inside and have taken the razor blade I had once hidden, out of ‘The Awakening and selected short fiction’ lying dejectedly on my shelf. But before trying one last time, I figured it was paramount I tell my story; the story where mattered only the little moments one is unable to ideally capture but which linger in the atmosphere of the Earth for eternity, unwillingly touching lives; and the story of the girl who wondrously changed my life – the fearless, queer, rebellious yet crestfallen Dariella.
I never mentioned what her name means, did I? I searched for the meaning the day I had first met her, around three months ago; it means ‘She is a gift’.
She indeed is. Was; whatever.
Furthermore, I’ll let a few drops of my blood fall on this dismal paper; for all the things my words could not express, I hope my claret can.


I’m coming, Darl.