I have a problem.
And that problem is
I could’ve jumped right in and told you ‘I’m cursed’, but then you might’ve shrunk away and thought it catching. Don’t worry. I don’t plan on licking you. Not that licking is how curses are transferred, although, for the sake of transparency, I don’t actually know (at least, not for sure) but considering I am afflicted, I suppose, I should.
But I don’t.
I’ve been unhelpful for a large proportion of my life and don’t intend on starting now.
I was born, like most people, yet labelled decidedly different due to the concerning fact you could see right through me. You know, like one of those fish that live at the bottom of the ocean, hanging out in the twilight zone, away from the paparazzi.
Disappointingly, I am not a deep-sea fish.
I can barely hold my breath for twenty seconds, let alone forever, so that wasn’t a viable option— which is a shame, as it would’ve been a smart way to avoid all the unwanted attention, as despite not remembering any of it, my mother said the whole thing caused
a bit of a tizz.
I suppose, I do have one thing in common with the Pacific Barreleye though.
We both look better in the dark.
Being an ungodly afront to wo/man and nature, I was understandably left well alone and sent off to public school to interact with other well-adjusted children.
Noooo. That’s what I would have LIKED to have happened.
But life’s not fair and there’s no use crying about it. I actually spent my formative years in a plastic tank called Amanda. That’s my mother’s name, by the way, and every day I was poked and prodded by people in white coats and fed prawn sandwiches through a small chute that opened if I performed.
And by performed, I mean, formulated a memory.
You see, every time something worth sticking to me, stuck, a picture of it grew across my skin.
I know… I know it sounds like I have an infection, but I don’t, it’s a curse, as I keep telling you, and it’s not fungal.
Anyhoo, my skin sort-of coloured itself in, and I became less mortifying to my parents and more attractive to polite society.
I’m being a bit harsh on my parents here. They loved me very much and it was not their decision to keep me locked away in a windowless lab like a genetically mutated storybook character. Although, I have to admit, boarding school did seem very similar, but I was assured they were two completely different things. And you got custard. You don’t get custard in experimental biological testing facilities. And that’s a fact!
Now, if I’m being honest,
which I always am
I learnt a lot from both realms.
Like: if you ever want to see the light of day, goddamit, you need to learn how to per/con/form.
The words were interchangeable, but both were biggies and screamed at me a lot at night. So, I started making sure I manifested a shit-tonne (is that metric or imperial?) of really important memories and forced them onto myself so that others could see I was progressing nicely.
My first, and I have to say favourite, memory was when I was four years old. There was someone new working in the canteen and my crusts had been left on. I’m aware this isn’t a heinous crime, but to a four-year-old… oh it was like WWIII. Funnily enough, that was actually how my abilities were unmasked, as after some grade A nuclear trantrumming— impressive, considering I hadn’t been practicing— a neat little image of a crusted prawn sandwich appeared on my back!
Thankfully, I was not forever going to be covered in continuous reminders of highly specific personal traumas, but a good proportion of my skin has now been dedicated to things I’d honestly rather forget.
I’d say it’s about fifty-fifty.
Alright, I’ve been through a lot.
Anyway, I got to a point where I could be released into the world unsupervised— so long as I wore a long-sleeved shirt and embraced a sexy high neckline. Luckily, I’d watched a considerable amount of television so knew exactly how everything worked. It wasn’t like I’d been hidden away or anything
but I was surprised by electricity.
Oh, and I’d better add that by this time I’d degenerated into only a minor celebrity, as other people with different curses (far more interesting (read as marketable) than my own) had bubbled to the surface. And they WANTED to be known— our key difference.
I found intimacy difficult.
Every time I experienced a kiss or partook in the hippy hippy shake, if it did not immediately appear on me, my partner took great offence.
I mean… I get it, but how’d you tell somebody that although they don’t appear on your skin, they’re already branded into your heart?
When I’m alone, I think it’s sad no one really understands the darkness like I do. But I guess it’s also useful that I don’t have a picture of me and Chizzy going at it à la mode in the swimming pool toilets at AquaAdventure in Margate though…
…Chiz’d always had this thing about those preliminary footbaths and wanted to get down dirty in one of ‘em.
Bucket list thing, I suppose, like skydiving.
Problem was, not only were they inappropriately public, they’d been installed for the benefit of group sanitation, so we reorganised our tryst in the loo, inserting the caveat I’d flush the cistern every few minutes— and to add a bit of realism, I wouldn’t put the seat down.
In the end, I suggested we just kept our eyes closed throughout Act 1.
Sadly, we uncoupled not long after.
I think we’d both caught something and neither wanted to blame the other.
It was amicable, but we’re no longer friends. I’d been told at boarding school… or was it the lab… could have been both, that I’d be an incompatible mate. Because of the curse, I’d assumed, but sometimes when I went round to my parents’ for dinner, Mum’d spell
YOU WILL ALWAYS BE LONELY AS YOU ARE A FREAK
out of peas.
I was forever impressed by her bluntness and creative use of subliminal messaging as she’d then growl, ‘Eat them. They’re just ruddy peas’,
and that was me told.
I spent some time in my twenties wondering what would happen when my skin was completely covered, as the images never seemed to go away, or sink back inside. They just sprang up at the most inappropriate moments, much to my shame— and I wasn’t even religious. Yet when I bought that homeless man, outside the Combimart, a meal deal, the receipt immediately appeared in my palm.
I look at it to this day and still see two prawn sandwiches, two packets of salt and vinegar crisps, and two diet cokes.
I didn’t eat all mine, but that doesn’t matter, as I remember the purchase.
The man said he liked my tattoos. I tried to explain that they weren’t what he thought they were, but he was already tactically engrossed between fitted bread sheets, flicking out the prawns like miniature projectiles.
Pew! Pew! Pew!
I was going to offer to remove his crusts, but I think he needed them more than me, so I gave him mine too and dusted off the prawns for later.
Apart from the occasional inconvenience, I lead a relatively decent life for someone who is still cursed and refuses to eat octopuses, as they are more intelligent than most of the people I’ve met.
I haven’t found true love yet—sniffle sniffle— but hey, I’m hopeful, and I think there’s still a little space waiting for that. There’s gotta be, right?
My hair never grew so it can’t fall out, and you’ll always be able to see my eyes through this crude wrapping paper other people call skin, but as these marbles are deemed windows to the soul, I suppose you could say I’m someone to take on face value.
Just a little joke there…
Well, that’s my bus coming.
It’s been nice talking to you.
Hah! I can feel my big toe tingling.
Wouldn’t it be funny if this was actually important, and your face ended up
Zoe Davis is an emerging writer and artist from Sheffield, England. She writes in a number of styles and genres, but especially enjoys exploring the interaction between the fantastical and the mundane. When she is not writing, Zoe can be found drawing, baking, and playing para ice hockey – just not at the same time. You can follow her on Twitter @MeanerHarker where she is always happy to have a virtual coffee and a chat.