Dangerous by Sandra Kishi Glenn Page A

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Authors: Sandra Kishi Glenn
blur to the head, creating a frenzied violence in an otherwise static pose. With a little vignetting and color-adjustment, the finished piece felt both claustrophobic and menacing.
    The next one, Auto-Matron , started with some random browsing for pale, naked goth girls. I would have used a nude photo of Val, but she hadn’t yet allowed such a thing, so I had to make do. Fortunately I only needed the torso, from waist to neck, so it didn’t have to be an exact match. What I found was an image of a slim, slightly muscular goth girl with light blue veins crisscrossing her arms and chest. She stood facing the camera with one arm behind her back. The other hand clutched a long pendant, pulling it slightly to the side.
    I painted out the pendant and gave her hand a new purpose: peeling open her skin to revel an outlandish bio-mechanical clockwork mechanism. Within that milky flesh were cogs of gristle and bone bound by sinew in a grotesque analog of a pocket watch’s innards. The largest gear, seen partially from behind the curtain of epidermis, had several broken teeth. Fluid the color of oil ran thickly from her nipples.
    Tiny, indecipherable call-outs pointed to various features inside the woman, in a style recalling the mysterious Voynich Manuscript. The final result was a exploded view of an impossible living machine.
    Doll , the third image, took the longest. I couldn’t find the right base images, so I was forced to do more actual painting, from scratch. I borrowed liberally from the style of Mark Ryden, an artist Val adored, whose unsettling paintings corrupted the innocence of children’s picture-books with darkly sexual, morbid undercurrents.
    Of the three pieces, this image was the clearest in my mind. I saw a little girl in a black dress, huddled in a dirty corner of her untidy bedroom. The bruise on her cheek suggested she was a victim of abuse. In one hand she held a small doll, dressed much like herself. The doll’s left arm had been torn off, but her right was extended to wipe a tear from the little girl’s cheek. The girl did not seem to notice this gesture, as she stared directly at the viewer with a sullen, hostile expression.
    I worked on that image for a week, only to start again entirely from scratch. I hadn’t done any real painting in a decade and found I was painfully rusty. But the second try came out better. Not as good as Ryden, not by a long shot, but good enough to show.
    When I finished the third piece I put all three on a spare flash drive and tucked it in my purse, ready for the next time I saw Val.
    Meanwhile, in the real world…
    During the first week of Val’s absence I received only one email from her. The time-stamp said 4am, her time, and I knew she was working late.
    I still had no clue what Val did for a living, but it was obviously stressful. More than once she hinted that mistakes on her part could put other people’s lives in jeopardy, but I took that to be exaggeration. Still, she sometimes worked as long as 72 hours at a stretch, with only catnaps for sleep. During such crunches she’d call in the wee hours of the morning, and I’d help her stay awake as she pounded on an unseen keyboard. In such times, the stress and lack of sleep made her uncharacteristically silly and random, which only made Val scarier.
    Anyway, this particular email read:
Rejoice in your happy, simple life. On days like today, nothing would please me more than seeing the world in flames. Humans are idiots, especially the ones I must deal with. But enough of my complaining.
I am pleased to report that Millie will be flying back to Los Angeles soon. Expect to see her again.
    I felt a stab of anxiety. My one encounter with Millie at the party had been difficult, competitive. Now that I was officially a doll, I couldn’t imagine how we’d interact.
    Valentine’s Day came and went. I didn’t send Val anything, not even a greeting, because that holiday didn’t seem to apply to

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