The War of Eyes

by HLY

The War of Eyes

by HLY


There is​​ a girl who talks​​ to birds and anchors. This girl​​ is​​ trapped in a​​ hole​​ so deep​​ she​​ has​​ to draw her way out​​ to see.​​ She lives​​ in a basement,​​ and every time she climbs​​ out she hears​​ Donald and his receiver.​​ Everyone thinks​​ she​​ is a boy,​​ and wars have been fought, forever—in the history of​​ all of​​ the little girls—to​​ get​​ to​​ her girl.​​ Donald has​​ trapped her. He​​ is​​ her caretaker, and​​ he​​ lives​​ upstairs with his paints and television. He pretends​​ to be a painter, but​​ she​​ is not​​ pretending to be a girl. She​​ is​​ a girl on one side,​​ her side. And​​ on​​ the other side​​ it is dark.​​ 

Sophia​​ does not have clear memories of her parents. She​​ was raised apart from them;​​ they were​​ taken by the clergy. Her mother’s smile made her feel even more like Sophia, and that smile made her a mirror of her mother.​​ That​​ was​​ a​​ good mirror. But that was a long time ago.​​ 

Sophia​​ is​​ ten-years-old. Her red Scorpio hair​​ is just long enough to curl, and Sophia does​​ a good job of getting​​ all​​ the funny​​ strangers to tell her “he’s so pretty he should’ve been a girl”, which makes​​ Donald look at her to put the boy back.​​ Sophia draws​​ girls​​ and gendered monsters​​ in her sketch-book-of-life, and every​​ time Donald catches​​ one of Sophia’s drawings he tells​​ her what it says​​ and she doesn’t believe him until he looks​​ at her enough. Then she hates​​ that drawing.​​ 




The Shortwave receiver invaded the space above Sophia’s​​ inner ear. “Get that one, he’s a nasty little pirate. Nasty little pirate.”


Sophia​​ ignored the messages. She focused​​ on​​ all her friends.​​ 



MISS GOODNESS GRACIOUS:​​ She was the prettiest. She wore a mesh​​ dress and boy​​ did she​​ love her​​ thread children.​​ Miss was a black-haired barbie that Sophia​​ found on the side of the road. The bastard child of plastic molds, she fought in the trenches, was ripped from bird’s beaks, and had been stomped on by the flighty feet of​​ artless​​ walkers.​​ Sophia​​ saw her and​​ said “oh​​ me oh​​ my miss goodness gracious”. She​​ cleaned her off with her shirt and​​ stole her away.​​ Miss Goodness Gracious was born a trash princess.​​ She was the glue that didn’t smell.​​ 


DREARY ME:​​ Her problem child.​​ Dreary​​ always complained,​​ but,​​ even though she ripped​​ all the​​ scabs​​ off​​ her dreams,​​ the gang still​​ loved her.​​ She was an expanding stuffed cat.​​ 


THE BEAR:​​ He​​ played​​ hide and seek with cement feelings.​​ He was a feeling stomper.​​ Bear​​ was big and tough with the vacuum​​ cleaner.​​ 


THE BAD MIRROR:​​ The center of the badlands.​​ It​​ thought that everyone should​​ rotate round it’s​​ gravity grave. The bad mirror only saw Paul and​​ his​​ dead toys.​​ This​​ mirror is all there is to see on the Paul side. It eats​​ Sophia’s​​ reflection. ​​ 


Paul​​ was the dark side of the coin.​​ 


Sophia​​ arranged​​ Miss and the​​ animals in a line.​​ Butterfly lipped, the curvier-than-an-hourglass-on-the-black-widow​​ (herself),​​ Miss Goodness Gracious stood​​ primping​​ behind the bad mirror.​​ Sophia​​ moved​​ herself away from​​ her​​ Paul​​ vision. She was afraid she would see him​​ and they would switch places, and then he’d be Paul looking at her.​​ 

“If you pointed that​​ reflection​​ at the sun it would cast the stars as liars!​​ Sophia,​​ do feel arisen. I do miss your clouds.” Miss Goodness Gracious​​ buttered her​​ ears with affirmations. The other animals applauded.​​ 

