Rulers are pulled out, skirts inspected. Three inches above the knee, no more.
Our skirts are millimeters too short. We hope to pass. If we pass, we’re allowed into the house. Those who don’t are sent home so their mothers can mend what’s broken.
They scour for torn hems, loose stitches, and find none. But Marissa filled out over the summer, and the back of her skirt rises up her thigh nearly an inch above an appropriate level. We share a knowing glance as she flows out of our line, thrust back into the office where someone will call her mother to gather her. Our mothers taught us to lean back when the ruler passed, to let the hem dip down to the creases of our knees. No one would know. When we pass, we share a silent victory.
When they can’t hear us, we whisper about Marissa’s chest, how red splotches cover her nose and cheekbones. We think she won’t come back, girls like her never do, and seventh years always seem to pour from St. Dymphna’s.
We give no thought to Marissa and her bulging chest and bottom after we’re let into the house. Instead, we flood in, eager to choose our beds, to begin our final year.
The Year Seven house is the oldest and drips during rain storms. For a month or two we can ignore it. Our rooms are on the first or second or third floor. The attic is where the girls who left would have slept. It now sits quiet but fills with water when the storms come in. For the first few, the drops puddle above us; later, old wood creaks as the pools weigh down the attic floor. We do not mind. We laugh about it to the younger girls when they come to stare at us with wide eyes. We think it is awe, we hope it is awe, but we were all younger once.
After the worst storm, with rain so heavy we could hardly see out the door, Cynthia and Rose wake with blood on their sheets and are rushed out of the house. We do not laugh now, and the girls on the third floor have moved down to the second. The third floor is empty, the attic is nearly forgotten, and we’re all too frightened to go up. The door at the top of the stairs has been sealed so the water won’t drip down, but we know of back stairs that could take us up if we wanted to go. On weekends, when we’re locked in for the night, we sometimes dare each other to go up, to check if those no longer here are still up there, floating silently between drifting dolls and soaked pillows. The debris from their departures was never removed.
Our skirts are inspected again halfway through the year, when half of us are missing. Seven more go, though two we suspect have eaten their way to growth. Nora stole a bandage from the infirmary and wrapped herself to fit into the uniform, but they caught her, told her she was far too big now to stay. We stopped eating a month ago. Our skirts are longer than ever. They eye us, but do not make us leave like the others. We are still flat chested and flat bottomed. We can stay.
We are silent, now. In the rainstorms, we cling to the things we’ve deemed important: books, letters, jewelry boxes from our mothers, the chain from our father’s pocket-watch. There are four, now, of our original forty. We all live on the first floor, and no one comes to visit. We wait for the sun, but it doesn’t seem to come back. It is too warm this year for snow and the rain rushes in without cease. They tell us it is to cleanse; we think it is to submerge.
When they lock up the second floor, the water has begun leaking down the walls of the first. Our skirts hit our knees, now. We can use them to cover our legs when we curl up to keep away the chill. It will be our turn, soon, we know. They know it, and the younger girls know it too. Lisa has been staring into the walls. She tells us her gut aches, and she doubles over from pain. We call them, and they take her away. They’ve taken everyone away.
I’m waiting alone in my bed on the first floor, clasping that which I hold dear—my hollow stomach, my skin and bones—waiting for the drip drip dripping above my head to finally quiet down, or for the dam to burst.
It's scary what girls and women will do for perfection but you managed to portray it in such a pretty way.
I found myself reading the entire thing, even though, as I said, I try to avoid popular stuff. Very intense and very gripping. I'm not very good at putting my thoughts into words, but it's simultaneously beautiful and kind of horrifying. It's unique in that it's not like what's considered horror, but it's still kind of grotesque in its own way. Wonderfully written.
I am so glad that you took a chance and read my piece. And I'm especially glad that you liked it and felt the need to comment. I think your words are perfectly put together, and despite the grim subject matter, your comment keeps making me smile and making my stomach do little happy flips. So thank you.
To be honest, when I saw this reply, I spent a little while kind of freaking out. The first thing I did, I must confess, is refresh the page to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me, and then I went to the actual Floodgates deviation page (if that's what you'd call it?) and make sure I read everything correctly. I know that DA is a nicer community than some others, but in my naturally pessimistic mind, I expected to be ignored. So I must say, seeing that you responded made ME smile in return (emotions are truly the greatest of contagions).
Moving on, I also tend to look at literature here the least. Apart from any blog-style journal posts my friends/favorites post, I steer clear of most everything written here. Reading things people post feels different than looking at art. How to put it? There are more art styles than writing styles.
Thus, with art, even just looking at one specific category, it would be really hard to find someone who draws/paints/sculpts/carves even just similar to how another person does. Photography and any form of realistic art might be easier, but people still have their own habits and tendencies.
In writing, however, it's all the same language (or languages, if you're bilingual), thus anything one person writes could have easily been written by someone else. The art to writing is finding something somebody else wouldn't say... But that's not what I'm trying to say here. When you look at what someone else writes, you're ultimately looking at something you didn't write. In the case of DD's, it's more like you're looking at something notable or popular than looking at a simple writing. So whether you read them or not, the average person doesn't learn anything from reading even the best-written literature here, tutorials excluded.
Put simply, that's normal (or at least, I would think it is). Reading a book published rather than a DD would probably be more helpful because DD's tend to feel more noteworthy, whereas with books you usually don't get to comment on every short story page or talk to the author. (Bad at phrasing things) It just feels different. It feels different to me, at least. I'm not quite sure how to extend on why, but it does.
