PICA

 

Moderation seemed a good idea. If Serena practiced it, she might be like one of the Stoics of old: rational, balanced, controlled. Except that this was easier said than done. The charms of moderation seemed a little - what? - exaggerated. There was no comfort in it, nothing to negotiate with. It seemed hard and dry. 

Perhaps the first thing would be to face moderation head-on, and to sacrifice everything she liked - stuff that was moist, luscious, salacious and sweet. After all, Serena had enough flesh to keep her going for weeks. She thought about the four elements: they could be nurturing, at least. Fire she couldn’t eat. But air she could breathe. Water she could drink. And earth - well, earth was what made and fed us all. All flesh is grass. So she decided to eat earth. The soil could nourish her. 

 

Accordingly, she began to feast on soil. People looked a little askance, of course, and she had to take care that her food source was clean. 

Gradually, by nibbling and sucking, she began to recognise the mineral tastes hidden in the earth: iron, magnesium. She carried round a little trowel in her handbag and scratched away at likely sources when she thought no-one was looking. Some of the soil was more chewy than the rest. It didn’t fill her, of course, and she began to lose flesh. Good.

 

Gradually, though, she began to feel that her sustenance was too dusty and she craved something cleaner, harder, crunchier. Of course! Ice was what she needed. It was clean. She began to haunt her friends’ deep-freezes (those who were not  too frightened to let her in) and she filled her mouth with their ice-cubes. Once she had the great good-fortune to find an American freezer with an automatic ice-dispenser, and her joy was complete. Serena filled her mouth and her pockets with the glassy substance. The lumps of ice cracked her teeth and made her tongue cleave to the roof of her mouth. But it was nice.

 

Eventually, though, she felt odd. It was as though her body was filling up with ice. The feeling started with her feet and moved upwards: stomach, chest, head. She was becoming a living glacier, beyond fear, pleasure or desire. Lot’s wife had become a pillar of salt. But Serena was a pillar of ice. As her brain froze, she realised that this was not necessarily what moderation was. But it was too late to turn back now.

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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 |