Dreary Me,​​ the bleeding eyed kitten,​​ with her​​ chest of unwound threads,​​ stared​​ sad​​ and asked​​ “Will I​​ ever be loved?”​​ Sophia held her, but eventually​​ she​​ pulled out Dreary Me’s​​ colorful​​ stuffing.​​ “Miss Goodness Gracious fed you to the dog!” Sophia said​​ to Dreary.​​ ​​ ​​ Dreary Me sighed.​​ “I’m always falling out on other people”.​​ She purred​​ cute​​ and​​ sad.​​ The bear just squashed,​​ guilt-filled.​​ This​​ big fat​​ bear​​ was like a trash​​ compactor.​​ 

Bear said out loud, “When will​​ he​​ go away? His shadows have a way of detaching themselves.”​​ Sophia​​ sighed.​​ “Paul’s​​ shadows go inside me and fill me.”​​ 

The bear sighed and squashed some more. “They have a way of detaching themselves.”​​ 


Gravity upset everyone,​​ and Sophia danced​​ as if​​ she were​​ asleep, waltzing​​ over to the window.​​ As she came into​​ view, the light’s​​ dust​​ flew​​ like spaceships.​​ Sophia​​ looked at the buddy flag that was supposed to be a country. She liked watching the flag contort in the wind. Like a wrinkly fish.​​ 

Sophia​​ heard​​ a kettle​​ boil on​​ the old gas burner​​ in her hole.​​ The tea party​​ began when​​ the​​ china​​ was​​ distributed.​​ 

Sophia​​ said,​​ “all I am is​​ a freak of​​ fabric. Oh, Miss Goodness Gracious how ever do we brew​​ the tea when we just absorb?”​​ 

Sophia​​ felt​​ that she was just as much​​ stuffing as any of her friends. ​​ 

Miss Goodness Gracious sat​​ in her doll chair, and​​ raised​​ a​​ cup​​ to her petrified​​ mouth.​​ Sophia​​ got dressed, but she didn’t like it. She​​ didn’t want to wear the​​ cloak​​ that made the old man tell​​ her all that she​​ was.​​ 


And Donald, the old man,​​ was upstairs cleaning his gun right now.​​ The gun​​ sweated​​ alloy onto​​ the​​ confederate​​ rag. It​​ made the rag​​ almost gilded.​​ Solvent angels found the rag​​ more​​ pleasing​​ when it was dirty,​​ but that made​​ Sophia​​ disgusted.​​ ​​ And Sophia recalled​​ Donald dousing the rag​​ with gun polish​​ and breathing it​​ while​​ she watched the quickening of certainty​​ form.​​ 

Sophia had to put her eyes back inside.​​ 


Was she​​ trapped in a​​ retelling or​​ was she there,​​ listening to the​​ other wordly?​​ She​​ was​​ who Donald told her​​ she was​​ when he​​ caught her with his​​ voice.​​ 

Donald huffed the rag like a malevolent octopus, his matted hair twisting and writhing at Sophia.​​ Donald squinted at her and just grunted.​​ Sophia didn’t remember walking up the stairs. She didn’t know if she was recollecting this or if she moved​​ onto Donald​​ without​​ her armor.​​ 


Sophia​​ must be​​ invisible​​ sometimes.​​ She liked people not being able to see her. But if she was invisible, then​​ she couldn’t​​ see​​ herself either.​​ She didn’t know where Sophia​​ was and that made her sad.​​ After all,​​ she​​ was Sophia. Donning a towel tight around her head like a snow princess,​​ she thought about how she’d look with angel hair.​​ But,​​ where was she?​​ 

Donald stopped sniffing. “Go back to your hole Paul Piglet.”

Donald had a gavel in his voice, and the law was knocked on wood with his yell. Sophia cried.​​ And just like that Sophia was told right where it hurt.​​ Right in the​​ Paul.​​ Sophia​​ was invisible no more.​​ She could see​​ Paul, the demon​​ child,​​ in the bad-mirror-of-his-eyes.​​ 

But​​ Donald​​ opened the door to let light in, and he escaped into the light to​​ go​​ shoot squirrels.​​ 


The VHS player played the Ronald show,​​ a​​ warble​​ with bad tracking.​​ Ronald was the leader of Church,​​ and was Donald’s favorite. Sophia had not, in fact,​​ descended into her​​ basement​​ hole.​​ She was still on the surface, trying not to watch​​ the​​ TV​​ in the paisley couch room,​​ and​​ that​​ scared her.​​ 

