"The Chemical Bride" by Evan J. Peterson

"The Chemical Bride" is an original short story by Evan J. Peterson, published here in advance of the forthcoming Nowhereville anthology. 

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The Chemical Bride

by Evan J. Peterson


SCENE 1

(Lights up on two women. They huddle around a glass-and-iron tank. The masses floating therein suggest human limbs. One woman is dressed in filthy rags, the other in a blood-stained blouse and pants. Both wear leather aprons. The set is dressed to suggest a rudimentary alchemist's laboratory.)

CREATURE

You delay. When will she be finished?

VICTORIA FRANKENSTEIN

Easy, easy. This is delicate work. The branches of nerves and  vessels must find one another, like streams merging into a great river. Should we remove her before those loose threads join, she will be a pitiful thing, constantly in pain and bleeding inside. Do you want a bride in never-ending seizure?

CREATURE

Make her better than you made me. But not too.

VICTORIA FRANKENSTEIN

She will be. You, I assembled from the damps of the grave, unhallowed and piecemeal. A life of death. She has never truly lived. She will decide when her healing and coagulation are complete. She's too precious now, like a map sewn from chrysanthemums—

***

Chloe broke character. "Do you really want me to say that?" she asked, only half-rhetorically. "That the bride is a precious flower?" Chloe gazed into the nearly empty seats of the darkened theater and tried to distinguish the silhouette of her director. 

No response.

Chloe continued, "I mean, I thought this was a feminist horror story. That’s what I signed on for."

She looked to Natasha, but Natasha avoided her eyes and stared silently at the murky tank of viscera. Even without the prosthetic makeup, her costume of bloodied rags disquieted Chloe. 

The voice came reverberating through the cavernous building, a sound like frosted clay, making Chloe and Natasha both jump. "Did it occur to you that Victoria Frankenstein herself is not a feminist?"

Chloe scanned the house. Maria's voice continued to haunt, hidden from view like the orchestra to a silent motion picture. 

"There have been no changes to the script since your first read-through. We are decontextualizing the female body, exploding it to give birth to a new sex. Victoria Frankenstein is a pioneer, like Wollstonecraft and her daughter. And like them, Frankenstein herself has a far way to go yet. Did you read the books I gave you?"

Dust motes danced in the stage lights. Chloe looked to Natasha, the young costar who never missed an opportunity to play sycophant to the avant-garde director. Natasha found an opportunity to please both women now, telling Chloe, “I think chapters five and six of Speak the Skin might help you understand what Maria is after."

Natasha had in fact played a supporting character in every one of Maria's productions for years until finally given the part of Macbeth in the much-lauded production that made Maria Dorn a hip name to know.

Chloe wiped her forehead on her loose, surgery-stained sleeve. "I'll check those out again."

Maria wasn’t done. "Didn’t we discuss this accent you keep lapsing into? Victoria Frankenstein is Swiss, not some American approximation of British. Learn a Swiss French accent or drop it entirely."

Chloe sighed. "I know, Maria. I'm working on it.”

"Lights up." At Maria's command, the house lights erased the black glamour obscuring her. "Lunch for an hour."

Chloe found that Maria had indeed changed seats since the lights had gone down, moving in that unnervingly silent way. Chloe turned to leave the stage, but Maria's words caught her again. "The two of you will take lunch together every day for the next two weeks. Your chemistry reeks. Your characters should be inseparable, practically indistinguishable by the end of the script."

Chloe sighed again for stage. Directors were directors, male or female, stage or screen.

***

The whole production was a gamble for Chloe Clinkscales. An eighties teen idol, her best-known work consisted of a suite of saccharine films that climaxed in inevitable house parties. Back then, she'd been Chloe Kay, a name easier to sign and pronounce. Softer.

