Her Face, Now Turned Away.

The shop window is dark, quite dark. The glass, old. Its surface is faintly rippled, like a water pool at night, black enough to reflect the moon back up at itself. There appear to be motes of dust, numbering in their many hundreds, embedded in the glass. It’s like a slice of an ancient galaxy, set into a frame.

They met and they talked. It was as straightforward and uncomplicated as that. There was nothing remarkable about the event. It was almost not an event at all. Just something that happened. Later, when the inevitable question of where and how they met arises, that’s all they can say.  Anybody else would do the same.

Once, as a child, he had a puppet. Alone, after the faces had retreated and the smiles washed away, he held it. It jerked and collapsed as he cut the strings one by one. Later again, he reattaches the strings in different order, with large, bowed knots. One leg controls the head; one wrist, the knee; and so on. He practices long hours to control this broken thing.

The first time it happens. It’s difficult to say. People are always shocked at what they are capable of. A secret thing, shame, and it never goes away.  It’s like a little bereavement that only they can feel. The unaccustomed darkness on the flesh feels so strange to them both. It seems to fade, yet only burrows deeper.

Through the murky glass of the shop window, the doll catches his eye. The sticks attached to her hands: she is a puppet, yet only her arms can be moved. The gold, black and red of her sing of exoticism and romance. She cannot even look him in the eye, and the side of her face that she turns away is marked.

She, for her part, never talks about her family. They are people who live somewhere, though maybe they are dead. It’s all much the same. There’s a story there, but it won’t be told; perhaps because it has no ending. The sense of dissatisfaction will be too much. If they agree on anything – and they agree on much – it’s that the anticlimax is to be avoided.

So, looking from the outside, seeing from all angles except the one that matters. It’s like the heart hides from scrutiny. On a quantum level, the act of viewing changes the reality. Seeing what is to be expected. The only way to the heart and soul is through the face, which is a mask. The wooden implacability is the surface.

He buys the puppet, and the shopkeeper asks if it is a gift, for a loved one, a daughter, niece. He agrees and smiles, pretends to be someone else again. It is easier. No one wants to hear the story, jagged in places and with sharp edges, awkward pauses and truths and, above all else, the unreliability of narration and memory.

At parties, at gatherings. She is a talking point. Yet, slowly it happens, that no one stands close to her. She is known to be broken somehow.  She is the most attractive thing in the room, yet she directs her gaze away. Exotic, she is removed; beautiful, she is unseen. What she looks at, or for, nobody knows.

Upon the mantel, the puppet finishes the room. She draws the eye, reflects the firelight. She is a focus, although he never sees her face. Something in the mechanism of the neck is awry. He poses her, lifts her chin proudly, gives her a kindly, yet defiant aspect. And every time, when he returns, she has looked away and he never see her eyes.

The shop window is dark, quite dark. The glass, old. Its surface is faintly rippled, like a water pool at night, black enough to reflect the moon back up at itself. There appear to be motes of dust, numbering in their many hundreds, embedded in the glass. It’s like a slice of an ancient galaxy, set into a frame.

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Andrew Cheverton
Andrew Cheverton is currently the writer of the western comic West (drawn by Tim Keable) and the science fiction comic The End (drawn by FH Navarro), and the writer - and soon-to-be illustrator - of horror comic The Whale House. Thank you for reading.
Andrew Cheverton

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