2023 Short Story Competition

Sweaters and Otherworldly Things

In a dim corner of the local space museum, sat a young woman, her neck slumped down.
Hunched over a tangle of red wool, her eyes locked on the material in an unblinking, trance-like
focus. Marah’s weathered knuckles scooped thick strands of wool over her wooden sticks, the
motion numbing and repetitive. The sensitive skin on the young woman’s fingertips peeled and
became raw as she quickly moved the string through her hands, leading it to its intertwined place
on the stick. As new layers of skin fell to the mercy of passing wool, the string seemed to
sharpen, cutting deeper with every row. The red lint rubbed off of the wool and attached itself to
the sticky, flush, and exposed new flesh on Marah’s fingers. She inspected her fingernails for
loose dirt before plucking the tiny strands out of her carpet burns. She winced, forgetting each
time how sharply contact with newly exposed skin stung. Persevering to remove all foreign
debris, Marah hissed air through her teeth, her efforts bringing her more prickly pain than a piece
of red lint could have ever dreamt to inflict.
Lowering her gaze to the half-knit sweater sitting on her lap, the young woman brushed a
lock of red hair away from her brow, picked up her tools hurriedly, and began to knit. Her chest
rose and fell quickly, short breaths aligning with the motions of her knitting. She grew dizzy and
breathless after a minute and forced herself to fill her lungs completely so she would not faint.
Time was of the essence, and her brain bustled with ideas for sweaters, mittens, and hats. If she
didn’t execute them all in a timely manner, these fashion-forward visions might pick themselves
up, slip out through her fuming ears and stomp over to the brain of someone with faster fingers.
Dark vinyl floors shone beneath the velvet red curtain which marked the entrance of the
educational walk-through on the cosmos. From the corner of her eye, in a gap between the rapid
clicking of the wooden sticks, Marah saw a pink, moist figure approaching the museum lobby
corner in which she was curled up. Long, thin arms swayed by his sides, brushing against his
plump stomach with every step. His bare feet slapped audibly onto the vinyl floors, leaving
behind damp footprints. A smell of morning dew filled the air as the being made his way toward
Marah, bursting her bout of concentration with a clear voice.

Marah raised her gaze to meet his bulging black eyes, slightly annoyed at the
“Are you going in?”, the being asked, pointing towards the velvet curtain with a lanky
index finger.
“I haven’t got a moment to waste sightseeing,” she said, returning her focus to the
sweater. “Great art doesn’t create itself.”
“Art?” the being asked.
“Can’t you see?” she said, motioning to her work in progress. Her face hardened slightly,
bracing for a diminishing comment.
The being cocked his head and frowned. His lips parted, then smacked shut again. He
said curtly, “Walk with me.”
When the young woman did not respond, the being picked up her ball of wool and started
unwinding it, walking backward and creating a trail that led to the museum entrance.
Marah stood up without saying a word. She took a moment to stabilize herself, her eyes
still locked on the row of knitted wool she was about to complete. Once her stick was bare and
her fingers stinging, she shook out her wrists and looked up at the being, annoyed. She was met
with his cheeky smirk and rolled her eyes before stepping forth to follow him into the velvet
curtains that marked the museum entrance.
Following the being’s squelchy footsteps, Marah peeked at the bright lights coming from
the various installations of different universes and planetary bodies appearing in her peripheral
vision. The being strutted leisurely and stopped in front of a luminous globe of matter, the shape
of the piece reflecting in his black eyes. He grinned widely, poking Marah’s side to get her to
look up. She swatted the being’s hand away and pursed her lips while trying to find her place on
the pattern.
“She comes to a museum and refuses to look up.” the being observed under his breath.
Marah shrugged defensively, “You might be the only being that’s ever walked through
those curtains. I worked in the quietest corner of the world until you came around. ”

The being turned on his heels and headed towards a painfully bright large, which
displayed an informative graphic on quasars. The being studied the information furiously, his
eyes darting back and forth along the screen. He held a dirty, softcover notebook in which he
hastily scribbled information about the graphics. His head bobbed up and down, from his notes
to the screen. His pencil moved so quickly that the page he wrote on was eventually punctured
and torn. He tutted, flipping the paper and glancing over at Marah, who hadn’t stopped knitting.
“What’s so special about that?”
“The knitting. Seems to be more important than all of the facts displayed. Why?”
Marah shrugged, her hands at work slowing slightly as she mulled over her answer. She
nodded to herself before responding.
“An ode to my mind won’t exist unless I create it.”
The being raised his eyebrows and nodded reluctantly.
“Do you really think your mark is only as poignant as a garment?”, he asked. He
grimaced, pointing to the bloody cuts caused by the string between Marah’s fingers. She
hurriedly wiped the wounds with the thumb of her opposite hand, motioning to the being that she
was fine.
“It’s a tangible testament to my efforts,” she shrugged.
After a beat, Marah laughed, “At least the flakes from my knuckles will live on, stuck
between rows of wool.”
She followed this with an awkward smile and returned to work.

The being kept making his way through the halls, his feet flopping lazily onto the ground,
the rhythming slapping pausing for minutes at a time as he immersed himself into the pieces. He
approached a glass box curiously and looked over his shoulders before stacking his palms on top
of the clear lid. He rested his forehead on his hands, and stared directly downwards, absorbed by
the hologram encased. This installation depicted a model of our galaxy, spinning around a

luminous globe at its center. His breath started to fog the glass case, which he wiped with three
long, bony fingers. The being began to read a plaque with a few paragraphs of information next
to the hologram, mouthing along. After a few lines, the being looked away but continued
mouthing the inscription on the plaque. He turned to read another plaque in the distance and was
able to recall what was written verbatim after reading the first three words. He repeated this self-
induced pop quiz a dozen times, eventually growing bored before he could finish mouthing the
information written on the signs to himself. His bare chest rose and fell with a defeated sigh, and
he searched the hallway for Marah. He eventually spotted the top of her head still slumped over
clicking sticks, frozen in the same spot they had last spoken.

He started toward her, dragging the top of his toes over the cold vinyl floors, akin to a
weary child desperate for mental stimulation. When he reached her, he sighed loudly.
“It’s all so fascinating. Grand. Smart.” he started, his voice trailing off.
“Hmm.” Marah agrees distractedly, finishing a row of her sweater.
“So you agree?”
“I guess.”
“Why, then, don’t you look up?”
Marah paused, searching for an irrefutable response. She held up the mass of knitted wool with a
“There’s no plaque beside it, but it’s still deserving of my care. Nuance belongs in art.”
The being shrugged then teetered his head side to side with pursed lips. He
pointed down to Marah’s project.
“And I see you’ve taken it upon yourself to explore these nuances?”
“I’d be sorry if I didn’t at least try.”
“Ah. Thanks.”

Taken aback, Marah lowered her head and frowned, sucking her cheeks in to mask a

The pair walked lazily towards the exit, the only sounds heard being the anxious clicking
of Marah’s knitting sticks and the slow hum of the electronics in the museum. As they
approached the velvet curtain marking the end of the short experience, the being turned to admire
the mosaic of colorful lights in the hallway before stepping through the velvet curtains and back
into the museum lobby.
Marah looked down at the huge sweater she’d knit, now pooled at her ankles and
accumulating grime from the museum floor. She squinted, trying to remember why she had
begun making this piece in the first place. The passion that had ignited the first knot found itself
on the tip of her tongue. She straightened her neck, running her gaze over the being. Her eyes
darted around his shape quickly, looking at his bare torso, analyzing the width of his waist and
the shape of his stomach. Still fixated on his proportions, her hands fumbled around the sweater.
She toyed with the edges, and her eyes widened as she comprehended the shape with sudden
clarity. In between chatters of his teeth, the being met her gaze with a raised eyebrow, and his
blueish lips spread into a grin. She returned his expression and gathered the wooly garment into
her arms before extending it toward him.
“Slip this on,” she ordered kindly.
He grappled with the hem before inserting his lanky limbs into the arm holes and placing
them over his head. The smooth wool rubbed over his face as he squeezed his head through the
opening. The fabric fell over his torso and he closed his eyes in glee, soaking in the comfort and
warmth of his very first sweater. The wool hugged his pink belly and warmth began to penetrate
his body, making its way from his outer layer of skin down to every bone beneath him.
He smiled.
Marah’s cheeks flushed with pride. The pair shared a prolonged look and Marah sat
down, ruffling through her bag for the next ball of yarn. The being crouched down to sit in front
of her, frowning when cold vinyl floors touched his bottom. He finally relaxed, and Marah

landed on a soft pink ball of yarn. Their animated chatter began again, laughter and scattered
exclamations filling the room. The being began to share his bank of knowledge, hesitantly at
first, in small bouts of fun facts padded with a semblance of nonchalance. As he watched Marah
listen with intent, his tone grew passionate and his tales lengthier. She nodded along, the clicking
of her wooden sticks resuming with a gentler musicality. She picked up wool for each row, now
delicately avoiding the sensitive spots on her fingertips. Marah calmly worked on garments for
the being, garments for herself, and art for both of them. They sat in the museum lobby for a very
long time, gifting one another slices of what they believed life to be worth. Conversation echoed
across the velvet curtains. Their world grew fuller as they shared it.



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