Dead Women

My short story Dead Women has been published in the latest Hecate (Vol. 33, No. 1).

Here is an extract:

Lily woke up one morning to find Virginia Woolf sitting on the end of her bed. She instantly recognised the thin, protuberant cheekbones and phosphorescent eyes. She liked the way the dark morbid floral pattern on Virginia’s shirt-dress skimmed her bony frame. Lily wished she had a dress like it. The eyes turned toward her and Lily felt a shiver. For a second she pretended she was asleep, embarrassed that she had caught the ghost in her pondering there on the end of the bed. But she saw and felt the eyes flow into her own.

“There is only a subtle difference in everything – the structures, the mechanics of this room. But the same smell pervades it all.”

“Of death, Virginia?”

“And only within it, the intonations of the smell of life.”

“Not everyone has our olfactory system, Virginia.”

“They have more distractive abilities – perhaps they only see the dollar on the coin and not the face trapped in history, the face that will one day be replaced.”

“Perhaps.” They sat in silence for a moment (that moment is as long as you believe it to be depending on how occupied your life is and what age you are), then Lily realised the absurdity of the current thought in her head. It filled her until she could think of nothing else. This thought was that she wanted the taste of maple syrup. But she could not call the nurse, for the nurse would see her secret companion and, as no one would believe the nurse, she would end up needing nurses of her own. Lily did not wish this upon the nurse, who was one of those people who could generally block the stench of mortality – or at least bundle the whiffs of it into a safe-keeping box in her sensory passageways.

“I will come again”, said Virginia, and she left Lily with intellectual emptiness.

The nurse was impressed that her patient had asked for pancakes. The patient had not eaten for two days. The patient often did this because it seemed illogical to consume when you were going to die anyway, and sometimes she couldn’t handle the thought of having to choose what to eat in this world of so many overbearing choices – all of them tainted by the smell of death. But . . . sometimes, when an absurd urge entered her overwhelmed and understimulated brain she gave into it, because the urge fascinated her while boring and annoying her – as many human urges did.

The story has now also been published in Greenbeard and you can read it in full!

7 thoughts on “Dead Women

  1. You’re such a tease! How have I not found you before, literaryminded? I promise if you visit me, I will share with you more than a hundred completed works of fiction in a very small space. Bring your own pancakes.

  2. Reminds me somehow of Allen’s “The Kugelmass Episode” – in his case a rendezvous with Madame Bovary. ‘She instantly recognised the thin, protuberant cheekbones and phosphorescent eyes’ tugged me, pulling me along. Nice to see someone with a highly developed olfactory sense. I don’t see smells figure prominently often – a great oversight, if you ask me. I’d like to keep reading this. Would you consider having it published on Greenbeard also?

  3. Thanks David, your blog is wonderful (although I forgot the pancakes).Madeleine – let me double check with the editor of Hecate about rights. Is Greenbeard both electronic and print?Angela

  4. The print edition will only come out later; you can choose to opt-out of it and only do the online version. We’re also looking for a a book/film/music/art column contributor. Read ‘On Daisies’ at the blog to get an idea of what I like – it doesn’t need to be in that style or approach for that matter, but a fusion of philosophical insight is always welcome.

  5. hooray!! it’s working!!!hey, you’re stretching. reaching, i mean. pushing your own personal envelope. which is admirable. i want more.as always, thanks for sharing

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