Ronald promised untold wealth if she would just call him. Then he talked about the abominations.​​ 

And​​ how would you like that.​​ Dreary-Me-the-bleeding-eye was in Sophia’s​​ hollow,​​ boy​​ pocket. Dreary ogled​​ while Sophia​​ tried to put all her stuffing​​ back​​ inside.​​ 

The radio​​ argued​​ with the tv. “Abominations are​​ our​​ booty in the world of representatives. Own your sin and cast​​ it in the receptacles of return.”​​ 

Mixed with,​​ “sinners,​​ bleed your profits into me. Let me direct your​​ incoming​​ veins to the lord. There are two gods for every trinity. Six in all.​​ Do not trust the​​ well-lit​​ god.​​ Rise up​​ to​​ the shadow god’s​​ orders.​​ Ordered​​ revulsion​​ is how you will become​​ familiar.​​ Praise Jesus, soon you will lose control, close your eyes​​ and see.”​​ 


Amongst the preachy cacophony,​​ Sophia tried to only hear Dreary.​​ “I can see you and you’re​​ pretty.” Sophia​​ smiled.​​ “Let’s go down.”​​ 


Nancy​​ came over without warning and made noises at night.​​ She​​ was Donald’s girlfriend​​ and​​ she​​ had​​ just ascended.​​ Nancy​​ had an astral​​ head that floated downstream,​​ and​​ sometimes she​​ blinked​​ her dying eyes open,​​ which disturbed​​ Sophia.​​ ​​ 

Sophia​​ believed Nancy​​ arranged​​ voice​​ armies like Legos and dismantled her​​ own​​ thoughts with them. Nancy never really​​ had​​ any​​ dialog.​​ ​​ 

​​ ​​ Nancy​​ descended to the hole, and​​ clacked all the way to the​​ closet.​​ 

“You’ve been stealing away my clothes again!”​​ Nancy pulled out all of her underwear. Anything Sophia could wear under her shell made her feel more like herself.​​ 

“You’re going to your cousin’s funeral tomorrow and you ain’t taking those dolls.”​​ Sophia​​ cried.​​ Nancy arranged​​ the​​ military toys​​ Sophia​​ never played with.​​ Front and center.​​ 

Then she​​ crept off her head and stared into Sophie, but she didn’t look at her the same way as Donald. Nancy stared​​ at her like a homework​​ inspector.​​ Looks can grade.​​ And Sophia dreaded the​​ assignment mailed​​ to​​ her at birth.​​ He​​ kept being born.​​ 

I am a [boy]. I play with [boy] toys.​​ 

Sophia had to fill in the blanks with​​ Nancy’s assumptions.

Sophia​​ was scared of both of them​​ because they were going to send her to​​ Saint Burial of the​​ Blessed​​ Handshake.​​ The school was held in an imagination that Sophie felt​​ when she wasn’t​​ Sophie.​​ Little Army men broke their arrangement and jumped off the ashy table.​​ She cried. She dreaded shaking​​ the​​ hands of the​​ boys at​​ her new​​ school.

Shortwave​​ broke through, “If you are not an army man you are the foot that falls on us.”


Just then,​​ Donald yelled at the radio​​ and closed the front door.​​ “Paul, I caught one.” Nancy​​ laughed​​ like a​​ hissing​​ snake and put the​​ fear​​ in Sophia’s eyes.​​ And what did Donald catch this time?​​ 

Nancy and Sophie​​ walked up the​​ stairs​​ and wiped their feet on the​​ carpet.​​ Donald had caught a fat squirrel.​​ Donald led the squirrels astray, right​​ off the​​ forbidden​​ birdhouse, then​​ he​​ assassinated them. Sophia​​ didn’t understand these rituals.

Donald​​ opened the oven.​​ “Mostly lean meat.”

Sophia​​ walked to the end of the table where Donald couldn’t reach.​​ 

“I’m not hungry,​​ sir.”​​ ​​ 

“Boy,​​ don’t make me force feed you.”

