The Game of Little Monsters
By: Denzel Xavier Scott
Shoulder length coal black curls blow lightly over a young girl's alabaster face. Her hands stretch, gripping a red blanket spread out beneath three dreaming bodies, all arranged head to toe like the arms of a triangle, around a miniature mountain of green apples. The innocent dreamers are each dressed in white cotton. One is the young girl named Penelope, her twin, Samuel, with long black curls in contrast to his sister's short black ones, and their mutual friend Paul, a dark skinned black boy with large green eyes. All three are 16 years of age, drowning in the luxuries of youth. Penelope and Samuel are beautiful in the ways of convention with their smooth porcelain skin, apple red cheeks, bright blue green eyes, and contrasting dark black hair, but Paul is of an alien pulchritude with slim build and small hands and wrists, oddly soft lines to build the face and dazzling doll-like eyes. He is crafted after the black cats of ancient heathen lords, with magics and curses to do with as they pleased. Penelope raises her body upward in mimicry of surrender, with hands extended outward along the blanket until finally sitting tall, resting her hips on folded legs to survey the boys' sleeping faces.
“Wake up you silly princes, we must continue with the day. Wake up, wake up, wake up.”
The boys are not the least bit stirred by Penelope's call. She crawls like a panther over to Samuel on all fours and caresses his feet slowly. Samuel reacts at first with slow dancing movements until his feet begin launching like the hind legs of a bucking mule. Penelope dodges successfully and laughs, awakening Samuel with a fright.
“Penelope, you rat! I thought that was some kind of animal. Your lucky I didn't give you a good kick in that pretty little face of yours. No one would believe we were twins anymore.”
“Would that be a blessing or a curse? Wake up Paul, will you? We have yet to gather flowers for our crowns. We slept so long it might be midday already.”
The sun lingers over them, brightly showering soft warm rays on the smooth patch of short grass where they chose to slumber in the dense forest.
“Really, Penelope? We came out here very early in the morning, only an hour or two after sunrise, and you think we slept that long?
“Yes! So stop being so lazy and do as I tell you, fool! Wake up Paul. We have to go. There is so much fun to be had this day. So much fun. I don't want to waste any more time. Now wake up Paul. Wake him up, Samuel. We haven't a moment to lose.”
“Oh yes your majesty, right away. I live to serve the brat Queen.”
“Haha, my little court jester, just do as I tell you, alright? Hurry and wake up Paul.”
Paul stirs in his sleep, disturbed by the loudness of their conversation. He begins to awaken slowly, raising upward into a crouching position with his arms wrapped around his shins before finally opening his eyes.
“My gosh you two, why are you always so loud? Its such a pretty day, don't ruin it with that. We're all awake now so lets just get on with it, alright? No more arguing, ok? Promise?”
“Promise. How about you Penelope?”
“Yes, yes. Satisfied? The only reason why I'm angry is because we're late, and Paul your not helping the matter with wasting our time like this.”
“Yes, yes Penelope. I know this day is important to you, but it's not like it's not important to us as well. Right, Samuel?”
“That's right. Today is a day for all three of us, not just you Penelope.”
“Fine, fine! I understand, alright! I'll be a good girl from now on. Promise. Now can we finally go? It's much later than we expected and the day grows shorter still. I have no intention of not finishing the day as we've planned.”
Penelope, Paul and Samuel make sure that the red blanket stays fixed to the ground through the weight of the apples in the center and a heavy brown woven picnic basket sitting on the corner. The forest intimately knows the slow breezes passing through its borders. The blanket's stillness proves the weight of its anchors. Its serenity is undisturbed, it does not fold. They begin walking deeper into the woods in search of flowers. Penelope leads, and Paul and Samuel follow, with Paul bringing up the end of the short parade. Penelope's simple white summer dress dances freely with the frequent whispers of the soft breeze, as Paul and Samuel converse amongst themselves.
