The latest issue of Apex Magazine is out, and it includes Genevieve Valentine's fantastic story "Armless Maidens of the American West." Valentine's story takes place in a small town, with a diner and a golf course... and a mysterious woman with no arms, out in the woods. Valentine shows us how the presence of the "armless maiden" affects the entire town, and what happens when outsiders come to ask about her. Soon enough, you start to realize that the armless maiden is just one of many things that nobody ever talks about.
Here's how the story begins:
There's an armless maiden in the woods beyond the house.
She doesn't wail or weep the way you'd think a ghost or a grieving girl would. Her footsteps are heavy-sometimes she loses her balance-but that's the only way to hear her coming.
It happens in plenty of time that you can grab the bucket of golf balls you're collecting (the golf course buys them back for beer money) and get out of the woods before she reaches you.
If you do see her, it's because you lingered when the others ran, and you hid behind the largest oak, the one you and your dad once built a fort under, and waited for her.
The first thing you see is that her hair is loose. That strikes you as the cruelest thing, that whoever did this to her couldn't show even enough mercy to fasten her hair back first, and cast her into the forest with hair so long and loose that it's grown into corded mats down her back. The knots at the bottom are so twisted and so thick they look, when she's moving, like hands.
(No, you think, that's the cruelest thing.)
But her face is clean, as these things go. You imagine her kneeling beside the creek that runs all the way out past the golf course, dipping her face in the water.
There are dark stains down the sides of her dress, all the way to the ground, where she bled and bled and did not die after they cut her arms off at the shoulders.
The armless maiden has hazel eyes, or maybe brown.
She says, "Hello."
Read the rest over at Apex Magazine.