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Welcome to Sunny Springs

by Alyssa Jordan ​

On a balmy summer evening, Lavender found a demon in her sitting room. ​ Of course, her name wasn’t really Lavender, and she didn’t know her neighbors were all demons. ​ It started when she swapped city life for pastel-shaded suburbia. The colony had greeted her with smiles and apple pie. In the sun, they had looked like a fever dream, with their beehive wigs and cat-eye sunglasses. ​ Because she had moved into the house the colour of pale-purple cream, Lavender now wore dresses and gloves in the same shade. Even her wig had been sown with synthetic strands of grey and violet. ​ Sometimes, she fingered the material late at night, concentrating on its staticky whisper, and not the quiet around her. * Sunny Springs squatted in the middle of the desert, an oasis amidst jagged mountains and sun-split rock. Their strip of paradise ran along the outskirts of town. Candy-colored homes reigned supreme, with an identical ranch style: low rooflines, single stories, and large windows. ​ Lavender walked the neighborhood every day. She marveled at her purple home. To her left was a cherry-red house; on the right, a lemon-lime like grandma’s gelatin salad. Beyond Rose’s house was baby blue and banana yellow and creamsicle orange. ​ Sweat trickled down Lavender’s neck, loosening her wig. She adjusted it as she mapped the sidewalks of Sunny Springs. Her violet tracksuit grew darker with each step. On her way home, Sage, Skye, and Daffodil waved from Ginger’s porch. ​ Lavender turned to wave back. ​ She jumped at the sight of so many crows on the roof. * One afternoon, Lavender sat with Rose in her pansy-patterned sitting room. They sipped glasses of iced tea and sampled several pies. ​ Sunlight streamed through the window. It lit Rose’s sheath dress and her beehive till they were set aflame. Even her scarlet eyebrows seemed to smoke. ​ “How are you doing, sweetie?” Rose asked in her sultry drawl. She lit a cigarette between gloved fingers. “Better since I came here.” Lavender twisted her napkin. “The panic attacks don’t happen as much.” ​ “And the insomnia?” ​ At Lavender’s wince, Rose pushed a pie dish toward her. “Black-bottom hazelnut pie. Momma swears by it.” ​ “For sleep?” ​ Rose grinned. “Oh, no. That shit just tastes good.” * The next day, a committee of vultures overtook Lavender’s roof. Their talons sunk into the lilac roofing sheet. When Lavender stepped outside, one of them hissed a drawn-out, raspy sound that made her shrink in fear. ​ Lavender ran into her house and latched the door. ​ Inside, she paced, wearing grooves with her heels. She kicked them against the wall. ​ A sharp knock brought her to a halt. Through the peephole, Lavender saw Rose and hurried to let her inside. Strange barks and grunts echoed around them. Shivering, Lavender closed the door with her body, staring wide-eyed at her friend. ​ “What the hell is going on? Vultures only come for the dead!” ​ Rose put her hands on Lavender’s shoulders. They were so warm that Lavender flinched. ​ “Sweetie, you look ready to leap from your skin. Take some deep breaths. Come on, follow my lead—in, out. Good.” * After Rose led them to the sitting room, she took a detour to the bar and poured Lavender a glass of water. Without looking at it, Lavender plucked the glass, scalding her hand. She shrieked and dropped it. They both sprang from the couch. ​ “I’m so sorry,” Rose lamented. “I must have used the wrong tap.” ​ As they bent to collect the shards, something slapped the back of Lavender’s knees. A red tail emerged from Rose’s dress. It had a pointed tip that twitched in the air. ​ “I can explain.” ​ “You have a tail!” ​ A beat of silence passed; then, another. ​ Lavender bolted from the room and into the hallway. A body crashed, lurching toward her. Darting to the side, Lavender ran down the stairs, heading toward her basement. It was the only room with a working lock. ​ Right as Lavender reached the door, Rose grabbed her by the neck. She smelled burning meat before she registered the pain. * Voices drove Lavender awake. She came to on a cold cement floor, her neck a constant, dull throb. Barren walls surrounded her. To the left was her couch and an old rug; to the right was the staircase. ​ Her neighbors stood in front of it. Her friends. ​ Rose crouched next to Lavender. “Normally, we would have eased you into this a little more. We’re demons, not barbarians.” ​ Ginger raised her beehive. Underneath, two curling horns rose from her scalp. She scratched them. ​ “I prefer ‘hellspawn,’” Daffodil said. ​ Lavender didn’t think she was getting enough air. ​ “Oh, great,” Sage muttered. “You gave her a panic attack.” ​ “Rose is the one who tied her up.” Skye glared at them. ​ Through her gasps, Lavender watched as Rose effortlessly moved the couch. She lifted the massive rug and threw it to the side. To Lavender’s shock, there was a wooden door in the ground. ​ “Sorry, sweetie. Time for a little show and tell.” * Rose pried open the door. On the other side was, well, Lavender. But not exactly. This version of her had ash on her face and sulfur in her pores. ​ “Finally. You took forever!” Not-Lavender said. ​ Lavender gaped at her. “This isn’t real. It can’t be.” ​ Not-Lavender rolled her eyes. ​ Without another word, the women—demons—pulled Lavender to her feet and held her over the door. She struggled but it was no use. When they pushed her through the entrance, Not-Lavender squeezed past her, stepping into the basement. ​ The door shut between them. ​ Lavender had tumbled into a 60s diner. She sat on the checkered floor, dumbfounded. Most booths were full of people. They didn’t spare her a glance. ​ An older-looking Rose walked toward Lavender. She smiled and pointed to her plate, which held an entire pie. Something moved beneath its crust. ​ “Pie, sweetie?”

Alyssa Jordan is a writer living in the United States. She likes to make surprise balls, eat donuts, and drink coffee. In 2020, she won The Molotov Cocktail's Flash Monster contest. You can find her on Twitter @ajordan901.

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