Title: Scissor Sisters
Genre: horror, character study
Characters: Megs (various), Crowley
Word Count: ~3000
Warnings/Spoilers: Vague allusion to 8x17 (which I haven't seen yet, that's how vague this allusion is.)
Notes: First-person POV. Also, dubious fidelity toward canonical interpretations of demons, Hell, possession, etc.
Summary: Los Angeles, caseating brick facade and gum-stuck streets. The thick storm smell of wet asphalt and acid rain, Spanish Revival mixed with generic subdivision, a boyfriend's niece's Quinceanera, someone else's bachelor party. Smoke. Cloves. The curve of her back against brick, headlights burning through fog like she's on stage. B Cam, catch her face in the shadows there. Catch her face.
This is not a redemption story.
Just a college girl with a baby sister. That's me. Except we rode through Andover once, in this truck or that bus, and she wasn't a baby anymore. More to the point she wasn't--------anymore. I wasn't at her wake and we didn't see her grave but I knew. We passed by a gaggle of putty-fingered middle school boys pawing at a Playboy mag and I knew.
My little sister wouldn't have stood for that. Not in her town. It didn't seem to matter much to me that boys've been doing the exact same thing for centuries, and forget my sister's sixteen year intervention--from the tail-end of the 1990s to the head of the new millennium. By that point my life had shuddered into that peculiar form of unidimensionality where, if those boys existed, then my sister couldn't. The conflict of ideologies is impossible.
It's the logic of the profoundly tired, but also of the dead. That's what life looks like to us. It's delicate and plot-driven. The eschatology is simian. I'm sorry, but it it's true. It's just the way we see things. We're not the most mutually exclusive sort, if you know what I mean.
On April 15th, in Salvation, Iowa, Meg Masters was dragged screaming from a loft window and hit the pavement seven seconds later. She died instantly. It just happened that her instant lasted a month and a half, and she fell slightly west of her arthouse loft, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. You can see why this would shift her logical center a little bit.
I'm dead; I am, simply, not. But I'm also not dead. I'm Meg.
And Meg is the Queen of Hell.
This is Long Island, by this point. I'm gone. I don't know what year it is, but we're far enough down the line that cut-rate New York film school #763 is doing Queen of the Damned again.
"But we're gonna do it," says the man--boy, really. Glassy-eyed, curly-haired, Ashkenazi Jew. She loves him for that, his exoticism; her parents are imported Southern Baptists renting from her aunt in a Puerto Rican part of town. She knows about multiculturalism the way you learn it in grade school, a sort of gingerbread wreath of things that are supposed to be beautiful; and she knows beauty. She does. Her own body, milky, supine, curls falling over her shoulder to crown a nipple, her nipple, a perfect nipple. She thinks about her own perfect cunt while he waxes about summer courses in Egyptology; about his buddy Jackson, with the uncle with connections. She smiles enigmatically, hungrily, and the boy falls in love with the idea of her.
"You're the queen, Meghan," he says, and sips his iced tea like it's something harder, and he is something faster. Here's this talent from LA (and he can say that now; she's been, seen, conquered--it doesn't matter that he knows where she's really from. They'll get big together, she'll have LA on her IMDB profile, and that means something to him. LA. They'll be famous. He'll be her first big break, and she'll be his, and they will always-----)
There's a flutter of excitement in her chest, the last real thing I remember about Meghan Lauren Townshend. She really wants this. Her hand raises to his cheek, clumsy and graceless. The fan of her perfect slender fingers butts against his stubble, but it's more like a tugboat than a caress.
Then she's on the ground, nauseous, quite literally, with the prospect of her imminent queenship. She coughs up black smoke. With it comes Los Angeles, caseating brick facade and gum-stuck streets. The thick storm smell of wet asphalt and acid rain, Spanish Revival mixed with generic subdivision, a boyfriend's niece's Quinceanera, someone else's bachelor party. Smoke. Cloves. The curve of her back against brick, headlights burning through fog like she's on stage. B Cam, catch her face in the shadows there. Catch her face. Meghan Townshend forgets where she is, sucks in smoke like she's in a Santa Monica backalley, and disappears forever.
"Meghan?" Her exotic hero has her draped over his arm like a limp sack. What he thought he was doing to help, it's hard to say. The Heimlich, maybe. Disposing of the body, likely.
Meg laughs. "I've waited so long for you to bow to me," she says to herself. She says to Meghan.
I'll always hate that. That Meghan Townshend made demonic possession look like a clumsily executed stroke. Simpering, gutter-minded Megan Townshend. I'm just a college girl with a dead baby sister, but I have standards, too. Imagine a woman who, by sheer force of will, could shake a demonic possession to its frame and purge it like last night's TV dinner. Meghan Townshend's not your girl; she's the girl my parents warned me about. Except, apparently, she is. She's a hero. But she's still dead.
