Atomic Age // Dream Glow
by Arielle Burgdorf
Wide-eyed, Barbie surveys the destruction. The ashes of the dream house lie at her feet, crystals from her chandelier buried in the rubble. The heart-shaped pool is still running, bodies floating face down in the chlorine, drifting clockwise in the breeze. What a shitty party! someone shouts.
No one saw this coming. The zoos were the first thing to break down, their bars melting into one big sticky puddle. Pale flamingos passed out on rooftops with tears in their eyes.
Everyone is done behaving. On every corner, lines of Barbies pawning their jewelry and gambling away the profits, Barbies in grocery stores stealing the cool-whip salads they’d been eyeing for lifetimes, the most expensive hams you can imagine, lonely Barbies in bars winking at strangers, pulling unfamiliar hands up their skirts, writing cliche suicide notes on paper napkins, Barbies ordering whiskey & more whiskey, molesting the jukebox trying to figure out the saddest song of them all.
“Ken? Where are you?” Barbie yells as loudly as she can. It doesn’t occur to her to be scared. Behind her are broken palm trees and a rainbow, colors all inverted.
Wind carries a smell to her from the shores: the rotting flesh of bottlenose dolphins, fins exploding out of the water, slick with purple-blue sheen of oil. A couple Barbies and Kens ride waves of black ooze while others dance stiffly in the toxic surf, shaking their flat pancake asses, eternal smiles emblazoned on their faces. Feet swaying drunken lines in the sand, dripping blood from their hairlines, they dance faster to music no one can hear as their legs, arms, and torsos cave in. Barbies rollerblade down the street in a daze, fried hair, pink high heels & taffeta dresses ripped to shreds.
Barbie passes an IN-N-OUT where someone who looks like her is still in the drive-thru window wearing a paper hat, waiting to take orders. Hello? Is there someone there? the woman calls out as she drives by. Stupid bitch, Barbie thinks. You don’t have to try anymore.
There are many Barbies and many Kens and all look exactly alike, but each Barbie belongs to one special Ken and vice versa. Barbie finds her Ken sitting on a bench staring at the ocean, completely silent. Relieved, she throws her arms around him. Barbie and Ken can’t actually kiss so they just make loud smacking noises and frantically mash their plastic faces together. Deep down, Barbie knows Ken is gay but it’s too late to do anything about it now, black sludge is taking away all of their friends.
Barbie starts driving her turquoise dream car into the ocean. Ken is in the passenger seat talking on a giant pink phone that’s disconnected, trying to reach his pal Troy, so he can get some fucking smack, but Troy isn’t answering. Ken pulls the shades down over his eyes and whines to Barbie, who rolls her eyes and turns the radio all the way up. The fumes are giving her a migraine. Barbie accelerates and they’re spinning out of control and she’s giggling, giggling with the secret joy that it’s over.
Arielle Burgdorf is a writer and performer from Washington, D.C. She writes mixed-genre stories about dangerous girls, runaways, queers, and other underdogs. Her work can be found in Maximum Rocknroll, Feministe, The Feminist Review, Horseless Press, Making Waves #5 and various bathroom walls. You can find more of her stuff here and here.
Image by Kevin Dooley, found on Flickr.