In Paris, so many lies flew through the pneumatic tubes. False intelligence sucked up and spat out. Rumors of uprisings and resistance.
The country clambered for a hero. The whole city had lost its mind over a long-haired dachshund that crawled across a minefield with a message strapped to its body, as if it had actually known where it was going and not just been scrambling away in fear. They’d given it a parade and it left a puddle in the mayor’s car. Marcel, le petit héros.
But the city’s new hope was Sylvie.
“Half a woman,” the press wrote. “But oh, what a woman.” Her legs were missing from the mid-thigh down, but her arms bulged like bread rising.
Sylvie could swim forever: 100 kilometers and return. She could also fit in a torpedo tube.
“Send Sylvie at ‘em!” people cried in the streets.
“I’ll eat a submarine for breakfast,” Sylvie smiled at the flashbulbs. “But I’ll need something to wash it down with.”
Sylvie stole the city’s imagination. Women began looking at their stockinged legs, their callused feet, wondering if they couldn’t do with a few inches off the end. Men imagined Sylvie in their beds, just the ghost of her legs snaking around their waist.
Should they send her to the North Sea? Or have her patrol the Channel? Could she protect Biscay or take the Tyrrhenian?
Without her ever touching the water, word of her conquests spread through the tubes: Sylvie, France’s Deadly Lady Dolphin, The Parisian Torpedo, The Man-Eating Mermaid, six shipwrecks to her name, no – eight. No, twelve! The Dame from the Depths, the Half Nymph Hungry for Justice.
And when they finally released her, in the warmer waters off Algiers, in a sleek silver swimsuit that made her body look like a bullet, she sank.
But nobody heard about that.
“Silver Half Bullet hits fleet,” came through the tubes. “Sylvie sinks all.”
And they threw a parade.
Front page image by Anita Carril.
GHOST WRITER is a project by Tracy Danger Mumford. New sections are released every other Sunday. If you’d like to receive email alerts—and that’s all you’ll get, a short email—saying the new one’s up, sign up here: