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Story 5

Malena Salazar Macia

Malena Salazar Macia is an award-winning Cuban writer of science fiction and fantasy. She was born in 1988 in Havana. She has authored several novels. In  2015, she was awarded the Premio David de Ciencia Ficcion for her debut novel, Nade. Her second novel, Las peregrinaciones de los dioses, won the Premio Calendario in 2017, and most recently Aliento de Dragon (2020).

Toshiya Kamei's translations have appeared in Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Strange Horizons. His translations have also appeared in 4 Star Stories and Short Short Story Issue 3.

Sometimes what you want isn’ t what you get -- especially when signing over your soul is involved.


By Malena Salazar Macia

Translated by Toshiya Kamei


Something was wrong with Ella. It had to be. Everything, everyone, screamed at her in silence that she wasn’t any good. Every time she flipped through a magazine, squeezed herself into a seat in a movie theater, switched on the TV, or looked up at a billboard ad, exquisitely mannered women stared back at her with sneers on their faces, showing off toothy smiles, shapely figures, supple legs, and huge breasts, like Tinseltown hookers in make-believe red-light districts.

Ella contemplated her flaccid, fatty flesh, her teenage acne, her dark, unruly hair, and her onion-layered nails. Then she dreamed of dancing like a stylized doll on a large stage, savoring the roar of applause, cheers, and flowers thrown at her no-longer-clumsy feet.

The graceful figures in splendid dresses harassed her every waking moment, even from the ten o’clock news.

Possessing a nose for sniffing out unfulfilled desires, the old woman found Ella in a park strewed with withered leaves. The old woman whispered in her ear that she was a stylist, agent, doctor, dietitian, sorceress, and alchemist. Then she proceeded to show Ella many before-and-after photos. Ella fell in love with a dancer in a red dress, with thin, elegant arms, standing on tiptoe on one foot while the other pointed heavenward. The old woman convinced Ella that her hands worked wonders, strong enough to grab her by the waist and lift her up toward the shining stars.

Ella surrendered her body to the old woman in exchange for her glory. The old woman kneaded the impure clay and also demanded her soul, asking, “What would become of a masterpiece if it were empty like a vase? .And after all, the old woman was a stylist, agent, doctor, and dietitian, but in addition, she was a sorceress and alchemist.

One night Ella tossed and turned so much she decided to get up. Then she found herself in that dancer’s red dress. Her body, now graceful, possessed all the right curves where they were supposed to be. She slid across the floor with magic shoes on, without any awkward movements, without running out of breath, or without feeling any pain. She received showers of praise, bursts of applause, and adoring gazes all through the glass showcase.

Ella, now a music box doll condemned to eternal perfection, astonished her buyers when tears rolled down from her painted eyes filled with longing and yearning for her old, imperfect life.

The End

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