Besides playing an abused trans woman (with of course a heart of gold) on four episodes of the police procedural Sensitive Cases, she’d done nothing of critical note since the nineties. It was also the closest she’d ever been to going public with her bisexuality. Not the same thing, she knew, but it was a small victory. Now, Chloe was lucky to have her kitchen safety show for children, Cooking with Chloe

The all-female production of Frankenstein held so much promise and so much risk. Was L.A. ready for it? Maria's all-female Macbeth smashed theater records in London, but it had a mixed response in New York. Would L.A. go for a sapphic Frankenstein

Either they'll love me or I'll go down in flames, Chloe thought. Either way, they'll talk about me. I could host a game show . . .

She lunched with Natasha in a café two blocks from the theater, a little organic place frequented by aspiring models and other L.A. women on never-ending diets. It was a dead place, tiles too white, ferns too yellow. 

Natasha led the awkward dance of conversation. “How are your children?”

Chloe reached for her phone. She showed Natasha a pic of two awkward, ginger-haired teens. “Aaron’s getting ready to graduate. Madison’s almost caught up with him. Maybe she’ll lap him if they both move on to grad school.”

“He’s handsome. Does he take after his father?” 

“He does. Their dad’s away at college too.” Chloe put her phone away and stared at her brown rice penne, the pesto unnaturally bright green.

“That’s . . . cryptic.” Natasha stabbed her salad. Chloe wondered how anyone could eat salad with such a mix of brutality and elegance. Maybe it was a British thing.

“We separated last year. He went to go find himself. Being a stay-at-home dad left him existentially lost. Or something.” Chloe caught herself giving a stage sigh and reminded herself of her New Year’s resolution to be more authentic off stage. “But the kids are awesome. So bright. Aaron is studying medicine. Madison wants to be a computer programmer.”

Natasha’s brows perked up. “Not following you to the screen?”

Chloe tried to mimic Natasha’s sophisticated way of stabbing the food. “They’re way too smart for that. My career has been dormant for two decades. They want more reliable work.” The penne she put into her mouth was too chewy. Why the hell make pasta out of rice?

Natasha changed the subject. "What do you think’s at play with our missing castmate? There's always a plan where Maria's involved. I think it's why she wants us to get closer."

Chloe sipped her fizzy water. "She wants you to teach me to sound Swiss.”

Natasha laughed more enthusiastically than necessary. Chloe went on. “I doubt she’s even cast the bride yet.”

Natasha squinted and shook her head. "Oh no, no. I think she cast her first. Or him. She loves to surprise. When I was in God Hates Women, she had us rehearse the entire thing for weeks, and then two weeks before the show, she told us we'd all be wearing masks for most of the production,” she said between bites of chicken and kale. “And she'd hammered us on our facial expressions. She does that."

Chloe's eyes narrowed beneath her ginger brows. I've stood up to bigger prima donnas, she thought.

"Maria never tells me what’s up. She wants me to be just as put off as the rest of the cast and crew. Didn't you know that about her before you signed on?"

Women at a nearby table chatted about reiki for cats. Chloe pushed her food around the plate and said, "I knew she was an extraordinary perfectionist. She's supposed to be like Kubrick for the stage."

"No, not Kubrick. He was too . . . quantifying if you get my meaning. Like his films were some kind of equation. No, Maria is like no one else I've ever worked with."

Chloe knew the intensity of her own look as she met Natasha's gaze. "Natasha, how many other directors have you worked with?" 

She looked somewhat hurt by the question, but Chloe suspected that behind Natasha's unassuming persona, a calculating survivor played the game. Chloe saw herself there: spunky, underestimated ingenue, working with the same director again and again, typecast only as long as she needed to milk the paycheck. Ready to awe critics and audiences alike when she showed what she was truly made of. She hoped that Natasha could make a better transition than she had.

Natasha answered, "I’ve worked with several others. Mostly men. Maria is my steak and potatoes, I'll admit."

Chloe took in the image of Natasha’s curly brown hair. "Did you and Maria ever . . . you know?" Chloe blushed at her own question. 