Sophia​​ submitted and​​ ate the squirrel meat,​​ in one big dry heave. She​​ looked​​ under Donald’s eyes.​​ Nancy​​ came in-between.​​ She​​ closed Sophia’s eyes​​ just​​ enough till she saw diamond veils in her dark eyelids.​​ Donald hobbled up​​ like a rejected clown, his face caked with​​ the house​​ paint​​ he huffed.​​ 

“Mind your brain!”

Just then the​​ VCR​​ un-paused itself.​​ “Ladies and gentleman we are taking your investments for our spaceship. We are going to mars.”

Donald pushed​​ his plate over to Nancy and hurried to the​​ paisley​​ couch.​​ 

“For one-hundred-dollars-a-week, you can claim your seat on that great arc which will populate​​ a red paradise. And now we’ll take a break. Please become intimate with​​ our sponsors.”

Donald spat,​​ cleared his throat​​ and slammed the television off.​​ 


Donald​​ walked to his​​ new wall painting​​ of Sophia.​​ 

Sophia​​ stood at her kitchen table position, looking​​ at the painting. A​​ boy she didn’t remember stood at the feet of Jesus,​​ the​​ Angel​​ of​​ Death. Jesus was balancing a cross on one shoulder and a scythe on the other.​​ She​​ looked at​​ the boy again. It was​​ Paul.​​ 

Paul tried to talk to her but she learned not to talk back.​​ The more she heard Paul,​​ the more she lost herself.​​ He was Donald’s​​ gimpy prisoner.​​ Donald huffed his confederate rag. He dipped it in gold paint this time.



The Shortwave receiver​​ came on​​ again.​​ “Grab the words from inside.​​ The regulator is after your paper trails and redemption receipts.”

Sophia​​ just pretended​​ the shortwave-speak​​ was a drive through window. A​​ Saint Vitus​​ dance between​​ the​​ edges of​​ static and orders.​​ Yet, these​​ orders​​ fed multitudes their lunch.​​ ​​ 


When Sophia felt good,​​ she felt like all her sounds and eyes were​​ flooded with​​ anointing oil,​​ and​​ that​​ eucharist​​ would have gone​​ down so​​ much​​ easier.​​ She had a bad taste in her mouth because of that​​ sacrificial squirrel.

Sophia​​ tasted​​ hidden licorice in her cheeks. She​​ realized she​​ had​​ descended​​ into her basement​​ and found her candy stash.​​ 

She drew​​ hawks that fell inside​​ the​​ holy ghost​​ on her tattered envelopes. There’d be this giant hawk that swoops down for a mouse,​​ and that mouse would be protected from the word of god.​​ The hawk thinks​​ it​​ has​​ its​​ bed made,​​ but right when​​ hawk​​ swoops​​ for the snack,​​ the​​ ghost​​ would get​​ it.​​ 

The​​ holy​​ ghost would roam like sea fog and​​ it​​ took​​ what​​ it​​ wanted from the bowels of the Earth.​​ A reverse feeding.​​ Sophia drew them all.​​ 

Sophia wished that she had a hole she could throw at Donald​​ and Nancy.​​ Just a rudimentary black holy ghost​​ that would bid them bye,​​ and leave nothing​​ in reverse​​ but Sophia’s soul.​​ 

Sophia kept drawing.​​ If​​ Donald​​ caught it out of her, he​​ would​​ probably say​​ her drawing​​ was​​ Batman, or maybe a football he tied​​ up​​ in the yard​​ that​​ Sophia never played with.​​ And then Sophia would think about her drawing and curse her hands.​​ ​​ 


The day of Sophia’s cousin’s funeral​​ started with​​ a car parade. Long black streams of door reflections​​ and windshield suns​​ crept by.​​ Cyprus trees watched​​ and judged​​ the military pretenses.​​ 

Sophia was caught in a​​ cyclone of hugs and handshakes, but she looked forward to the sandwiches.​​ Her other cousin, Mikey,​​ threw a hackey sack around.​​ 

“Yo dude sad about Fats.” Mikey called Jimmy “Fats.”​​ 

Sophia​​ attempted to close her eyes to try and see herself, but she was in a state of Paul.

“Paul?” Mikey snapped his fingers.​​ 

Sophia wanted to draw but there were​​ many more handshakes.​​ Mikey was unaware of her world. He​​ stopped​​ talking​​ to her.​​ He probably hated her.​​ She​​ squeezed Miss Goodness Gracious,​​ who was in her pocket,​​ to feel her​​ soul.

