WARNING: Mild body horror
The postcard was an exact match to the last one Avia had received.
It was your typical tacky tourist card, one plastered with the Hollywood sign despite the store being in an abandoned neighborhood far off from any celebrity location. The inside was blank. Still, whenever she received any postcards from here, they always said the same thing: “Thank you so much for recommending this town to me (she had never talked about this place, nor visited until now). I really feel like myself out here, and plan on staying longer. I’ll keep in touch (they never did) and recommend this place to my friends (sometimes she received these postcards from people she didn’t even know). Take care!”
Despite having memorized the messages long ago, she always looked for another line after “Take care!”. There had to be someone who would eventually acknowledge the elephant in the room or, more appropriately, the nails taped to the postcard.
Faces may be difficult for her to recognize, but she always had a precise memory when it came to hands, probably for this very reason. When this particular coworker had left, Avia had little recollection of what she wore or even what color her eyes and hair was, but vividly remembered her long, cream manicure. The taped nails were a perfect match, though the polish had worn down since then.
For the life of her, Avia never knew what she did with these nails, though they disappeared soon after being opened. Further inquiry would lead to a sharp headache that could last for several days.
That’s why she had finally decided to break into her savings and fly over to the West coast. Most people would not have guessed that it was her first trip to California; her blonde waves and beachy fashion made many assume that she was a “Valley girl” when she was born and raised in Maine. That was another misconception, just like the ones proliferating the postcards sent to her at a constant rate.
Well, at least she had found the store. It was difficult to spot. Like the rest of the town, the place was in disrepair, and there didn’t seem to be a soul alive. Avia hesitated, wondering if she should just steal the postcard. Something in her told her that the store was not important, but the parchment itself. Taking a deep breath in, she booted her morals and snatched the flimsy square off the rack.
That night’s sleep bore a strange dream.
The room was engulfed in blood, the walls, ceiling, and floor merging into a pulsating web, like she was laying inside of a heart. Body paralyzed, Avia could only scream as she felt a thin piece of paper dig into her finger bed, the corner slicing through her flesh like she was made of brittle ash.
She would awaken in a new layer of sweat, take a shower, and go back to bed, only to have the process repeat itself until she finally got up for good at dawn. Jetlag was difficult enough, let alone having to deal with this.
She decided to stay near the hotel, to not take the two hour drive needed to go back to that town. No hotels were near it due to its isolated and almost apocalyptic condition. She was glad this was the case, for she never planned on going there again.
Her day was perfectly pleasant except for one continuous issue. No matter how careful she was, her fingers kept getting bruised. Her hands were already riddled in scars, and she didn’t need anymore. Unfortunately, nothing could stop her from getting scratched when someone reached a hand to help her from the floor, or could prevent her fingers from catching on the door and at the corners of tables. The worst one was a paper cut received when flipping through a brochure; it caused her to remember the dream.
She crashed early on her hotel room’s couch, her head throbbing, the nightmare feeling like an inevitable event. Well, this was probably divine revenge for stealing the card, wasn’t it? Maybe a ghost had gotten pissed that she hadn’t left them some change. She tried to laugh, but her throat was dry and raspy.
Maybe she should take a nap.
Closing her eyes snapped the dream back into focus. At least she could now move her head, and turned to see the postcard, a seemingly harmless, silly apparition, by her finger, the red stained corners blending into the scarlet background. There was no more pain. It folded over, gesturing towards its completed work.
She glanced down at her hand. Holes were dug into the tops of her fingers, revealing an inner catacomb of nails, filling her body like the stuffing in a toy. Each nail was a different color, a different size, some seeming as if they came from children while others were overgrown, nearly curling at the edges.
She realized what she had been doing with the nails; she had been eating them, using them to sustain her human form. And this wasn’t the first time she realized this. Every year, she would question the postcards, go back to this same hotel, this same town, and do the whole song and dance again. It all ended the same, too; she would forget what had happened until the next time around, for it was easier to lure people in with lies if you believed them too.
Word Count: 910