“I wonder how many different types of flowers we'll come across Paul?”
“The forest is usually in full bloom at this time. We should come across as many flowers as you could hope for. Penelope and I wander through this forest around the same time each year. This is around the time when our mother died.”
“Don't be. Penelope and I were very young back then when it happened. This forest was our mother's favorite place to runaway to and lose herself. When she was still alive, we followed her once and saw her sleeping amongst the blossoms like some wild animal. When she died, every year we would come into the forest to collect flowers to put on her grave. Even though we've been friends with you for so long, we just couldn't invite you here before, you understand, don't you? Don't be angry with us.”
Paul stops just as the group comes up to a small slope. He smiles softly and hugs Samuel, gripping the back of Samuel's neck with his right hand, clenching a small tuft of hair, as his left arm moves across Samuel's back. He pulls Samuel in closely.
“How could I possibly be angry with you two? It's an important place for you two to honor your mother. Who could possibly be angry with that? I couldn't imagine the pain of losing a parent. Besides, you know I could never be angry with you two.”
Paul lets go of Samuel and quickly steps back, the soft smile growing more into laughter.
“In fact, I'm quite glad that you two have a place just for yourselves. Although, funny enough, no matter how sacred and beloved the place, you two never stop bickering, do you?”
Penelope listens from a very small distance and tires of her exclusion. She walks between Paul and Samuel.
“Sweet, naïve Paul. Always playing the role of mediator, aren't you? Remember darling, you have no siblings. What we do, may seem harsh to you, but that's only because you do not share our plight. There's always bickering amongst siblings who love as much as Samuel and I. What makes our plight greater still is the fact that not only are we siblings, but darling, we're twins. He has my face and we share so much in common. It's infuriating to say the least.”
“Hmm. I have no sympathy for you Penelope. The fury that you bear towards our closeness you bear alone. I in no way am bothered by the fact that were twins but, the fact of your vitriolic attitude.”
“What do you mean, my attitude? There is absolutely nothing wrong with my attitude. My personality is flawless. I'm ambitious, knowledgeable, confident, and disciplined. I'm what every young woman strives to be.”
“Let's see, dear sister, your also: highly aggressive, combative, a-know-it-all, vain, prideful, inflexible and headstrong. Did I miss anything? Your demeanor rarely glimpses upon the womanly privileges. If I didn't know you as my sister, I would have surely thought you to be a man. The only saving grace that proves your of the fairer sex is your beauty and that isn't even uniquely yours.”
“Brother, that hurts me deeply.”
“It might hurt Penelope, but its true. Look how you so eagerly took to the head of the line. You always want to be the leader, no matter the circumstances. You always have something to prove, or champion, or what have you.”
“Why do you make it seem as if everything I do is so calculated?”
“Penelope, everything you do is calculated.”
“Oh, Samuel, that's too cruel.”
“Oh, Penelope, it is only as cruel as it is true.”
Paul rolls his eyes in aggravation and yells,
“Well then, damned be the truth and the cruelty in it. Let us be new things in this wood. Let us be love in this time of bloom.”
The bird songs grow furious and the whispering breeze begins to scream in its quickened pace. Penelope and Samuel are startled by Paul's outburst. Paul laughs, obscuring his mouth with cupped hands and slightly spread fingers. He suddenly grows silent, and then immediately roars loudly, pouncing upon Penelope and Samuel. All three tumble down the slope into a small expanse of flowers and begin to laugh where they have fallen. Their shameless laughter, full bodied in its childish simplicity and unapologetic ecstasy, merges with the voices of the arboreal ancients and their acolytes.
“Paul, what in God's name possessed you to do something so ridiculous?”
“I wanted to break the tension between you two. I think I succeeded. Wouldn't you agree Samuel?”
“Yes, although you could give a little warning before acting so impulsively.”
Paul walks over to Penelope and Samuel. They raise up to a sitting position in response to his movement towards them. Paul puts his forehead on theirs and his arms around them.
The flowers that engulf the place where they have fallen is a narcissus bloom of deep blue shade. They gather them in laughter weaving the blossoms about their ears to form their much sought after flower crowns. Penelope grabs Paul's hand, grips it tightly, and Paul takes Samuel's hand in the same manner.
She whispers love and other spells in Paul's ears and grips his hand tighter. Samuel lets go and wanders, leaving Paul's abandoned hand to clutch an unsympathetic void. Penelope raises Paul's chin, and kisses him slowly, working upward to kiss his lips and then each eyelid. His hands float up her back and they roll in their embrace.
“ I brought a surprise for our wedding.”
“Does it have something to do with that big picnic basket?”
“Inside of it is a bottle of one of our father's most prized wines, a tin cup, a knife, a jeweled needle, and mother's wedding dress. I wanted this to be something they see from a distance. Before this day is done, we three will be wed in these blessed woods. Mother, father, and nature will be our witnesses.”
“Penelope, how could you take your father's wine and your mother's wedding dress for that matter?”
“ Don't be angry Paul. We should be done before he gets home and the dress will be returned to the back of his closet. He's gotten rid of everything that reminds him of her, except this dress, which I am sure he keeps for my wedding day. Well, this is my wedding day, and I just wanted this to be as special as possible.”
“My goodness, you really planned out this day didn't you?”
“I love you. I want to be with you. Its my wedding day. Of course I planned this out. It's what I want. My mother and father married at 16. I feel it is destined that we do the same.”
Penelope sits on Paul's lap with folded legs placed alongside his hips, slipping her arms around Paul's neck and embraces him tightly.
“This day will be perfection.”
“Samuel, will be angry with us if we don't hurry back to his side.”
“Let him be. I saw you two hugging. I saw how much your bodies took to each other. He can kiss you soon enough, but now is my time.”
“I'm sorry to be the focal point of such a terrible storm.”
“Don't apologize for things you speak in falsehood.”
“We wouldn't be here if you didn't enjoy the bliss of our combined affections. Now would we?”
“You speak the truth. I do enjoy both of your affections. Because you two are so different, its like with one, I know the security and grace of steady earth, and with the other, adventures through mysterious seas. Penelope you are the earth to me and Samuel is the sea. But even if that is so, it does not mean that I wish to be the source of tension between you two.”
“It cannot be avoided. I love you and you love me. He loves you and you love him.”
Penelope stands up and begins to walk away. Tears heated by her entire body dispense as hot rain from her sapphire eyes.
“Love is a tragic web that ensnares us all.”
Paul looks at her growing distant amongst the encircling trees and suffers cruel lacerations of the heart and head. Guilt sits upon the throne of Paul's love swept heart. He muffles selfish screams, refusing the tears of self-pity that would drown both cheeks and chin.
After calming his breath, he raises his head to the sky and hears Penelope and Paul calling after him. He races to their side once his face is undisturbed and he wears the tranquility of a long suffered saint. He will not share his doubts with them. His terror is an ugly cloak draped at the foot of his suffering throne of hopeless love. He will only give them the side of affections that he sees is fitting of his innocent beloveds.
Penelope, Paul, and Samuel return to the clearing where they first awoke with the red picnic blanket, at each other's side, shoulder to shoulder.
“I wonder what we should do now?”
“Penelope brought along some surprises it seems, Samuel.”
Samuel's eyes grow bright with excitement, taking in more light from the sun.
“I wonder what it could be?”
Samuel grabs his chin pensively, but quickly grows tired in frustration.
“Ooh, I hate guessing. Penelope, what did you bring?”
Penelope opens the basket, taking out the knife, needle, bottle of wine, and a tin cup. She keeps the dress inside the basket.
“Wow. This is quite unexpected, but so appropriate.”
