Horla Fiction (October 2020)





LIKE a blood disease, it passes down through the veins, the toddler reins – tied to a highchair – for days.

There were endless wrinkles under each of his eyes. Aged perhaps. Pained perhaps. His eyes were strangely liquid – not pleasant, less human.

He spoke low and certain: said that he usually outsourced, kept clean hands, secret faces, but once in a while, liked to take a job himself.

“I’m a job then?” I asked before I realised what I was doing.


In that moment, I saw that he had the power of steel-capped, ageless, Calvary mountains and my nerve scuttled away, like spilt marbles. All those imaginations of fighting back. I never believed I would be a victim. I was the woman with keys for fingers. I was the woman with all the untapped rage of the little girl who has seen the worst of her father. I was grey granite – undefeatable and unconquerable. Of course, this was only in my mind on a bottle of wine Friday nights in front of ‘Criminal Minds’, in reaction to the pornography of slashing a woman into streamers of all of patriarchal desire.

His predatory eyes exposed the silver of practised violence – perfected over years of trying.

Then he screamed, really, really screamed – the scream of a tortured child – bones torn from sockets. My heartbeat moved to my crotch: I wanted to wee.

like when the monsterman came

and stole you all the days

and buried you up to your neck in your rotting regret

and stopped your breathing dead

and plucked the pretty birds from your head

and crushed your dried-out heart in his fist –

to blind-eyed ashes.

He knelt over me and stroked with examinate whites in his eyes.

I was pleased he had screamed – semi-detached hopes of the neighbours but they are self-involved and boring and I have double-glazing, which I used to think impervious.

All those episodes of women too stupid to run downstairs and out of the house. Of the postal worker in America whose headphones stopped them from hearing the screams from inside. Then he cut out her heart.

My timorous arms tried a feeble barrier. His face felt as though it was inside mine: a haka masque. I could see him brutalising daddy-long-legs as a child and smiling, in the way that they do.

I climbed up the floor, Moriety inspecting my inelegance, smirking and reptilian.

He lustily eyed my butcher’s knife as he slid it from its wooden block. His tongue pressed outside of his mouth as he used the knife to trace the outline of my neck, shoulders, arms, back.

I didn’t fight back. I never fought back.

I Catholically washed then dried, washed then dried.

And cried.

I would never leave dishes dirty: unacceptable.

He spoke again and his voice was nothing special, nor specific: “Most people want to know who.”

“Who, what?”

“Who paid for me to come here. To do this.”

I thought of all those irritating moments – the ‘I wish I had said…’ moments of frustration – and that bitch woman at work – but I couldn’t think of a single name. There wasn’t someone who wanted this. Not a reason why someone would want this.

He watched, disappointed as my legs finally went and I cruffled into the floor.

like when the monsterman

gave you a map, to make you lost,

gave you a smile, and told you the cost,

gave you a dog, and taught it to bite,

gave you a carnival mirror reflection,

and made you cower in the cold of every single night.

and you are so jealous, love, so jealous of

those normal children. such simple parts

that they don’t even see: the normal touches; the innocent gifts, the parts that make you cry petty, spiteful tears,





He looked at me and said, “One month.” He said. He said.

One month before he came back.

Desperate words powdered the bones in my head, wanting to shard out and slash him. Words that made me scream in snaps of sleep – bestial, sweating dreams.

I stopped working and went to the sea.




Penny Fearn has been an English teacher for 14 years and currently resides in Surrey, England. Her poetry has appeared in various magazines, such as Mslexia and The Reader, as well as various anthologies. Her first collection – ‘after the fire’ – was published as a chapbook by Erbacce Press. 
Please see her website for more information: www.pennyfearn.wordpress.com