Victoria Dalpe

The July Featured Writer is Victoria Dalpe

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by Victoria Dalpe

She is running on all fours, moving so fast that her feet barely brush the earth, she is nearly flying. Her heart chugs in her chest: a heavy, exhilarating beat in time with her footfalls.

The world is round, rounding around her, as if she is running on a spinning ball. The movement should be dizzying, but it isn’t. Round and round, so fast that her peripheral is just a blur of colors and shapes. She moves too fast for smells, and her ears are deafened to all but the wind.

When she jumps off the small round orb of earth, she flies, ricocheting across the sky, moving like a comet, streaking through space with the force of a bullet punching through the air. It feels like the most natural thing in the world.

Of course she can run until she flies.

Her heart swells with joy, a pure nirvana. She never wants to be tethered to the earth again. She wants to fly forever.

Her body is burning up with the speed, her legs are gone, her arms are gone and her torso has been whittled down to an aerodynamic shape. The planes of her face have smoothed. The wind no longer stings her eyes. She no longer has need for eyes.

And then there is nothing left of her but a small pointed sliver of flesh, a knife cutting through reality, her spirit, clings to what little remains and is dragged across the universe. It’s invisible and weightless, flapping and snapping like a flag in the wind.

She has burned down to a tiny sliver of bone, smaller than a fingernail, moving faster than light. Her spirit and awareness hang on still, growing larger as her earthly form shrinks. Now her body is the size of a pinky toenail, now an eyelash, now small enough to balance on the head of a pin...

And then she is nothing but spirit, still flying even without a vessel, her astral form amorphous and immense, expanding ever wider, a web, a net, a membrane of ether.

She has never felt so free.


A car honks and it startles Bette out of her reverie. She is standing in the center of the crosswalk, still as a statue. The light has changed.

She waves half-heartedly and gets to the sidewalk, her hands balled into fists, her mind millions of miles away. The memory of flying so acute that her body feels alien, the mere act of walking, one foot in front of the other, is exhausting. Has gravity always been this heavy? Has her body always felt this restrictive?

The street she is on should be more familiar than it is. She squints at the bodega—which looks like hundreds of others on hundreds of streets—and tries to attach any familiarity to it. Has she been in there before?

“Fuck,” she whispers and pinches the bridge of her nose.

A man catches her eye, relatively indifferent, but curious enough to look her way. He probably thinks I am crazy. Or on drugs.

Two blocks down she recognizes a blue door nestled between a threading salon and a hardware store. She stands on the stoop, her hand pressed to it, thankful.

It suddenly opens from within and she stumbles inside, startling the young man with the small dog on the other side.

“Whoa, you all right, Bette?” he says. He is handsome. His hair brown and a little shaggy. He is wearing jogging clothes. The small brown dog growls at her.

“You know me?” she says, testing her own voice, it sounds nasally in her head.

“Uh, yeah. It’s me Billy, I live across the hall from you?”

“Yeah, of course, sorry… I’m just very out of it.”

“Do you want help getting upstairs?” His eyes are a warm brown and they shine with genuine concern. He must be my friend, she thinks. The dog continues to growl. It is small enough to ignore.

He decides when she does not answer, closing the door with them both inside, and setting the little dog down. It throws itself at her shins growling and gnashing its tiny terrier teeth.

“Jesus, I’m sorry Bette, I have no idea what his problem is. Here let me get you upstairs. You have your keys?”

She just stares at him, savoring his kind words, and the quiet of the foyer. She almost feels safe.
He looks her up and down. “Where is your purse?”

She runs hands that feel like someone else’s over her body, patting, but there is nothing. No pockets. No purse. She is wearing a sleeveless dress, and nothing else. She is bare beneath it.

“Okay, no problem, I have your spare key. Let’s get you upstairs, okay?” He guides her up all the stairs. They are so steep. Each lift of her leg takes real effort. They ascend slowly, the dog nipping at her heels and growling the entire way.