Sophia​​ looked down at​​ Jimmy.​​ She​​ dreamed his​​ corpse​​ was larva and his coffin was an ornate cocoon.​​ There were​​ more handshakes.​​ 

Deacon bounced as he walked up to Sophia.​​ The smell of his hair​​ grease​​ mingled with the funeral air, making everything extra old.​​ 

“Don’t fret, Paul.​​ His soul is at rest.”​​ Deacon said.​​ 

Deacon made a secret wink.​​ Sophia​​ didn’t like​​ his eyes.​​ 

“Oh, and Paul, the red tape has been cleared up​​ about our school.​​ Our Church all came together.​​ You will start immediately.​​ Congratulations.”

Sophia sighed where no one could hear her.​​ This school would change her. Maybe she’d turn into Paul forever and ever. Maybe she’d​​ wind up huffing paint in a​​ Judge’s​​ house.​​ 

Sophia heard the shortwave coming out of a muffled room. Or was it a television? She didn’t know where her voices came from, or where they went. Just like she didn’t know where humans went after we died.​​ Nancy’s astral head floated to Sophia,​​ eating her flighty​​ faith.​​ Sophia ate a​​ whale​​ bite of ham sandwich that she gathered with chips. Nancy didn’t say anything. Not here. She was just there.​​ 


The Burial of the Blessed Handshake​​ was held​​ in the funeral home.​​ There were many urns.​​ In his oak office, the funeral director sat in his swivel chair below the ashes of his gay, but divinely converted son. He looked at Sophia. It was her first day.​​ He collected urns.​​ ​​ 

“This is Scott.” He handed Sophia the urn.​​ 

Sophia opened the lid and looked inside. She smelled him.​​ 

 ​​ He continued.​​ “Scott had a problem, but with​​ Donald’s​​ Judgement,​​ he became a man of god. That was shortly before his faith suicide. You don’t know how proud I am to know that my own son sits at the feet of Jesus. He may be dead, but he is better in heaven than he was on Earth, theoretically speaking.”

Sophia didn’t want to end up like Scott, although it must be nice to finally be dust. But to be dust that people keep in fine china and name? Not so much.​​ She got sad because she knew what name everyone would use for her​​ when she was dust. Sophia​​ imagined​​ each flake of​​ Scott​​ as an​​ individual​​ person.​​ Why should fathers​​ have to​​ know anything about their spawn, anyway?​​ They can make anything up about them they want.​​ Is this what happens​​ to​​ boys who are too soft? ​​ 

The director’s feet sounded​​ on the floor,​​ and​​ echoes​​ skipped​​ while he paced. “I hope you will grow into a strapping young man. With the lords help you are bound to. You can’t escape or hide from your destiny. Our institute is small, but we are all chipping in,​​ here and there,​​ and soon we can all bathe in that godly radiation​​ through obedience to the manly order. We will have​​ our​​ salvation, god damned the rest of humanity.” ​​ ​​ 


 ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ Nancy cried all military when she​​ grabbed Sophia’s hand and drug her to the doorway.​​ Sophia did not want to listen to her destiny anymore.​​ Nancy bred destiny into her until​​ Sophia​​ was bloated, while​​ Nancy’s helmet hair resisted the wind outside the school​​ which was run from a converted funeral home. ​​ 

“You go to this place and you do not come out until you are a young man.” Nancy had a way of talking that sounded like​​ convulsive​​ cackling. Sophia opened the door.​​ 


There were four of them in one classroom. All boys but Sophie, yet​​ Sophie was called a boy.​​ And the teacher,​​ who​​ wore​​ gym shorts, walked in.​​ 

“Hello boys and welcome​​ to​​ this holy opportunity.​​ We are going to the gym every morning because your skins are too thinned​​ out. My name is Bobo McDaniel, but you can call me Bo.​​ Follow me and we’ll talk​​ more​​ in the man cave.”​​ 

The children looked like ducks​​ in a row,​​ but Sophie felt like the​​ crazy​​ bird.​​ Sidney​​ gave a military​​ ok​​ sign. ​​ 

“Sidney, what does it say in Leviticus about. . . The holy bible calls it laying with other men?”​​ Bobo’s​​ mouth gaped​​ at the clinical​​ mortuary​​ lights.​​ The lights made Sophia feel naked.​​ 

Sidney’s ears bent. It’s “abominable.”

