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Where Are They Now

Where Are They Now

Harmony Neal

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King Adam—how boring, how nothing. Cringer has forgotten what it’s like not to feel fear. His hair comes out in mossy tufts when I try to comfort him during rainstorms. His body shakes, as it has since he was a kitten, but now his brittle bones are likely to fracture if I don’t calm him. My hands tremble now too.

Once my father was gone and my own hair graying, the Sorceress compelled me to give the Power Sword to Prince Randor. I’ve not much left to do but putter around the grounds and listen to the complaints of peasants about the neighbor’s pig who digs up the acacia bushes.

When news arrives that Skeletor is at it again, I reach for the sword that isn’t on my hip. Why is it that villains always outlive the hero?

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This is the ultimate triumph of evil over good. Evil never grows soft around the middle from too many bread puddings. Evil is a consuming passion. Evil does not cultivate the flowerbed or bounce a baby on its knee. Evil performs evil until the grave. Good passes on the responsibility of righteousness to the next generation, hands over the sword, and rests its bad knee, knowing the fight is eternal and must go on without him.

I watch the storm with Cringer huddled beneath my knees. I could still do so much. If only I’d thought to ask my father how he gave it all up, how he contented himself with being an administrator when before he’d been a hero. I scratch Cringer, scattering clouds of green fur that alight on the rug. When the storm ends, I must tend to the calla lilies for Teela, who cannot bend like she used to (how she used to bend!). In such small ways, I make myself useful still.

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No child has been to Care-a-lot in two decades. We thought Kevin and Donna would be back, that they’d send their children, but no. The new children clamber in the aisles. They don’t notice us, high on the shelf, nostalgia for mothers who sometimes reach a tired arm and squeeze our bellies. We are gifts for Christmas, hugged then stuck in the bottoms of boxes, under beds, in the backs of closets by blackened banana peels and softball gloves.

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We no longer watch them ride bikes and play foursquare. They are much harder to see inside, lights flickering across their blue faces. The children are frozen in place. Professor Coldheart has won. We tried to save Kevin and Donna’s children who, for a moment, paused in the sun, eyes stuck to blue screens in their palms. We geared up our belly beams for an urgent Caring Mission. The children looked up when our loving stare enveloped them, but instead of embracing our fuzzy bellies, they ran screaming indoors. Donna took them to the doctor, and now when they come outside, they stumble as if dazed.

Oh, the sweet children, how we miss them. We don’t know the lessons they learn now.

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Strumpets! Strumpets who already smell of glitter and sex, though smooth up top like little boys. They flaunt their training bras under low-cut shirts with phrases like “boy toy” etched across or intricately patterned silver butterflies, like tattoos, drawing the eyes to the nonexistent bosoms and up and across tiny necks, to rest on shoulders one could almost squeeze in a single palm.

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Already they’re leery of pies, wishing their wrists and waists to stay narrow. They will not touch dirt, cultivate a garden. They perch in front of mirrors, heating and combing their hair. They wind their ways through malls.

I cannot tempt innocence from someone born knowing, a woman already, who in the womb considered her body a chunk of wood to whittle, a temple of desire where hungry-eyed men would bow and burn offerings.

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Whether it started with Brainy or Jokey is hard to smurf. Brainy had the bright idea that the Smurfs weren’t producing enough goods for export, which was smurfing us from being a contender in the global marketplace. He smurfed a treatise for how we should be more like the Americans, or at least the Chinese. Jokey’s mistake was to smurf Brainy’s rambling on the internet.

The next thing we smurfed, the Americans came to smurf us from the totalitarian rule of Papa. They smurfed his hut, killing Papa, Smokey, and Philosopher Smurf. We had no weapons, so we didn’t smurf back. We could barely smurf what was happening, and without Papa there to guide us, we were seriously smurfed.

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They insisted we smurf free elections, but no one besides Brainy wanted to rule, so they talked Vanity into smurfing. We really smurfed Brainy by then, but Vanity was also not a smurfy candidate. With no real choice, we smurfed Vanity, hoping he would tell the Americans to smurf and stop smurfing Smurfette every night because we couldn’t smurf her anguished smurfs anymore.

When Vanity won, Brainy declared the elections had been smurfed. Then the Americans smurfed that Gargamel was most fit to rule, as the only person in a thousand smurfmiles with any smurf of money and how to smurf it. Smurfs came up missing by the dozen until the UN smurfed an investigation. By then, Gargamel had already smurfed that living Smurfs who could grow and harvest and package Smurfberries were worth much more than a hundred Smurfs turned to gold.

Satisfied that we were now smurfing the Americans with a steady stream of Smurfberries, the troops left, smurfing us with Gargamel as oversmurf. Azrael smurfs our ranks, slicing the face of any Smurf who doesn’t pluck berries fast enough.

They took Harmony’s trumpet. They took Vanity’s mirror, but since he’d been scratched for stopping to smurf his reflection in a drop of dew, that was probably for the best.

Brainy smurfs Gargamel’s army. He has a whip he smurfs on our backs when he smurfs the fields. He has smurfed Smurfette for his wife. Her hair is falling out in patches. She has smurfed three sons already. All of them smurf in the castle with Gargamel. The sons drink Smurfberry juice and occasionally smurf to the fields to smurf how capital is smurfed.

Harmony Neal is the 2011-2013 fiction fellow at Emory University. Her work is forthcoming or has recently been published in Grist, Yemassee, New Letters, Ninth Letter, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Cold Mountain Review. She spends her spare time playing with her dog, Milkshake, and growing poets in her home.

All rights reserved to Harmony Neal.

Illustrations by Alex Fukui.

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