Billy keeps shooting worried looks her way, his warm hand is on her back, it is a comfort. She would never have the strength to get up the stairs without him to help her.

He leaves her on the landing and disappears into his apartment where he puts the little dog inside. The small animal throws itself against the door, snarling and yipping. Billy smiles at her apologetically, trying to hide the concern in his eyes. Bette can sense it, though.

“Sorry about Ollie, he must be in a mood. Normally you two are the best of friends.”

“Are we?” Bette stares at his scuffed up apartment door, trying to imagine the tiny animal in there with any fondness. She cannot.

“Anyways, let’s get you inside. eh?” He dangles a key on a large heart keychain. “You kept locking yourself out remember? You were ringing my buzzer all the time. You would make me crawl up the fire escape and break into your place. I think it was the third time when I finally said, how about we just exchange keys? Remember?”

She did not remember, but liked the sound of his voice. Listening to him made her less aware of her body’s strangeness. He unlocked the door and turned on a light. She followed.

The apartment was both vaguely familiar and utterly foreign. She willed herself to remember. But she couldn’t. The small kitchenette was painted a garish magenta, and the sink was full of dishes. A small dinette table trembled under a weight of papers. An old sofa and television. Shoes stepped out of piled on the floor. Dead flowers in a vase of yellow water.

“It’s a bit stale in here. Let me get a window open. Come in, sit down.” Billy said.

She stepped further inside, looking and looking. Nothing.

Bette glances at the papers on the table. Bills, mostly. Credit cards, utilities, student loans. She realizes Billy is watching her.

“What’s going on Bette? Do you think you need a doctor? Did something happen? Did you get hurt… or are you on something?”

She cocks her head, letting the words filter through her head. Do I need a doctor? Did something happen? Did I get hurt? Am I on something? I don’t know.

“I can’t remember anything. Not you, not me. I just wanted to get home. But is this home?”

“Uh, yeah this is your home. Please sit down. Let me get you some water. You look… tired. Here, sit.” He hustles her to the sofa, his hands so warm on her arm. She sits. He puts a blanket around her shoulders.

“You are sweet.” She says to him.

He removes his hands and quickly steps away. He likes me, she thinks to herself. But she cannot remember him.

“So what do you last remember?” He roots around in her kitchen with familiarity.

Bette closes her eyes and strains. She tries to summon images of jobs or friends, of meals even. But all that remains is running so fast she could fly. Tears well in her eyes, she yearns to be so weightless and carefree again. Not weighted to the earth, not trapped in a stranger’s body.

“I could fly. I ran so fast and then I could fly. It was beautiful.”

He stared at her, his face worried, scared even, but he kept his expression as neutral as possible.

“Wow. And you are sure you did not take any drugs? Or maybe someone gave you something in a drink? And you didn’t know?”

“I don’t remember. When was the last time you saw me?”

Billy chews his lip and thinks.

“Had to be a few days ago. Today is Saturday. I think Tuesday night, yeah it was definitely Tuesday. I got back from walking Ollie, and you were coming in with those flowers,” He pointed to the wilted vase,  “And you had some groceries. I held the door for you and you invited me to have dinner. But I had plans. So we said good night.”

“Are we lovers?” Bette asks and Billy’s face goes red. He busies himself opening the fridge and staring in with deep concentration.

He pulled out some items and begins chopping, “We sort of dated and it was nice. Or I thought it was nice. You weren’t looking for anything serious. I think that was exactly what you said in fact.”

“But we are still friends?” Bette said.

“Yeah we are. Here eat this, you look really pale. Maybe it will help.”

Bette stares at the small plate of peanut butter on bread and cut apples with cheese. They’re artfully arranged and she’s again moved by his kindness, his carefulness, around her. She daintily takes a bite and moans with pleasure.

“I don’t remember when I last ate, but this is heaven, thank you.”

She voraciously devours the food while Billy watches, eyebrows raised. “Here drink the water.”

