Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

Curio By The Sleeping God

I pretended not to be watching the waiting boy who sat opposite as he struggled through the motions of being swallowed by his curiosity. Bad enough that I had a shock of blue through my greying hair and sat, bolder than brass, wearing torn jeans and a leather jacket, but there was a greater force at work on this boy’s inquisitive nature.

I let my left hand rest lightly on the leather arm of the chair in which I sprawled, absent of feminine grace, and without warning tattooed each of my perfectly manicured nails across the polished animal hide.

The effect it had on the boy was satisfying enough, but without even glancing I picked up the sudden interest of others in the room. These small things have always been mine; that moment when you glance at a clock and the first second takes just a fraction too long to tick over; the notable absence of sound you couldn’t hear anyway that told you the house was empty; the sudden shudder that takes you when you walk through a ghost you didn’t know was there; and I have always cherished them, but my own little moment and the power it gave me over others was something I relished.

People don’t pay attention to tiny sounds until they become intrusive. Someone drumming their fingers, as I did now, would generally go unnoticed until it transformed at about the eighth or ninth time, as you were by that stage being gauche. In my case, the drumming had a disconcerting cadence that people picked up on instantly without really hearing it. It upset them until they looked at my hand, and knew they could make no comment.

Children had no such false cultivation. They were endlessly fascinated by all things new. A woman with a pair of ring fingers on one hand was as fascinating as a spider eating a fly, until ‘mother’ told him not to stare.

The boy turned his face away, the blush rising to his cheeks as he found ‘wrong’ where but a moment ago there had been wonder, ‘shame’ among the rare and amazing. I drummed my fingers again, deliberately and loudly, looking at him with a small smile on my face as the shadow of the undermined swept ‘mother’s’ countenance. Turning just his eyes up to meet mine, he saw the smile and knew; inside me there was another curious child who hated rules. What good had rules done me? I gladly broke them simply because I could. I contemptuously spat on familiar disappointment. I sneered at refinement that could not purify my mutinous body. You and me, the smile told him, are one and the same, each part of the other, bound in sedition.

“Mrs. Clarke?”

The voice of the nurse stole me from my co-conspirator. Waving to him with my superfluous finger, I left the room and left his life, as I would soon leave my own.


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