Joanna Koch


When Jenny’s good we go outside, but she’s been bad for days. Locked inside while Jenny cries, we wait. We watch.

We start with the obvious: in the closetand under the bed. Jenny says monsters don’t hide in probable spots, and besides, we don’t know if they’re monsters or not. They don’t bite us with their needle teeth. They don’t scratch us with their click clack claws. Whether craggy like tusks or petite like earwigs, the ones with horns don’t pinch. They watch.

We hunt. We’ve been a team from our first mouse-like mewling to our most recent squeals. They jump at us with flickering long fingers and fondle Jenny’s shadow, tickling without a touch. I smother her howls with my hands. Large hands silence us if they wake, hands that lock us up. Hands large enough to lock can punch.

Our hands are small. We hunt as one. We don’t need nice things forced into us, things made of rubber and cellophane, synthetic doll hair, polyester war fatigues, resin molded body parts and dye-stamped foam alphabets. Things that taste of blue and pink and yellow. Colors crowd between us. Shapes split us apart.

We don’t need nice things. We have us.

Jenny cries. I crush her quiet. Hands large enough to punch can choke.

We squelch the wails from our bellies with rhymes sung in whispers. We tap our knees and clap our palms so soft you’d think we’re ghosts. We listen for their titters as we chant. We titter with their whispers as we sing.

Jenny slips inside the mirror and says come and get me. I spy a shadow running loose in on threshold of my eye. A reflection takes flight with drenched black wings. An eyeball bulges and inflates, bigger and bigger until it pops like a bubble before I grab it. A snail slides up the mirror leaving shiny, slimy trails. They tarnish when I turn. Fingertips squeak a tattletale giggle on the glass. Jenny’s greasy fingerprints are tiny oval mazes. I’m too big to follow. I break the mirror like a monster forcing myself inside.

A demon chorus chimes. The spray of shards rains down like sleet and ash. We crawl through shattered glass and hunt for their hiding places piece by piece. We dig our way by sliver, by fragment and by slab. Jenny shows me what we look like when we’re scattered. We’re sliced up into splinters, crushed apart in chunks. We’re cut.

We taste what we’ve become. Our blood is warm like milk. We nurse. We sleep. Large hands come and go between us. Jenny cries.

We wake up to an empty room. Jenny says there’s nowhere they can hide, but her tickles and her fits don’t subside. My hands aren’t big enough to stop her when she writhes. She cries. I crush her with my stomach, with my thighs.

Jenny doesn’t need to breathe. She points down, come and get me, and I follow. Her finger tunnels deep in wefts of thread. We burrow by instinct. We don’t need any light. We shrink and hunt in darkness. Dark is where we’ll catch them. We chew through the carpet. We quiet our bellies and gnaw till our teeth are strong. We grind fibers down to mesh. Fumes of moistened glue gag us and we share what gum comes up. We waste nothing. We never speak.

We climb the wall and lick away layers of paint like icing. We grow our nails long. We sever the paper face and gouge the chalky core. Where water trickles, we drink. We feast on beetle eggs, ant trails and spider nests. We hunt side by side. A bone bright tooth glints when Jenny shifts. A tongue lolls out from beneath her auburn hair. Molars crack and grind with a metal screech of glee.

She clutches our shoulders. She plunders our hair. She digs into us and finds out where they hide. Jenny laughs. We’ve been here all the time. We open fresh holes and find forgotten places under our skin. We cleave together and peel apart. Through soft organ and taut bone, we forage deep into full moist bloody chambers. We climb inside and drink ourselves to sleep.

Outside, seasons spin. We see it through a woven spider hole. Generations mate and devour their mates. They hunt and feed their young. Rain pours through the spider hole, then snow. We huddle. We nap.

Large hands can’t find us. They cry.

Jenny’s good now all the time. She doesn’t need to breathe. The large hands vanish. Our fears fall away like crisp brown leaves when the weather starts to freeze.

Nothing titters. Nothing breathes.

Then you come. You plaster up our spider hole and wire in new lights. We warm. You glaze our window, tap the pane in place and wipe excess glue with damp rags. You bring clean rags to polish. You shine. We hear you sing while you tap. We sing along, and you stop. You turn around and look for us. I smother Jenny’s giggles until you turn away and shine.

You leave each day and come back to us at night. You close your eyes and sigh with slow atonal gusts. We wait for you to wake and sing. We flutter on your eyelids as they dance. We dance upon your forehead as you dream. You turn and crush your pillow; we tangle in your wild bramble hair. We pick the spittle berries that ripen on your lips. The fruits of your mouth taste of your song.

Stripped of covers, your pretty hand dangles like a princess requesting a kiss. Everything it touches turns to gold. When Jenny takes it, you jump.

We watch you when you sleep. We mourn the loss of your song. I pull the hair that clots your brush and let it float. Jenny tips your pretty bottles and smears your scent.

We play hide and seek, leaving gifts for you to find: a chipped glass marble, an old pressed rosebud, a torn edge of newsprint, the smell of an encyclopedia volume separated from the set, the silence that hums your favorite song on the three a.m. breeze of a cool summer night. Your eyes open. You listen. You count to ten to calm yourself.

Jenny says come and get me. Your eyes pop wide.

Count to ten and close your eyes. Come and find us. We’re with you, on your shoulders, between your toes, and in the corners of your eyes.


Author Joanna Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. Her short stories have been published in journals and anthologies including Doorbells at Dusk. Joanna is a Contemplative Psychotherapy graduate of Naropa University who lives and works near Detroit. Follow her monstrous musings at