Say you are a monster, or rather say you live in a monster's body. And a monster's blood is flowing in your veins. And a monster's appetite is in your stomach, and when that stomach is empty, the acid in it turns to fire.
Say you are a Dwindleskin, walking home from work. Ravenous. Cutting through the shadows of the dark French Quarter streets to keep from scaring the pretty housewives, the obnoxious tourists, the nosy children.
Say you can smell them anyway, the irresistible variety of their flesh, a bakery of human sweets.
Say you've made it to your front door, which is really the back door of a room above an old butcher's shop, and say you've made it there unmolested. The smells are fading, being replaced by the rot of a carcass the garbage man has yet to take away.
Say you turn the key in your lock, and your mind is already inside. You're stripping off your coat, heating a can of soup on the stove, unwinding the bandages that keep you wrapped up tight as a mummy, so you can spend an hour soaking your angry skin in a minty salve that does nothing to reduce the pain, only the smell.
Say you're turning the lock in the door, and you smell cigarette smoke. It drifts over quietly, self-consciously, like a shy adolescent who wishes to get by you without being seen or examined at a family party.
Say you notice it's source. A little orange tip about the height of your chin, back against the window a few paces away. It could almost belong to your reflection, but it doesn't. You want to pull on the porch light — the string is right beside your hand — to cast the smoker in light, to know whether they mean you harm, but you can't. Even with your pulse up in your throat, you're too afraid of scaring them.
Say you do the only thing you feel capable of doing. You unlock the door. You slip inside, and lock it again. You make your soup. You salve your wounds. And you try to forget all about the smoke, even as you hear footsteps descending, to leave you, once again, alone.
Say the smoke comes to you in dreams. You recognize the brand, Lucky Strikes, because your boss at the Sideshow smokes them, too. But your visitor wasn't your boss. You would have smelled him beneath the smoke, smelled the damp mold of the attic where he stores his winter clothes each summer, smelled the dried semen on his skin, from the countless lap dances he requests from the legless wonders, in the pants he re-wears every day without washing.
You recognize the top note, Lucky Strikes, but not the notes beneath it. The scent of sweat covered by too much lavender oil. The bitter smell of champagne gone stale on breath. The sweet-guilty smell of a cunt, a day unwashed.
Say you try to forget, but know if you ever encounter the woman upon your doorstep in the light of day, you'd recognize her instantly.
Say your nights are spent legs pressed tight together in bed, imagining her. Chasing yet another kind of hunger your body is incapable of satiating. Say you dream she comes back, comes back and comes inside, dream she isn't afraid, dream she lets you lower your face between her legs and sip the nectar from her before taking the first tender bite out of her labia. Say in your dream she doesn't scream. She doesn't hurt. Say in your dream she watches with more indifference than a woman having a few inches of hair cut off.
Say you wake throbbing, so hungry you consider leaving your room, walking the streets until you find someone you can take into a dark alley for a hundred dollars.
Say you are so disturbed by these fantasies you decide to move out of fear she'll find you again.
Say she finds you anyway.
Say you are a twenty-four year old heiress to a leather factory. Say you've been consumed by a queer desire ever since you were a child, a desire for teeth and claws and caverns of missing flesh. Say you are always recovering from animal bites you pick at incessantly, say you got a bad reputation, at fourteen years old, for asking a boy to bite your throat. Say you never quite recovered, not from the gossip, but the way his sharp little teeth had felt, underneath your skin.
Say you heard rumor of a monster down in the French Quarter, a woman like a corpse who worked in a sideshow as a living mummy. Say you heard if you peeled back the strips of cloth, she was rotting like a Dwindleskin beneath, that old cajun monster, distant relative of the zombie, rumored to be born of a madwoman's conjugal visit with a corpse. Say the freak's flesh slackens and rots off if it goes too long without feeding on human flesh, say that with a single visit, you could fix her, and she could fix you.
Say you hear the story. Say your old bite wounds are still radiating with heat, like a phantom infection. Say you finger the old tears in your flesh and feel all of them are too small. Say you find that monster. Say you find her, living in an old ally above a butcher's shop, and the moon hits her dark sad eyes and she is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen in your life, so beautiful, she steals your voice.
Say she ignores you, walks away, and you are heartbroken.
Say it haunts you, that almost night, no matter where you go and what you do.
Say you have her followed, watched, studied. Say one night, you make another visit.
Say that happens.
Do you go inside when she invites you, even as she trembles so hard you're afraid she might collapse? Do you look around her little apartment, and ask for a cup of tea? Do you talk about the weather while she avoids your gaze?
Do you lift up your skirt and say please? Do you laugh as you bleed out on her bedspread, knowing it was always coming to this?
Say you do.
is a 23-year-old who grew up a stone's throw from Sleepy Hollow. All her fiction is autobiographical, even if it isn't. To read more of her work, visit The Legendary