Monday, December 12, 2011

Drop Dead Gorgeous - Flash Fiction

Eliza's story was one of a thousand; good family, prospective husband in the form of a neighboring farmer's son.  Along came a handsome soldier, with every intention of keeping her, whether as wife of mistress we will never know.  Having run off with him in the dead of night, and succumbed to his charm and his uniform, she soon found herself stranded in London lodgings when his regiment was posted overseas.

There were no positions anywhere. The city was overcrowded, filled with ex-soldiers, ex-shopgirls, ex-maidservants, subsisting on gin and what adulterated foodstuffs could be had for pennies.  The gaols were filled with "disorderly girls" awaiting Transportation To Parts Beyond the Seas or death for stealing the master's silver.

Eliza was determined not to join the ranks of the prostitutes, currently being driven like cattle by peace officers from the city into the outskirts and back again. To lift her skirts in a filthy alley - no, she would rather seek solace in the Thames with the others who washed up with unremarked regularity. With the little money remaining, Eliza determined to win her way back into the world by the one avenue which remained - turning the tables and compelling a man to succumb to her charms instead. A trip to the linendrapers produced enough goods (both bought and secreted beneath her petticoats) to fabricate an emerald-shaded gown worthy of looks, sighs - and with any luck, invitations.

The current craze for all things green (particularly Scheele's)* suited Eliza admirably, with her brilliant red hair swept high and a few loose ringlets fetchingly arranged so as to draw the eye to her bosom.  When she appeared at her cousin's birthday ball, every woman's tongue wagged and every man's gaze was fixed on her luminous eyes - or perhaps, a smidgen below.  All were willing to to dance, of course, but most attempted to take liberties with the fallen woman so happily appearing in their very dull midst. It appeared that the only invitations forthcoming would be in secret gardens rather than back alleyways. The dress was successful in one respect;  it worked its vengeance upon the male guests (although exacting its toll on the wearer as well) while they danced together in a poisonous cloud.  As Eliza swooned in the heat and disappointment, the men's eyes reddened and their heads pounded. An early departure was in order for most;  they wrapped up well, sealing in the arsenic particles for their families at home to enjoy. 

As for Eliza, she and the dress were welcomed and soothed to sleep by Father Thames, who gathers all of his children to him no matter what their station in life, and renders them all equal in the end.

* The colour green was a craze in Victorian England, and was used in clothing, wallpaper, paint, beauty compounds, toys, and other everyday objects. Scheele's Green contained arsenic, a highly toxic compound; painted on surfaces, or used to dye fabrics, it gave off dust particles that could be inhaled.

Sample flash fiction


  1. Poor Eliza. Damn those men for only wanting one thing of a red tressed (and well proportioned) woman. Really nice piece, Li...wish she didn't have to go this route, nor the lifting of skirts either.

  2. Dang, I was so hoping she got her revenge. Another great piece of fiction my dear. Hope your tooth is better. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  3. Nicely done. Exceptionally creepy for a short, non-paranormal story.

  4. Gorgeous story and fascinating piece of history!

  5. What a sad ending!

    I take it you still have toothache and decided to take it out on poor Eliza?

  6. Great tale! I've learned something new, as well.

  7. Interesting information on the green dye.

    Oh, I was rooting for Eliza. Sad indeed.

  8. @Stu - you know how men are ;-) Actually, more a commentary on how men viewed a "fallen" woman back in those times: fair game, and no need to be a gentleman.

    @Jules - thank you! 7 days later and FINALLY the area where the tooth was pulled is relatively healed.

    @Rick - thanks :-) Real life can be as creepy as paranormal - sometimes worse.My Mom always said to be more afraid of the living than the dead.

    @Alex - afraid so. Unfortunately, far too many women - many of the pregnant - did end up in the Thames.

    @Tricia - I've always been fascinated with both Victorian times and the Industrial Revolution.

    @Mask - :-)) Noooo, i just thought I would stay more true-to-life in this piece. And I do feel better tooth-wise, thanks!

    @Thingy - cool, I love to use little-known info to tweak the readers' curiosity.

    @Mary - I may bring Eliza back for a little haunting some day :-))
    Yes, I found that tidbit about Scheele's green fascinating - there's some speculation that the brilliant green wallpaper in Napoleon's room (during exile) contributed to his death - his body was found to have high levels of arsenic.

  9. I never knew green was so intresting

  10. Oooh...interesting bit of history. Great story, you amaze me at how much you can draw me in, with such a short tale. I was hoping she'd get what she sad.

  11. Awesome story and fascinated by the way you incorporated the piece of history. not much has changed since the Victorian times in the attitudes of men, just that the ladies don't seek the Thames but other avenues.

  12. Informative & entertaining piece.
    Scheele's green - first time I've come across this particular shade... oh, and thanks for the history lesson!

  13. Excellent story Li. I didn't know the tidbits about arsenic either. Interesting.


  14. Strange outcome to another very well written story.

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