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"Human Masks" by Lowry Poletti | 309 words | Short Fiction | No content warnings
First period Cellular Biology in 1216 Robertson Hall is taught by a dragon. Elise sees her twice a week before common hour, when she can still taste sour coffee and stale bagels and last night’s rain on her tongue. She sees the porcelain, ball-jointed tail the dragon heaves through the stairwell and the glass wings she folds through the doorway and the silver-clawed hands that tap the chalkboard as she writes the topic of today’s lecture. When Elise tries to copy down the enzymes that initiate the Kreb’s cycle, she wonders instead if the dragon handcrafted her human face: if she sculpted her Roman nose out of terracotta clay and painted the lines of her lips with acrylics she bought at Michael’s.
“Did you know?” Elise asks her best friend. They stand beneath the overhang of the brick-walled dormitory. “Did you know that Cellular Biology in 1216 Robertson Hall is taught by a dragon?”
“What makes you think I’ve ever taken a Cellular Biology class?”
“I think that I’m the only one who sees her,” Elise says, this bitter secret shivering at the depths of her throat, because she doesn’t just see the dragon. She dreams about the dragon, too: dreams where the too-large too-old too-beautiful creature has crafted a suit of dimpled skin and stretchmarks; where she ugly laughs to rom coms and wears jewels on her fake nails; where she takes her first dates to the pastry shop across town in case it goes poorly and only kisses you on the cheek so you can smell her Chanel perfume.
“Why don’t you ask her?” Elise’s friend asks, but no--no, no, no. After all, what if the dragon is real--actually real--or worse? What if she’s been a lie the whole time and beyond that bloodied corpse of the serpent that never was, all that’s left is a woman?
Lowry Poletti is a recent biology grad who specializes in wrangling month-old kittens and writing veterinary school applications. Their work, Reflected in Black Mirrors, appears in UNM’s Scribendi 2017 magazine. When they’re not writing short stories about humans seducing supernatural creatures, they’re working on their novel about a human seducing a supernatural creature. They live in South Jersey with their family, their leech Bowie, and their cat Louis (yes, after the vampire).