Natasha laughed lightly. "Oh no! Almost once or twice, but we're better as friends. And there’s something untouchable about her. I’m not sure she has sex, to be quite honest." 

That was curious information. They finished their meals.  Returning to the theater, they found Maria directing the crew in a manic burst.

Natasha straightened. "Shit. Here we are then. Are you ready?"

Chloe clutched her purse closely. "For what?"

"You two!" Maria marched toward them, her boots clomping along the stage. "I hope you're ready to work overtime. You're each going to play both roles."

Chloe looked to Natasha, her own mouth open with shock. Natasha just shook her head, resigned to Maria's inconvenient strokes of genius.

"I want you two to switch roles every other performance. This will help you finally get inside one another's skins." The director turned, just like that, and trotted over to the costumers.

"Now wait!" Chloe shouted, expecting to bring the entire crew to a halt. No one even hesitated. “Wait!” 

Maria did an about-face, her straight black hair winging out with the momentum and settling just as quickly. She crossed her arms around her brown pinstripe vest.

Natasha grabbed Chloe’s elbow. "Please, Chloe, don't. Just go with it."

Chloe swatted Natasha's hand away, clucking her tongue against her teeth. "I signed a contract, Maria. You can't just pull this shit on me. I have an agent!"

Maria approached her new star with precise steps. "Chloe," she began in her unnervingly calm tone, "why did you join my cast?"

The one question Chloe was unprepared to answer aloud, though she knew the answer well. "I—" 

Maria sat down on the apron of the stage and dangled one boot over the edge. She remained silent.

Chloe didn’t care if the crew could hear and blab to the gossip sites. "I want to be taken seriously. I want to prove to the world that I'm not Becky Walsh from Sweet Sixteen."

Maria cocked an eyebrow. "And?"

"And I want to stop hosting a goddamn children's cooking show. I want to feel like I've done something with my life other than . . . that."

Maria stood, gazing down from the stage like a soft-butch Medusa. "And that, my dear, is why you're going to do everything I tell you. This show is going to make or break the both of us. So buck yourself up and get made."

Maria turned her back, calling over her shoulder, "I want to see both of you on stage in ten." She disappeared into the wings.

***

Collecting herself in the bathroom, Chloe examined her forty-six-year-old face, its lines, the places it slackened. Maybe I’ll get a lift if I go back to film. For stage, she believed no one would scrutinize her face that closely. One perk of the medium. 

Voices came from outside the ladies' room, rising and falling as Natasha and Maria walked past. Chloe thought she heard Maria say something about "tension" and to "Do it for me." 

Natasha's words came through more clearly: ". . . always a game with you. I'll do it because I want to, not because—" and the last part drifted out of earshot.

Chloe looked back at her image in the mirror. Lesbian Frankenstein. I’d better get a game show out of this.

***

She bowled through an intense week of memorization and rehearsals. Restaurant delivery every night. Natasha arrived Sunday afternoon with pizza and wine. "I know you host a cooking show. I thought you might like a break from cooking."

Chloe smiled at her warmly, holding the door open for her. "You don't know me very well. It's been takeout all week."

"Maybe I know you better than you think," Natasha said, sassy for the first time Chloe had ever seen.

They ran lines for an hour and a half. Natasha's phone buzzed a few times with texts. She peered at some and unlocked the phone but didn't reply. She left it facedown beside her.

Chloe grew silent and said, "I'm worried I can't pull this off. I mean, I get it—they’re both monsters. Every horror fan knows that. But playing both roles?"

Natasha moved closer on the white leather couch in the pseudo-art-deco living room with its glass brick shoring up despair. She gently massaged Chloe's shoulders, and Chloe jumped at the touch before relaxing into it.

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been touched like that.

Natasha cooed over her. "You're going to smash this role. And so am I dammit. This isn't something you let defeat you, Chloe. If you fail, you had better fail luxuriously. You don't just give it a dodgy little effort."

