When she took off her makeup her true features emerged jagged with deep slashes, her mouth like a scar—her eyes like open wounds. She gripped the mirror as if it were a portal where some madwoman stood peering out with a lunatic grin, locked inside a house but still looking through the windows and pounding on the door. “Where are you, Raheesha? Where have you gone?”
Something scuttled across her face and she casually reached for it with a claw of a hand and snatched the cockroach from her cheek as it attempted to crawl into her mouth. “Not yet, my dear . . . not yet.”
Crushing the bug between her fingers, she turned from the mirror, and slowly melted back into her chair like a wax candle shaped into a semblance of lumpish human form. The rotting stench of her body filled the small carnival wagon that now served as her home.
Three years ago the doctors had diagnosed her with necrotizing fasciitis—‘flesh-eating’ disease. By all rights, she should have died within the first few months, but for some inexplicable reason she survived: her black skin deteriorating, the insurmountable pain never-ending. Even after all the countless skin grafts had failed and the insurance money had run out, she continued on—a sideshow attraction—a carnival freak.
Pouring another brandy, she shrank back into herself with a deep sigh that was something more akin to madness than grief. She stared at all the brightly colored billboards and posters that lined the walls of her wagon like a fading movie star; each a different caricature of a grotesque woman walking through the jungle with arms outstretched, rats scurrying beneath her feet. She smiled as she read the caption, 'Raheesha: Zombie Girl from Darkest Africa'.
"Africa,” she scoffed, “I’ve never been to Africa in my life.”
Outside, a storm approached, and she heard the trees and shrubs shiver as the rain whispered through the foliage. She stood stiffly, parts of her rotting skin still clinging to the chair, and ambled toward the door. Throwing it open, she took in a deep breath of freshly washed air. The rain rattled upon the roof of the wagon and clicked against the windows. As the wind blew, the trees shook like the manes of lions, and in her broken mind, she could almost hear them roaring, and see them gathering for the hunt.
As she watched, they crept forward, skulking beneath the undergrowth and moving toward her. She stepped back inside, her heart knocking as hard as a fist on a door. “I must be losing my mind,” she said, and sat down in front of the mirror.
The door hung open, and she thought she could hear the sound of tribal drums somewhere in the distance, and then the scratching of claws against the small wooden steps that led into her wagon. Through the mirror, she saw the yellow eyes of the first lion as it entered.
(word count: 500)