Brushing away the curls of hair stuck to her forehead, Gretchen blinks at the moon as the steam from the fox’s mouth swallows her tiny body. It feels like she’s floating in a bathtub of milk or a pocketful of cotton wool. Maybe even cotton candy. Licking her lips at the thought of sticking her tongue into a cone of the pink stuff like the lovers at the fairground, her stomach tickles from the fluttering of butterfly wings. As an adult, such delicate fluttering would signal the onset of an orgasm, but right now, such pleasures are beyond her. Still, the beginning of transformation ignites somewhere deep in her belly, and with every breath, she feels herself dissolving, becoming one with the steam dancing around her limbs. Everything’s so dreamy, and when the steam disperses, the night sky is an explosion of stars. There are no clouds. There isn’t even ground, for the sea of mud and grass has dissolved into nothingness. It’s now just her, the fox, and the lovers in the fairground. Running her fingers through the fox’s fur, she at first feels the frantic beating of its animal heart, then, as the electricity in the tips of her fingers causes her teeth to chatter, all she feels is the tangled mess of her own head of hair. Recognising the matted clumps her mother tries so desperately to comb out but to no avail, she gasps as if winded. Digging her fingers as deep into him as they’ll go, rather than touching the bones of his ribcage, she feels the shape of her skull—small, cold, and teeming with madness.

X and I: A Novel and A Journal for Damned Lovers on Amazon UK

X and I: A Novel and A Journal for Damned Lovers on Amazon US

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