A creation of One Page Wonder’s Stories to Read Alone at Night, “Annora Petrova” (which is technically just called “Annora”) is a familiar sort of tale; it’s reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.
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First published in a shortened form in 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine and later as a full-length, standalone work in 1891, Wilde’s work caused an uproar at the time of publication, offending Victorian sensibilities for its hedonism and decadence. You probably know the conceit of the story, even if you’ve never read it: Dorian Gray, young and beautiful, strikes a Faustian bargain in order to keep said youth and beauty, causing the ravages of both age and his own sins to display not on he himself, but on a portrait painted of him instead. It’s funny how so many things considered “shocking” and “indecent” have proven to have lasting resonance, though, isn’t it? We’re still seeing takes on this same theme more than a century later; one of my favorite versions is the Neil Gaiman short story “The Wedding Present,” tucked away in the introduction of his collection Smoke and Mirrors.
“Annora Petrova,” too, riffs off of what Dorian Gray became famous for. A few things set it apart, however: First, the titular character doesn’t exactly strike a bargain; and second — and perhaps most notably — it updates the conceit for the modern age in the most apt way possible: It’s a sort of cautionary tale about Googling yourself.
Do make sure you check out the mocked-up Wikipedia page that accompanies the story — but don’t do it until you’ve read the rest of the story first. It’s important to save it for last. I mean it.
Subject: BREE PLEASE READ THIS
BREE, DON’T DELETE THIS!
I know you hate me, but we were best friends once and I need you to read this. I think I’m in serious trouble and there’s nothing you can do, but I need you to read this so you understand.
I know we haven’t talked since sectionals. It’s been forever, but what happened to you wasn’t my fault. At least it wasn’t entirely my fault. I know everyone thinks it was, but I would never do anything to hurt you.
This is going to sound crazy, but I need to tell you this so that someone knows.
It started when we were in the 8th grade. It was the night before the Crystal Classic competition. I was at home and I couldn’t sleep because I was so nervous about competing. Well, I got on the computer, just sorta surfing the web and stuff, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything, I was just sitting there, so I googled myself.
I never should have done that Bree. At first it was all the usual stuff you find when you Google yourself; then I found a link to a Wikipedia page about me.
I thought our club or my dad made it or something. There wasn’t much there; just some basic facts about skating, what city I lived in, but the thing that got me was that it said I won that year’s Crystal Classic.
I laughed, I thought for sure someone just did it to encourage me. I confronted my dad about it, but he denied it.
When I won the competition the next day, I was so happy. That was the first competition I had ever won and it felt so good. Remember how hard I worked after that. That’s when my parents hired Sergei to coach me. You know how much that must have cost.
After that, I would check my page before every competition and it would always tell the result of how I placed.
[Photo via kropekk_pl/Pixabay, remixed by Lucia Peters]