Asuqi is the third runner-up in the Mammoth Book of Best New Horror Vol 22. competition. Her story Born This Way tore at my heart. Wrap your own up carefully, then read on...
Born This Way by Asuqi
During daytime, she walks pleasantly two steps behind. Simplifies her language and diminishes her thoughts. Behaves.
During nighttime, in her dreams, she’s in a twilight park in some old European town. Statues and fancy buildings; stone, stone, stone. She’s on a balcony, in a hotel maybe? And so far the dreams are okay. But her view is over those statues, and one of them seems closer, more important, like it’s been chosen for some reason. It stands tall with its back at her. As she watches, it moves closer, fills her view, becomes a monolith of religious proportions, and then it turns to face her. It’s as if though she’s holding a breath, one she won’t ever release, because when it turns, she sees its face is gone, replaced by a smooth rubbery surface. It moves to speak, but the surface won’t open and the statue makes a chewing movement, stretches its stone flesh in despair, and the scream she hears would have been her own if she’d been able to let go of that breath.
She wakes up and flings open the window. Takes deep, dry breaths. Tries to regain balance. Initially it works.
One day, on her way to work, a crow dives and hits her. It’s immediately stuck in her long hair. She and the bird are both thrown into full mode panic. It tears and claws, and she falls, they fall, her perfectness a mess. She lies face down, paralysed, and the crow stills, exhausted. She stays put as nights grow longer and ice creeps slowly over every available surface.
The Winter forest freezes everything, dreams too, and there is a calmness in that. Hungry little ones come to sniff and search; to taste the crow’s scraggy flesh. Its bones rest lightly on the back of her head, a styrofoam structure left to pale and weather. And she feels oddly cleansed.
It’s Spring when she returns to civilization, hungry. There is a difference now, for when she finds food she eats. No questions asked, no hesitation and she’s not going to back down.
She dreams again. When the monolith turns to face her, its features are the crow’s. She sees it’s not perfect. It’s not desirable - not the preferred result. But it is. It sees with unblinking crow eyes and when it opens its beak to speak, its roar; her roar, is magnificent.
The pretty is no more. She gains fearlessness. She says no and if necessary, she strikes. People avoid her. She’s called crazy, dangerous even, but it’s a small price to pay - the dreams are gone.
Bio: Please accept me as Asuqi. I find horror difficult to write, it's so easy to make shallow rip-offs and so hard to find an angle that communicates something truly scary. Trying to write horror scares me, but is that an angle? I´m eternally confused. Visit me for random confusions at http://asuqi.blogspot.com