Manuel Gonzales is the author of The Miniature Wife and Other Stories and his fiction has appeared in The Believer, McSweeney’s, Esquire, One Story, and many others. In this tale, an oceanic clean up crew discovers a woman with a strange mark on her face. It’s perfectly creepy, and we can’t think of a better way to start our October Scarefest than with this disturbing image and wonderful piece of short fiction.
image credit: Aniela Sobieski
What Happened to Eloise
by Manuel Gonzales
At first we assumed she was the only one, the young woman with a thick smear of blood on her lips.
We assumed that we’d found this one young woman, feral, maybe, but alone, definitely alone on this barren strip of rock and crevasse in the middle of the Arctic Sea. We were looking for surviving lifeforms. We were studying the levels of toxicity in the water. But mostly, we were a clean up crew.
We assumed, too, that it was lipstick, the dark red splotch around her lips. Well, not lipstick, but face paint. We hoped it was face paint and not blood.
Only after she’d worn herself out and Jenkins was able to get a closer look did we realize it was shark shaped.
We left it there—the smear across her lips that looked like a shark—for the first night and the second day after we’d found her, and then Eloise took the young woman into her own tent to help clean her up and in cleaning her up, wipe the makeup, the shark shaped blotch, from her face.
Don’t take this the wrong way.
People always manage to take this sort of thing the wrong way and I know I shouldn’t be sensitive to this, but I am, and so I want you to know that we weren’t cruel with the young woman.
To read the rest of “What Happened to Eloise” click here.