Short Fiction

 The Girl Who Does Not Exist by Kaela Li

It is far too quiet for a room with two people, a room where the brush of bare feet on wooden floorboards struggles to fill the air. A room where dim, flickering shadows writhe unbidden across the wall, called forth by a candle sputtering futilely in the corner. It is the silence of empty air where people ought to be, and the bar is fully brimming with it.

He watches the girl from a barstool, his head propped on one hand. She is a strange little creature, perhaps eight or nine, young and dwarfed by the furniture around her. She wears a dress of soft, pale pink, the same sort of pink that he imagines the sky to be in these early morning hours. It is a pretty color, a hopeful color, but the effect is somewhat ruined by the shadows on her face. She wanders through the empty tables, a vast city which only she can see, a world which only she can penetrate; he assumes her eyes are full of curiosity, but he really doesn’t know. Perhaps she is simply happy. Perhaps she is afraid.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you,” he says aloud. He hopes… well he doesn’t know what he hopes. To gain some control of the situation mayhap, or to help distract him from strange, waiting silence. But the girl does not say anything, does not turn to face him or give any indication that she had heard him at all. He feels the need to say it louder, but forces the words back, understanding instinctively that now is not the time to talk.

The girl traces one finger along the edge of a wooden seat, as if checking for a ghost. Upon finding nothing, she holds up her finger to the light, shadows chasing themselves over the warm glow of her skin, creating the illusion that her hand is aflame. She is not bothered by this. He is. He shivers and sinks deeper into his seat, watching. Waiting.

It is a homey bar, and old, with warm oak tables and a welcoming hearth. The girl wanders over to the fireplace and stares into its depths, bewitched by a fire that he cannot see. It reminds him of when he was little, of bedtime tales told by his mother; of the Great, knowing Weigher and her unending flame. It has been a long time since he last heard the story. He considers telling it to the child now. 

But the girl does not look tired, despite the late hour, and she still has yet to acknowledge him. It makes him uneasy; he fidgets with his fingers on the surface of the tabletop, skittering away from the empty bottles on his right. They are large and looming in the candlelight and he is frightened of them. He opens his mouth to speak, and then closes it again. 

The girl has come to a stop, at last. She stands in front of a painting which had previously been covered, tucked away in a back corner and unlit by any candle. She stares at it, entranced, her hands gripped tightly into her dress, her form completely still. He gets up and joins her; together they stare at the painting. It is of a woman dressed in dark velvet, beautiful and perhaps tragic. In her hand she holds a candle, and a haunting, knowing smile flickers across her face. He knows this woman, somehow, but whether by choice or circumstance, he does not remember her, and he finds the painting terrible. Without knowing it or understanding, he begins to cry.

The girl reaches up her hand to him then, small fingers encircling his pinky, the first touch he has felt in days. She turns and smiles at him, not a kind smile, or a friendly smile, or a cruel smile, but a smile. 

And he stares at her, questioningly, searching her face for something he does not understand, desperate and yet unsure what he hopes to find. He stares at this strange, smiling child, this child who he ought to know, this child who ignores him and comforts him and frightens him deeply; it occurs to him that he does not know where she came from, does not know who she is, or why she is there, only that she is. He stares. And she stares back with large, tragic, unblinking eyes, eyes too large to fit on the face of a child. They are brown and plain and desperate. They are his eyes. 

He is afraid.

Kaela Li


8 thoughts on “ The Girl Who Does Not Exist by Kaela Li”

  1. Could be a guy having a dream or a guy with a mental illness, it doesn’t matter, the reader experience is the key. And it’s vivid and moves me into the dream. We don’t know why the man is there, and likely he doesn’t know himself, he’s possessed by what he sees. Reminds me of the “Overlook Hotel,” in “The Shining.”


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