Today Markella is in a flowered dress, the kind girls wear in the summer, with straps instead of sleeves and the sun burns her shoulders. The pattern on the dress is the same as the one on the house robes of most aunts: daisies so close together they leave tiny crucifixes between them. She’s buying fruit at the farmer’s market and the melons look like the plump backsides of infants. The vendor cuts the melons open to show her how the ripe juice pools around the seeds but instead of a pale green, the insides are a dark red that stick to the blade like jam. Try a slice! he offers but she only cradles a melon in her hands and weeps. Markella tries to scoop them all up in her bare arms but accidently topples the pyramid of melons. A blight of melon babies rolls down the sloped street and the man with the knife leaps over his counter and frantically tries to collect them. It’s your fault! he bellows and seizes her by her delicate straps. The melon babies bounce so hard along the tar that it fissures and yawns and she tumbles into the gaping street up to the waist and the babies tumble after to seal the hole. Witch! booms the irate man and she knows what’s coming next, knows he will butcher her breasts like halved melons.
Someone somewhere mutters a prayer and she is regurgitated, restored and ready to be implemented as a cathartic for the next offender.
Yesterday it happened at the movie theater, where the man in front hollered at her to keep quiet even though she hadn’t made a peep. Whore, he hissed and began to unwind his belt when she fell back and got wedged within the folding seat. She watched his backlit body hover over her and his hands slip a pocketknife from his jeans. The woman in the row in front of her continued to toss popcorn into her mouth as the blood spouted from Markella’s chest like a bouquet of trick daisies.
The day before that, she went to the deli where the salesman always asks, When you gonna gimme your number? and she always hands him a stub from the number dispenser and grins. This time, after she had made her little joke, he forced her behind the counter and threw her onto the worktop. With her legs displayed beside the shiny hams, he carved her upper body neatly into paper-thin pastrami while a woman argued that she was number 34.
In the park last Monday, she inadvertently stepped on scattered birdfeed and a bird lover, infuriated, tossed her into a pond. As he unbuttoned his pants he murmured, You’re gonna get what you deserve. A young man with a kind face and a red cap walked over with his pup on a leash.
Do you need any help? he asked.
No, replied the bird lover.
The water froze around her, solidified up to her waist in milky glass. Birds nibbled seeds off the surface, as the ice was streaked red.
At a concert she was groped and fondled until the mass around her became so tight that no one could move and she couldn’t breathe. When the man next to her failed to resuscitate her with his sour breath, he slashed off her breasts to let in the air and everyone slipped on the blood and fell in a heap of breathless human sandwiches.
On Saturday she was accosted by an enraged cab driver in the middle of a busy street and rammed between two cars.
At the zoo, the tiger tried to mount her and parents covered their children’s eyes as the hippo swallowed her up to the ribs.
Maybe God is trying to serve her a mnemonic palliative, a wearing of the old story, the replacement with a fresh horror. Yet no matter how many times the story is repeated, she does not forget the first time, her own father chasing her down the rocky beach to satisfy his lust. She falling again and again on the crags of limestone, knees bleeding and her father, looking possessed by a demon, getting closer. And the earth trembling and cracking open like an egg and she falling in, not entirely, just enough to preserve her purity. If only it was a demon who then removed his sword and mutilated her. But she looked into his eyes as he did it and she saw that it was, indeed, Him.
Markella lived and died on the island of Chios, Greece in the 14th century.
Originally from New Jersey, Maria lives in Athens, Greece with her husband and daughter. Her stories have appeared in Split Lip Magazine, Copper Nickel, SmokeLong Quarterly, Flash Frog, trampset, Okay Donkey and other lovely journals.