Narrated by Bob Eccles
Polly sits on the stairs leading to her apartment. She can enter; she has a key–always. She is the girl with the key; this is how you can recognize her, point your finger at her on the street. As always it is in the front pocket of her jacket. In the back pocket there is a penknife.
Now I’m the girl with the key and the penknife, she thinks. It’s getting dark, I better go home.
She snickers and leans her head on the railing. Its edge is sharp. Lately, she has been learning to like sharp things like stiletto heels, spiky eyelashes and penknives. Like rivets on jackets and belts and bracelets. And if someone dared hug her without permission, he would be stabbed and torn. This thought amuses Polly. In her flesh she inserted jagged studs, a metal safety net spread underneath her clothes. He would be stabbed and torn and bleeding. She imagined a lake of blood, brilliant under the moonlight, in that nightmare dark, delirium-blur alley. Cigarette stubs float on its surface, drifting in a silent soft dreamy serenity. A smirk stretches across her chapped lips and she almost relaxes.
And how much she wants to light a cigarette, inhale smoke, a lot of smoke. Until her lungs blacken. A lot of smoke. Until her blood blackens, like her lungs, like now when it darkens. She is a good girl, Polly. She has not smoked for eight years. If you look carefully, you might see that behind the new upper back tattoo of a gun there are wings, angel wings. You might see an angel face behind the hilt. One hour can murder eight years. She is a good girl, Polly. She has not smoked or injected since she was seventeen.
Today Polly is twenty-five. Yesterday was her birthday. A month ago she was in the police station. Damn, she thinks, how much I want a cigarette.
Her cell phone rings, an unidentified number she ignores. Her eyes track the passing people, walking, running, talking with friends, kissing, talking on their cell phones, it all looks the same to her. Her cell phone rings again, her boyfriend’s number she ignores.
Staring at people bores her. Now she is staring at the sky, and it also bores her. From where she is sitting, all the stars look the same. A splotch of light multiplied through the eyes of drunks. Only the pale empty lonesome moon seems different. The moon has cuts and craters. They are deep, and their surrounding skin is white and tight. Sometimes, in the bath of seawater, when dawn burns the sky, a reddish hue spreads and floats. Maybe it is because the moon has also tried. It is not the solution, Polly knows that. She tells the moon, without a sound, that it is not. But in the days that follow it, she thinks, even Tinker Bell would have cut her wrists.
“Hello,” says the moon.
“Huh?” says Polly, turning around. Then she continues staring at the moon, and it smiles at her. Polly shrugs. “Shit,” she mumbles. “I’m going crazy.” She shrugs again. “Just like in the police station.” She remembers that line of tall slim criminals. They looked like matches. She wished she had a lighter. Then she could light them. It could be beautiful, like birthday candles. The policeman asked her to recognize her attacker, and she asked for a lighter from her boyfriend. He said she should not smoke, it is not healthy.
Polly continues staring, and the moon continues smiling. Nobody notices either of them. “Maybe I fell asleep on the street,” she snickers. “That’s funny – ironic.” Polly thinks, People that smile all the time must hide a sweet dark secret behind their expression. Like Mona Lisa. You have to suspect. Always be careful.
The moon continues smiling.
Why should I care? thinks Polly. “Hi, Mona Lisa!”
“You need not scream, dear child. I hear you,” says the moon. That makes Polly roll with laughter.
“I hear you,” the moon repeats slowly, softly. Carefully.
“Great, ‘cause I have nothing to say,” says Polly. She rubs her bloodshot eyes.
Polly becomes silent.
The moon continues smiling, and Polly cannot stand it anymore.
“What is your problem? I have nothing to say. If you’ve got something to say, say it!” she yells. “If you know who the criminal is, point your finger at him! Why are you smiling? Why are you laughing?” She is not sure what she means to say anymore. She bites her lips.
“Do you want to hear a story?” the moon suggests. “A bedtime story?” It smiles.
Why should I care? thinks Polly.
“A waketime story,” she says.
Supergirl stands on top of a skyscraper. All the trees, cars and people probably look so small from up there. Her red cape flutters in the wind; the letter ‘S’ is proudly displayed on her chest. ‘S’ stands for super. She is impressive indeed, and her physical might is inhuman.
But I am human, Supergirl thinks. Sometimes she thinks like that.
She is done for today, not having much trouble. She has captured all villains and thugs, and now she should rest–if a girl such as she needs rest–so that tomorrow she will get up early and save us from evil.
And who will save me? Supergirl thinks. Sometimes she thinks too much.
We are counting on you, Supergirl. We can sleep peacefully when we know that you guard our safety. We are proud.
The moon approaches and pats Supergirl’s shoulder with its moonlight fingers. “Child, you have done a good job. Be proud.”
“Of course, I am well aware of the importance of my deeds.” She stands still. “I am determined to see all criminals rot in jail. This is my labor.” She puts her hands on her waist and watches the city one last time before nightfall.
The moon smiles.
Supergirl straightens her cape. When she is bending down, the moon sees a tear drops from her eye.
“What happened?” the moon says. Its voice quivers. Supergirls don’t cry, this is what the song says.
“Nothing. It belongs to the past. The criminal was captured. He is in jail. It belongs to the past.”
“Yet I am worried, my child.”
“It is my job, to take care of you. It is my job, to protect. It is my job, to worry.” ‘S’ stands for super, ‘S’ stands for secrets. Supergirl raises her arm and is about to take off.
“Wait,” calls the moon. “I need your help. I am afraid to go to sleep.”
“You?” Supergirl raises an eyebrow. “You are afraid to go to sleep?”
“Yes, I am,” answers the moon.
“I do not know how to assist you. My abilities are not suited for such trivialities.” She crosses her arms. “Although I do have anesthetic darts.”
“You can tell me a story,” the moon suggests.
“I hear you,” says the moon.
“Alright,” says Supergirl. “Here we go.”
Agent P, Over
Secret Agent P sits in a dark rectangular car with dark square windows. Next to her sits her secret subordinate Agent B. Silence. They are watching a secret agent that belongs to an organization which produces and distributes dangerous chemicals to the public. He entered the allegedly abandoned factory seven hours, five minutes and eight seconds ago. He has noticed them, and now he is watching them from a window located on the tenth floor. Moreover, two other secret agents that belong to another organization are watching them. They are hiding around the corner, behind the dark triangular trees. Silence. There must be other secret agents watching these two hiding agents, and other agents must be watching them as well.
Agent P scans the opaque windows of the factory through her dark square glasses. Agent B taps the steering wheel nervously. He is new. He pulls a package out of his suit. Chewing gum. P sticks her hand inside his mouth and pulls out the gum. He stops tapping. Silence.
The screen before P warns her that a suspicious group of people is approaching. She orders B to scan the windows and focuses on the source of the detected movement. She holds her gun, adjusts her position, aims.
20:15: Suspicions movement detected.
She observes a man walking a dog. He whistles. He is unaware of being watched.
There is no such thing as privacy.
20:16: Citizens. Silence.
P continues scanning the windows. B is scanning, too. She remembers how she stood in front of the defense attorney and recited an exact and concise report of the event. Everyone looked at her, watched her. Everyone was a secret agent. She was wearing her dark suit. A button up shirt. A brass round watch. Glistening eyes. Opaque expression. There was silence.
But inside she felt as if–
“P, you there?” B whispers, hysteria in his voice. “He’s left the building! We gotta do something.” Hysteria in his eyes. “He’s running! God, he’s running! He entered the car. Tell me what to do.” Hysteria. “We gotta do something!” Hysteria.
21:01: Target left building. Used window two, tenth floor. Enters car.
“Tell me what to–”
“Now!” she shouts when the car is crossing their way. “Go!”
He understands. The car wheels screech on a sharp turn. The chase has begun.
21:02: Chase starts. Switching cameras.
100 km/h. “Faster!” P barks on B. 130. “Faster! Faster!” 150. 160. B’s heart is beating fast, faster, faster. “Gas. Now!” she shouts, leaning out of the window.
21:17: Mission accomplished.
B holds his head in his hands. His blood is burning in his veins. He feels like his eyes might pop out of their sockets. “Relax, kiddo.” P raises his chin. “Relax.” He shakes his head. His shoulders are trembling.
“That truck . . . You saw its lights approaching . . . You saw the . . . You saw . . . You saw the truck . . . You saw the water . . . The water, under the bridge, so close, the water, so clear, so . . . You saw the lights, the water . . . You . . .”
P shakes him. “We were almost killed. Twice,” he mumbles, and then his pupils dilate. “You’re hurt. Your hand is bleeding!”
P bandages her wounds. “Yes, I am hurt.” She takes a gum out of the package in his pocket, leans her legs forward and turns on the radio, humming, playing with her knife-key-pen. “Now drive.”
“I-I ca-ca-can’t,” he mumbles. “You’re not ve-very helpful.”
“What do you want me to do?” she shrugs. “Come on, kiddo. I’m not your mother. Let’s go.”
“Mother,” he says, giving P a blank look.
P laughs. Then her expression softens. She remembers that time when she felt so lost. It’s your word against his word, her attorney told her. She closes her eyes. Opens them. She drops her legs and puts her hand on B’s shoulder. “Let’s wait a minute. Let’s breathe.” She tries to smile. To wait a minute. To breathe. B nods. “Try to think about something else.” He nods. P signs. Another nod. “You know what, kiddo, I’ll tell you a story.”
