OF MONSTERS is a series of flash fiction exploring what it means to be monstrous, and each piece, small and silver-wrapped, opens to reveal something different. In Dana Diehl’s “Child Star,” monstrousness is fame, and the feeling that your body is undependable, might any moment split like a seam. In “Jane Eyre,” Zach Doss explores the monstrousness of cutting someone to bits and reconstruction, of a love turned scientific and procedural. Monstrousness is having a fish in your heart, is a series a B movies where we’re just waiting to be attacked, is the pebbling in of a migraine, is being a different sort of person in your attic, is darkness, is senility, is the struggle to swallow. A topcoat of witchcraft. The hint of a tentacle in a pool. Monstrousness is being the person who wasn’t good enough to love. Is the dragon you can’t control. Is knowing how powerless you are.
The series is inspired by Melissa Goodrich’s debut collection Daughters of Monsters, a raw and magical book of spells, an honest yet harrowing look at the wonder and threat of the world.
There was nothing and then there was darkness. There was nothing and then there was sound—the buzzing of a fly and the tolling of church bells and the cart man’s call and there was the rushed desperation of your breath and the stiff weight of the shroud and there was the stifling air—And now your voice 10 days unheard broke into the dark.
The poet and his wife and servants and children even from behind their parents sat in your room and spoke to you in soft measured tones and so nursed you. They brought you bread and broth and pleaded with you to open your lips and sometimes you did and how gray the food tasted now. How you struggled to swallow. And sometimes you did and sometimes you spat it out.
I do not need to eat, you thought. I am dead.
And the poet hired doctors to inspect you, their elegant suits and whiskers and hats and so the masculine rush of tobacco smoke and bourbon into your seclusion and little did they acknowledge you but to grab and pull, investigate and inspect; they did not even ask your name but they felt your limbs and looked into your mouth and they opened wide your eyes and described what there they saw and they felt about your neck and they spoke of men believed dead who had moved again upon the dissection table and they spoke of those believed dead who had fought against the grave and moved within their tomb only again often to starve or suffocate and when exhumed the signs of their struggle upon the boards.
So it was they registered no pulse nor beat of the heart and so the organ neither moved nor did the blood flow with any discernable pace. And so when they felt to measure your breath they discovered no such motion and a feather placed upon your nose did not flutter and your chest did not move in the living manner. Yet the doctors did pace and theorize and pace and in their infallible logic they decreed your heart did beat and your blood did flow and so too the air dispelled from your nose scarcely registered and now they believed that feather did move, and if they did open your chest they would witness a heart in subtlest throb, and if they had a microscope they could with that microscope observe that motion of breath.
And some mornings still the clammy press of worms fat as slugs and yet speckled with soil—you watched them slide across your flesh—seeking the rot—you picked yourself clean and set them on the lawn—barefoot yet in your nightgown—Yes they peeled the worms from you—they filled buckets wriggling—and still their slick reside—your arms and lips and throat and your torso and your breasts—And no matter how many times you bathed still their trail upon you—
Robert Kloss is the author of the novels The Alligators of Abraham and The Revelator. He lives in Colorado.