Kya won the school pumpkin carving contest the last three years in a row, but that was before Gemma. Next to her freshly gutted pumpkin, Kya lined her tools in descending order of utility. The fine tip markers she would use to free hand the design were first, followed by her stainless steel professional-grade carving kit. Each blade tucked neatly into its designated location.
Kya straightened her back, took a deep breath, and reached for her marker to begin her design. At the same time, Gemma seated herself across the kitchen table, crossing one leg over the other, her elbow perched on the back of the chair. Kya carefully set the marker back down, focusing on her familiar guest. She attempted to swallow but her mouth had gone dry.
Gemma’s grey skin clings to her facial bones, accentuating her sunken ice-blue eyes. Garnet lips encircle her black, rotting teeth. Her cheek bones are high and protruding. Though her grey body looks decrepit, Gemma dresses impeccably. She wears couture each visit she pays Kya, never repeating an ensemble.
Gemma’s first visit, nearly a year ago, she wore a smart ivory suit and Louboutin heels to match. Her black hair rested in a slick low bun. Kya was out to eat with her school friends at a casual burger restaurant. They went to the same place every Wednesday after theatre practice. It used to be just the girls but in recent months the boys started coming too. Their presence made Kya feel like she had a coil tightening her chest, squeezing more each week. Mid-meal, Gemma sat across from Kya, as she is today. She informed her that pretty girls don’t eat greasy burgers like Kya and she left. Based on the lack of reaction the others, Kya surmised only she could see Gemma. Kya slumped in her seat, looked around and realized Gemma could be right. The girls who the boys talked to, the girls who didn’t seem like they had a coil stuck in their chests, those girls were eating salads or eating nothing at all.
At first, her visits were infrequent, and she’d whisper small jabs. Lately, she appears daily, shouting punches, each blow worse than the last.
“Oh, here she goes again thinking she’s some kind of artist, thinking she’s special,” Gemma cackles to herself from across the table.
Kya closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She starts to bite at her thumb when she opens her eyes and sees Gemma still there.
“You really think you deserve to waste time on these stupid hobbies? You didn’t go to the gym again today, pig. Look at you. You make sick.” Gemma mimes gagging her finger down her throat.
Kya stares at Gemma, flatly. She realizes there’s more to come. The viciousness of her assaults is typically proportional to the sophistication of her attire. She’s wearing a black single shouldered cocktail dress today. Her collarbones aren’t cover by skin any longer, just splintered bone. Pearls hang around her boney neck and matching earrings pull her grey, rotting ears past her chin.
“You can’t even control yourself. You’re not disciplined enough around a breadbasket. What makes you think you’d have the discipline to accomplish anything else?
Gemma’s insults are usually directed towards Kya’s appearance and her inability to meet the standard. Though, sometimes she likes pepper in insults about her intelligence and lack of artistic ability. To Gemma, Kya’s body is too large, her hair is too scrawny, her face is blotchy, her lips are too thin, her breasts are uneven, and her cellulite is disgusting. She shouldn’t bother trying because she will fail. She’s foolish to think she could put herself in the world and be accepted. Kya never noticed or felt any of those things until Gemma illuminated them for her.
Now, Kya doesn’t draw after school anymore, she’s in the gym. Kya doesn’t read before bed anymore; she’s scrubbing her face and picking and poking in the mirror. She doesn’t talk to her mom anymore, she scrolls and scrolls, looking at imagine after image telling her what perfect looks like. She used to be curious and interesting and full of life, now she’s dull and homogeneous and miserable.
“I already won the contest, three times. I’m talented.” Kya speaks back to Gemma for the first time in weeks. She learned after a few months of her berating, no matter what she said, Gemma wouldn’t relent. She never knew when she’d appear and if she’d be in public or not. Kya scurried through her days, praying Gemma would leave her alone.
“No, you’re not. You’re disgusting. You only won before because your daddy helped you but where is he now? You really think he’s still going to come home? He left because he’s disgusted with you, just like everyone else.” Gemma sneers back.
“You’re disgusting. Look at you.” Kya is standing now, albeit wearily. She’s almost as surprised as Gemma with her sudden stroke of confidence. “All you talk about is how ugly I am but look at yourself. You’re rotting. You’re obsessed with me. You wish you could be me.” Kya’s back is straighter, her voice louder.
Gemma laughs in an evil cackle, showing all of her black teeth as she flips her head back.
“You need to leave, Gemma. I’m done with you.”
“You’ll never get rid of me. You’re too chicken shit,” she snarls.
Gemma smiles smugly when Kya fails to respond. She always wins.
Kya looks down at the table and let’s put a deep sigh. In one motion, she clutches her sharpest knife, lunges across, and plunges it into the side of Gemma’s neck. She pulls the knife out and stands above her. Black sludge is oozing out from the wound.
Holding her neck, Gemma screams, “You stupid bitch, you’ll be nothing without me.”
“No Gemma, I’m nothing with you.”
Kya lays into her, stabbing her face and chest dozens more times until she disintegrates into a black pool on the floor. Catching her breath, she stands back and watches the sludge evaporate.
Kya resumes her seat at the table, picks up her fine tip marker and begins her stencil.