Alyson Miller


A step out of the elevator tomb-space and she was gone. Slipping on the marble floor, her head struck the cool stone with the fleshy smack of wet fruit thrown against a wall. The taste of coffee and old books caught in her throat, her eyes shuttered a last image tight inside—the concierge scratching his arm. I stepped across her, careful not to tread on the edges of her clothes, splayed out like shadows around carrion. I guessed a fainting spell or a broken hip, and left others to hold her face and gather in bundles of pucker-lipped whispers. When the ambulance came, I thought about the precautions of old age; when the police followed, minutes later, I thought of white sheets and barrier tape and old episodes of Silent Witness. Inside, we were ushered around spiral staircases that wound secretly between offices and archives, and the conference went on. A minute of prayer and then afternoon tea, with thoughts of her body below us—its weight and its size, and her skirt hitched indecently high, the cold pressed against the back of her legs.


The courts judged her a killer. Found that Eugenia, discovered not as a man but as a woman, murdered poor Annie. The wife who never guessed—until she did. Found that Eugenia cracked open her love’s head like some dark place and then burned away the face and lungs, leaving nothing but ribs and the memory of flesh. The jury waited only to know how bodies stripped clean and bare like bones and teeth and eyes left room for tricks and guesses. They eyed the wooden dildo, dangled by its leather strap like a metronome, and thought of women and warm sheets and the weight of breath on skin—and of their own cocks, tucked neatly under buttons and zips. And then Eugenia, the creature in a white linen dress, the animal lost behind circus stories and a gun in her portmanteau: I do not know anything at all.

Alyson Miller teaches literary studies at Deakin University, Geelong, Australia. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in both national and international publications, with a book of literary criticism, Haunted by Words: Scandalous Texts, forthcoming (Peter Lang).
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