Life-Size

by Abigail Barnett

A spectacled woman sat at the counter this evening. She handed Garrett the art museum’s friends-and-family-discount slip.

You’re here far too often, she said through her thin lipstick smile. You’re practically an exhibit yourself. They both laughed.

Garrett brought the slip of paper into his pocket and back out again. In and out it went as he passed the marble sculptures and empty stairwells. Garrett liked the new mixed media exhibit. He told the dragon carving so.

Garrett paused at the impressionist paintings, tracing the pattern of their curling frames with his eyes.

It’s too cold outside for you, he told them. His boyish fingers hovered above their white and citrus strokes like an orchestra conductor.

Then his hand jerked and he was pulled by the weight of his own body down the hallways. Shoulders swaying, eyes open to all the colors he knew that he knew. His body lilted from wall to wall, as if floating homeward around the corners.

Perhaps the last visitors saw him: one green coat swimming past the last guests. Perhaps a bejeweled grandmother glimpsed his white shoes flash on the hardwood floor. Perhaps the intercom announcing five more minutes didn’t reach the far corners of the museum. Perhaps there was one pair of gleeful footsteps echoing off the metal sculptures. Echoing off the glass cases. Echoing between the massive canvases. Echoing echoes. Perhaps it was only an echo.

Perhaps that’s why a stray man in blue uniform paused. He hovered over the last light switch. He couldn’t remember the install of a new exhibit back here: a life-size young man frozen mid-stride beneath the red glow of an Exit sign. The figure’s eyes were closed, one hand in his pocket, glancing backward as if he’d heard the security guard approaching. His other hand glinted, clearly made of plastic, above his shoulder; a sort of final wave.

Modern art, muttered the security guard. His own footsteps echoed away. They were the only sound for a long while afterward.


Abigail Barnett is a senior Psychology major at Corban University in Oregon. She didn’t know she enjoyed writing so much until she took a Creative Writing class on a whim last year. You can find her at one of Oregon’s many coffee shops (in the next two weeks before graduation), probably pretending to be a hipster and drinking far too much espresso.

Smudged

by S. Kearing

None of us can say for sure when it started. But we all know that something just isn’t right with Serena Sellers.

Maybe it began when her feelings for Amity Fleming transitioned from mere annoyance to boiled-over hatred. Maybe it began when she took up with Professor Moriarty, a move we all considered cliché as hell.

Maybe it began when the black talons of Serena’s jealousy closed in on Craig Honig, choking the Craig Honig right out of him. He used to be the hub of our social group, but now he belongs to Serena and Serena alone. His agreeable disposition and good-natured sarcasm have been replaced by uncharacteristic rigidity and a constant scathing commentary. Basically, Serena poisoned him, and by extension, poisoned our group. But we can’t cut her from us like a tumor from flesh. If we did, we’d lose Craig, too.

So my sisters and I have a sleepover. That’s right—a slumber party.

Our sorority house is filled with the scent of buttered popcorn and the early spring air that flows in through our windows, which we always leave open just a crack. Throughout drunken Twister and a raucous game of Never Have I Ever and the arrival of our greasy pizza, Cara and I notice something.

Serena is giggling, making inappropriate jokes, and swigging her craft beer merrily. This is the old Serena—the one that we know and love. It’s Craig that’s insufferable. And it’s not because Serena’s hanging on him or whispering in his ear; on the contrary, she’s spending most of her time catching up with the girls. Everything that Craig does, he does of his own volition.

He makes joke-veiled criticisms about our bodies as we contort them over the colorful play mat. He refuses to drink after the Never Have I Ever prompts for which he should clearly be imbibing. He takes way more than his share of pizza, then proceeds to pick off almost every topping.

After everyone’s eaten, Cara holds up a tattered game box and announces, “Ouija time, guys! Go wash your hands and then come see me.”

“Wash our hands?” Serena says.

“We always clean up before we start one of Cara’s spooky activities,” I say, hoping I sound casual. “You don’t wanna go into something like Ouija dirty—physically or in any other way.”

Craig sneers. “‘In any other way?’”

“Meaning energetically. If you’ve got dirty energy, you’ll attract dark spirts! Duh.” Cara says, lightening the mood with her obvious enthusiasm for all things esoteric.
Thankfully, everyone washes their hands, even Craig.

Cara stations herself in front of the coffee table, hovering a bundle of lit sage over her “sacred” bowl. “Everyone, before you sit, let me smudge you with this white sage.”
“Welp,” Craig says. “I’ve never been smudged before.” He bumps past the girls who are arranged single-file before Cara. “And if I actually wait in this horrible line, I could die a smudge virgin!”

When our cynical guest presents himself to Cara, she volleys me a satisfied look. But then we notice a shift in Craig’s demeanor as he takes in the fragrant smoke billowing from the bound herbs.

“May Craig Honig be cleansed of all negativity, darkness, and stagnation,” my sorority sister chants, beckoning him to come closer.

“Wait.” He takes a quick back step. There’s a franticness in his voice when he says, “That stuff is making my eyes hurt.”

“Oh, come on, Craigy. Let her clean you, ya filthy animal,” Serena jibes, pushing him forward again.

He shrugs off her hands with shocking volatility. “Stop it, Serena. Can’t you see I’m allergic?” He turns toward her, revealing swollen eyelids and reddened cheeks. He barrels out of the room, unconcerned with who or what he bumps into.

“Allergic to sage?” Clara frowns at the smoldering bundle.

Serena chases after Craig. Before long, we hear them burst out the front door and pound down the wooden steps.

“Jeez,” I say to Cara. “Those two are getting ruder by the day.”

“It’s fine.” She puts out the burning herbs with some bottled water. “All the sage in the world probably couldn’t’ve cleansed him.”

I offer my immediate assent. “Yup.”

It’s true. Something just isn’t right with Craig Honig.


S. Kearing is a night owl who loves writing dark fiction inspired by the works of Gillian Flynn, Lionel Shriver, Blake Crouch, Stephen King, and Han Kang. She has just signed a contract with Horror Tree for her short story entitled “Servitude.”