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  • Ingrid Jones

The Feast

It is not unregular that I find myself dining with the beasts that Father takes in. He is a collector of oddballs, of which I am no exception. Please excuse my pithiness–I wish to keep the privacy of myself, Father, and our strange corner of the world. Just know that I do not fear them as one might otherwise.

I have a great caution for meeting strangers, which is something that has festered in me since childhood. Because of this, I always pause at the bottom of the staircase to peer into the dining room before heading in. 

“Dearest,” I hear. The voice is distinctly male and gravelly, like loose rocks underfoot. “Another cake?”

There is the distinctive clink of plates against nails.

“Tidy up, Darling,” a rabbit-eared wolfish creature coos to a companion I can’t see, before swiping frosted fingers down the bodice of her gown. A lovely pearl necklace cradles her throat, marking where the fur transitions into smooth ivory skin.“We have company.”

She must have seen my unsure shadow in the doorway. I stride into the room and take a seat, leaving a chair between us. I am exquisitely underdressed in socks and a nightie. 

Darling and Dearest are covered in coarse gray-black fur from their ear-tips down to where their collarbones should have been, though everything else is regular human skin. Dearest wears a low-cut pink gown with capped sleeves and lace, and Darling a ruffed dress shirt under a brown vest. Their eyes are slightly bird-like, with burnt orange centers.

“Good morning.” Darling rumbles. With each syllable, he flashes sharp canines and a long tongue. I don’t flinch as cream from the cake Dearest is devouring rains down on the table but inconspicuously wipe a spot from my bare arm.

“Hello. Would you please pass the juice?” I ask. The entire table is consumed by sweets, from blackberry and strawberry cakes, pastry puffs, hand-frosted cookies, and scones. There is my daily pill, waiting for me on a china dish. It's aqua blue and as big as my thumb nail. 

“You must find great pleasure living in a place like this.” Dearest says brightly. 

“It’s simply the loveliest.” I nod along. This is true, but so are all of the times I have planned to run away and never gone through with it. 

“I know we don’t look typical.” Darling interrupts. “Are you fearful of how we look?” 

“I more so fear who did it to you.” I admit. Father sees a myriad of patients affected by various curses, some superficial and others deadly. “Are you here for a procedure?”

“Oh, not at all.” Darling says. “We’ve grown accustomed to these bodies. Actually, we’re here to discuss abandoning our treatment fully. No more pills, no more potions. Maybe it’s time to let it just take hold, you know?”

“We’re only as sick as the secrets we keep, I always say.” Dearest adds, feeding a bite of blackberry buttercream to her companion. How a wolfish face is capable of such a clear display of adoration I’m not sure. Longing writhes in my stomach.

My pill sits untouched. I make no moves to take it, struck by the feeling that a mask, carefully crafted and tattered, is loosening at the ears. A happiness so light, a fear so heavy–– when I weigh them in my hand, they are the same.


Art by Michelle Cao


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