HOMUNCULUS

 

Shelley was feeling very unwell. It was a fullness,  but with sharp edges. It became impossible for her to bend over or sideways, and her body began to feel monumental somehow. She hated surgeries. In the end, though, she went, and the doctor’s face was grave after  he felt her stomach. 

 

He sent her for a scan at the local hospital. When the results came, the experts were nonplussed: “there is something wedged under your ribs and down into your pelvis. We’ll have to open you up.” When she awoke after the operation, she felt better than she had  for months: empty, lissom almost. She could bend. 

The specialist came to her bedside: “look, there’s no easy way to say this, but we have found a coffin lodged in your body cavity. We’ve removed it. We feel you should see it.”They brought it in on a trolley: a small polished coffin, about a foot long, with brass handles and a pretty marquetry inlay. Shelley asked for a small crowbar, and wrestled off the lid. It gave, with a crack.

 

Inside lay a miniature version of her father: moustache, desert boots, pork-pie hat, a tweed jacket. It was the very fetch and image of him, but nine inches tall. His eyes were open: and as she lifted him up, she could have sworn he gave an enormous wink.  Shelley was not easily fazed, indeed her sang-froid was legendary. But this was a challenge.

 

What to do? He was limber enough, and didn’t smell. Shelley decided to see if he could speak. Her father had been very repressive and controlling, forbidding her all sorts of pleasures which he partook of pretty freely himself. He had not been encouraging. Could he speak, in his reduced form? What would he say? Shelley was a performance artiste, with a sideline in pole-dancing, and she suddenly saw how Little Daddy could be a valuable addition to her act. She could be a ventriloquist, and he could be her doll.

 

Except that, when she tried to throw her voice on his behalf, he was able to do it himself. And his utterances were riotously, shamelessly permissive. Big Daddy had said No to everything: but Little Daddy said a luscious, throbbing Yes. “Look at that schlong! Get round that! Look at that fur coat! Should be worn with no knickers! There’s not enough cream on that cake! Have a treble creme de menthe frappe!”

 

Audiences loved him, of course, though Shelley got the credit. At times she was embarrassed at his excesses, though  the receipts helped with that. But nothing lasts forever. He started to change. At first his moustache fell off: then his hair: then his clothes fell apart. In the end he was a tiny foetus, like one which she had miscarried so long ago and which had slipped  quietly out of her. He was gone.

 

Half grieved and half-relieved, she buried him, of course. The trouble was that the tiny voice could not be silenced. Every time she went past his grave, a piping refrain would follow her: “Have a Mars bar! What good’s low fat yoghourt to anyone? Nothing wrong with a swift fuck! EAT THE CAKE!”

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© 2020 by Sue Harper

feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | supernatural | fantastic and paranoia | literary female gothic | gothic narrative | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest | portsmouth university | emeritus professor sue harper | feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | outstanding achievement award | british association of film, theatre and television | professor of film history at portsmouth university | film, media and creative arts | british academy and the arts and humanities research council | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest |