Ecdysis by Holly Zijderveld
The house was dark, even in the winter. There were so many windows, but never any lights on - she was permanently asleep in the husk.
It was midwinter, and the dry air seeped through the keyhole, the vents, the tiny crack in the upstairs bathroom window. The Lady lounged alone, she was bored, she was purple with everything dissatisfactory. Her lips peeled but her velvet hung so perfectly on her body. Her book lay open, neglected between her fingers. Recently, there had been little point in reading. There was only time for it to happen once, but she had to be perfect in her execution - the fiction could maybe wait for another day.
There was something terribly wrong. It crept under her fingernails, pursued her nostrils, invaded her pores, it clung like a parasite to her brain. It made her sick. She had spent time enough to her stomach’s temperaments, she wouldn’t have it happen again.
Everything felt too close to her. The air was tight; she knew how it got in, she’d fix it soon. Her breaths increased. It was subtle at first, but before long she was pacing along the dark wood floor, striding among the furniture like a small child lost in a city - why did she feel so small, why did everything feel so impending? Still, her breath ran faster than her, and soon she was on the floor. The ceiling was screaming, it was bursting her eardrums, it was the perfect time to do it.
By the time she had reached the bathroom sink, her breath had settled and the ceiling had hushed. She felt a peace only felt by the leaves as they fell, the stream as it flowed, the fish as they swam, the baby as it smiled. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her skin cracked, but her eyes glistened. Joy flooded her face. It was the perfect time to do it.
An orange feels most free when it’s peeled. An egg feels at liberty when it’s cracked. A bird is at large when it’s out of the cage.
The remnants of the deed lay in the sink. Finally, she was awake.
Holly Zijderveld (she/her) is a writer currently based in the UK. When she's not writing or running her own lit journal, you can find her watching too many films, playing Bach, and thinking the way the light hit that one very specific bit of water. You can find her @hollyzijderveld on Instagram and Twitter.