Chloe made a loose fist and tapped it awkwardly twice on Natasha's denim-armored knee. "Thanks, kiddo." 

"Where's the WC?"

"The what? Oh, the bathroom? Past the stairs on the right."

The younger woman stretched and disappeared around a corner. Her phone, left on the couch cushion, buzzed again. Chloe snuck a look. 

It was Maria. It said only, Counting on you.

***

Maria reserved the next day at the theater for Chloe and Natasha. The crew worked in a nearby studio. In their last hour together, Maria called for an improvisational exercise.

The stage was empty except for three chairs. Chloe and Natasha sat, their chairs arranged about two feet apart, squared parallel and facing the same direction. The third chair faced them, close enough to kick. Maria stood behind it.

"Put on the blindfolds," Maria commanded. Both of her actors tied burgundy satin scarves around their heads. Chloe pulled hers tight, loosened it, tightened it again. Whatever fresh humiliation Maria had concocted, Chloe would use it to drive her own performance.

In the ruddy darkness, Chloe waited, listened to the boots stepping around her. The director's voice came through the dark. "Concentrate on your breath. Clear your thoughts. If you begin thinking, come back to your breath."

Yoga? thought Chloe. She came back to her breath.

Maria continued. "Concentrate on what I describe. You're in a laboratory. It smells acrid. Looking around, you see limbs and organs isolated in tanks and on dissecting tables. You see an arm, a foot, a breast. You see a beating heart on the slab, attached to lungs that draw breath and exhale."

Chloe heard Natasha's breathing grow louder. She felt lust stir along the floor of her pelvis. 

The guided meditation, or whatever it was, continued. "There is a person with you in this laboratory, female, but what makes this person female? Is it the body? The mind? What part is woman? Is the liver female? The vertebrae?"

Chloe envisioned a faceless entity at first, one that had only one breast. Natasha's face then, and her body stripped of clothes, of rags, both breasts intact, clean and plump and fertile. 

The exercise lasted a few more minutes as Maria told them to imagine the woman experimenting with herself, exploring her body as unlimited potential. Chloe pictured Natasha running hands all over herself, finding the wells and wilds of her skin.

"Now. Remove your blindfolds."

Chloe held her eyelids closed for a moment to adjust to the lights. Opening them, she shrieked.

In the previously unoccupied chair that faced her, a wretched girl sat. Forehead protruding and lower jaw oversized with an underbite, the features combined to further dwarf the birdlike eyes staring into Chloe's own. 

The skull bore no ears, merely smooth-rimmed holes at the sides. A few thin clumps of hair draped unevenly around the equator of the head, their presence somehow worse than being simply bald. The lips grimaced, opening and closing by a centimeter. 

What the fuck? Chloe almost said aloud.

The girl’s head rested on a twisted body. On her neck were striations—scars?—that looked like gills. Her trunk arched forward and slightly to the left, presenting a small bust. One arm hung shorter than the other, the longer ending in a claw-like hand of fewer than five fingers. A pale and breezy dress, perhaps cotton chiffon, draped her torso, ending just above the knee. Chloe noticed that the girl’s legs were quite beautifully shaped. The toenails had been painted gold.

After a breathless span, Maria finally spoke. "Here at last is your castmate, the bride. You needn't know her name. You won’t take lunch with her." She walked over to the girl and stroked the stringy hair. The girl groaned.

"Shhhh. I'm proud of you. You're doing beautifully," Maria said.

Natasha, sideswiped but not shocked, gave a low chuckle. "Brava, Maria. Brava."

Chloe’s disquiet shattered any compassion she had for the disfigured person staring at her. "Who's doing beautifully? Who is this?"

"My finest discovery," Maria announced. "The most compelling actress the world has ever seen. I've already brought her into her character, and in character, she'll stay until the show closes. You will never see her in the dressing room or anywhere offstage. Do not in any way suggest your ideas for her character. I've created the perfect territory for her to make the role entirely her own. I ask you both to uphold the sanctity of that."

Chloe looked desperately to Natasha who contemplated their new castmate with malicious curiosity, like a child watching something die under a magnifying glass. Chloe looked back to the girl.

"I'm Chloe. It's nice . . . to meet you. I'm Chloe."

The girl looked up at Maria and groaned something that sounded like, "Herrrr."

Maria answered, "Oh no, they're just surprised. You did well," and she gave her little friend a tea biscuit. "Elsa Lanchester would be proud. Okay, that's enough excitement for today. Go home, and get a good night's rest. Tomorrow we begin the next phase."

With that, she gently guided the new girl away. Chloe fled for the ladies’ room.

Natasha followed, closing the door gently behind her. "Are you all right?"

Chloe sobbed out her newest frustration. "She's some kind of sideshow freak! I know that's a shitty thing to say, but fucking look at her! Can she even talk? Is this even legal? What the hell kind of production is this?"

Natasha merely shrugged. "Maria's a genius. They do some foul things. She's been obsessed with Francis Bacon lately. Both of them. And Tod Browning."

"I don't know who the hell Francis Bacon is. Some kind of Arctic explorer? Like in the novel?" She opened the tap at the sink and washed her face with the cool splash. She thought about her children, how she'd wash their faces when they were little and they’d throw tantrums.

Natasha didn't correct her. "Do you spend a lot of time in bathrooms, pulling yourself together?"

Chloe laughed just for a second, sniffed, and grabbed a handful of paper towels. "It's the only place around here I get close to privacy." She ran the towels over her face.

Natasha hesitated and walked closer. She put her hand on Chloe's elbow and said quietly, "Would you rather be alone?"

Her words still resonated across the ceramic tiles of the bathroom as Chloe grabbed her and slipped her tongue into Natasha’s mouth. They did not get the good night’s rest their director had prescribed. 

***

Chloe had them all in stitches. In her heyday, critics lauded her comic timing. She felt that power again, real admiration.

"I mean, have all of you read the novel?" she said and took a swig of wine. "Victor Frankenstein is a textbook narcissist with a boner for corpses."

Natasha put her arm around Chloe and said, "I love the way you say boner in that American accent." Chloe leaned in and touched her forehead to Natasha's. 

Maria sat at the head of the table, presiding like a papess over the dinner party. To her left sat Chloe and then Natasha and Annie, the assistant director. Kent, head of costuming, sat at the foot of the table. Opposite Chloe sat Keisha, stage manager, and then Amy, a curiously butch casting choice for Elizabeth. One of Maria's L.A. investors, Clementine, sat nearest Kent.

Clementine, for Christ’s sake. Chloe examined the woman’s fuchsia hair.

Maria smiled at her two stars but didn’t laugh. She'd prepared a Swiss-themed dinner, inspired by the locales of Frankenstein. Her verbal invitations emphasized, "Tell me beforehand what your food allergies may be, and I'll tell you if you should simply stay home."

Keisha twirled her fork and asked, "Have you thought about what's next, Maria? If Frankenstein is a success—"

"It will be a success," Maria cut off.

Amy brightened. "Ooh, would you do an all-female Little Shop of Horrors? I would kill to be in that! Can I be the S&M dentist?"

"Would you?" Maria replied, completely deadpan. "If I asked you too?"

Amy froze. The other guests looked at their plates or laughed uncomfortably.

Kent asked, "Maria, did you invite what's-her-name? The bride? I had a hell of a time dressing her. I wish you would've warned me you were getting a . . . a special-needs actress."

Maria narrowed her eyes and said, "She's allergic to this sort of food."

Natasha quipped, "I think all actors have special needs.”

"Could you imagine that, Kent?!" Chloe nearly shouted. "Staying in character the whole time at the table!" She laughed so hard she could barely choke the words out.

