Isabella Briggs


The last owner said, “Keep her.” 

“Her.” Not “it.” I didn’t give the word much thought at the time. But now, standing in the house with nothing but my boxes and furnishings, it hits me. They didn’t leave anything. If a piece of furniture wasn’t nailed down, it was gone. From where I stand near the door I can see a few appliances in the kitchen, but the cavernous entryway is eerily quiet and completely empty. So why didn’t they want the painting? And why did they call it a ‘her?’

Yes, the painting is of a girl, sort of. An almost girl. A doll, really, but it has so much detail it could be real. I find myself staring at her—I shake my head. At it. I find myself staring at it: Blonde curls, blue-grey eyes, a light daffodil yellow dress decorated with bows and lace, a string of pearls around her neck. The ornate golden frame and murky dark background accentuate the warm colors and her features. She’s exquisite. Truly a sight to behold. I can’t stop myself from reaching a finger to brush against her porcelain—no, her painted skin. But the paint feels like porcelain beneath my fingertips. It is—smooth. So smooth. Like she is real, or as real as a doll can be. 

My fingers drift to the satin dress, the feathery lace, it’s all real. Why did I ever think it wasn’t? Gemma is real and always has been. Gemma. The name rolls off my tongue as if I am referring to a friend. A family member. Someone I have known all my life. 

There’s a twinkle in her silvery blue eyes. 


One week later I drop the old set of keys into a younger woman’s hand. I have successfully removed all my things from the house. She catches me on my way out the mansion’s looming front door for the final time. 

“Um, excuse me, miss? Don’t you want the painting?” She asks kindly, her eyes drifting in Gemma’s direction before looking back at me. I simply shake my head. 

“Keep her.” 


Je ne sais quoi

In the town of Hodder, Maryland the most popular local show is a cooking show staring celebrity chef Kane Hart. But he holds a dark secret, he is a cannibal. He has captured and eaten almost a dozen people but has not been caught yet. Two of the biggest fans of his show are two friends Tom and Quinn. One day Kane announces that he is doing a meet and greet at a local restaurant. Quinn goes to meet him but Tom stays home due to an overprotective mother fearing something will happen to him since there’s an unidentified serial killer on the loose. Quinn gets abducted by Kane, taken to his house and eaten. When Tom learns about her disappearance he gets his friend Maya and they conceive a plan find evidence that Kane killed Quinn. They go to is next meet and greet and they both get abducted. Once they are tied up in Kane’s house they manage to escape and grab as much unused meat they can find to prove that Kane is a murderer. Kane chases after them to prevent them from escaping and is greatly wounded by Maya sticking a meat cleaver in his shoulder. They both manage to escape and run to the police to prove the heinous acts that Kane committed are true.