An excerpt from a speculative short novel about Mollye, a rebellious girl who is part of the Bergmann family, ruled by an all-powerful Mother, who finally shows Mollye just how alike their powers truly are.
Mollye stopped a few feet from the door to the lounge. Pressing any wrinkles in her simple pink dress, she tried to take it all in. She looked around for a mirror. If she had known that she would be called, she would have taken a bath, put on nicer clothing, and done more to impress Mother. Feeling massively insignificant, she stepped forward and opened the door.
Mother was sitting on her throne, in the middle of the room, wearing a dark green puffy gown and veil that surrounded her. She wore an extravagant mask, with peacock feathers poking out on each side. Despite her face being covered, Mollye could feel Mother’s giving cold glare. Her threatening appearance made Mollye gulp as Mother gestured to the leather couch to her right. Mollye carefully walked to the couch, slowly but gracefully crossing the brown carpet to sit down. Although Mother’s face was covered, Mollye knew she was judging her every movement. The room was dimly lit by only a fireplace. Void of any windows, the wood walls had bookshelves engraved in them and a couch on both sides of the room.
“Mollye?” Mother asked with irritation. Mollye tried to mask her fear and lifted her chin to look up at her. Refusing to appear timid, she replied, “Mother?”
Upon hearing her strong voice, Mother smiled. “Mollye, your time to represent our family in the town’s council has come. It sounds simple and easy, but more complex than you could imagine. This is a large responsibility that has an enormous effect on our family’s continued power in our town. There will be punishments for any mistakes or rebellious acts.” She enforced that “There will be many gifts and favors dealt out for doing your job well. You could have anything you would ever want.”
Mother spoke as though she believed that Mollye would be worthy of receiving these gifts. Mollye had numerous skills, but which one made Mother most excited? What would she be required to do and what were the punishments that she could receive? Why would she have to be warned about not doing her duties?
Based on history books Mollye read, what the previous ruling houses did to succeed had never been pretty, but were always successful. Although the books she has studied never spoke about how here house gained control of the region.
Butting into Mollye’s swirling thoughts, Mother asked, “Do you understand?” Mollye knew it wasn’t really a question. Confusion swirled in her belly, what was she stepping into? Could she say no?
Mollye gulped and replied, “Yes, I do understand.”
Mother tilted her head, hearing Mollye’s hesitation, and asked again with her voice tilting towards accusation. “Yes Mother,” Mollye answered with vigor. She pushed her questions and anxiety down, knowing that any suggestion of resistance would get her in trouble. Mollye tried not to get overwhelmed. Mother started to nod her head slowly skeptically. She tapped her fingers on her lap, making a put-put noise that filled the silence. Mollye was as still as a statue, waiting for her next words.
After what seemed like hours, Mother jovially asked, “How is your face, darling?” Mollye’s mouth fell open. How did she know? Tears started to form at the edges of Mollye’s eyes. Could Mother see through her mask?
Every member of the Bergmann family was born with a small dark dot filled with dark colors, almost appearing as a galaxy, on their nose. The topic of these dots was forbidden and those who dared to speak only did so through short whispers. Lately, Mollye’s dot was growing, reaching the edges of her forehead and nearing her cheeks. It terrified her to watch it slowly grow over her eyes, as she couldn’t remember what color they were. It felt like she was gradually losing herself. She started to wear her mask all the time, even when she was alone, refusing to let herself see it consume her face.
“How?” she cried out, “How do you know?” No one was allowed to show their face to anyone or see anyone else’s face. Mother laughed, ignoring her questions. “HOW?” she screamed out again, but louder, as she stood up. Mother paused, looked up to the ceiling, and started to hum to herself.. Mollye glared at her, with her finger pointed towards Mother. In response, Mother elegantly lifted her hand. “Shh, darling,” Mother whispered as Mollye’s mask slowly pulled away from her face. “No!” Mollye shrieked as she tried to grasp it back. But it was too late, her face was exposed with her mask floating far from reach.
“Mothe-,” she whispered, but as her gaze went from her floating mask to Mother’s, all her breath escaped. She fell back onto the couch as she stared into Mother’s blank face. It was full of the wispy black void, leaving no room for what Mollye assumed was pale-brown skin. Mollye was left speechless, it felt like a sin to see her, but her eyes refused to look away.
I got the idea for this story from a prompt my mentor, Anne, gave me about family. Originally I wanted to write a non-fiction piece for the prompt, but later gave up on it and decided to try fiction. I wanted to write something that touched on the relationship dynamics of a royal family, but in a completely different world than our own. I wrote a short piece on this family but decided I wanted to expand on the story even more.
Ayah Al-Masyabi is a sophomore in high school and lives in Colorado. She is an artist and a writer. Ever since she was able to hold a pencil she has been drawing. As a dyslexic person, art has been a way to express herself without struggling to find a way to piece together letters or words. Her writing branches into different genres, from nonfiction to creative fiction. Ayah won 3rd place in the Arapahoe Libraries art contest in October 2022 and has also submitted artworks to Polyphony, an online magazine.