Click Three Times MAG

August 22, 2012
By Sarah Nerboso BRONZE, Forest Hills, New York
Sarah Nerboso BRONZE, Forest Hills, New York
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The smell of exhaust fumes and echoes of flat wind lashed against her back. Facing the deserted farm, something inside her twinged, tugging her toward the house. Last time she was here Aunt Em had still been alive, though even then shades of decay were spreading.

She walked off the dirt road and passed through the gate. It slammed behind her with a sudden bite. A guilty gust blew the front door open in apology. Two steps and she stood in the threshold. Gray dust carpeted the floors, wall, cabinets, lamps. Brown light seeped in the windows. No place like home. Stepping gingerly, trying not to disturb the cobwebs, she entered her bedroom. Aunt Em had made it into a guest room, and her crisp, sparse touch still stained it. Devoid of doggie smell, shed hair, with a made bed, the room somehow remained her own. The window was wide open, allowing the same sun and air from her childhood to fill her up. At the foot of the bed was the wooden chest Uncle Henry had made for her, now warped with time. She sprung the chest open, using spontaneous impulses long left idle. Beside several boxes, on top of winter underwear, her old blue and white checkered pinafore lay. It was slightly frayed at the ends, but still bright, still her favorite. Her cheeks flushed with a rush of memories as she lifted it. Standing in front of the long mirror, she draped the dress and whirled, phantom braids catching the wind.

Her knee-length skirt didn’t really provide enough leg room to spin in and she staggered to a halt. Her hand lingered on her chestnut hair. She had shucked it off three years ago; now it was barely long enough to touch the back of her neck. With furtive glances about her, as if the crows were peeking in, she pulled the blinds down, one hand closing the door on her way. Now, truly alone, she kicked off her pumps and wriggled out of her skirt. The pinafore required tugging to fit over her white blouse, and was a bit snug. As her head peeked over the neckline, a faded green shoebox in the chest caught her eye. She hungrily seized the box and tore it open.

The flash of red momentarily blinded her. Eyes squeezed closed, shoe shapes danced across her lids. Blinking, she moved the shoes out of the sun, hesitating to put them on. Had they always been so gaudy, so bright? Her stomach twisted. They looked like showgirl heels, a cheap showgirl at that. How could she ever have mistaken those sequins for rubies? These hand-me- downs, her inheritance from a fluke accident, why had she even kept them? She must have had a reason. Forehead furrowing, she struggled to remember. Someone had even tried to kill her for them. Why hadn’t she just given them away? And there were witches. A blond witch tearing them off a dead woman, giving them to her. Something happened, two sisters ended up … dead? Murder? She shook away these flashes of the forgotten with two violent flicks of hair. Enough of that, it wasn’t her fault. Her eyes refocused on the shoes in her hand, she tightened her grip. No one would see if she slipped them on, just for a little while. Reverently, she lifted the precious, garish shoes.

Perfect fit like always; no toes or heels had to be severed to pry the beauties on. Over her dark nylons, the shoes shimmered happily. Eyes on her feet, she rose and let the dress swoosh about. She grinned, thinking how she must look exactly like she had when she first wore these shoes, minus a couple of inches of hair. She hoped she had a bit more of an experienced air than her younger self, that clean, naive thing whose veins practically burst with American idealism.

Laughing, she confidently turned to look in the mirror once more. But the reflection that met her gaze wasn’t dressed in blue and white. The ghost in the glass had such assurance it bordered on arrogance. Her pointy chin was stuck out, matching her equally sharp nose and hat. Beneath her black frock, ruby slippers peeked out. Eyes locked on both sides of the mirror, viewer met reflection. Slowly, with terrifying realization, the woman in the room went ashen as the reflection’s olive complexion went from vivid green to a pale, sour shade. Murderer regarded her forgotten victim, two mouths forming a single “O” …

Dorothy’s scream rose, only to be swallowed by the twists of dead air that circle over Kansas.

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