Tuesday, February 21, 2017


BY Darren Webb

Orville lived a solitary life. He roomed at Ms. Fieldings boarding house, in a room on the top floor at the back of
the stairs. He had a separate entrance, which always shrouded his comings and goings in much secrecy. The children who lived in the neighborhood said you always knew when Orville was near for the foul whispering in the air that always followed him, like hushed crowds speaking in angry, muted tones.

Orville worked as an operator on the overnight shift at the newly founded telephone company. The work allowed him to have contact with people without having to physically be in their presence. But, the foul whispers always enveloped him. When he would answer a call at his switchboard to connect a grandparent to their grandchild or a sweetheart to propose marriage to his long distance love, the people on the other end of the line were always subjected to the murmur of voices, uttering horribly vile words. Orville would make the connection for the customers as quickly as he could and then disconnect his line for fear that someone would think it was he who spoke such horrid words.

In a way, the words were Orville's, for where most people have pores in their skin, Orville had in place of each pore, an almost imperceptible, drooling mouth. Minuscule teeth, tongue and tonsils that were all capable of audible speech, but only speech in the most low, whispering of tones. To add to Orville's horror, the mouths never said things like, "How are you this fine day", or "My you look particularly well rested", instead the mouths only spoke in single words, the most vile and repugnant known to civilized man, words that would make even the hardiest and most stout sailor wilt with distress.

Once a woman who called Orville's switchboard asking to be connected to the local orphanage so that she and her barren husband might adopt an unwanted child, became so overwhelmingly distressed by the verbal assault of Orville's mini-mouths, that she passed out from shock. Her irate husband picked up the phone from his fallen wife's hand, heard Orville's mini-mouths filling the line with verbal atrocities, all the while Orville himself trying to offer an unheard apology. The angry husband promised to inflict bodily harm onto Orville should they ever have the chance to encounter one another in a dark alley. This type of misunderstanding occurred often and sometimes the beatings in dark alleys did indeed occur.

At the end of his shift, soaked in what seemed to others to be sweat but, was in actuality, saliva from the drooling million mini-mouths and before the town would awaken, Orville would skulk back to his room on the top floor at the back of the stairs. Once inside his room, door locked, window shades drawn closed, Orville would strip out of his saliva soaked clothes and submerge himself in a scolding hot bath filled with bleach. He would stay under water as long as he could until his lungs would betray him, then burst to the surface, the million mini-mouths gasping for air, the abrasive water burning his skin. This was Orville's way of letting them know how he felt about their existence. Once they regained their composure, the mouths would assail him with their toxic lullaby of hateful notes. Orville would gradually drift off to sleep, knowing he would always be alone.

One Monday night, toward the beginning of his shift at the switchboard, Orville received a call from a young lady, who spoke in a very sweet, yet surprisingly loud voice. She very politely asked if he could connect her to the local bakery, for she would like to order a cake for her birthday celebration that was to take place at the end of the week, promptly at 2:36 on Sunday afternoon. Despite the young woman shouting into the phone, Orville found her voice to be warm and all enveloping. He felt as though one does when wading through a shallow stream during the spring bloom, a sense of joy, nostalgia and tranquility.

Orville was overcome and stammered in trying to find the words to reply, but his mini-mouths did not hesitate. They sensed Orville's longing and began to chant a stream of intolerable words of malice. The sweet, yet stentorian voice on the other end of the line asked Orville if he wouldn't mind speaking louder since she was quite hard of hearing. Orville laughed aloud, not at the young woman's hearing impairment, but because of his realization that she could NOT hear his mini-mouths and their putrid cascade of insults. He was beside himself with joy, for finally, this was the one person who would be immune to the verminous gossip that his pores produced.

Orville and the young woman spoke for hours and hours that first night and each successive night that week, their connection was mutual and adoring. At the end of that Saturday night's conversation, Orville asked if he might deliver her birthday cake in person so that they might meet and celebrate the day of her birth with a lovely cup of tea and a generous slice of white chocolate truffle cake. The young woman on the other end of the line was overjoyed, but a bit nervous, for they'd never yet seen one another. Orville's warm conversation, kind nature and sincere desire to be with her, won her over and she agreed to allow him to deliver the cake for her birthday.

That night, Orville had the most blissful sleep of his life, the voices of his mini-mouths totally drowned out by his excitement over the prospects of a new life a rebirth. He dreamt happy dreams that night in anticipation that his loneliness had finally come to and end at last, but it was not to be.

The next morning Orville woke early, dressed in his finest suit and was completely oblivious to his million mini- mouths cursing and gnashing away. At 12 noon he proudly strode down the busy main street to the bakery, selected the most ornate and delicate white chocolate truffle cake in the shop, had it boxed ever so beautifully. Orville was oblivious to people's adverse reaction to the cloud of cursing whispers that enveloped him, as he made his way to the edge of town to the large house on the hill, where the young woman with the loud voice had told him that she would be waiting.

