ECDYSIS

She was changing, but she couldn’t quite express how she felt. It was a tiredness, a brittleness that ran through her whole body and her skin. What had  brought it on?  Possibly the company she had kept: men who would never express their emotions, women who were bitter and costive. In any event, something in her past had set in motion a profound and puzzling transformation. 

 

She  itched all over, and without meaning to, she began to leave little bits of skin about. Wherever she lay or sat, a confetti of flakes lay in heaps or clusters. Once they had left her body, they seemed rough and lifeless. Some were horny, some were transparent. It was embarrassing, especially in windy weather, when she seemed to be walking through her very own snowstorm.

 

It felt like  a shedding, but it was of a very radical kind. She needed to get rid. Things moved into a more intense tempo. One day she realised that the skin on her hands and arms was on the move, and gingerly, gently, she pulled it off in one piece, so that it looked like a pair of discarded gloves. The same with the skin on her legs and feet. That had been with her so long that once it was shed, it stood up on its own like a pair of boots. Last was the skin on the trunk and the face. She rolled it up like an old vest, and crossing her arms, drew it over her head. There it lay, papery and still. It had been her, but was so no longer. 

 

But how did she appear now? She looked in the mirror. Apart from being slightly shiny, she looked more or less the same.  Her eyes were different though. The pupils were now vertical slits instead of circles, but she thought that few people  would notice. Folk were so unobservant on the whole! The other novelty was her tongue, which was now forked. She had to take care not to let it flicker in and out of her mouth too much. It might put people off. 

 

But how did she now feel? That was the thing. Cool. Astonishingly cool, both mentally and physically. She was no longer racked by the griefs and disappointments that had plagued her before. She picked up the little talismans she used to treasure: the tiny shoe, her mother’s wedding ring, the photographs. It was not that they meant nothing any more, but that her memories were  now inscribed in her flesh and she did not need to keep them in her pocket any more. She made a narrow scrape in the ground and covered them over. 

 

Of course, her old name would no longer serve. She wrote it  on a piece of paper and buried it in the hole with the other keepsakes. She sat thinking for a while and a new name came to her all of a sudden, perhaps from a poem she had read or a story she had heard. “Lamia”, she said. My name is Lamia.”

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© 2020 by Sue Harper

feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | supernatural | fantastic and paranoia | literary female gothic | gothic narrative | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest | portsmouth university | emeritus professor sue harper | feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | outstanding achievement award | british association of film, theatre and television | professor of film history at portsmouth university | film, media and creative arts | british academy and the arts and humanities research council | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest |