The Bespectacled Man situated the new Decorative Mummy in her own display case, just a few feet from my own. Her skin was still a light pink, unlike mine, which had turned beige several years ago. I felt nervous around her, especially after The Bespectacled Man dressed us both in Adam & Eve costumes. It wasn't as if I minded modeling. After all, that sort of thing was par for the course. I just wish he would've added leaves to the costume, so I wasn't fully nude. That was even more embarrassing than the time he painted me in blackface for M.L.K.'s birthday.
The whole situation just got worse around Christmastime. The Little Brat, who only visited during the holidays, wasn't impressed with my Santa costume, or the tiny elf Mummies scattered around the Christmas tree. Instead of reading her wish-list to me, she stabbed my fake gut with some scissors. She even wrote on my butt cheeks, scribbling all sorts of bad things about her father. Things weren't all roses for the other Decorative Mummy, either. The Little Brat carved a swastika onto her midsection, then blamed it on The Bespectacled Man's new girlfriend, The Trashy Homewrecker. I wasn't upset because that sort of thing hurt us. This was more of a respect thing. We were one-hundred-percent genuine Mummies, made from real human beings, not some throwaway stuffed animal you won at the carnival.
I began working out shortly thereafter, hopeful I could build up strength to make an escape. Each day, when the Bespectacled Man took The Little Brat down to the skate rink at Chelsea Piers, I practiced my calisthenics, upping the intensity each day. Nothing seemed to work, though. I still had that Mummy gait, with brittle bones to boot. It wasn't until I found a collection of 80s workout tapes that things began improving. Sure, I must've looked like a zombie lumbering around the apartment in hot pants, but at least I was now progressing. I could touch my toes after the first week. These new moves brought unexpected results, too. The other Decorative Mummy couldn't take her eyes off me. She always watched from afar, lusting after my new body, especially when I used the Thighmaster.
This feeling, unfortunately, didn't last until bedtime. My Other Half shriveled up in my lap, fearful The Little Brat might barge out of her room, then burn the rest of her pubic hairs right off. Despite the threat, I continued with our nightly ritual, unwilling to admit defeat, especially against a twelve-year-old.
"What do you want to read tonight, My Other Half?" I asked. "How about the instruction manual you came with? I know that's a favorite."
She didn't respond, only gazed into the middle distance, eyes wide with wonder.
"Then the manual it is," I replied, now cradling her head on my lap. "Congratulations on the purchase of your new Decorative Mummy! History will come to life as your children play dress up with some of the world's greatest minds, such as Heisenberg and Lady Gaga. Each month you'll receive a brand new outfit, along with a history lesson. So remember: learning is only cool when it's Mummified!™"
When I finished reading the manual, I began wondering if she could even comprehend any of this information. More than likely, My Other Half had her brain removed, as per the standard Mummification process. But, for whatever reason, I had a smidge of hope. There was a dormant wildfire within her, waiting for a spark to ignite her flame again, to remove the fog that clouded her consciousness.
Inside that moment, I knew there wasn't ever going to be a right time for our escape. My legs would always be weak, like a young doe walking across ice. But that was okay. She was next to me, with those big, unblinking eyes, supporting my every move, even if I was unsure of my footing. I threw our costumes into an old duffle bag, sure to pack the favorites, along with the new arrivals.
Since My Other Half couldn't move, I carried her around, even dressed her for our first performance outside the apartment. She watched me, with that lovingly blank stare, guiding me through the grooming process. Once she looked gorgeous, I set us up on the High Line, near the entrance to the park, dressed us as a young Justin Timberlake & Britney Spears, with matching jean-jackets and rhinestone cowboy hats. Everyone in the park stopped to view our performance, snapping pictures, hugging the both of us, posing with their friends. They were amazed we never moved, just like those wax figurines you see at the museum, only better.
One of them began stuffing bills into my cowboy hat, which prompted others to do the same. Pretty soon, it was filled with a wad of cash. My Other Part began smiling, her face filled with purpose. Unbeknownst to the crowd around us, I took her hand in my own, then gave it a slight squeeze, as if to say, You look just like Miss. Spears, down to the cold sore on your beautiful lips.
After our performance, two teenagers began following our trail, fixated on My Other Half. I didn't pay attention to them at first, even though they both sported leather jackets with those metal spikes. It wasn't until they began yelling jeers at My Other Half that I grew concerned for our safety. One of them even said he could see her vagina, just like the real Britney Spears.