We're not Jekyll and Hyde; we don't trade off, we're not voices in each other's heads. We're not, as I said, that mutually exclusive. I've never "spoken" to Meg the demon, to Meghan the porn star, to Sam the flannel hero, sinewy Bobby, the misfits and barstaff and the lower echelons of the Massachusetts Libertarian Party that Meg the demon has made a part of her. But I've felt pieces of them, like their flesh and memories caught in her teeth. A musical bar here, a craving for cocaine there. A word, a scream. We're all little afterlifes that together, are a tinier part of Meg. Our collective power is smaller than the whole. Because Meg is, at her core, a tiny piece of Hell itself. I'm making it sound like demons are bits of drapery, or paint chips, fractured sentences in the great Bible of Hell, but I guess it's true.
We're nothing to a demon, but a demon is nothing without us. Imagine trying to dress yourself without Meghan Townsend's sense of style. (Hint: Yellow pleather. That wasn't my idea.)
When Meg speaks, nobody really listens. They're still staring at Meghan Townshend's tits, or her teeth. On more than one occasion they've watched her lips, felt them move against theirs. Maybe they've even kissed her. But when Meg speaks, people really only hear two things: Fuck me, or fuck me. One of these is related to Meghan Townshend's tits and one of them has a whole lot more to do with Meg the demon's hellhounds. I've seen little blonde girls ripped to shreds by them. And I've seen them ripped to shreds by bigger hellhounds. The point is, nobody listens. If they did, they'd hear us.
If they did, they'd run. Faster. They'd give everything not to be caught in her teeth.
Behind Meg's teeth is her voice, and Meg's voice is a cesspool of inflections. Church Slavonic and some arcane brand of French, from the old days. K-town slang and Baptist dirges--Grandma Townshend only ever sang the dirges--neutral white girl Connecticut talk. Her voice is the whine of the hungry on the boardwalk, the greedy in Long Island. It's happiness and pain crushed against each other, garnished mostly by curiosity. It's my Grateful Dead and Bobby Singer's Joni Mitchell, an upward lilt where there shouldn't be, a fermata for every fuck, fuck me, laughter that strikes a major chord for the sheer discord of it all. A slur here, an overarticulation there. Meg is all of us, and together we are weaker than anything we were before.
There's no magic here; just a thousand afterlifes keeping Meg Meg, and not just another brick in the wall, in Hell.
I majored in Linguistics. I was going to be a Speech Pathologist. Six years later and I'm a memory that helps account for a demon's charming personality. My mother always said I was a team player.
If I can thank Meghan Townshend for one thing, it's ambition. Meghan Townshend is the Queen of Hell. Her music's gone, her endearing nail-biting an excised thing of the past. But her ambition's here, inside us, and it's the thing that keeps us coming back to Meghan Townshend's wavy hair and her purple silks, her dime store jewelry and her wicked little dimples. And yes, her tits.
If I could--if we were, like in the films, Jekyll and Hyde in here--I'd ask Meg about her. I'd ask her if she remembers being torn out of Meghan Townshend's throat by a simple cough, being rejected by this---wishful starlet.
"What went wrong, Meg?" I'd ask. Why were you so
See, Meghan Townshend wanted to be an A-lister. It didn't matter that she didn't stand--well--a college girl's chance in Hell, because she wasn't smart enough to realize that. But being smart has never made you A-list, unless you're smart enough to jump headlong into stupid, stupid risk. Look at the Winchesters (yes, I know them. I remember where there attentions were the day I died. I will always know them).
"Was it fear?"
Hell may be an empire built on fear, but demons are the bricks and mortar, not the architects. Self-preservation, of course, is essential. But it's an amoebic response; there's not enough personhood down there to power much else. There's an infrastructure in place to keep you away from that kind of complication. After all, fear makes for poor armies; fear assumes you have something, anything to lose.
Meghan wanted, which meant she was willing to lose. Greed, demons get; greed is passive But the impulsive ache of wanting, really wanting--that's human. Want and greed are separated by the muscle it takes to claw your way to the top, the willingness to fall if you can't make it there.
I remember that kind of ambition. It's what kept me walking at 2am on a Sunday evening, my brain wondering what it would take to secure a lab position with Dr. Saier, and my body wishing the streets were salted better, because really. I would never know how true that was, because there was fear, at my shoulders. Pushing me to the ground like a nuclear blast. Fear froze me, and ice trickled into my stomach, sharp and jagged. The black smoke that followed was so hot I was almost glad to see Meg come, if it meant fear leaving.
That's what Meg felt like when we destroyed Ms. Townshend.
Do you remember, Meg? That ambition? The magnetic pulse of it?
Meg crowned herself three times. The first was in Long Island, and it was on stage, and it was Queen of the Damned. The production was of middling success and Anne Rice sued them. Meghan Townshend disappeared.
The second was after Crowley didn't actually die. No one listened. It wasn't a slight, really. She wasn't barred from the throne, no one spat on her crown. The average demon in Hell isn't that evolved; if they name an allegiance when they turn up topside, it's only because their meatsuit taught them how. Down under, it's just the electric push and pull of currents, masses. Angels are wavelengths and demons aren't quite atoms.