Penelope takes the green apple at the top of the miniature mountain and slices it along its length into three pieces. Each takes one piece as she begins to pour wine into the tin cup.
“Close your eyes and put a finger over the wine”, Penelope calmly demanded.
The boys obeyed without need to question or second thoughts raised. They trusted fully in her control. Penelope swiftly pierces them both with the jeweled needle. Drops of blood mingle with the scarlet wine. Penelope follows, closing her eyes and stabbing herself. Each lets out a yelp and then a low hiss as air is suctioned between pearl teeth.
“Now, silently whisper a prayer and then drink. This will make us one flesh.”
First to drink is Paul, whispering for the ease of love's guilt. Second to drink is Penelope, whispering for love unbroken. And last is Samuel, whispering for love's certainty. They eat their pieces of apple, which are tart mostly, but from moment to moment, they spring sweet upon their unsuspecting tongues.
Penelope kisses Samuel on the cheek. She takes his hand and kisses it. Samuel does the same. They join hands with Paul, and he kisses both of their hands and then both of their mouths.
“I saved the best part for last. I'll show you both when we reach the lake. Let's hurry its getting late and father maybe home soon.”
Penelope, Paul, and Samuel race to the lake with the brown picnic basket. They decide to rest reaching a small cliff on the lake's edge. Penelope opens the basket revealing the white wedding dress. It is a long sleeve gown with a dazzling train. The veil is absent. Pearls are stitched in along the midriff, with interweaving layers of flattened white lace. The sleeves open outward at the wrist only slightly with lace ruffled to mimic the opening of a lily.
Penelope begins disrobing. She slips on the dress telling Samuel to zip up the back and grabs Paul's right arm, placing it around her waist. He pulls her in closely and kisses her lips, tasting wine and apples and hints of irony blood.
“Now this is perfection.”
She reaches for the wine and pours some down Paul's throat. He shares with her what remains in his mouth through a kiss. Wine trickles down both of their mouths. Penelope dances. She looks at Samuel. Samuel looks at her and then towards the lake. She stops, walks to his side, and whispers in his ear,
“You want to wear it too, don't you? Don't fear it. Just give in. Nature will be your witness and it will remember.”
She turns her back to him and he unzips the dress and wears it for himself. He is mesmerized by how natural it feels against his skin, remembering his mother hugging him. He runs towards Paul and kisses him.
More wine is drunk. More kisses fall. More wine, more kisses, more wine more kisses.
Paul asks if he could wear the dress. Samuel turns to him and Paul unzips the wedding dress, wearing the foreign object like he too was a child of this broken tribe. The dress took him and adorned black skin with white. It fit him perfectly. He held his hands up and moved them slowly through the rays of the sun. They warmly kiss his fingers, and then swallow them whole in fleshless mouths. Drunk, he danced like a spiraling gypsy living in the present gift of her own beauty. He danced on circle after circle, with his feet knowing the privileges of eternity in forming bounded objects that went through themselves, beginning to end, beginning to end. And he danced and danced, edging towards the short drop. There is no tension in his face, only the unbounded bliss that earns anger from a world that knows too much misfortune. The edge of the cliff begins to crumble under black feet. Birds spring from the branches and took like shadows to the air. First there was a burst of noise, then a silence coupled with a great scream, and last a splash accompanied by limbs flailing in the water. Penelope and Samuel raced to the edge of the cliff, watching the white dress spread out over the waves, only to be overtaken by the water. Paul was frantically crying out to be saved, clawing desperately at the water as if begging at the feet of an ancient god. His guilt was no secret to the waters. Wave after wave ignored his pleas for mercy and salvation. Penelope and Samuel leaped after him and searched. The waters had taken the boy to mysteries that they could not know. He was fated to wear the mantle of the tragedian and weave a beautiful text of sorrow with his pitiful screams. Only when the lake was done with him did he return, too late to be saved, nestled like a small seed amongst sleeping petals, too heavy to bear their own weight.