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Pretty Girl, Ugly Girl

by Hanna Hathaway 5 months ago in Short Story
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A shared experience

When the pretty girl went missing, the whole town went into a frenzy. Like fish swarming they searched brick and dirt for a dead body. They hunted for the snack wrappers of a runaway along ten miles of train track. They interrogated their neighbors to reveal their basements. When no signs of her were found, they began to hypothesize.

The old lady next door said she swore she saw a flash of white light from the pretty girl’s window the night before she disappeared. It could only mean she had gone back in time.

One man said she turned into a beautiful butterfly, the brightest monarch he has ever seen, and visited his garden every weekend. That’s why he planted milkweed last Sunday.

Another neighbor said he saw her ghost in the graveyard, weeping soundlessly under a willow. She must have been buried alive beneath its roots.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into despair as the pretty girl did not return.

When the ugly girl moved in, it took the town a week to notice her residence. The old lady next door was the first to see her walk out of the pretty girl’s house, and curled lips quickly spread through town with each passing of the news. Why was this ugly girl living in the pretty girl’s home? She hadn’t been missing that long.

One woman said she heard news of a missing statue in the next town over. The weathered thing must have come to life and escaped here.

Another neighbor said she had fallen ill after making eye contact with her, and was bed-ridden for three days. Soon the town’s water would turn to blood and the streets would be infested with locusts.

The young man across the street said he saw her eating something strange in the park. They had to be the remains of the pretty girl.

But the crux of their affront emerged from a local boutique one day, pink lace flouncing around her legs and out the door. Jaws dropped at the sight of the ugly girl romping down the way in her new dress.

How dare she wear such a dress? Pink dresses were for pretty girls only.

They came in the night, pitchforks gleaming and torches flaming. They shouted their displeasure at her aberrant display. They rammed down her front door and ransacked her home. Then, when she cried out for them to stop, they set her house ablaze.

The flames fed on the howls, shrieks, whoops, and bellows of the town. They grew so hot and violent that the people could not hear their own voices over the roar, and the old lady next door shook her cane at the ugly girl’s bedroom window as it burned.

She was the only one still inside the house when it was razed to the ground, trapped behind its crumbling walls and succumbed by smoke.

As the shouts of the town died, so too did the fire. It dwindled down to a scattering of glowing embers so quiet the crowd could hear their neighbors’ every breath.

Moonlight illuminated the red faces of the town, watching firemen douse the remains until the house was nothing but a mass of wet, charred rubble.

The ugly girl was no more.

The town could finally remember the pretty girl as she had been, gone in time, transformed into a butterfly, lingering beneath the willow. She romped downtown in her pink lace dress and brought a smile to every face. She was set ablaze and ascended as an angel worthy of their praise.

The girl was no more.

Short Story

About the author

Hanna Hathaway

Instagram: @carvedhymnsonribs

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