- Word Count: 975
- Word: Snow
- Trope: Jealousy
PROSPERITY by Killian Levy
“Her name’s Liv. Don’t ask her what she’s been through. But something tells me you two would get along.”
My buddy wasn’t wrong. As soon as Liv flopped in the car, I felt harmony. She didn’t say anything, didn’t need to. She smelled like vanilla and ammonia. Sweat stains yellowed her white tee and grime shined the ankles of her skinny jeans. She looked like Maggie.
They all look like Maggie now. I could find her in every face that looked my way. Even my buddy can look like her. Liv was his aunt; they already looked the same.
Maggie didn’t look like anybody. She was remarkable, until she left, and now everyone looks like her. Liv was a user—so was I, and so was my buddy. Didn’t matter to me.
“Where to?” I asked.
Liv’s face burrowed into a gray hoodie. “Drop him off first,” Liv said, muffled.
She adjusted the two hospital bands on her wrist and looked out the window. She sat behind me while I drove, so I couldn’t see her in the rear-view. I guessed that was deliberate. I was a stranger, and she had OD’d twice this week. On purpose or accident, I wasn’t sure—buddy asked for a favor, and I owed him.
She hopped to the front when my buddy got out. Her eyes stayed glued to him until he was down the street and out of view.
“You holding?” she asked.
My hand was hot on my thigh. Of course I was. I’d had a vial on me every day since Maggie ditched out and left her face on every billboard and bus bench—every child that passed on a tricycle had her nose, and every girl at every party wore her mask. The vial was burning a hole through my pocket. “Didn’t you just get out for holding? Won’t they test you?” Liv was wearing Maggie’s mask now.
“Test me?” Liv laughed. She didn’t sound like Maggie. Her hair was different, too. “They don’t have a test for props yet.”
She was probably right.
Props. Prosperity. The name of the drug that hit the streets a few months back. I never did drugs until after Maggie—when props came around. Think my buddy got it from Liv the first time, in fact. My first snuff tasted like printer ink. It flipped me upside down and turned me inside out. Everything melted away—that’s when features first fell off everyone’s faces. Faceless people in crowds and clean slate mannequins in mirrors told me I was worth loving. Worth living. It gave me the confidence to write papers for class and ask girls out I never would have asked out. It didn’t get me Maggie back.
Liv put her hand on my leg and told me not to take her home. “Keep going straight,” she whispered. Her hand reached into my pocket and pulled the vial out of my jeans. She did a snuff and put the vial to my nose. It didn’t taste like printer ink anymore.
An hour later (after a stop at my propsmaster for more vials), we were outside of the city and pulling into a cabin that belonged to a friend of hers. I didn’t care who’s house it was as long as she kept Maggie’s mask on. Liv didn’t care that I called her Maggie halfway through the drive; she didn’t ask who the name belonged to. It belonged to her now. This cabin was ours now, too.
“What do I call you?” she asked. She was already walking away—she didn’t care—it only mattered what she wanted to call me.
“Do you have a mask you want me to use?” When the faces all blurred together, the attention could be from anyone; they became what you wanted.
She ignored the question and pulled into the cabin. I don’t remember how she got in—it hadn’t mattered.
I lit a fire—it burned the cold from my hands and the heaviness in my chest.
We snuffed and took turns touching each other’s faces. Hours dissolved with each new mask I wore for her—laying naked on bathroom towels in front of the fire, hearing all the words she spoke to the nameless: the dead, the hated, the abusive, the loved. I was all of the people from whom she needed to hear affirmation. I mimicked the words she mouthed with chapped lips, acted as the voice of the ghosts that lived inside.
“Maggie,” I whispered. She touched my thigh and moved her lips around my jaw. She said the name back to me in a harmony that sang the tune of ecstasy.
“I want you back,” she said. “I’m sorry. You’re all I’ve ever needed. You’re all I want.”
Maggie’s face began vibrating.
She screamed. “Who are you? What do you want? They’re all mine; these faces are mine!”
I stared in the mirror from across the room. I didn’t recognize who looked back at me as my skin wriggled across the reflective metal under the glass. Liv screamed—a voice I didn’t know. She shot up and bolted across the room. Her bare feet stepped on broken brown vials, and her hands rummaged for something in the drawers.
My legs crunch the snow when I pull myself up. I look down at the blue handle of a screwdriver sticking out of my chest—part of the handle is melted. Maggie lies next to me; her face turns to me, and she smiles. Her blue eyes match the color of the sky above, and the snow underneath her is quiet. Looking cold in her white tee, I drape a grey hoodie around her shoulders.
Three figures step out of the trees where a cop car wails sirens that echo through the valley.
They all have Maggie’s face.