Barbara Holm

Barbara Holm, stand up comedian

The Ring

Denise sat in the darkened room rubbing her hands against each other repeatedly. Her bedroom was cool and a breeze was reaching in through the window ruffling her hair. She rocked back and forth, sitting on her butt, with her arms crossed tightly over her knees. She rotated back on her heels to the same rhythm as her heart beat, a short punchy staccato. There were sounds of soft conversation, plates being moved around, and occasional abrasive laughter coming from downstairs. Denise rolled her tired deep set eyes and interlocked her scrawny fingers. She rubbed her thumb against the cold hard silver band on her middle ring finger. She slid the ring up and down the stem of her finger a few times, nervously twirling it. She then pulled it off her middle finger and shoved it onto her left ring finger.

“That’s not yours,” said a low whispery woman’s voice. Denise turned and saw a face half lit, half in shadow. One eye peered through the room at Denise, half of a smile curled across thin pale lips.
“Yes it is,” Denise whispered to herself. “It’s my ring.”
The face raised an eyebrow in the white fragmented light. “No, it’s not. You stole it.”
Denise shuddered and brought the ring up to her cheek. She watched how the light played against it and brought it to her lips.


The room was messy and filled with forgettable things. Denise stood up abruptly and began to pace with short, rapid steps around the room. Denise could hear her husband downstairs with their friends chatting. They were probably giggling about the season of the grapes and the smell it brought out in the cheese. They were probably talking about their children’s 1st grade art project like it mattered, like anything mattered, like they liked each other and were not alone and crying and fake and desperate to be noticed, gasping to be real. Her husband was probably flirting with Mrs. Stevens with a confident smile and a hand on her arm, as if to say “I don’t think we’re all empty, vapid, and utterly alone; I’m not being loud solely to overpower the screaming pit of nothingness inside of me, ha ha ha!” She wondered if they had noticed she was gone. She wondered if they had noticed that she was there at all in the first place. A tingling sensation crept up her arms and legs like millions of invisible and one inch tall Beethovens were playing piano against her skin.

“I know what you did,” said the voice.
“I haven’t done anything yet,” Denise answered.
“Not in this universe, not yet.”
“Never, I won’t. There is no yet.”
“Doesn’t matter, you’re not that girl anymore. You’re not the girl who he gave the ring to. It doesn’t belong to you anymore,” it said. The voice laughed a cold high laugh, echoing brilliantly throughout the room like a sharp, dazzling diamond. Denise felt her own lips curl up in the thrill and terror of that laugh.

She shivered as she felt microscopic hairs pick up against her spine. She placed her wedding ring inside her warm wet mouth and swallowed it.

“Maybe I never was that girl,” Denise said. “Maybe from the start, I was always you.”

The mirror image smiled from the shadows at her and Denise waved softly. She felt the millions of spiders inside her stomach come crawling up inside her esophagous and out of her mouth. They covered her face in a dark mask of writhing wriggling black bodies. Their hairy legs criss crossed as they climbed over top of each other, over her cheeks, around her eyes and down her neck. Their spit soaked hairy arachnid limbs brushed the fiber of her t-shirt and they slipped down beneath her shirt into her cleavage, around her warm breasts, past her roles of fat and down her sides. The little black legs swarmed her room and continued to overflow from her frothing mouth. Denise tipped her head back and laughed angrily and bitterly while the spiders blanketed her body.

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