|Art by Natalia Maroz|
"Kiss of the Mouthless Girl" by Giovanni De Feo (3862 words)
This is a weird and creeping story about a story being told in a bar, by a man with an eyepatch to the unnamed narrator. And it’s a piece that really gets into the nature of storytelling and the way that it can get under your skin, the way that it can make you doubt the nature of reality. As the narrator asks at the beginning, there’s a question about the tale that the one-eyed man tells. It’s a bit of an urban legend, but it also goes deeper than that. The more the man speaks, the more that the narrator pays attention to the way the story is told, the more it works on him. The framing of the story is interesting in this way because there is dialogue, times when the narrator and the man speak to one another, but there are also italicized sections that are pure story, where you can’t really tell if this is the story the man is telling or inside the narrator’s head, the story that they are telling to themself. And I love that ambiguity, that blurring of the lines between the narrator and the one-eyed man. It all has a surreal feel to it, from the subject of the story to the situation itself, the oddness of speaking to a one-eyed man in a bar. And yet there’s also something haunting about it, the way that the story about the mouthless girl grows and grows, not just conveying this sense of wrongness and unease but desire. The narrator is brought into this story because they want to be in it, because they want this to be about them, a break from the loneliness that they feel, the awkward dance they do to try and get someone’s attention. The story preys on that part of them that might want a woman who is silent, who is isolated, who they might be able to possess in some way. The story becomes transactional, where the person in the story makes a deal not with the mouthless girl but with her sisters. It also goes deeper than that, though, because there’s also this transaction between the narrator and the one-eyed man, this viral story, as well as a transaction between the narrator and the mouthless girl. This is a story that brushes against the idea of bargains. That at any point the narrator can walk away, can leave the story behind. They are aware of this, know that it’s supposed to be them with the power and choice, and yet the story compels them down this road that has a strange and beautiful ending. And ultimately for me it’s a story about urges and desire, about the power of stories to stoke a fire inside us that opens a door to let something else in. Something strange and dark and transformative. It’s a lovely and rather disturbing read, so be sure to check it out!