They called me Jenny and smiled when I walked into the room. I smiled too and sank down into the welcoming purple armchair in the living room, mesmerized by their sparkly broaches. Everyone kept laughing amongst themselves, talking about the days when they all knew each other so well. I thought that Jenny sounded like my name, or at least at one point I had responded to it, but it didn’t feel right anymore. I felt like I had all of Jenny’s memories and opinions, and that I looked like her, but I wasn’t her. The purple velvet was soft and warm, and I could remember that one time twenty years ago when Uncle Bill had sat in this chair and played his guitar for me and my brother.
Uncle Bill set his bright glass of gin and tonic, ice cubes twinkling, down on the mahogany table and walked over to stand next to my chair. He didn’t look like I remembered, but I knew it was him all the same. I saw one of the ladies with a blinding broach and bug eyes glance at him quickly and then laugh to the woman next to her. Uncle Bill had always been the black sheep of the family. When we were kids, we heard that Uncle Bill had lived his first few years alone in the Siberian wilderness with the wolves, and that he still ate raw meat in his house, alone. This couldn’t have been true, but all the same Uncle Bill had this feral air around him, an air of mystery. I had always liked Uncle Bill because he was like me, or rather I was like him. I was glad for his company as he stood, stoically, next to my chair.
About the rest of the people in the room, there were maybe ten women all in brocade jackets and glittering spectacles. I didn’t recognize any of them. Some had feathers in their hair, others were wearing the big hats that the society women wear to the Kentucky Derby. Each woman wore a huge diamond broach right above her left breast. I could see that all of the broaches were giant bugs encrusted with diamonds and emeralds, with ruby eyes. The woman closest to Uncle Bill and me wore a giant praying mantis. She dug her black patent leather pumps into the lush red rug as she spoke to another woman and stroked her slivery hair with long nails, each bearing a tiny portrait of Neitzshce. The bug’s eyes glinted at me menacingly each time she laughed. Almost everything in the room was patterned, lavishly. The wall paper was a labyrinth of celtic knots and succulent flowers, and even the mahogany table was engraved with an elaborate rose. I was at once repelled and fascinated by the women in all of their finery and broaches. I looked up to see that Uncle Bill was wearing a broach too, but his wasn’t encrusted. His broach was what looked to me like a taxidermy mouse, right where a pocket square should go. It was gray and frozen forever in a sweetly inquisitive pose.
I suddenly felt horribly self conscious and reached down to straighten my skirt. To my surprise, I found that I was wearing no clothes at all. I felt my chest to see if I had on a brocade jacket or broach like the rest of the ladies, but I did not. I had just assumed that I was wearing a broach and jacket of my own. I glanced at Uncle Bill, who had just been approached by one of the bug broach women and was nodding gently as she spoke. No one seemed disturbed that I was utterly exposed, in fact no one seemed to notice me except for Uncle Bill.
I reached up and pulled his shirt sleeve, “Hey, Uncle Bill?” I whispered, “ Should I be wearing a broach and a jacket like all of the other women?”
Uncle Bill looked down at me and so did his mouse. I tried to look Uncle Bill in the eyes, but I just couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t look Uncle Bill in his big blue saucer eyes, so I looked at the mouse. He didn’t say anything and just walked away to stand in the far corner of the room, next to a brass lamp with deer embroidered on the lampshade. I stared out of the window, wishing that I could leave. The trees outside looked gray and old. Suddenly it began to rain. The rain flashed and slapped the trees with a force that seemed impossible. It soon became apparent, as the rain banged on the roof, that it was not rain at all, but a torrent of glittering bug broaches falling from the sky. They stuck to the trees and to the roof and to the surface of the lake in the distance. I tried to imagine how the real bugs felt about all of this.
I sank deeper into the purple chair and bit my lip, rubbing the velvet anxiously. All at once the bug broach women got up out of their various seating positions and came over to my chair. They smiled and licked their lips and their broaches stared at me. I was completely surrounded by broaches and brocade. I wished that one of the broach women would say something, anything. The only audible noise was the thunk of a bug broach outside attaching itself to a sliver of gray bark. I felt trapped, like an exotic bird in a cage, although I was definitely not the most exotic thing in the room. I was really less of an exotic bird in a cage, and more of a bird-sized person in a cage surrounded by human-sized exotic birds. I desperately wanted to leave. I glanced about for Uncle Bill, but he was not there. I felt the purple armchair sucking me in, and I struggled fiercely. Meanwhile, the bug broach women had formed a complete circle around my chair.
In a sudden burst of energy, I jumped out of my chair and pushed the woman closest to me to the ground. Her black patent leather heels shone like beetles on the red, red rug. I ran over her in my bare feet, her bug broach sticking to the bottom of my sole. Desperate, I turned around to see the rest of the broach women helping the other up. I clenched my fists and clambered on to the table, spilling Uncle Bill’s drink on the lavish pillows and upholstery of the sofa. It soaked into the tassels of a needlepoint pillow lying slightly askew. The bug broach women started to move towards the table, laughing and stroking their hair. Terrified, I vaulted myself from the table into the window, crashing through the glass and raining down glittering shards onto the already glittering yard, by now entirely covered in bug broaches. As soon as I landed outside, the broaches started to stick to my body. My feet stuck to the lawn and I felt my arms cementing into place with the weight of a thousand diamond bugs. I opened my mouth to cry out for Uncle Bill, but the broaches fell into me and filled my body. Soon, I was nothing but a crystal cocoon, totally coated in a thick layer of terrible glittering bugs. By then, my eyes were covered in diamond and I could no longer see. I couldn’t think anymore, it felt as if my brain was nothing but a huge, cold bug broach.
I couldn’t see and I couldn’t move, but I could feel my body getting smaller. The broaches cracked and creaked as I shrunk, they melted and melded, shifted and sang. I could feel the delicate footsteps of one of the bug broach women crackling amongst the glass and jewels. I mustered up all of my strength and managed to crack open one of my eyelids. I saw the woman’s black patent leather heels stop in front of me. I felt a sudden warmth as her hand closed around me. She lifted me up to her face, and I could see her silvery spectacles glinting. As far as I could tell, it was still raining, but it didn’t look like the broaches were sticking to her. She moved her hand over her left breast and pinned me onto her brocade jacket. She walked back into the room and sat down on the couch, across from one of the other women.
“I just love your broach,” the other woman cooed, stroking me gently.
“Yes,” said my woman forcefully, “it’s new.”