A Short Story About An Art Project | Melusine by Debb Bouch

A little bit of Cleaning magic can work wonders. Like real, actual wonders…


Short Story About An Art Project


By Debb Bouch

For the Animate Material Contest




Three capfuls of Cleaning Magic should do it. Mrs O’Halloran sloshed the mixture around the dirty stockroom. She just managed to avoid the pile of things in the middle of the floor.

“That’s me done for today, Mr Harris,” she called out. “Got to fly now.”

She left in a flurry of headscarf, sensible shoes and jangling keys.

“Thanks,” Mr Harris spoke to the empty air, then turned back to his customer.

“What can I get you, Madam?”

Natalie listed off glow sticks, Plaster of Paris, barbed wire and hazard tape, preferably yellow and black.

“I can do most of those. Not sure about the barbed wire. Let me go and check.”

He went through into the stockroom, sighing as he saw Mrs O’Halloran’s heap. No chance of finding it in that.

I…I…I am. Again.

Melusine stretched. The soggy packaging restricted her movements. As she stretched, the packaging tore and her barbs scratched along the shelf.

Out of the corner of his eye, Mr Harris saw something move. He heard ripping, then scratching. He whirled back to the shelves but there was nothing there. Nothing except a dusty packet of barbed wire, lying in a puddle of Cleaning Magic.

“Found some,” he called back through the open door. He picked the package up. Melusine drove her fangs into his thumb and sucked hard.

Thirsty, so thirsty. Must drink.

Mr Harris staggered back into the shop. He flung the packet of wire down onto the counter and sucked his thumb.

“Damn thing bit me. You’ll wear gloves when you use it, yes?”


A crowd of people waited outside the locked hall. The janitor should have opened up earlier, but he hadn’t. Professor Naismith hurried over with a key. Parents and well wishers pushed past, keen to see the students’ final pieces. The professor followed them in. He frowned noticing a canvas shoe half concealed beneath Natalie’s work. Worse, there was a splatter of dried brown spots on the floor. Mud or something? Where was that dratted janitor?

I am. Every little I consume strengthens me, helps me grow. My coils brighten, as I throw off the dust of ages. The human who freed me from my wrappings has draped me around her strange construction. I honour her compassion and will not feed on her.

The hack from the local paper approached the professor.

“Security Blanket is quite the piece isn’t it? She’s captured the horror of war without resorting to masses of gore. Look at how it draws the crowd. You must be proud, Professor!”

“Hmm…You understand, the students decide how they want to interpret the brief. I have to say Security Blanket makes me shudder. And I’m sure the barbed wire was rustier when Natalie first constructed the piece.”

The Professor is wise. He senses what others cannot. Soon he’ll send the people away and close the exhibition for the night. But there is always tomorrow.



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