Short fiction

Issue #8

The Woman

The Woman was so grotesque you could lie her on the grass and the earth would eat her up. Her face was as near to the floor as her feet were, from the way she bent over, and her eyes had rolled back into her head and stuck there from too much looking in. Maybe she was pretty on the outside, but the meaninglessness of her innards spilled out so ugly-ly that at the end of the day she shlopped and spilled all over the bed like a gutted pig.

If she hadn’t had so much hair she’d have been completely bald, like a bleeding egg – all gooey and yellowing and cracking at the corners.

She was lipless and tongueless. Her mouth appeared from nowhere, like a stinking cave that folded in on itself out of the rocks of her face, and went so deep it came out the other side of her head and dripped down her neck like treacle.

Bone by bone she was held in place; bone by bone so that every time she moved her structure seemed to crumble and jumble about until she was something different.

Her rolls of spotted skin rippled and oozed and caught themselves everywhere.


So that every place The Woman went she would leave behind chunks of torn-off flesh as though it was fairy dust.

Now, on the other side of the world, The Man saw in nature what he wanted to see in himself; he saw the sun shining, the birds singing, and the water flowing – without a care or a question – to the sea. He knew then that all that mattered in life was around him, and that he must take his orders from nature. He walked past a woodpecker pecking at a tree, and so the next tree he came to he kissed as though it were his lover. He later walked past a beaver burrowing in the ground and so the next field he came to he made his home.

Then, one day, The Man came across a woman. A woman so beautiful and so kind and so precious, it was as though she had been dug fresh out of the earth. Nature seemed to feed her, and bathe her, and keep her warm and safe. So the man took it upon himself to be her servant, just like nature seemed to be.

And this woman, with all the fuzziness of her cheek hair, and all the shininess of her nose, loved The Man for his kindness and declared that they should live together forever, like Adam and Eve, in eternal bliss and happiness only without any walls.

The Man kissed the ground every morning when the sun rose, and every night when it set. He kissed it every hour in between, too, and thanked nature with cries and songs for his happiness. He danced around all day long in the field he had made his home, and kissed and hugged and loved his woman as though she were the trees.

This pretty natural woman, with her wrinkled eyes, and stubby fingers, and soury smell, would dance on the days she wanted, and not on the days she didn’t. She would eat when she pleased, and sleep when she pleased, and her Man never thought to ask her where she went. She would experiment with the wild. She would practice running at the speed of light and being stuck without time. She would climb the trees to see the world the way the birds did, and scratch herself with the branches to feel alive. Often she would scream at the top of her lungs, but other times she would just sit and think about things like her subconscious, or the viscosity of mud.

Her innards were as warm as the sun, and as lively as the river, and all that her natural skin desired was to hold her lovely innards in, and to keep her the whole person that she was. That was all.

Now, on the other side of the world lay a trail of monstrous human flesh. The Woman – with her hairless head and tongueless mouth; with her nailless fingers and nailess toes; with her whiteless eyes and holeless ears; with her bloodless heart and breathless nose – was in search of love (as all grotesque women are).

Yes, she was on the hunt, and was so determined that she began to fume. Steam began rising high out the top of her head, like a dirty chimney, and the sky itself seemed to turn to the colour of soot above her. As she dragged herself haggardly across the face of the earth, the world turned to death around her.

The world turned to death.

Maybe The Man and the woman he loved could see her coming? After all, the ground began to sag, the sky began to droop, and the air was thicker and smellier and dirtier than they had ever known it. But neither said a word, not a word, not a word to each other. They kissed the ground, and danced amongst its dust.

One day, The horrible Woman stopped.

She stopped.

And stood.

At the end of the field.

The field that The Man and the woman he loved called their home. She stood there for a day and a night, as still as the wind, with her jaw half way to the floor, and her back half way to her stomach, and her eyes half way in to her mushy skull. For a day and a night The Man and the woman he loved didn’t say a word, not a word, not a word, and didn’t look to any edge of their field; instead they kissed the ground and danced amongst its dust as though it was the last day.

He was the first to turn.

He was the first to turn and as he turned the earth began to shift and change and rumble, either hungry or shaking with fear. And because The Man had stopped dancing, and his eyes were the fullest she had ever known, the woman he loved turned too. Both turned, both breathed, and both were frightened to the core. When the woman he loved saw the terror of this monster – when she saw its fatness, its misery, its cheeks that sagged to the floor, its flesh that caught to every corner, its yellow skin, its toeless stumpy feet, its toothless mouth, its stinking twisted frame – she ran. Not away, but at it. Yes, she ran at it. She ran.

She ran straight at it, at The Woman, and she hurled herself into its gooey flesh. Caught in and dragged in, she fought against its fatty skin, and pulled The Woman to the floor. The two of them rolled around and tangled themselves amongst each other’s limbs, a tormented pile of legs and arms and mouths and eyes, until at last one lay on top of the other – the one he loved on top of the one he feared.

The Woman was face up, on her back, half defeated. The other lay like a ladybird on top of a filthy hill. After a moment, in which both bodies caught their breath, the woman he loved pulled herself up to standing, leaving the monster lifeless on the floor. But as the woman he loved stood up, the flesh of the monster’s stomach and breasts and legs and arms tore off with her. So all that was left was half a monster – defeated.

The Man kissed the ground and danced and thanked nature for his good fortune. As he did, the ground began to shift and change and rumble. The earth began to grumble.

He looked over to The Woman, who lay like rotting roadkill on the grass.

Then, the earth began to eat her up.

He watched as she was guzzled up, gulped up, oozed up, and chewed away at.

He watched as she was torn apart, broken up like bread and rolled around like dough.

And then, without thinking and without question – since the Man had vowed to take his lessons from nature, after all – he walked over to the place, and with his hands he scooped up every bit of her. And ate her up.

Helen Monks