Maddy had no mouth, though she had teeth. She could never let The Master know. Safer to euthanize her freedom, keep the lie on life support. Long lashes, anime eyes, wiggling nose. Cleavage almost, but not quite, revealing the areola. Tummy tucks, charmingly chiseled cheeks. Open, willing, yearning legs.

She held a small antique mirror in front of her face. A crack had formed in the center; a rhombus-shaped shard had been lost or tossed long ago. Maddy angled the mirror so that the visible section of opaque black casing obscured her mouth.

“I have a voice. I exist. I have a voice. I exist.” Her mantra seemed never-ending. She could not see her lips moving in the mirror; the words appeared to have been spoken by someone else.

“Madeleine, who exactly are you speaking to?” The Master, otherwise known as Richard, asked. It may as well have been the voice of a prison warden on the verge of retirement. “And why on earth are you in the guest bathroom?”

“Oh…no one. No reason. I was just closer to — ”

“Do not lie to me again. How many times have I stressed how much I loathe your lies? Where are you hiding your damned phone this time? Give it to me… now.” Richard’s silver hair glimmered beneath the crystal of the tiny chandelier sphere. His eyes were calm, his demeanor controlled, his unmatched charm circling her like a quiver of cobras.

“But I’m not — ”


Maddy had no real aversion to violent little love taps when earned. Versace sunglasses and Chanel powder worked wonders in these particular cases.

Her vow of silence began that night with needle and thread zigzagging between her creamy collagen lips. The early stages of ravaged tissue resulted from the quietest peep. Maddy took a magnifying glass to the mirror the next morning to examine the insignificant rips. Scabs had formed, punishment for the chittery canary.

“We’re going to be late for the gala, Madeleine. Are you almost ready?”

Maddy did not, could not respond. The threads hugged her mouth like tiny black larvae, protecting her from verbalizing her most dangerous thoughts. She hovered in the doorway of the master bedroom. Richard stood in the foyer, staring through her like she was an ice sculpture.

“You know,” he continued, “you could use a trip to the tanning salon. You’re looking a bit peaked these days.”

Maddy simply hummed ‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” to herself. Richard was fiddling with his cufflinks.

“Well, I suppose I’ll call Alfonso tomorrow and make the appointment for you.” His eyes leered toward Maddy’s midsection. “By the way, I’d appreciate it if you kept the hors d’oeuvres to a minimum tonight. Now hop to it! I’ll have the car running.”

Weeks, months later: no trace of the former flesh. Where lips once lived now remained a smooth, flat, blank canvas. It was time to act.

Cherry red lip liner to sketch a new set of lips, soon to be massive, exaggerated, puffy pillows around the perimeter of her chin, jaw, and nostrils. Black eyeliner traced fresh jagged stalagmite and stalactite teeth. She looked like something out of a clown’s nightmare. She moved her tongue around behind this flesh façade, tasted the metallic flavor of blood seeping from her gums as the new teeth formed. Grinding, vengeful sounds roared behind this work of art.

Patience, Maddy thought. Soon this new mouth will have plenty to say. These new teeth will have so much to gnaw on.

Chad Stroup is currently pursuing his MFA in Fiction at San Diego State University.

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  • SarahT

    I really liked this piece of writing… Up until the last 3 paragraphs. Not sure that I get the ending.

    The idea that someone would sew their own mouth shut… Yeah, I buy it. The idea that the mouth would disappear altogether gets us into the twilight zone….which is ok I guess, just unexpected.

    Where this piece really shines is in the characterization of Richard. “Violent love taps” excellent!

  • I agree with SarahT.

  • A bit too out there for me.

  • Marisa Samuels

    I really get depressed at the subjects good writers seem to dwell on. I don’t want to read The Five Little Peppers again, but sometimes I wonder about meeting authors in a dark alley. They write well, but the subjects give me the creeps.

  • Perhaps not as keenly written as the subject matter deserves but worthy of more than the pitiful vote it seems to be getting. It’s a tough subject, abuse, and there were inklings of the silence this victim has had to maintain for her own safety and because she is trapped. But not for much longer, it seems. An insightful window on a devastating aspect of human relationships.


    Really liked this story. Very Gothic and creepy. The descriptions were layered and right on. 4-stars!

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    This reminded me of “The Story of O” and the film “Breaking the Waves”–both instances where women are complicit in their own brutalization and deaths, and which we are told are examples of sophisticated art. I have no objection to even the most horrific stories if I feel the author has provided compelling argument for the actions of the characters–for example “Hannibal” in the Thomas Harris series, where we really do begin to understand why the guy dines on fellow human beings. But I didn’t feel that here.

    And–unless this is a metaphorical portrayal of Maddy’s interior psychological landscape–how did she EAT?

  • joannab.

    i liked the “violent little love taps” and the “i’d appreciate it if you kept the hors d’oeuvres to a minimum tonight.” but things didn’t ring quite true in this story. the horror of what Maddy/Madeleine did to herself didn’t work for me. i found myself unhorrified. something was missing. i’d like to see the author go on after the last line, make it a longer story, and show us exactly what Maddy says and what she does to her husband. and what happens to him in this process.

  • JenM

    I loved this story, a great creative setting with dark themes. Maddie’s certianly suffering abuse with Richard.