No, no! Really, I love reading. Be it something you or something somebody else posted, if something grabs my attention, I'm going to read it, plain and simple. "Felt the need to comment"? It wasn't quite like that. I just built up the courage to comment. I don't think there's anything I could possible read that wouldn't stir up some thought or other, I just built up the courage to put my thoughts into the comment box. I clicked to post it without even editing it, because if I'd found even one thing to rephrase, I'd have exited out of the tab completely. When it comes to thoughts, I think plenty, but when it comes to words... Well, let's just say starting conversations is not my forte, in any comment or discussion.
I'm glad I made you smile? You're welcome? -spazzes out for a few moments- Really I just took my thoughts and turned them into words. "Perfectly put together", though...Thanks, but I don't quite think that was the case. I'm glad I made you smile, though.
Holy crap, though... I wrote a lot this time. (I guess it's easier after you receive a reply to the initial comment.)
Well, you did it, you made me smile again. A lot of your points I feel very similarly on, but I gotta tell you: not all DD’s are noteworthy or popular or what-have-you. This one has been up for over a year and had less than fifty views on it before it was suggested by one of my friends on here to become a DD. It seems to me you’ve built DD’s up onto a pedestal when in reality it’s mostly sheer dumb luck that someone who suggests them happens to like it. So I don’t think they should be intimidating because, a lot of the time, they haven’t achieved notoriety before becoming a DD. I’d like to think that good lit is more approachable than the good art on here, especially when it comes to approaching the artist or writer. And I can’t say whether or not you’d learn anything from literature, but I’d like to believe that each thing you read—whether on here or in a literary journal or in a physical book—helps a writer, or simply a person, understand the world a little bit more, even if it’s just the tiniest little bit. Optimistic, yes, but it’s the way I roll
Huh, but it's not necessarily that they ARE noteworthy, it's that they FEEL noteworthy. If you put your hands in warm water for a few minutes and then dry them off, chances are the next surface will feel cool in comparison. Similarly, a DD feels more interesting to somebody who only has a small chance of getting something suggested than it does to someone who received one. You're not used to being "in the open", so it feels cooler, if that makes sense (lousy comparison, I know).
When it comes to good art, I never comment. In fact, someone whose stuff I saw on an old forum that's shut down now... Well, I kind of stalked her art for maybe 3 years (she seemed like a really interesting person, and she paints and draws, so it's not like seeing the same thing over and over). Just a couple months ago, I commented on something she made (a crochet doll of her character, Wally) and she responded. I panicked, but I responded, and it became a conversation, and now we're friends. But with her art, I'm more familiar with the supplies she uses, so it doesn't feel as out-of-my-league. Plus, she's close to one of my other online friends, so I knew she couldn't be bad. There's people who I wouldn't even know how to talk to. I'll keep looking at their art, but I'm not very brave, so the better they get, the less I even think about commenting. Good artists are intimidating. I just feel like literature... I feel like writers are easier to understand. I just don't read writings on here very often.
Then I guess I can be optimistic, too. Oh, gosh, now I'm gonna get into my books speech. Another reason why I don't comment on writings.
Some people say the universal language is love. I think the universal language is books. A painting can be created and destroyed under one pair of eyes. Couples also live and die together. Books, however... They can touch many hands, and regardless of how many hands they touch, their story can reach millions. That's not counting the books that get translated and read in countries other than their country of origin. Stories have been kept since before words existed. Love is short. Your love only extends to those you love. A story, however, leaves an impression on anyone who reads or hears it. It's true that most people feel love within their life, but everyone loves differently. A story is the same no matter how many times you read it, and with a story, others may reach the same conclusion as you.
My Latin teacher's motto is "facta, non verba". Actions, not words. Actions are even more short-lived than words. "If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?" It made a vibration, but by the definition of the word "sound", technically, it did not make a sound. Similarly, a story is how an action lives on. Books are how we know we have a history. Anyone who writes can be remembered. Not everyone who just loves is. That is why words ARE more important than actions. That is also why books travel farther than any type of love. That is the conclusion I reached.
That is also why I read. I read because a book can take you farther than any car, train, boat, or jet. A book can take you to the depths of this world, another, or even into the depths of your own self.
I read to understand, and I read to explore. I read to experience that which is beyond my life.
I agree with almost all of your points, I think, especially about the reasons you read. Hell, you could give that as a speech and I doubt there would be anyone who wouldn’t get it and agree. But you should take chances and comment, like you did on my piece! Yes, you can get some weirdos but you never know. Some of my very best friends and writing companions I've met on here. So sometimes things like that just happen. And read the writing on here more often!! You've got to siphon through a lot of it, but I guarantee there are so great pieces once you get down into it.
I know, I know... I'm just not used to speaking my mind, so unless I have a strong feeling/thought behind me, I usually don't comment.
Most of my online friends I meet through RPs. It's just that Sudomemo RPs are drawn out rather than written or played, so most of my friends are artists more so than writers.
I know I should read stuff here, I'm just... I don't want to engage in a bunch of new conversations this close to school starting. And if I read something good, chances are I'm gonna want to comment. If comments become conversations, I'm gonna end up feeling guilty because I wouldn't be able to respond often. Normally I'd be fine, but this autumn I have marching band, which I need to catch up in since I missed band camp, plus my Creative Writing online class after school... Which would be fine if I had internet at home (spending summer with a relative). I just don't want to be rude.
I love your use of metaphor, and I love that I'm not completely certain what's a metaphor and what's real. And I hope that whatever happens to the girls who reach puberty isn't as bad as these girls are building it up to be in their minds, but... it's not a very big hope.
Congrats on your DD, It's definitely well deserved