This is just one story from my new humorous magical realism collection in production and scheduled for Nov 2018.

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Seven Years of Liz

Copyright (c) E.C. Stever 2018. All Rights Reserved.

 

What if the old you, wants to be the new you?

 

Liz opened her front door, ghosts of a thousand cigarettes she hadn’t been able to put down rushing out to meet her. A giggling shape moved in the dim light, then crouched low to the ground, hiding. Another, near the couch, told it to shush.

Liz closed her eyes and reminded herself what she had decided. A limp mid-life crisis, she told herself, that was all they were. The visions she'd been having the last few weeks, growing in intensity each night, were just stress, working its way out her spreadsheet addled mind. They were not real.

She flicked on the light, but kept her eyes closed. Liz stepped into her living room. "Not real," she said with each step. Not real, not real-- POP.

Liz opened her eyes and looked down at the shards of rubber on her foot. Apparently, she had just stepped on one of their balloons. That was a new trick.

She waited for the rest of the balloons on the carpet to disappear, for the cray-paper snaked around the ceiling fan to shimmer and then fade. Liz closed her eyes and then opened them; but the balloons and cray-paper remained.

"Surprise," said a voice, flat, ironic. Liz glanced up. Her two hallucinated friends stared back at her with matching crooked smile. The one on the couch had left a very real looking smudge where it was sitting. Liz waited, but it didn't fade out of view like before, just looked at her, its face tight and anxious.

“Have a seat,” the one on the couch said. It looked like a conservatively dressed young woman, cargo pants, an almost tight sweater. Its hand patted the couch and dissipated into a puff of dust that immediately reassembled itself.

The other one giggled at this and twirled around, spraying dirt on the rug from the ends of her dress.

“Sorry about that,” the one on the couch said, shaking its hand. “I’m mostly dryer fluff and dust... old skin really." She smiled. "I guess so we don’t get confused, we should have different names. I’m Elle. I’m sure you remember Lizzard.”

Lizzard did a mock curtsey, soil shaking from her dress. She was much shorter than the other one, pigtailed, and unwrinkled. Suppose to be a child, Liz thought.

Where did she come up with this stuff?

Liz stood by the door, the bagged bottle of wine still in her hand. Her cat walked over to the coffee table and fell asleep on it, oblivious to the guests.

“The cat. Hah, he doesn’t see you,” she said, happy for the small crack in their armor. A chance at sanity.

“C’mere Zandt,” Elle, the larger of the two, cooed. Zandt’s ears pricked up, and it turned its head. “You let him get fat,” she said.

“Pick him up then,” Liz said with practiced smugness. She wondered if the two hallucinations would disappear with a poof, or slowly fade out of view.

“Well I can’t, you know that. I told you I’m just dust right now. Look it only takes 10% of the original--“

“I’ll do it silly,” Lizzard said. She picked up Zandt, spinning him around her head. A large chunk of her arm fell onto the coffee table, crumbling on contact. The hem of her skirt brushed over the table, and the dirt was gone.

The small girl walked over to Liz and handed her the cat. “Happy Birthday,” she whispered rather too loudly, before skipping away. Lizzard wandered off to the side of the room kicking a balloon.

“We need to talk,” Elle said.

Liz sat down on the edge of the couch cushion. She did not look at the other--the larger of the two hallucinations.

“What is there to talk about,” Liz said. “I guess I’m crazy.”

“Crazy? What, about the cat?”

“I could have done that I suppose. The balloons too,” Liz said.

"What if we call one of your friends over, they’ll see us too. You can introduce me as your sister or something. I look enough like you,” Elle laughed. “I’d be better than messy over there anyway.”

Liz looked over at the small girl, now engrossed in filling her entire skirt with balloons. Dirt was piling up beneath her feet.

“Busy,” she said quietly.

“And I suppose I can’t shake hands that well,” Elle said. “Let’s wait for the others, we’ll see what they look like. Tell you what, we’ll call the one in college Bubbs. That was the sorority nickname wasn’t it? And the younger one will be Beth, or maybe just Bea.”

“Boring Bea, Snoring Bea,” Lizzard cried.

“Lizzard, you be nice,” Elle chided. She turned to Liz, whose eyes had not yet left the floor. ”I’m sure you remember the religious summer... the year Church-Camp finally broke us?”

“Of course I remember my religious summer--”

“Let’s order pizza,” Lizzard said waddling over to the couch. One of the balloons popped free of her skirt and dropped to the ground. She walked after it, trying not to lose more of the balloons as she went.

“Pizza,” Liz said, a slow smile growing on her face. "Not a bad idea," she said.

Elle looked uncertainly at her, but nodded.

“All you’ll have to do is pay the delivery guy, and take the pizza. Then I’ll talk to you.” Liz crossed her arms, satisfied the hallucinations would now stop.

“But I’ve already told you, I can’t do much with these hands,” Elle said, clapping her hands together for emphasis. They disintegrated on contact, reforming just as before. “Maybe if you let me work through you for a while, we could do it.”

“Through me?”

“Use your body,” Elle whispered. Off in the corner, Lizzard stood still, staring at the two women.

Liz rolled her eyes, embarrassed by the stupidity of her own imagination. “So then I would be the one paying for and taking the pizza.

Wouldn’t that sort of defeat the purpose.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Elle said. “Had to give it a try anyway." She turned to Lizzard. "Well, pizza it is.”

“And you’ll make the order?” Liz smiled again, smug.

“Of course, though I don’t expect you to believe that I’m really speaking. You’re probably just making the call in some sort of fugue state, or whatever psychobabble you can come up with.”

“Of course,” Liz answered, looking over at Lizzard who had finished stuffing the balloons up her dress.

Lizzard smiled at her and twirled toward the center of the room. “I’m a hot air ballooooon,” she yelled flapping her arms.

“Okay I’ll do it,” Elle said. She reached out to touch Liz’s shoulder, and another puff of dust rose in the air. Liz sneezed.

“You still don’t believe we exist?“ Elle asked.

Liz shook her head, ashamed to even answer.

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