WHAT IS MAPPALUJO?


CHAPTER 06

Our story concerns…

Our story concerns a palace of shadows, where all the dead supermodels go at night to shop. Many long years before, the building was known as Haversham's, the finest department store in all the land; but now, abandoned, forlorn, its commodities gathering dust, only the most wasted of ghosts bring their custom here. The store is lit by gas flames contained within globes of coloured glass. Metallic whispers haunt the mobile phone networks, and spirit messages gleam on the liquid displays of the antique vending machines. Curling their sharp claws around the heating pipes, black televisions hang from the ceiling, their screens flickering with phantom images.

The dead supermodels wander…

The dead supermodels wander the lonely arcades. They ride the automatic stairways and the creaking brass cages of the elevators. They move through the soft clouds of perfume. They buy decanters filled with shadows cast from all the places they had known, loved and been photographed in, when alive; and they drape the shadows around themselves, mournfully now. Most of all, using bloodstained credit cards, they purchase old bottles of Charisma. Using only a single drop each time, smoothing the pungent oil into their hungry, invisible skins, these melancholic ghosts wear the images of long lost film stars.

In the roof garden restaurant…

In the roof garden restaurant the dead tell a story, of the very first ghost to haunt the electromagnetic ether of the building. It was the spirit of a young woman, scattered like blue sparks from a fire. Sometimes a blurred image would show up on a security camera's screen; sometimes the elevator might rise of its own accord to far distant floors. Or else, a mist of perfume would take on a vaguely human shape. One by one the living abandoned the store. All the many chambers stood empty, devoid of custom. In desperation, the Haversham family called on the services of a travelling exorcist.

The special agent moved…

The special agent moved through the superstore armed with a camera, a shadow amongst shadows. In this disguise, Aura pursued the ghost along the aisles, from room to room, from floor to floor. Spectral cries were heard from the bottom of the elevator shaft, from the empty booths in the changing rooms. The black televisions climbed into the shadows. Finally, amidst the broken displays of the Hall of Beauty, the spirit was cornered; a trembling presence only, barely visible to the eye. Turning, the ghost took from a cabinet a marble vessel in the shape of a scorpion. Removing the sting from the finely wrought tail, she anointed herself with the oil, with drops to her wrists, and to her feet. And the spirit was made visible now, bathed in glamour. Aura stood transfixed. Her camera opened itself to capture the explosion of celebrity, a burst of incandescent energy which caused all the lights in the building to splutter. The smell of burning cologne drifted through the aisles.

Two days later, the ghost…

Two days later, the ghost was pictured on a roadside bill hoarding. The woman was sprawled naked on a bed, an unknown corpse. Silken sheets were stained with whisky, lipstick and vomit; a bottle of barbiturates stood on a nightstand. The poster was advertising a new kind of cosmetic called L'Aura. The cars passed by without stopping; nobody stared at the billboard. Every last ounce of celebrity had been drained from the image.

The dead supermodels weep…

The dead supermodels weep when they tell this story. They praise the first of their kind as a goddess, the spirit who walked in glamour. They say she wore the face of the young Marilyn Monroe, the most radiant of veils. It is this lost image they all vainly seek as they wander the aisles of the ghostly department store, ransacking its cabinets for any last trace of the vanished marble scorpion. The dead, dressed only in the warm, ephemeral flickers of Valentino, of Sinatra, of Garbo and Hepburn.

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WHAT IS MAPPALUJO?