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Linda Niehoff is a photographer and writer living in a small Kansas town. She loves silver water towers, ghost stories, and old Polaroid cameras. Her short fiction can be found or is forthcoming in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Weird Horror, Flash Fiction Online, and elsewhere. Find her occasionally on Twitter: @lindaniehoff.

A cropped band concert t-shirt. Sleeves torn off. Cut in half. Hair spiked up. Fish nets and a jean skirt.
She's hungry.
The clap of heeled boots on the pavement. The puff of cold breath, short staccato bursts as she walks.
The night smells metal and fried, the grease of French fries and burgers soaking the air, mixing with exhaust.
She can hear the thump of music. A heartbeat inside the brick building up ahead. The thump of music beating underneath horn honks and the rush of traffic. The scatter of voices and a single sharp laugh that breaks through.
She's short.
They all comment on that.
Her bones are small and look like they could break. Thin. They tell her that, too.
She's painted her lips blue. Her eyes black.
She looks like a runaway.
She likes it when they tell her she's small.
She picks up her steps and walks to the beat of them. Her own private music that's coming into the rhythm of the growing heartbeat.
Inside writhing limbs reaching upward in a heartbeat of light flashing. She tries to focus on the darkness in between which is where she sees best.
Let me buy you a drink.
Are you here all alone?
Didn't you come with someone?
Are you lonely?
You're so little.
You shouldn't be out alone.
Are you waiting for someone?
Would you like to sit here?
Would you like to sit on me?
Sit down on me right here.
She sees best in the dark in the in between moments where there is a sudden silence in between beats when there is the sudden dark in between lights. They can't hear it or see it. But she can.
But that is where she moves. The in between.
Yes, she says to everything.
And yes again.
Yes I am here alone.
Yes I am little.
Yes I shouldn't be out alone.
Yes I am young.
Yes I am desperate.
Yes I'd like to sit stand drink dance go back to your place.
And yes yes yes I'm hungry.
Sometimes she forgets the hunger.
Sometimes she sees the light sees their writhing arms lets the beat move into her like a flood.
She sees their faces so young. All of them. They are the small ones she thinks. They are still boys, their faces stubbled masks lying over sleeping boys that a mother loved, soothed, kissed.
She forgets.
And that's when a hand swoops firmly around her waist and that's when another grabs her forearms. Another her legs. And that's when she's carried.
Doesn't matter where.
Bathroom. Apartment. Alley. Parking lot. Backseat of a car. Anywhere that's only sometimes dark. Anywhere else but here.
And it's too bad really.
It didn't have to happen like this.
She didn't have to show them how little she's not. How alone doesn't matter to someone like her.
How hungry she is.
There's always that full blood feeling after.
A satisfaction. And a sadness. And she wonders would they have felt the same? Grabbing thick mugs of coffee. Slathering on spicy after shave. Looking at themselves through steam filled mirrors.
Tomorrow she promises she won't do it again. She wonders if they would have promised the same.
She knows they wouldn't.
Which is why she goes out again the next night when she is hungry.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, June 6th, 2022

Author Comments

Recently I've become interested in exploring vicious women and girls, especially in Horror. And while I wanted my monster to be sympathetic, I'm also curious about what it would be like if we feared women, instead of men, in the dark.

- Linda Niehoff
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