I tossed rotten lettuce at them, hopeful they'd leave us alone. I was wrong. My insolence only fueled their youthful angst. They ran their hands over her body, pawing each curve, no matter how private.
"Hey, baby," the First Hooligan said. "Wanna hit me one more time?"
He then began dry humping My Other Half, slapping her tush while thrusting. I grunted at him, which, unfortunately, couldn't express the rage developing inside of me. My chest throbbed like a faulty organ, creaking with each breath. The Second Hooligan began mimicking my gravelly voice, twitching as he spoke.
"Stop fucking my girlfriend," The Second Hooligan said, as me. "She's my everything."
I smacked him across the face, but that hardly made a difference. He shrugged off my attack, then pinned me against a nearby trashcan. No matter how much I struggled, I couldn't break free from his grip, not even when I pinched both his nipples.
"Here," I replied, handing over a fistful of cash, "take this and be gone."
That's when they both began kicking me in the head, sort of like a piñata, hoping more cash might come out of my cowboy hat. I could feel the skin tearing off my face, until the skull hidden underneath my wig became exposed. The last thing I remember was her smile, which was still perfect, fading away into the night. Then she was gone, kidnapped by those ungodly hooligans.
I was rudderless after that. There weren't any more outfits that made sense. Why, for instance, would I dress up as young Johnny Cash, if there were no June Carter by my side? Even the Johnny Carson costume was useless. I had intended for My Other Half to don a gray wig and belly insert, so that she could resemble a wrinkly Ed McMahon, but that idea seemed grotesque now, almost perverse.
Instead of maintaining a presence at the park, I lounged in the alley with the homeless men. Some of them cuddled with me, noticing the look of pain etched into my face. They brushed my hair, even kissed along my collarbone, convinced I just needed some confidence, then I'd be back on my feet, performing for the crowds.
Surprisingly enough, I found strength in their encouragement; it gave me the chutzpah to start anew. I began dressing up near my old apartment, with part of my vision trained on the front door.
Not long after I arrived, The Little Brat snuck up on me, now dressed in goth clothes, like the kids in a Hot Topic catalogue. I could feel her mocking me, since I was dressed as Justin Bieber, with swooping bangs that covered the bone protruding from my forehead. My legs collapsed from her presence, causing me to tumble into the street. The crowd quickly disappeared, scattering into the foot traffic, but The Little Brat remained behind.
"I always knew you were alive," the Little Brat said. "I could see it in your eyes."
"I don't remember trying to hide that fact from you," I said.
"Well, anyway, are you coming home or what?" she asked, arms still folded together.
"I'm not sure," I replied. "Has The Bespectacled Man asked for me?"
"Dad? Phfft. He only thinks about his new girlfriend nowadays."
The Little Brat sunk both hands into her pockets, head almost bowed, then inched closer to me.
"So, where's your girlfriend?" she asked. "Is she at your new apartment?"
"I lost her." I said. "Some hooligans took her."
"I'm still formulating a plan to get her back."
"Look," she said, "I know we've had our problems, but I'll let you come back."
"You just gotta do what I say, though," she replied. "You'll be mine now, not dad's."
I turned away, surveying the crowd, searching for My Other Half. There were only faceless people, zigzagging in-and-out of traffic, oblivious to me. I reached out my hand, but did not shake yet.
"Promise me you'll help me find her," I said, "then I'll be yours."
The Little Brat dressed me in an Edward Scissorhands costume, with real blades attached to both hands. It must've cost her a pretty penny to rent. Luckily, she didn't have to pitch in for makeup, too. Between the beating and New York winter, I'd developed this pale complexion, sort of like my character. These little details, however, weren't appreciated back home, especially after The Bespectacled Man saw me back in the display case.
When he came home, his face became red as a teakettle, frightened by my sudden appearance, which must've seemed like a nightmare. He beat me down with a golf club, not stopping until I was broken.
He didn't even have the decency to clean my body off the floor. The Trashy Homewrecker, in her infinite wisdom, shoved me into the closet, under layers of junk. Parts of my body were strewn about the closet, haphazardly wedged between cleaning supplies and old pictures. I was no longer a replica of a man, but rather a broken toy, stuffed away for the next charity drive.
I pawed at the door with the only hand still attached to my body, each time narrowly missing the handle. When that didn't work, I turned the vacuum on, hoping the air might suck the door open. The Little Brat appeared once the vacuum began coughing up smoke.
"Are you crazy or something?" she asked. "You'll wake them up."
"That's the least of my worries, if you can't tell."
"If it's not one thing with you," she replied, "it's another."
"Well then, just toss me outside with the trash. I can search from there."
"My God," she said, "if it's such a big deal, I'll let you search from my window tonight."
Harper, previously known as the Little Brat, rolled her eyes, then began collecting pieces of me from around the closet, stuffing them into an old grocery bag. It felt strange to feel each sensation, yet know the limbs were disconnected. They never felt connected together, not even when she situated me on her bed.
It was just as well. At least I could search for my lost love. The New York skyline was perfect, not a cloud in the sky. I could even see the Cheshire moon that hung between the skyscrapers and apartment buildings. It reminded me of her smile.
The search began the next day. Before we could leave on our expedition, we needed a way for me to get around Manhattan, since I was nothing more than a torso at that point. Harper came up with a brilliant idea, which not only remedied our predicament, but also allowed me to continue working as a performer. She dressed as a miniature Chewbacca, then strapped me to her back, so I'd resemble a broken down C-3PO, a la Empire Strikes Back. People stopped us in the street, asking to take our picture. We made over thirty dollars by posing for snapshots.
Still, I kept dreaming of her, worried she was in New Jersey, rotting in some landfill, or being used as a Sex-Doll by those ungodly hooligans. Harper kept reminding me to look out at the horizon. It was important, she said, to always find that light flickering off in the distance, especially when life seemed cloudy. I tried imagining that light as we walked the streets, but New York always seemed pitch black, even when it was light out.
Harper didn't let me sulk, though. She practiced putting dark makeup on me each morning, with the kit she received for Christmas. I sat for anything, even if it made me look a goth kid who just bought his first Cure album. It was actually kind of nice having those scars hidden underneath layers of heavy makeup.
"Did you check Craigslist today?" I asked.
"You think those hooligans would've sold her by now, or at least answered one of our posts."
"Well you've always got me," she replied. "Now hold still why I try this eyeliner."
I closed my eyes, attempting to keep them shut. Her hands were clumsy, poking my retina, rather than applying the makeup. When she was done, it looked as if a pen had exploded on my face.
"You're all set," she said. "You want to go out now?"
"I'll do my search from the window."
"Do you want some sort of wig, maybe even one of your old costumes?"
"Nah, that's okay," I replied. "I'll try plain-old-me for awhile."
After she left the room, I saw a young woman emerge from the crowd, who had a pretty bad limp, much like my own. She didn't wear a sexy outfit like My Other Half, but rather had on a down jacket, with the hood cloaked over her face. I scooted closer, resting my head on the glass, hoping I could distinguish her from the crowd. She remained hazy, though, no matter how much I pressed up against the window. Unfortunately, she kept moving away from our apartment, nearing the subway entrance by Peter McManus.
With the thought of her leaving me again now a reality, my breathing became shallow, almost spastic. I fought against the pressure by holding my breath, but no amount of resolve could stop these palpitations. It made me feel hollow once again, like a Russian nesting doll that had lost the people trapped inside its belly, and I couldn't imagine slipping back into that darkness.
A shadow filled the doorway, which tugged my vision away from the window. The hooded woman leaned against the entryway, still cloaked, snow sprinkled across her shoulders. My Other Half had returned. There was a fire now in her eyes, one born from that tiny spark I saw weeks ago. Without hesitation, she undressed before me, shedding her clothes onto the floor. I could now see that she was damaged, too, missing parts of her torso.
My Other Half then began tearing me apart, filling the empty areas of her chest with my stuffing. The more she took from me, the greater our connection became. I felt each thought, even her memories, going back to when we stood naked in the display case. Since I no longer had arms, I took little nibbles of her flesh, just so she could experience my thoughts as well. This process hurt at first, but any discomfort was pushed aside once we focused on the pleasure within this act. Pretty soon it became hard to discern the division between us. We were a patchwork of skin and memory, both halves separate, yet joined together.
BIO: William Lemon received his M.A. in Literature and Writing at California State University San Marcos, then began teaching English at the Community College level. For the past several years, he has taught at Santa Monica College and Irvine Valley College. He has been published in Drunk Monkeys and the Eunoia Review.