"Why is that funny?" Maria asked. "You see? This is why none of you are allowed to see her offstage. You'd ruin everything."

Chloe took a sip of wine but giggled, and a trickle of it came down her chin and onto her shirt. "Oh, God! I'm sorry. Dammit. Where's the—oh, what did you call it the other day?" She ran a fingertip down Natasha's bicep. "The WC?"

Maria said, "It's in a redundant little alcove. Follow that hall, and it will be on your left."

Chloe left the table and entered the hall. Damn, kiddo, you do spend a lot of time pulling yourself together in bathrooms. She pulled the stained section of shirt to her mouth and sucked on it, a trick her mother taught her to prevent stains from setting.

Several doors lined the passage but nothing recognizable as an alcove. She reached the end of the hallway and hadn't seen the bathroom. She turned around, a bit drunker than she'd realized before standing up from the table.

She heard something, something like dripping water behind a door. Walking slowly up the hallway, she listened for it, traced it to a doorway that indeed nestled a bit recessed from the frame around it. I guess this passes for an alcove. She turned the knob and entering without knocking.

Stairs led down to a dim floor. It didn't smell like a basement. Instead of musty odors, Chloe detected a more acidic scent, mellow and vinegary, like the kombucha Aaron and Madison learned to brew at home. As she descended, her eyes adjusted to the faint glow of several lighted tanks. Each seemed to contain some curious organic thing in torpor, aquatic and godforsaken. Here, a ribbony mass that may have been some sort of jellyfish. And here, a tank occupied by something with two slim, dark legs but no detectable arms or head. 

The array of tubes and tanks and apparatuses felt like a set, but Chloe hadn't seen these yet, and the show would open in a week. Would Maria pull these out so late in the game?

Then she saw the last tank. In it, what at first appeared to be a clustered tumor was actually four fetuses, all conjoined along their backs, their four skulls merged into a single bulb of many faces. It was too lifelike, too disgustingly perfect.

"Jesus Christ," Chloe said aloud. "Maria . . . what the hell are you up to?"

To Chloe’s shock, Maria answered. "I call her the Blastocyst.”

Chloe whirled to face the director and let out a quick animal rasp.

“I almost got it that time.”

"Maria! What the fuck have you been doing in here?"

Maria looked around, the glow of the tanks bathing her in murky light. “Research.”

Chloe raised her arms as if to argue but dropped them.  

A tear crossed Chloe’s cheek. “I’m sorry, I just . . . I don’t understand.”

“Oh no, I think you do,” Maria said. From the shadows emerged the misshapen girl, the nameless actress playing the nameless bride. She loped over to Maria and clung to the woman's hip. Maria stroked the bulbous skull of the homunculus and said, “Shall we play out the scene in which you launch your futile arguments against what's already been done?" 

"This is sick." Chloe pointed to the Blastocyst. "Sick, Maria. I don't know if I can be part of this." Her face burned.

“No,” Maria said, looking back to Chloe and cradling the bride’s chin in her fingers. “This isn’t sick. The world is sick. This is art. This is healthy and beautiful.”
 “So what? You’re like a mad scientist now? The feminist alchemist?”

Maria lowered her eyes dramatically to her creation. “And this is my beautiful daughter. It’s all quite cliché really. But I’ve reinvented it. Skinned it for a new century.”

“Beautiful?” Chloe barked.

Maria snapped her gaze back to Chloe. “Will you lower your voice? The others needn’t know. This is just backstage business.”

Chloe looked back at the tank with the Blastocyst, the little faces. Tiny eyelashes. 

“Chloe, I’m asking you to help me usher in a new age. Stop teaching children to fry eggs, and do something extravagant. This is alchemy—femme alchemy. We’ll turn ourselves into gold. We’re going to start an artistic revolution—the art of making people.”

At least the manipulation was blatant. “Nice, Maria. Why not just rub your palms together while you reveal your master plan. So was Natasha part of it, or does she actually care about me?”

