The Uninvited

By Kristine Ong Muslim. Posted in Flash Fiction and Issue Three. Bookmark the permalink.

When we first saw you, you were in your pajamas. The doctor said that you were going to
be fine from now on. He just signed the release forms to let you out.

Those were only dreams– the adolescent fumbling with the boy next door that led to a
trek in the woods where everything was supposed to represent your subconscious: the
trees and overgrowth that covered your guilt, that sack of doll parts in the clearing was
like the lemon that grew inside your mouth, that thing which pretended to burst.

Nights you wore the rooms of the damned lake house around your neck, let the windows
drip down like pendants. Turning over and over on an insomniac’s bed, you understood
that a stranger’s trapdoor was the easiest to fall in to. So, you finally caught them together
one night — your father and your mother’s nurse — through the keyhole in the study, how
they frantically made love while your mother lay dying in the other house, a bell tied to
her wrist so she could signal for help.

The fire was an accident. Your mother’s death was an accident. Your sister’s death was
an accident. How the anger came to be, an accident.

Two days passed. You were finally convinced that everything was an accident.

But the way the hag enunciated your name — it possessed an unnerving lilt to it.
Anna, your stepmother would say. Your father and I are happy you are home.
You look so skinny. My mission is to fatten you up. / Oh, she had sung long enough
for a woman with no throat. Your aging father, a love-stricken, cane-wielding carcass,
lolled behind her.

In private, your stepmother called you “the silent one.”

In public, she stained your lips and allowed you to wear her string of pearls. That gesture
bought her some time. It pleased you to feel the weight of stolen pearls around your neck.

But when you close your eyes, you can still make out your dead sister’s hand holding
your left arm. The knife is weightless on your right hand until you wield it. Slashing
across the hag’s breasts. Slashing across the hag’s face.

Your father came home at last, noticed the blood on your hand, noticed the remains of the
fallen hag on the driveway. You smiled at him when he, half-crying, frantically shook
you: “What have you done, Anna? What have you done?”

● ● ●

Kristine Ong Muslim is the author of We Bury the Landscape (Queen's Ferry Press) and Insomnia (Medulla Publishing). Her stories and poems appeared in many publications, including Ellipsis, Narrative Magazine, Sou'wester, and Southword. Dan Chaon's selection for The Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions 2012 and the storySouth Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2011 included her tiny tales. Her online home is kristinemuslim.weebly.com.

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