The house was enormous, completely white and pristine with pink and purple trimming, looking itself like a giant cake. Orville's pores, poured forth their foul murmurings endlessly, but he paid them no notice. He arrived at the giant double front door and a formal butler answered before he could even knock. He directed Orville to follow him to a dimly lit, grand study that was adorned with balloons and streamers. A table dressed in the center of the room, set up for tea for two. Orville was instructed to wait there with his cake.

As the butler took his leave, he glanced back at Orville pausing slightly at the oddly foul cloud of voices surrounding Orville. Three more male servants joined the butler as he whispered suspiciously to them as they all left Orville alone in the room amid his cloud of whispering atrocities.

The study itself was adorned with rich tapestries, exquisite paintings, all quite grand compared to Orville's modest room at the back of the stairs in Mrs. Fielding's Boarding house. He waited and waited, when he suddenly noticed a mantle clock's second hand was about to strike 2:36, when the doors to the study opened and carried in on a settee by the butler and the 3 other powerful male servants was the young lady with the sweet, yet loud voice. From her appearance she must have weighed 800 pounds if she were an ounce. Adorned with silk ribbons and bows, showered in lace, gently gliding in on the straining backs of the butlers, Orville thought that her loveliness put all of the fine art in this grand house to utter shame, for he had never, ever felt like this before. Fate, destiny, love, compassion overwhelmed his entire being and his monstrous mini-mouths could feel it too.

As Orville approached his angel, the one who would rescue him from his lonely, aching life, his mini-mouths shrieked their vicious, mutilating words louder than ever before, desperate to shred Orville's chance at happiness, covering him in saliva, so he looked as though he'd just stepped out of a steam bath, dripping wet.

The mini-mouths strained and screamed as hard as they could, much to the disdain of the servants who could clearly hear
the vile words surrounding Orville but, still unclear of their origin. Orville set down the box with the birthday cake gently on the table as though it were an offering to a goddess, then haltingly took the hand of the young woman in front of him. They peered into one another's sad eyes, when Orville paused for a moment before speaking, still shrouded in the swirling haze of expletives from his mini-mouths, which went blissfully unheard by the woman in front of him. But the million mouths would not let his happiness be.

In the instant that Orville opened his mouth to speak, the mini-mouths all inhaled a deep breath and fell silent. Orville opened his mouth and instead of speaking the loving words he'd been practicing all night, all the day, all the walk over to meet his darling, instead of those words came the hateful, vile words that had surrounded him his whole life! They came pouring, blaring and involuntarily from his very own mouth! The sweet young woman's face recoiled in horror. The servants so wary of Orville from the start, descended upon him and violently dragged him from the house, his beloved, his salvation and cast him out into the street for his shocking cruelty. None of them understanding that
it wasn't Orville at all, but the million vicious mini-mouths.

He sat in a motionless stupor for hours, while the million mini-mouths laughed, and laughed and laughed as he just stared up at that house as the sun slowly retreated and another night settled in.

Orville stumbled home, covered in a haze of those cursed, taunting voices from his own pores. He climbed the back stairs to his room, threw open the door, did not bother to pull down the shades, disrobed and drew a scolding hot bath. The mini-mouths knew it was time for their punishment. Orville grabbed the 13 bottles of bleach off the shelf and dumped them all into the scalding water. Then he grabbed a wire scouring pad and lowered himself into the boiling water. His phone began to ring, but he let it be. Once submerged in the water, Orville began to scrub himself with the wire pad as fast and a hard as he could.  The million mini-mouths cried out in pain as the milky water turned pink, then deep red. The mouths shrieked, the phone rang and Orville laughed and laughed and laughed, until all was quiet. 


So, in starting this writing project, I've been posting each month's story on a public Facebook page which you can find and follow here:

But, since it turns out lots of people on the interwebs do not have Facebook accounts, I'm thinking I may start a separate blog just for the 13 Stories series.  In any case, I thought I'd post the first two stories on here in the hope of reaching a broader audience.  Thanks for having a read.

by Darren Webb

In a small New England town, very early in the last century, during the month of October, when the colorful leaves had begun their migration to the ground as the breath of winter approached, Stephan and his wife Louisa welcomed into the world their first and only child, a daughter that they named, Hortensia.

They noticed something different about Hortensia the moment she arrived, her skin was not pink as other babies they'd seen but, totally transparent so as to allow all who looked upon her to view her internal organs and bones. At first poor Louisa thought that her precious child had been born inside out and passed out from the shock. The doctor assured the new parents that despite her appearance Hortensia was indeed, right side out and that as unusual as this was, her skin should acquire its correct pigmentation as she grew. The doctor was correct, almost. Hortensia did grow as all children do but, he was not correct about her skin, for it remained as clear as glass. She also remained completely bald.

While Hortensia was an infant, her parents would always keep her bundled up under layers of clothes and blankets to hide her from prying eyes. But as it reached time for her to attend school, there were few options left. Her mother covered her as best she could with high button collars on her dresses, long knickerbockers down to her shoes, a large tight bonnet wound tightly around her head to keep her bright orange wig in place and delicate lace gloves shielding her hands. This left only Hortensia's face exposed, which could not be hidden beneath layers of clothing. Instead her mother would apply a rather liberal coat of make up, disguising her transparent skin the best she could. The result of all of this made Hortensia resemble a living porcelain doll.

The children at school thought Hortensia a bit odd for all the clothes she would wear, whether it be winter or summer, but for a while the disguise worked. Then one day, a fierce wind and rain storm began during Hortensia's walk to school. By the time she had arrived, her bonnet and wig had blown away and all of her makeup had dissolved in the rain. When she walked into the classroom, her bald head transparent for all to see, her teacher and classmates alike were dumbstruck.

One of the girls vomited up the oatmeal and toast she'd had for breakfast. A boy grew weak with horror and passed out, falling into several other screaming students, all of them ending up on the ground shrieking in terror. Hortensia's teacher thought she had been in a terrible accident and called for the doctor, despite Hortensia's attempts to assure them all that she was quite alright. When the doctor and Hortensia's parents arrived it was indeed confirmed that she had not been in a terrible, disfiguring accident, she was simply transparent.

Despite being assured that Hortensia was normal in every other way except one, the other children did not like to be around her. They began to call Hortensia, "The Glass Girl" and repeatedly smacked her with pointy sticks to see if she would break like glass. She did not break, but she was broken hearted. Hortensia thought that maybe as she grew older people would begin to get use to the sight of her. They did not. The teacher would often have Hortensia stand in front of the class and use her as a living diagram during biology lessons. If it was the correct time of day, one could see Hortensia's body digesting her lunch. A truly unique lesson, but not one that made Hortensia feel at all like a normal girl.

One day Hortensia could take no more. She packed up a small bundle and when she left for school that morning, she kept on walking and did not return home that night.

At the end of her first day walking toward what she hoped would be a better life, she came upon a carnival, which had a Bearded Lady, a Strong Man and an acrobatic set of Conjoined Twins. Hortensia watched as crowds of spectators eagerly swarmed to see these very unique people. As she watched the crowds applaud and cheer, she thought, this is where she belonged, a place where she could be happy and accepted. Hortensia found the Barker in charge of the carnival and informed him that she should like to be a part of the show and join his troupe of wonderfully unique people. Not seeing what was so unique about Hortensia, he refused and said she should go back home. Hortensia took a deep breath and removed her clothes and wig and stood in front of the Barker in all her transparency. The Carnival Barker fought back the urge to be sick, then quickly realized how famous he would become with Hortensia, The Glass Girl, in his show. He showered her with compliments, apologized for not recognizing her uniqueness sooner and invited her to join the show as the star attraction. Now, Hortensia thought she would be happy, but it was not to be.

The Carnival Barker kept Hortensia hidden from the other performers until it was time to unveil The Glass Girl to the adoring crowds.
The Strong Man lifted much weight mightily, The Bearded Lady wove her whiskers into intricate patterns and the Conjoined Twins performed acrobatics one would have thought impossible for two people joined at the hip. The crowd loved them all. But, when the Barker brought out Hortensia, The Glass Girl a solemn hush fell over the crowd and other performers alike. Hortensia removed her cloak and stood before the world, transparent.

The onlookers watched as her lungs inhaled and exhaled, her heart beat rapidly and her stomach churned in anticipation. The Crowd roared their amazement. Cheering and applauding they threw silver coins upon the stage in approval of the shocking and bizarre sight that the Barker had provided. Hortensia smiled as she basked in the approval and acceptance.

When the show was over, the money collected and the crowds gone, Hortensia went to introduce herself to her fellow performers. Upon entering their tent, she saw the Bearded Lady remove her artificial whiskers, the Strong Man deflate his pretend weights and the Conjoined Twins unzip their costume and step apart like the two distinct and separate individuals that they in actuality were. Hortensia was stunned. They weren't like her at all. Upon seeing Hortensia, the now Un-Bearded Lady shirked in terror. The Not-so-Strong Man and the Dis-Joined Twins spoke very harshly and most unpleasantly to Hortensia. She found herself more of an outcast then she ever thought she could be.

Hortensia ran from the tent, away from the carnival for as fast and as long as she could, racing through the night forest, branches scratching at her cloak, tearing pieces from it as she ran and ran and ran, until she collapsed into a bramble of bushes, unconscious from exhaustion.

She lay there unmoving and barely breathing for hours, when a Hunter and his son came upon her in early hours of morning. Seeing her lay there in the dim light of dawn, her internal organs exposed, and her cloak torn to shreds, they thought the poor girl lying in front of them must have been the unfortunate victim of a wolf attack and so, they buried her in a carefully dug grave among the brambles where she lay, Hortensia so exhausted she never woke.
As they were about to leave, the Hunter noticed a plant that bore round, delicate, transparent buds, that looked like silver coins growing next to Hortensia's resting place. He removed a handful of the dried, glass like buds, opened the fragile pods and removed the seeds within. From that day forward, he would plant one seed each year to the day, in honor of the poor, unclaimed girl they'd found in the woods that early morning.