This is, in the end, not the crown Meg wanted.
This is what I remember:
"Meg, my..." Crowley says, recognizing his cliche just before it leaves his mouth. "Sweet." His smile matches the blade he draws. When he plunges it into her chest, he steadies her by her hair, keeps her shoulders suspended away from his suit. "Where are we going to put you all?"
Whether he means us, her warped little pieces of the world, or what's left of Megan Townshend's body, it's not clear.
We are in Hell, I know, because mass and space have folded into each other. I feel Meg's heartbeat in the walls when I press against them with the body I haven't had in years. I measure time first by minutes, then by colors. I'm supposed to say that Meg laughed, screamed eternal curses into the synaesthetic firestorm, and she did. But she also wept. It wasn't despair, or terror, really. If there is one thing Crowley will never be, no matter what kingdoms he conquers, or how well he succeeds the late Inquisitor, it is human. It is people like Meghan Townshend. Like me, if I'd had the chance.
Crowley is ambitious the way tidal waves are. But Meg's not afraid of inexorability. She's afraid of a little more supernatural--really supernatural--than that. She's afraid of the screaming, rabid ambition that comes with discovering power, rather than coming into it. Weeping, it was just something to do.
You can't break a demon, or even properly destroy them--they just disperse, disperse, disperse. Crowley mentions something about oil spills, case studies, dirty work. But if you can weep, then you're still there. And for most people, that's the best you can hope for.
"It's a rather small crown, you know," says Crowley. It's less a consolation than an assertion that Hell is small, in the scheme of things. And if Meg can't crown herself there, then she really isn't.
"--Anything, really. War war war, sin sin sin, you have no sense of taste, Meg. Meg--is that a name you chose?"
Meg isn't much of a body anymore, just some split skin hanging together, a purse of pureed organs. But she's always loved Meghan.
Crowley begins the project of taking us apart, now that he's finished with the body. With the intonations of an off kilter guidance counselor, he explains to Meg the nature of immortality.
You remember being like that, don't you. No, of course you don't. But they're cretins, the lot of them. Demons have the memory span of a goldfish, do what do they care who takes the throne? Azazel, Lilith--Lucifer himself could rise and the average demon wouldn't be able to tell the goddamn difference. It's that kind of short-sightedness that's impossible to live with. There are--well. More tantalizing shores.
But that's your weakness Meg. You couldn't quite outgrow that
It's 2009, and opening night. In Andover, Massachusetts, my parents are deciding not to hold another candlelight vigil for me. Sometimes, it's time to say goodbye for good. If they can find joy in their now childless retirement, get into the software business and make it big, buy a summer home in Bali, I can't say I'll be happy for them. A better person might, but I'm just a college girl with a baby sister I teased unto grief, and tears, and death. Somewhere in Chicago, Meghan Townshend's aunt is buying up a new property. Los Angeles Community College is considering her niece in default of her tuition payments. They've dropped her from all of her classes. They expect her to wire the difference, if she will not be returning for the winter term; some fees are non-refundable. Some sacrifices, you can't make up.
To her audience of thirty-seven, Meghan Townshend is the Queen of Hell tonight. She'd be happy if she were there to see it. Meg the demon isn't happy, is not particularly interested in happiness. But she enjoys herself. She's a little nervous, and it shows in the heightened violence of her gestures. Not of the stage, since Meg is nothing if not a brilliant actress. Of the sheer force of this queer, borrowed ambition she's found.
She winks at her Jew. He'll die backstage tonight. She'll kill him. No provocation; it's just nice to have hobbies.
I will kill you, says Meg, in blue. (I'm still keeping time in color. The sky above is bright with nanoseconds.) And I will wear your crown.
And I'll kill you first, says Crowley. You'll die in a gutter, and no one will ever be the wiser. Because you are
Meg. Detritus. Your vessels had their funerals long ago. Do you think Sam and Dean Winchester will mourn you, just because they put you here? With me? They wouldn't know how. Because you
"Immortal," says Meg. "I'm immortal."
Crowley laughs. He knows a fair bit about immortality. "I assure you it would be all too easy to demonstrate otherwise."
"I don't need to live to steal your crown," she says.
It's possible she might have learned martyrdom from one of us, but it wasn't me. I just gave her better dialogue. Just a college girl, after all.
That is immortality, Meg whispers. I don't need to live to make you bow to me.
Queen of the Damned runs for two and a half showings before it's shut down forever. Meg is there for every show. Meghan Townshend "merits praise for the stark inhumanity she brings to the role."
Crowley raises his eyebrows, dusts time from the cuffs of his blazer. "Well," he says. "We'll see."
This fic is titled Scissor Sisters, for the multiplitiy of Megs involved. The musical duo Scissor Sisters also performed a disco cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb."