Constellations of Scars
Melissa Eskue Ousley
Published by: Midnight Tide Publishing
Publication date: June 9th 2021
Genres: Adult, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy
“An indelible story of loving yourself in a world of dreadful realities.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Not all gifts are a blessing. Some are a curse.
When Amelia turned 12, she began growing pearls. Every month, a crop of beautiful pearls bursts from the skin on her back. Her mother, Denise, believes her daughter is blessed, and sells the pearls to put food on the table. Amelia sees her condition as a curse. As the pearls form, her body aches and her skin grows feverish. The harvest of pearls brings temporary relief from the pain, but leaves her back marred by scars. Denise hides Amelia away from the world, worried that Amelia’s gift will be discovered and she will be abducted for the wealth she can provide. Now a young woman, Amelia realizes she has become her mother’s captive, and plans her escape. When she runs away from home, she finds a new family in a troupe of performers at a museum of human oddities. She soon discovers the world is much more dangerous than her mother feared.
“When I exited the bus station in Portland, visitor’s map of the city in hand, one of the first things I saw was the red brick Union Station clock tower. The sky above it was dark and heavy with clouds, and as I stepped out on to the sidewalk, rain began to fall. I pulled up my hood and started walking south on Sixth Avenue toward Glisan Street, thinking I might find a hotel. I had mapped out a few possibilities as I planned my trip, but actually being in the city was more intimidating than I thought it would be. It took me several minutes to get my bearings.
The city was louder than I was used to—Roseburg was smaller, with less traffic. The smells were different too—fresh bread from a bakery and exhaust from a passing truck.
As I waited to cross Flanders Street, I noticed bars on the windows of a deli, and a group of homeless people huddled together against a building. I started to wonder if I’d landed in a bad part of town. I shifted my backpack, making sure my straps were secure.
My fears were realized soon after that. I crossed Everett and moved to the other side of the street when I saw a trio of large men headed my way. They looked scary, but they weren’t who I should have been afraid of.
As I passed an empty storefront, a bearded man standing next to the plate glass window grabbed my arm and pulled me into the shadowed alcove that served as the store’s front entrance. He smelled like he hadn’t showered in days, and his breath reeked of cheap alcohol. He shoved me up against the metal security bars of the door and held a hunting knife against my ribs.
‘Your backpack now,’ he growled, ‘or I’ll gut you like a fish.’
I froze in fear, unable to move. He had a scar above his right eyebrow, and his eyes narrowed in anger when I was slow to comply. He pushed the blunt edge of the blade into my side, not cutting me, but showing me he was serious.
Terrified, I let the backpack slip off my shoulders. He ripped it away from me and drove his fist into my stomach. I doubled over in pain as he ran off, disappearing into the storm.
Trembling, I crumpled to the sidewalk, trying to breathe after getting the wind knocked out of me. Tears pricked my eyes, threatening to fall. I let them. I pulled my knees to my chest and cried, watching the rain fall. I felt defeated.
I hadn’t been in the city a half hour, and already I’d lost everything I owned.”
Melissa Eskue Ousley is an award-winning author living on the Oregon coast with her family, a neurotic dog, two charming cats, and a piranha. Her suspense novel, Pitcher Plant, is set in Seaside, and won a 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award. Her young adult novel, Sunset Empire, debuted in a bestselling boxed set. Her short stories have been included in Rain Magazine, The North Coast Squid, and various anthologies. When she’s not writing, she can be found volunteering for her local wildlife center, caring for injured owls and hawks.