by Meagan Masterman
Meagan Masterman is a queer writer from Maine, living in Western Massachusetts. She was longlisted for the 2019 [PANK] Book Contest and shortlisted for the 2018 Metatron Prize. Her work has been featured in Ghost City, Maudlin House, and Heavy Feather. She edits Whiskey Tit Journal. Find her on Twitter @meaganmasterman or generally online at meaganmasterman.com.
Chelsea in Her Prisons (excerpt)
They lined up the bodies on the beach. Beneath a pine tree high up on a bluff, I watched the coast guard auxiliary drag young people over wet sand. The brutal wind kept knocking off the guards’ caps, their white hair whipping. The young people were limp and slumped and not helping the guards. It could’ve been civil disobedience, if not for the blue tint in their skin. The bloat was subtle now. It wouldn’t be subtle tomorrow, when the families started trickling in.
I scanned the bodies for a girl with red hair. Where was Mindy? Wet sand and death dulled everything. Her hair might look modular-housing-beige from up here. I prayed that Mindy was elsewhere, that she’d spent the night secluded with a new sweetheart and missed whatever tragedy left her friends dead.
The 40 or 50 members of her group came to the island because they believed the world could change for the better. I wished I could summon that kind of faith. I don’t think I ever had youthful optimism. At 27, I doubt it’s about to bloom.
The guards stretched the group’s banners on the sand—“Climate Action Now” and “Save Island Communities!” No one from the community had joined their protest. Not even myself. Now the guards laid the bodies on their banners. Neat rows of corpses, unlike the limb-entangled chaos they’d died in.
“Miss Raye! Miss Raye!” came a sharp voice behind me. Shit. Paparazzi. I always underestimate them. Like a fool, I figured that even though they’d come to Durbinville to snap photos of me—the infamous drugged-up, recently disgraced star—they’d flock to the beach and vulture themselves upon the tabloid-ready mass death. But of course it was even more sellable to catch a disgraced star at the scene of a mysterious mass death.
“Miss Raye! Do you have any comment on the suicides?”
“Suicides? What are you talking about? They couldn’t have ruled that this quickly,” I said, regretting conversing with the scum before me instantly.
It was Tom McGowan from Celebz.com. That rat-faced fucker. He’d upskirted me getting out of a limo at one of Laurel’s premiers. The crotch of my taupe panties were worth ten thousand dollars to him and twenty million hits to his employer. “Miss Raye, you really haven’t heard?” He waited for me to furrow my brow then blasted it with a high watt, yellow hued flash bulb that would wash out my skin and make me look dopesick.
“You son of a bitch. I’m not on drugs.”
He smirked. “Gloria, don’t you know about the people on that beach?”
I looked back at the scene. The flash bulb had burned black spots in my vision. “I don’t go by Gloria anymore,” I tipped my face toward the stars richly painted across the sky and waited for my eyes to clear. I thought of my final night in Los Angeles. The last day of my stardom with Desmond’s hands around my neck and the red haze of wildfires coloring the sky.“I’m not Gloria Raye. I’m not anybody. You’re wasting your time taking photos of me.”
“Then who are you?” Tom taunted.
He wasn’t going to leave me alone. I picked up my bike—half-rusted and the rest of it red. A bike bought by the poor girl I’d been back when this island was the only world I knew. “I’m Chelsea Tremblay again. She’s a nobody.”