Maria’s face softened. “Why not both? She’s been my biggest star, but imagine what a company we’d create. You and I and Natasha. And all the coming children.” 

The bride dug snot from her nose and ate it.

Chloe knew the view from a corner. Any woman, Hollywood or not, knew it. “If I quit? Are you going to kill me? Threaten my children?”

Maria scoffed. “How insulting. No. If you quit, your hungry little understudy steps up, and I do what I can to talk the executive producers out of suing you blind. Natasha will be fine. She always is. As for all this, it’s just a set. Like every room you walk into. And I wanted you to see it. I think you’re ready.”

Chloe squatted, careful not to touch the laboratory floor, moist with God knew what, and put her head into her hands. After a moment, she stood up again. “No one gets hurt?”

Maria dipped a finger into the Blastocyst’s tank and rubbed the liquid against her thumb. “I haven't killed anyone, you realize. The opposite if anything." Maria reached out a clean hand. So did the created girl.

Chloe joined hands with each of them. What else was there to do?

Maria admired her work. “I'm counting on you."

***

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

VICTORIA FRANKENSTEIN Foolhardy scientist & chirurgeon

Chloe Clinkscales / Natasha Burton

___

THE CREATURE First woman created through science

Natasha Burton / Chloe Clinkscales

___

ELIZABETH Victoria's fiancée and adopted cousin

Amy Treadway

___

THE BRIDE Frankenstein's second creation

???

***

Natasha sat in the makeup chair, the prosthetics team applying her burns and scars and stitches. They stayed well away from her mouth. Maria insisted that her Creature speak with eloquence, not clumsiness. Her mouth is the only part of her that's lovely.

Chloe, stage-ready in her shirtsleeves and blood-dewed leather apron, crossed to the chair and laid her hands on Natasha's shoulders. "Looking good, kiddo." 

Natasha kept her eyes closed as the makeup man and woman continued to corrupt her skin but said, "May I have a moment with Chloe?"

The prosthetics team applied a few more daubs of gore and left her to set. Natasha opened her left eye, the right partially eclipsed by latex. "You're interrupting me getting into character, you minx. Should I come bother you when you’re in this chair tomorrow night?”

Chloe leaned in and kissed the elegant mouth, careful not to smear the freshly faked wounds. "Yes. You should.”

***

The misshapen trinity of Francis Bacon's Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion presided over the public debut of the bride. The homunculus girl floated in the cloudy liquid of the tank, amphibious and atavistic, breathing through gills.

Madison and Aaron sat second row center. Chloe tried not to make eye contact with them as she delivered her lines.

"She will decide when her healing and coagulation are complete. She's too precious now, like a map sewn from chrysanthemums.”

The bride twitched and began to pound on the lid. 

Natasha, as the Creature, shouted, “No! She is already perfect!” She tore Chloe away from the tank, flipped the lid, and brought the howling bride into the air.

The audience gasped. Hundreds of eyes took in the marvelous naked body, its three breasts, its flaring gill slits.

"She is magnificent!" exclaimed Victoria Frankenstein.

It took no effort at all to believe it now.


___

Evan J. Peterson is the author of Drag Star! (Choice of Games), the world’s first drag RPG, as well as The PrEP Diaries: A Safe(r) Sex Memoir (Lethe Press). He is a Clarion West alum and author of the horror poetry chapbooks Skin Job and The Midnight Channel as well as editor of the Lambda Literary finalist Ghosts in Gaslight, Monsters in Steam: Gay City 5. His writing has also appeared in Weird Tales, Unspeakable Horror 2, Queers Destroy Horror, Boing Boing, and Best Gay Stories 2015. Evanjpeterson.com can tell you more.

Broken Eye Books is an independent press, here to bring you the odd, strange, and offbeat side of speculative fiction. Our stories tend to blend genres, highlighting the weird and blurring its boundaries with horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. You can find our catalog at www.brokeneyebooks.com.

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