ALICE’S MONSTERS • by Helen Cattan-Prugl

When I close my eyes, I can still see her.

Before I go to bed, Alice, my cute little sister, dances behind my eyelids.

When I throw my head back with a shot of vodka, Alice’s gap-toothed smile cheers me on.

Eyes shut in the pain and ecstasy of sex with my drug dealer, I can almost feel Alice’s chubby fingers, sticky with peanut butter and jelly, reaching for my hand.

Every time I tie the tourniquet around my upper arm to shoot up, Alice is right there with me; knocking on my bedroom door, sticking gum in my hair, saying, “I love you,” her face all lit up like the time I bought her a toy rhinoceros for her birthday. And so I close my eyes again, and again, and again, because sometimes, it makes me feel like she never disappeared at all.

Alice had eyes as blue as the puddles she liked to splash in and cheeks red and like tiny balloons. She was shorter and chubbier than the average eight year-old, and looked even fatter in a beige T-shirt two sizes too big and jeans, ripped at the knees, that trailed in the mud.

She was full of spunk and energetic, loved me when I thought I was unlovable. I know a lot of my friends resented babysitting their younger siblings, but I enjoyed it. Her make-believe games were innocent and playful, and honestly, sometimes I got completely immersed in them, like a good TV show.

On the day of her disappearance, Alice had been fighting a monster. She’d taken a karate stance, weight resting on her back foot, red-and-blue polka-dotted umbrella held in front of her like a lance.

Recently, all her make-believe games had focused on the monsters in the bedtime stories I told her: worms with multiple rows of sharp teeth, spiders with extra legs, and see-through humanoid vampire ghouls from hell. The stories got more and more grotesque each time I told them until they nearly gave me nightmares, but Alice — the freak — couldn’t get enough.

The air was thick with the smell of wet compost and post-rain musk. An icy wind whipped through the bare tree branches and spun her long hair like straw around her face and into her mouth. She was the polar opposite of how I’d looked at that age.

I was curled in a hammock on the front porch, my long, bony limbs tucked underneath my butt. It was the first warm day of the year.

I was reading a book: Factotum, by Charles Bukowski. I remember thinking at the time that the narrator was weird; how could you spend your entire time drunk, useless, and without purpose? But ten years have elapsed since then, and I’m living with my parents yet again, hopelessly addicted to smack, uselessly obsessed with a girl who’s long gone.

“Hi-yah! Hi-yah!”

With a thrust, a lunge, and a karate chop, Alice jumped off the sidewalk and into the street. And then, in a moment of triumph, she stabbed the umbrella into the creature’s invisible heart.

“Victory!” She cheered.

From far away, without my glasses on, she looked like a wiggling blob of color against the gray sky. Her arms were spread triumphantly, palms facing upward, an enormous grin on her face. I looked back down at my book and began reading Chapter 34.

And then a scream, a bloodcurling scream. I felt like a truck had smashed into my ribs as I looked up to see what had happened —

It would have been better if she had been hit by a truck, I think sometimes. If she had died, at least I would have had some closure. But there was no body, no nothing. I knew how to heal wounds; I didn’t know how to deal with nothing.

“Charlie! Charlie, help me, it’s got me!”

Alice was writhing on the floor, pretending the monster’s giant pincers had pinned her down. I sighed, half exasperation, half relief.

“Don’t scream like that, Alice,” I reprimanded her, returning to my book.

I read sixteen chapters before realizing how quiet the street had gotten. It was completely still besides the whoosh of the wind and the dead leaves shaking. And when I looked up, she was gone. Only her polka-dotted umbrella, rolling lazily in the middle of the street, gave any indication that my little sister had ever been there.

Triumphant, smiling Alice, this is the last picture I have of her and this is how I’ll always remember her when I close my eyes.

Closing my eyes to cry even when I think I have no more tears left, I see Alice reaching out her tiny fists to dry them.

As I’m drifting off to sleep, Alice reminds me to pray to God. I don’t listen.

And when I’m jamming my needle into a vein for the fourth time that night, Alice tells me to stop. So I stop.

“I mean it, Charlie,” says Alice, “I can’t always be here for you. It’s time for you to start fighting the monsters now.”

“Don’t leave me,” I beg.

She’s turned into a see-through humanoid vampire ghoul from hell and is eating her own organs. I don’t want to see this.

“Go away!” I scream.

It doesn’t go away. On the contrary, it’s advancing on me; I stumble back, but my feet are tied. I’m high as balls and can’t even tell if I’m standing or lying in fetal position, awake or asleep.

Alice’s polka-dot umbrella stands, as it has for over a decade, in the corner of my shoddy room. I’m shaking as I pick it up, shift my weight to rest on my back foot. I think I’m prepared to fight.


Helen Cattan-Prugl writes in Massachusetts, USA.


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Rate this story:
 average 5 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Lisa

    Shuks. I meant to give 5 stars and gave just 1 by mistake. I love this story!!!! Wish I could change my stupid rating.

    • S Conroy
      Nice to know. At least it explains the current rating.
    • Camille Gooderham Campbell
      Hi Lisa, I was able to identify your accidental rating by matching it to the IP address of your comment, so I've removed it for you; you should be able to re-do your rating now.
  • Lisa

    Shuks. I meant to give 5 stars and gave just 1 by mistake. I love this story!!!! Wish I could change my stupid rating.

    • S Conroy
      Nice to know. At least it explains the current rating.
    • Camille Gooderham Campbell
      Hi Lisa, I was able to identify your accidental rating by matching it to the IP address of your comment, so I've removed it for you; you should be able to re-do your rating now.
  • Paul A. Freeman

    With “…(your) limbs tucked firmly under (your) butt”, isn’t it a bit tricky to read a book? Added to which, I pictured a sister as the MC, not a brother, until I reached the name ‘Charlie’ over halfway through the story. Unfortunately, I got sort of lost along the way with this one and couldn’t really pin down what was happening or why.

    • MPmcgurty
      I read it as female all the way through. "Charlie" can be a nickname for Charlotte.
  • Paul A. Freeman

    With “…(your) limbs tucked firmly under (your) butt”, isn’t it a bit tricky to read a book? Added to which, I pictured a sister as the MC, not a brother, until I reached the name ‘Charlie’ over halfway through the story. Unfortunately, I got sort of lost along the way with this one and couldn’t really pin down what was happening or why.

    • MPmcgurty
      I read it as female all the way through. "Charlie" can be a nickname for Charlotte.
  • S Conroy

    Put me on the fanlist. I really liked this one.

  • S Conroy

    Put me on the fanlist. I really liked this one.

  • Minkee Robinson

    I also read this as written from a female POV, but had no problems with Charlie not being a girl’s nickname. Nicely written, although for the first half I was dreading the overly long character sketch without a resolution. Fortunately the ending reeled it back in for me.

  • Minkee Robinson

    I also read this as written from a female POV, but had no problems with Charlie not being a girl’s nickname. Nicely written, although for the first half I was dreading the overly long character sketch without a resolution. Fortunately the ending reeled it back in for me.

  • Chinwillow

    Wow,wow, wow, what a ride! Some parts let go of my hand momentarily but it came together nicely at the end. Interesting mix of the everyday horror of addiction and the sweet childlike innocence, threaded in the same sentences. And I liked the way the MC left me guessing to the end, male or female….like it mattered? Good job!

  • Chinwillow

    Wow,wow, wow, what a ride! Some parts let go of my hand momentarily but it came together nicely at the end. Interesting mix of the everyday horror of addiction and the sweet childlike innocence, threaded in the same sentences. And I liked the way the MC left me guessing to the end, male or female….like it mattered? Good job!

  • MaryAlice Meli

    well-done; vividly written.

  • MaryAlice Meli

    well-done; vividly written.

  • An interesting reflection, although a bit chunky at times.

    I guess I’m just not a fan of this type of work. So a girl has a heroin addiction and she misses her little sister who disappeared. But what else? Nothing happens here. It’s just a sad look into the mind of a troubled addict. Thanks for sharing.

  • An interesting reflection, although a bit chunky at times.

    I guess I’m just not a fan of this type of work. So a girl has a heroin addiction and she misses her little sister who disappeared. But what else? Nothing happens here. It’s just a sad look into the mind of a troubled addict. Thanks for sharing.

  • Bud Clayman

    Really good, and of course, very visceral. I did have a problem with the main character being male. This could have been set up better at the beginning of the piece. But the writing was so good and involving that I didn’t seem to care about the POV discrepancy.

  • Bud Clayman

    Really good, and of course, very visceral. I did have a problem with the main character being male. This could have been set up better at the beginning of the piece. But the writing was so good and involving that I didn’t seem to care about the POV discrepancy.

  • Vicki Doronina

    This story needs editing, I suggest using The Critique Circle. Some of the language just grates:

    *in the pain and ecstasy of sex with my drug dealer – a raw cliche. I bet the author did not try having sex with a drug dealer for the lack of thereof. I seriously doubt that sex for drugs includes any “ecstasy” for the drug addict.

    *sticking gum in my hair, saying, “I love you,” – I very strange way to say “I love you”, sticking gum in hair

    *Alice had eyes as blue as the puddles she liked to splash in – puddles are never blue

    *She was full of spunk and energetic – and energy, this is editing 101

    *Her make-believe games were innocent and playful – games were playful? you don’t say

    I gave up on reading.

    • weequahic
      I think Charlie was high the afternoon she dictated this into her counselor's tape recorder. He noted she expressed herself quite well, considering.
  • Vicki Doronina

    I am sorry to be so harsh, but this story needs editing. I suggest using The Critique Circle. Some of the language just grates:

    *in the pain and ecstasy of sex with my drug dealer – a raw cliche. I bet the author did not try having sex with a drug dealer for the lack of thereof. I seriously doubt that sex for drugs includes any “ecstasy” for the drug addict.

    *sticking gum in my hair, saying, “I love you,” – I very strange way to say “I love you”, sticking gum in hair

    *Alice had eyes as blue as the puddles she liked to splash in – puddles are never blue

    *She was full of spunk and energetic – and energy, this is editing 101

    *Her make-believe games were innocent and playful – games were playful? you don’t say

    I gave up on reading, as the language snags distract from the plot.

    • weequahic
      I think Charlie was high the afternoon she dictated this into her counselor's tape recorder. He noted she expressed herself quite well, considering.
  • Kailee Hargrove

    One of my favorites. It kept me wanting more and more. Definitely a fan.

  • Kailee Hargrove

    One of my favorites. It kept me wanting more and more. Definitely a fan.

  • Well done!

  • Well done!