The first prize winning story in the Best Opening Page competition
Standing on his doorstep I feel a surge of something dark and powerful. It’s so strong it makes my head swim. Maybe it’s because I swallowed the sky on the way over to his house. It filled me up from the inside, and now I am full of stars.
I am Tisiphone.
Goddess of destruction, guardian of virtue, harbinger of rage. With my hair coiled silver around my head, tendrils springing from it like snakes. Feel my wrath.
A light is on in the hallway. It shines out, pink and royal blue, from the small stained glass window above the door. Two brass numbers at eye-level, 60, smudged with fingerprints. I press the button set into red brick and the bell rings, sharp and clear as a fisherman’s warning.
He opens the door and sags in front of me, weak and pathetic. His tears form salt lakes at his feet. His mouth is a stone. I watch it crumble.
“It’s you. Rebecca, please – ”
“Don’t call me that.”
“What do you want? You can’t come here like this…”
“I’m younger than Camille, you know.” I slash and slice. Make him bleed. “I’m not seventeen until August. Does that do it for you?”
“God, no, don’t say that!” He looks over his shoulder at the stairs, worried about being overheard.
Good. Let them hear. Let them all hear. “What if I told the police what you do to girls like us?” I take a step towards him. “What if I told your wife?”
He moves backwards to get away from me, and for a moment we’re dancing. “I didn’t –”
“…mean to, is that it? Now, where have I heard that one before?”
He trembles. A fault line opens at the top of his head. Fissures carve their way down his face. He splits in two. “Just – stop,” he says, defeated. “Leave me alone. Please. I’ll do anything.”
My skin tingles. My nipples are on fire. The stars inside me explode like fireworks.“Anything?”
He seizes my wrist, fingers bruising yellow and purple and green, but I feel nothing. He’s already a ghost.
I pause, smile. Let him think it might be okay, when it is going to be very much not okay. Then I lean forward, closer and closer, until I can smell the hot sweat stink around him like perfume.
I whisper my spell-words, my curse. My command.
About the author: Victoria Richards is a journalist and fiction writer. In 2017/18 she was shortlisted in the Bath Novel Award and the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize, was highly commended for poetry in the Bridport Prize and came third in The London Magazine Short Story Competition. A collection of her poetry was published in May 2019 alongside two other poets in Primers: Volume Four, with Nine Arches Press, and in 2020 she came second in the Magma Poetry Competition. Find her at www.twitter.com/nakedvix or www.victoriarichards.co.uk.