KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 8: August 2017
Flash Fiction: 554 words

The Museum of Curiosities

by Kathryn Kulpa

The museum rises tall and gothic on the streets of a city that has passed it by. It holds its secrets snug behind granite walls, wrought-iron casement windows, brass-fitted doors with panes of glass so thick they distort everything seen through them—though not many look inside anymore.

“So much splendor,” says the tall woman with long white hair. Her skin is smooth, dark, unlined, but her glacial eyes tell you she is older than you dare to dream.

“So much splendor for so few to see,” agrees her companion, a russet-haired woman stroking an odd-eyed cat. The cat is hiding in her sleeve. No, it’s wrapped around her collar, peeking through the buttons of her black velvet coat, or no—it will make you dizzy to look for that cat. So don’t look.

They have met in this place, the red woman and the white, as if by long agreement. They bypass articulated skeletons, ancient medical instruments: these dry bones will never rise. They meet where they have always met, at the glassed booth behind a red velvet rope, where curious creatures gaze back with painted eyes, eyes of ceramic or shell, eyes of glass or celluloid.

“Today might be the day,” the red-haired woman says. She stares into the octagonal booth, all gilt and glass. Tiny monsters stare back: mermaids and moon-calves, night-gaunts and spider-goats. Slowly, her hand opens. The creatures start to move. She flicks her hand, widdershins, and a dancing lizard, halfway up the glass, melts through the glass, appears blinking on the floor, gem-scaled, saurian, restored to his true size. He dips his head to the woman, flicks his narrow tongue, undulates away.

Outside, cars slide by. Inside, dry bones dream their long dreams in what should be silence, but a screen mounted high on the museum wall emits a drone of stumbled words. Once there were no screens here; once, the wonders inside these walls were enough. The white-haired woman glances up. A face fills the screen: orange-hued, thick-featured, shouting. Voices echo the shouts. Fists stab the air. The woman’s upper lip twitches, just that much. Her eyes close. Her fingers curl in. The yelling face disappears.

For a moment the glass of the booth distorts, a mockery of that face. Then it smooths itself clear.

Inside the cabinet of curiosities a rough beast beats its tiny hands against the glass, mouth writhing in a soundless shout.

The red woman peers in, stroking her odd-eyed cat. The cat hisses. The woman turns to her companion.


The white-haired woman’s mouth curves, just that little bit.

“Letting them out is my weakness, I know,” the red woman says. Her eyes sparkle, more with mischief than regret.

“Bringing them back home,” the white woman replies mildly, “requires more effort.”

“But you always manage.”

“So far.”

They make their way to the doors, watching swirling skies through heavy panes of glass. Clouds scudding; the sky now yellow, now dun-grey, the bruised color of split eggplant. The cat blinks its astonishing eyes, one emerald, one aquamarine.

“It’s getting dark,” says the woman with the cat.

The white-haired woman waits, watching carefully, until a weak ray of sun struggles through. Her tightly clenched hands relax. She reaches over to stroke the cat under its chin.

“Not nearly dark enough.”


Kathryn Kulpa
Issue 8, August 2017

was a winner of the Vella Chapbook Contest for her flash fiction chapbook Girls on Film (Paper Nautilus Press, 2016). She is flash fiction editor at Cleaver Magazine and has published work in Monkeybicycle, Angels Flight: Literary West, and SmokeLong Quarterly. [For an expanded list, please visit the author’s website,]

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

A Conversation with Kathryn Kulpa by Michelle Fost in Cleaver Magazine

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