“That’s right gang. God made you just as he is. And he made you to have his way with you. You may think you know​​ you​​ better than god knows himself, but​​ You​​ are​​ lost.”

Bobo dropped a red ball.​​  ​​​​ 

“Today we’re gonna learn dodgeball.​​ Guys, you have to find the boy in the room that needs saving the most,​​ and​​ then​​ whack him with this ball.”​​ 

Bobo threw the ball to Sidney.​​ Spiders​​ hid​​ in the creases of the red ball and​​ Sophia​​ felt an affinity, but she got scared because she didn’t know if they were good spiders​​ or bad spiders. She got whacked​​ with the ball.​​ 

The boys laughed at how surprised Sophia was.​​ She was thrown out of her skin at the impact. The ball bounced back to Sidney. Sidney smiled. Whack! Her skin got redder​​ after the second whack. The spiders​​ pace grew.

“Paul,​​ you grab that ball​​ and whack the weakest one. Man-up,​​ child”​​ 

Sophia picked up the ball and looked around at the​​ consumptive​​ faces.​​ Smiling,​​ Sidney​​ dared​​ her to throw it at the teacher.​​ ​​ 

So,​​ Sophia stood like a swan and bounced the ball at bug-eyed Bobo, who​​ gave her​​ a look. And she didn’t even feel that​​ look.​​ 

“Dangit boy!”

“His name is lady Paul.”​​ (Laugh track.)​​ Sidney was on a roll.​​ 

Sophia started to cry like a one-armed fountain. The boys were taught to laugh at her feelings.​​ This was caustic training. She had to alter herself to take it all in. And “no” did not exist for her.​​ But the more she took​​ her tears​​ away the more she​​ didn’t feel and that is what everyone wanted.​​ Sophia realized that her feeling-stomper-bear was in her heart.​​ 

“Well just don’t stand there like a little teapot, throw the dang ball boy.”​​ ​​ 

Enter Paul.​​ 

Paul smiled at Sidney.​​ Gear shifts in​​ Paul’s neurons​​ unlocked​​ and​​ he​​ “threw the dang ball” at Sidney. At it hit him​​ hard,​​ right on his forehead.​​ The kids parted like crows.​​ 

Bobo sang like a famous tenor.

“That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Praise the lord.”​​ 

Applause​​ grew and Paul felt like he was on a late show.​​ 


After the faith lesson, the intelligent designed history, and the counter evolution,​​ the boys had food.​​ After lunch,​​ Sophia​​ was back. She snuck in to​​ the library which had​​ every translation of the bible.​​ There were a few dating guides​​ for church teens. A magazine with an article against legalizing drugs.​​ ​​ But hidden behind the thin synopsizes of​​ pagan religions​​ and why to stay away from them,​​ she found​​ Songs of Innocence and Experience. Sophia was mystified when she dropped the book​​ while shuffling the spines,​​ and the page that lay​​ up​​ flat on the ground was the poem​​ Little Girl Lost.​​ 

In the poem, Lyca follows wild birds into a desert, and it is slowly tended until it becomes a garden. Lyca’s parents look for her too.​​ And she is protected from predators by wild animals.​​ The kingly lion. ​​​​ ​​ 

Sophie wished she could find a nice lion like that.​​ She also wished her​​ environment​​ could change into a garden.​​ Sophie believed Lyca’s wilderness to be​​ like​​ her​​ own​​ dark secrets.​​ Secrets like​​ Sophia​​ plucking​​ out​​ her eyebrows.​​ She had been caught​​ crying, once, in​​ Nancy’s clothes, but no one​​ had​​ noticed her arched eyebrows​​ she​​ had​​ been wearing for weeks before then.


When​​ Sophia​​ put on her girl clothes, she​​ figured it out finally.​​ That’s who Jesus is. He’s like a snake that sheds his​​ clothes.​​ And then​​ he​​ sheds​​ his Jesus.​​ Russian dolls of Jesus.​​ Jesus is a growing garden to be tended, and also Jesus is wild animals that are tamed by little girls.​​ And then Sophia understood​​ that Jesus was like Paul. And Jesus was like Sophia too. He was big and fat with his horizon, and​​ Jesus​​ was​​ watching​​ her at her Burger King birthday,​​ when, queenly,​​ she proudly wore a paper crown.​​ She missed her parents,​​ who were unclean.​​ 


Sophia​​ was​​ forced​​ into the​​ next​​ class by three-boobed Virginia,​​ but​​ then​​ it was bible study break so​​ she​​ drew​​ her pictures​​ and pretended to care about swing-low-sweet-church-Jesus.​​ Finally​​ after,​​ she had a dehydrated snack break that didn’t count heads.​​ 


Sophia​​ found the room​​ that held the beautified dead.​​ Sophia​​ didn’t mind dead bodies,​​ but​​ she’d​​ rather draw Lyca,​​ and for a magical minute Sophia​​ felt like she was Lyca.​​ The Lion​​ she drew​​ looked​​ like a raggedy sun flare, her​​ sunflower​​ wilderness cradled Lyca sleeping.​​ 

She heard two boys roughhousing just outside the door.

“I’m telling you, this is where they shoot you up with​​ formaldehyde.” The boy had a certain tone.​​ 

“No way. They lock away the bodies. They don’t let you mingle”​​  ​​​​ 

Sophia drew Lyca as a black Jesus who​​ rode the lion into the paper so hard it tore.​​ She forgot all about the boys, until she heard them​​ force their way to where she was hiding, grabbing​​ her sketch book.​​ 

Sidney looked at her drawings. “Who’s that?”​​ 

Sophia​​ remained​​ calm. “That’s Jesus.”

Zack​​ and Sidney couldn’t believe it.​​ 

“You tryin to say Jesus​​ was a black girl? That’s blasphemy.”​​ Zack​​ said.

“I talk to her.” Sophia was trying to make friends.​​ 

Sidney and Zack​​ both looked at each other and sang,​​ “You’re​​ so​​ crazy.”

Then three-boobed​​ Virginia​​ stormed in shouting.​​ 

“No one is supposed to be in here.”

Zack​​ and Sidney ran and got away.​​ But​​ Virginia grabbed Sophie and pulled her sketchbook from her.​​ 

“What’s this halo around this black girl mean? Why are her palms bleeding? Boy you don’t want to lie to me.​​ Answer me.”

“It’s Jesus.”

“That’s not my lord.​​ You are in so much trouble​​ for​​ breaking and entering. Your​​ heavenly​​ father will hear of this.”


Once Sophia was home,​​ she descended to the basement. She thought she got lucky, because Donald didn’t say anything to her the whole ride home. But when she opened her sock drawer,​​ no Bear, no Dreary Me, and no Miss Goodness Gracious.​​ All​​ that remained was the bad mirror.​​ 

And then Donald came down.​​ 

“We heard what you did at school.”​​ 

The shortwave radio​​ said in between static,​​ “To ascend we must fight.”​​ 


Sophia felt her heart.​​ Donald​​ grabbed Sophia and climbed up the stairs. The wall facing the tv had a new painting.​​ It was covered with the guts of Dreary Me, the eyes of bear, and shards of melted plastic that once was benevolent Miss Goodness Gracious.​​ 

“I call it after-born-again.​​ Enjoy your school,​​ sissy?”


Sophia didn’t know she was running​​ to the attic. She didn’t feel her feet when they​​ almost​​ slipped on the stair,​​ teasing her with falling.​​ She didn’t feel Donald trying to grab her and pull​​ her down.​​ A moth bid her to run to the giant window. An eye to the house like a cyclops,​​ the window​​ oversaw the beer cans in the yard, but​​ it​​ kept the secrets inside.​​ 

The television downstairs was at full blast.​​ 

“We have our spaceship. We will fly this god ordained ark on election day. Rapture the blessed and rupture the​​ queer.”

Donald ran to grab her,​​ and they switched places.​​ Sophia saw Donald’s fury. But she felt god’s rage.​​ And Donald looked in Sophia’s eyes. Something else was​​ in​​ her eyes.​​ Sophia could feel Donald unknowing her. It felt validating.​​ Donald​​ saw a mirror of himself for the first time.​​ 

“The spaceship accommodates pets. You can bring two dogs, three cats, and multitudes of birds. We will migrate and only the righteous will be allowed​​ inside.”