Gali sits next to the patient’s bed, listening to her heartbeat. The patient spreads pale blue light. Gali examines her. “Inhale, exhale,” she requests. “Breathe.” Seemingly everything is fine. But the virus dwells inside, in her stomach, like a secret, like a bomb. She is a carrier.
“Am I okay, doctor?” asks the patient, looking at Gali through her red eyes. Six red eyes. Unblinking.
“Everything’s fine,” says Gali. “You’re staying for observation.”
“Tell me what’s wrong. Please, I want to go home,” says the alien, now sitting. Gali keeps silent and the alien signs. The alien looks forward at the six red burning stars. Her finger moves; she is pointing at one of them. “My home,” she says. “It seems so small now, so distant.” The fire reflects back from her eyes. Her pupils are burning. She focuses one eye on Gali and says, “Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s my fault.”
“No . . .” Gali mumbles. “No.”
“No?” the alien wonders. She turns at once. She does not blink. Gali is fidgeting.
“I know something’s wrong. I don’t remember much of what has happened. I woke up in a place I didn’t recognize, and everything was a blur. Maybe you know?” she shivers. Then she tugs at the sleeve of Gali’s lab coat. “Shouldn’t you be more careful? Shouldn’t you wear a mask so you won’t catch whatever it is that I have?” She releases the fire in her eyes and Gali feels her skin burning, like it is covered with tiny matches.
Abruptly the alien lowers her gaze. “You too!” she cries out, staring at the piece of skin she has revealed. It spreads a pale blue light. Gali straightens her sleeve.
There is a knocking sound and the spaceship captain appears. A mask covers his face. “I’ve heard screaming. Is there any problem?” He takes a step forward. Gali flinches and takes a step backward. He does not notice. “Doctor?”
“Everything’s fine,” says Gali. The captain nods and disappears.
Gali sits beside the alien. Both of them are looking at the silent burning spheres. “You can count on me,” whispers the alien. She places one hand on Gali’s hand. Now both hands spread a pale blue light.
Gali ponders, inhaling and exhaling. “I can tell you a story.”
The Smart-and-Pretty Cheerleader
The smart-and-pretty cheerleader slips out of her boyfriend’s grip. He wants to resist, to tell her to sit down, but he sees her in double and the two cheerleaders silence him with their kisses. This is a party, she thinks. My party. I should be having fun. The way he danced with Jenny and Lia . . . This is my party, my birthday. He’s my boyfriend. He deserves being a little jealous. A little bit. La-la-la. It’s just a game. I like playing.
The bottle points at her and at the boy that sits facing her. She winks at him. He is silent, and she laughs. I like the shy ones, she thinks. “Hey you,” she skips above colorful plastic cups, scattered sequins and ripped wrapping papers. They are holding hands, walking to her big sister’s room. On the way she bumps into Jenny, who looks a little bit tipsy. The smart-and-pretty cheerleader laughs. Jenny sways and wraps her arms around her. “Happy birthday, baby girl. I love you. I love everybody.” The smart-and-pretty cheerleader caresses Jenny’s hair and laughs. “Thank you.” She smiles.
They enter the sister’s room and shut the door. They are sitting on the bed and she says, “We have a few minutes. You can kiss me if you want to.”
He is silent. The smart-and-pretty cheerleader rolls a lock of pink hair between her fingers and thinks, He’s kind of strange. “You wanna talk, maybe?” she offers, sitting on the edge and swinging her legs backward and forward. La-la-la. She is thinking about chocolate cakes and kisses and her boyfriend’s smile and birthday presents.
The smart-and-pretty cheerleader thinks about her day. She tries to cheer herself. Birthdays always make her sad. She closes her eyes and hums a cute song, La-la-la. She feels something’s holding her arms.
She opens her eyes. She wants to scream, she wants to run away. A hand is–
“Why did you stop?” asks Polly, her eyes brimmed with tears.
The moon smiles. “Dear child, it is almost dawn.”
“Wait,” says Polly. “All these characters you’ve mentioned, Supergirl and such, they’re nothing like me. I hate them. I hate this story.”
“No,” says the moon. “You too.”
“What? I’m what?” yells Polly.
Polly rolls her eyes, and then both of them are silent.
“I must go now,” says the moon. “The sun will rise soon.”
“I . . . I know,” says Supergirl. “But can you wait a little longer, a few more minutes?”
And so the moon waits a little longer, a few more minutes.
AUTHOR BIO: Meirav Zehavi lives in Israel. She is a PhD student in Computer Science and a vegetarian. Her fiction has appeared in Roar and Thunder, Espresso Fiction: A Collection of Flash Fiction for the Average Joe and Deimos eZine. She loves books, animals and collecting dolls.
ILLUSTRATOR BIO: Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 16 year old internationally award winning artist. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph , The Guardian, BBC News Website and on the cover of books and magazines in the United states and Canada. See more of her photography at www.eleanorleonnebennett.zenfolio.com