Little Monsters – Flash Fiction by Claire L. Smith

little monsters
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All little girls have a monster on their shoulder. Appearing shortly after birth, the monsters attach themselves to the baby girl’s neck and wrap their long tail around her throat, their claws into the side of her head. Because of this, the little girls can’t see their monsters, not even in the mirror. They see only themselves. However, they can always hear those monsters whispering in their ears with a dark and unforgiving growl.

Irie named her monster Douglas, after her family’s handsy next-door neighbour. She found it a suitable name for a discomforting monster that everyone simply ignores.

By the time she was sixteen, Douglas had begun to grow down her back. His multiple legs sank into her spine as well as her neck. He never stopped whispering to her. He’d convinced her that having large breasts was a curse, adding it to the carpet-length list of insecurities she tried to smother with ‘modest’ clothing.

Even her work uniform wasn’t adequate. The white dress shirt strained against her bra as she reached up to pile away folded clothes into the display shelves. Douglas kept a tight grip on her, although he didn’t have to remind her to pull down her top every time she reached up to the higher shelves.

Irie rubbed her heavy eyes. Her mind was numb with drowsiness, her lips sour. Focused on her primary task, she didn’t hear the ghostly footsteps that silvered up behind her. She felt a hard grip on her shoulder and froze as the manager’s murky breath skimmed across her neck; a thick lump formed in her throat as he smiled down at her.

“You look tired, love.” The manager squeezed her captured shoulder.

“Um, exams are coming up.” Her voice was thin from the adrenaline. “I’ve been studying a lot.”

“Why don’t you take a break?”

“Actually, that’d be great, thank you.” Irie reached up to massage the corner of her left eye,

“Anything for your pretty face.”

The manager’s comment slapped her just before his palm did, stinging her rear with a sharp whack. Irie leapt into the air, knocking her elbow against the shelf as she attempted to fling herself away. The manager chuckled at her attempt before disappearing into the rows of shelving.

With knees that suddenly struggled to support her weight, Irie retreated to the staff bathroom. Locking the door, she eased herself against the moist bathroom titles, a nauseating weight pulling her down to the floor.

Douglas shifted around on the back of her spine, sending chills down it. His scales popped from his leathery skin, the black stones sprouting legs and starting to roam free around Irie’s body. With a gasp lodged in her throat, Irie clawed at the tiny beetles. Her feet kicked against the slippery floor. She sobbed as the beetles clung to her skin with a prickly grip.

“Stop making such a fuss,” hissed Douglas.

Irie could feel the beetles injecting their weakening poison, but she pulled herself to her feet. Her body shivered with a crawling fever, but her chest was filled with a burning rage. She reached behind her, gripped Douglas’ prickly body and tugged backwards. Douglas growled, tightening his grip around her neck as she continued to fight him – continuing to pull, regardless of how deeply he dug himself in.

“Get out of my head,” she spat.

A bang on the bathroom door tore her from her struggle, and the door trembled beneath the pressure of a heavy fist. The manager called out.

“We need you at the register, darling!”

Swallowing a breath of courage, Irie lunged towards the bathroom door. It flew open with a violent swoosh, and as she slammed it behind her, Irie captured the manager’s attention in a vice-like gaze. Confusion and rage swam in the manager’s dark eyes as Irie placed her hands on her wide hips, facing him with a livid glare. She took a strong step forward.

“You will never touch me like that again!” She shoved her accusing finger beneath his nose. With a firm twist of her heel, she span round to make her triumphant exit. Warm pride swelled in her chest as the beetles dropped from her body like broken feathers from a span of wings.

“Irie! Don’t bother coming in tomorrow!” Something in the manager’s growl snagged at her, made her pause.

Then Douglas swarmed her. His tail curled around her neck, trapping the remainder of her voice in her chest as his claws sunk into her hunched shoulders.

“Slut,” he whispered.

The monster’s tiny body curled forward, forcing her head down. Irie found it hard to breath. There was too much pressure on her throat.

She began to choke on a lesson that only little girls are forced to learn.

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