Just then a voice growled​​ inside Sophia.

“Jesus died for your sins. You die for mine.”

Gasping,​​ Donald backed up until his back pressed against the window.​​ He saw his lies fly away to mars.​​ Hierarchies of​​ bible​​ wildfires burned their way inside him.​​ 

“Jesus died for your sins. You die for mine.”​​ 

“Don’t show me that anymore.​​ Get away from me.” Donald’s voice revolted against himself—"Spaceship rides are one hundred dollars a week, friends. And a certificate signed by​​ Jesus.​​ Only​​ white, straight and god-loving-men or man-loving-women​​ need apply. This is our beauty. Homogeny​​ is the same in every language.”—There’s no way out. Donald hit the window-glass with his pawnshop wedding ring, breaking it.​​ 

“Jesus​​ drew for my sins. I am in her arms.”​​ 

Donald screamed, “Take me spaceship. Take me. Hide me from​​ her.”


Sophia’s eyes pushed Donald​​ out of the third story window.​​ A few of the neighbors gathered to talk about Donald’s leap.​​ His​​ unconscious body​​ was positioned resembling​​ The​​ Hanged Man.


Outside, Sophia​​ centered her thoughts around​​ the neighbor’s rose garden.​​ She​​ saw a fat bud bursting​​ into​​ silk-petal guts​​ in the​​ distance, and Sophia felt like that. Sophia saw crucifixion in a flowering.        ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​    ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ 

Once Donald was taken in the ambulance, a social worker tended to Sophia.​​ The​​ blonde​​ social worker​​ looked down, his sunshine​​ beard​​ spoke to​​ Sophia like the​​ flowers​​ that tickled Lyca​​ asleep.​​ 

“Honey what is your name?”​​ 

She smiled. “I am.”​​ 

He asked again.

“I am Sophia. That is my name.”

And the Social​​ Worker saw her.​​ 

About the Author

HLY is a birth-Taurus and a trans-Capricorn. She lives in a very boring town. Hope has been published in EOAGH. She has been diagnosed OCD with Schizoaffective disorder. Writing, recording, planning, and photography are all ways to work through her trauma. It takes courage for her to submit work to publications.

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#thesideshow| February 2020| Flash Fiction
February 26, 2020

FICTION: The War of Eyes by HLY

HLY is a birth-Taurus and a trans-Capricorn. She lives in a very boring town. Hope has been published in EOAGH. She has been diagnosed OCD with Schizoaffective disorder. Writing, recording, planning, and photography are all ways to work through her trauma. It takes courage for her to submit work to publications.
February 26, 2020

FICTION: The Digital Strap Myth by Kathy Nguyen

Kathy Nguyen is an emerging writer, focusing on diasporic narratives. Her works have been published by ejcjs: electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies, Ekphrasis, Kartika Review, FIVE:2:ONE, diaCRITICS: arts & culture of the Vietnamese and SE Asian diaspora, and has other forthcoming publications. She is also a fiction reader for CRAFT Literary.
February 15, 2020

FICTION: OH, HARMONIOUS by Nickalus Rupert

Nickalus Rupert holds an MFA from the University of Central Florida and a PhD from the University of Southern Mississippi. His collection, Bosses of Light and Sound, won the 2019 Spokane Prize for Short Fiction, and is due out next year from Willow Springs Books. His stories have been nominated for Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize, and have appeared in or are forthcoming in The Idaho Review, Bat City Review, Yemassee, Tin House Online, and elsewhere. Nickalus is represented by Willenfield Literary Agency and is currently at work on a novel. Find him at
February 13, 2020

NONFICTION: The Photograph by Tolu Daniel

Nickalus Rupert holds an MFA from the University of Central Florida and a PhD from the University of Southern Mississippi. His collection, Bosses of Light and Sound, won the 2019 Spokane Prize for Short Fiction, and is due out next year from Willow Springs Books. His stories have been nominated for Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize, and have appeared in or are forthcoming in The Idaho Review, Bat City Review, Yemassee, Tin House Online, and elsewhere. Nickalus is represented by Willenfield Literary Agency and is currently at work on a novel. Find him at