She guzzles it and he quickly fetches her more. With a full stomach and the blanket around her, she starts to feel more grounded in her body. Not comfortable, not weightless and powerful careening through space, but not terrible either.

“You don’t look like you were injured anyplace. Does your head hurt? Like maybe you hit it?” he asks.


“People don’t just get amnesia Bette. Even in soap operas something had to happen to them. Car accident, attempted murder. Where you hypnotized perhaps?”

She smirks and shakes her head no.

“I think we should go to the police. I think you may have been robbed. Someone may have filed a report, or seen something? Or the hospital for a CAT scan?”

“No. No… Billy, I will be fine.” She smiles weakly, inside she thrums with anxiety that she will never remember, but she holds onto the lie. “There must be a simple explanation, it will come to me, I’m sure of it. Perhaps after a good rest?”

Billy eyes her suspiciously, taking in her disheveled appearance and lack of identification, wallet, cell phone. He has a bad feeling about all of this and she sees it all over his face.

“We should call your work at least, let them know something happened.”

Bette nods, hating to admit she has no memory of work, or a job, or an identity.

“Let me look up the coffee shop.” Billy fishes his phone out of a pocket and searches to find the coffee shop number; she can see his hands shaking. He walks away from her, puts his back to her, but she can hear the call.

“Java Jim’s this is Caylie.” A chipper voice answers.

“Hey, hi Caylie, it’s Billy, you know, Bette’s neighbor.”

“Oh… hey Billy. What do need?” Her tone dropped the false pleasantness, deepening.

“Well I was just wondering when you last saw Bette?”

“Is this a joke?”

“What? What do you mean? I am at her place and she… something happ—”

“This is really fucked up Billy. Seriously.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Bette is dead, Billy. She jumped off the George Washington Bridge.”

“Dead? You must be kidding.” Billy releases a burst of laughter, the nervous energy bubbling out of him, “Who told you that? I have her right here, I’m in her apartment. Tell you what: I’ll put her on the goddamned phone. ”

He spins around, holds the phone out, and walks toward the sofa. He touches her back with careful fingers, Caylie’s voice like a hysterical buzzing in his ears on the other end.

Bette is warm, feverishly so, beneath the fabric. He reaches his hand beneath her, in an attempt to lift her.

He is repulsed by the feeling—his hand encounters something unexpected: Wet hair, a lot of it. And suddenly, from within the hair, the sharp prick of needles. He hisses and yanks his arm back, cradling a hand that is suddenly welling up with blood. Four tiny puncture wounds.

“What the hell!” he cries, but the words dry up in his mouth as she rears up, fabric tearing, and stands before him: a thing, wet and dripping with viscous fluid and dark fur, slicked back like a seal’s pelt, teeth white and sharp, and eyes like twin pools of gold.

He screams, high-pitched and unrestrained as he falls backwards. His phone slips from his grasp. With the last firing of his animal brain he makes a clumsy crab-walk retreat, as fast as he can go, all the while Caylie is calling out over and over from the phone.

He is in the center of the room when the Bette-thing reaches him, fast and silent as a shadow. It growls, and the sound reverberates through him. In the distance he hears Ollie barking like mad. Absurdly, in his panic, he thinks the creature looks almost comedic, almost cliché, with the tatters of floral fabric ringing it’s trunk like a Tutu. She looks like the wolf in grandmother’s clothes. He laughs despite himself, his sanity liquefying.

And then the creature that was once Bette is upon him.


She explodes through the window, landing effortlessly amid the rain of glass on the sidewalk. People scream and cars crunch into one another, but she ignores it all. Nothing matters.

She is free once again, the last vestiges of the past, of Bette, are gone.

Her feet find a rhythm and she drops to run on all fours, faster and faster. She runs until she is nothing more than a streak of color, a wind, a whisper. And then she is flying.

And then she is gone.

Victoria Dalpe is a writer and artist based out of Providence, RI. She lives with her husband, filmmaker Philip Gelatt, and their young son. 

Her first novel, Parasite Life, came out with ChiZine Publications in January 2018.