Sophie leans into Lizzy’s arms, physically and emotionally exhausted. She taps into Lizzy’s warmth, realising how cold she had got sitting on the concrete floor, and how stiff she felt. She feels Lizzy’s lips smile into her neck. Sophie leans back into Lizzy’s arms, searching their face for a glimpse of what she thought she saw, but all she sees are Lizzy’s sweet, tired eyes and their beloved face. It must have been a dream.
“So, what did my beloved hunter-gather bring home?” Sophie asks. She wonders whether she sees Lizzy flinch at the word ‘hunter’, but she shakes the thought away. Lizzy smiles.
“Your favourite – Tunnock’s caramel wafers. These may be the last ones in Edinburgh, so cherish them,” Lizzy says as she unpacks her loaded rucksack. The pile of food on the kitchen worksurface grows, as she unloads cans of beans, tins of vegetables, a bottle of squash, tinned meat and fish, and packets of crisps and nuts. A box of candles and matches. A wave of sadness flickers over Lizzy’s face, and Sophie asks why.
“I had to break into an empty house to get them. It felt like invading someone’s space. But they were dead. The food wasn’t any use to them anymore,” says Lizzy.
Lizzy doesn’t quite meet Sophie’s eye, and Sophie is puzzled. Something seems off. Perhaps it’s just the stress of seeing someone that’s dead. That must be what it is. Lizzy waves their hands in the air as they talk, and Sophie catches sight of a thread of blood under a fingernail on their right hand. Lizzy sees the flicker in her eyes.
“Oh… I… uh… I had to break the glass to get in and cut my finger.” Lizzy replies. They suck their finger and wrap it in a tissue they pull from their pocket. “What have you been up to?” they say quickly.
“Oh, I was reading for a while. Revisiting Pride and Prejudice. But reading by candlelight was starting to give me a headache, and was getting worried about you. You were gone so long,” Sophie says, watching Lizzy’s face closely.
“I had to go further than I expected to. All the shops were empty. I didn’t know what to do – I couldn’t come back empty-handed – so I decided to go into one of the houses. The ones near the edge – well, they had been plundered, and some had been set on fire. I went a few streets back from the shops, and the houses seemed untouched. I sat and watched for a while, just in case there were people inside, or worse.” Lizzy shudders. “Then I went in, and… well, here I am.” Lizzy gestures at the food, and Sophie watches the tissue fall off their finger, with no sign of a cut.
Lizzy sees what Sophie is looking at, and looks back at Sophie, their eyes unreadable. Sophie feels a prickle of fear run across her scalp, and goosebumps dance across her arms.
“I’m sorry, Sophie,” says Lizzy and strokes Sophie’s face. Sophie once again feels that Lizzy’s hands are hardened and cold, nothing like their usual softness. Sophie looks down and sees patches of red translucent skin and blue veins chasing over Lizzy’s hands and arms. Lizzy’s hands, now icy and rough, clamp onto Sophie’s wrists. Sophie can feel her heart start to race, and she pushes Lizzy away with all her strength. Lizzy’s nails scrape against Sophie’s hands, leaving weals. They both look down, frozen still in fear as Lizzy’s nails turn to talons.
Lizzy looks up to the ceiling and shrieks, “No. Oh God no, not again.” Lizzy runs out of the door. Sophie watches a clawed figure, increasingly misshapen and with eyes shining red, disappear into the darkness, and Sophie’s heart breaks.
Sophie sleeps fitfully that night, clutching Lizzy’s backpack to her chest like a child clutches a teddy bear. The backpack that she bought for Lizzy in happier times. In the morning, there is a knock at the warehouse door. Sophie backs as far into the corner as she can. She hears a familiar voice.
“Sophie. It’s Lizzy. I know you don’t want to let me in. But I want you to read this.”
A piece of paper slides under the door. Sophie creeps uncertainly towards the door, snatches up the piece of paper, and runs back to her safe space. Wrapped in blankets as much for security as for warmth, she reads the note.
My darling Sophie. I am so sorry I scared you. If it helps – and it probably doesn’t – I am scared too. Scared of me, and what I could do to you. We’ve known each other since we were five. Grown up together. Come out to each other. Fallen in love. Built a life together. And now – well, now I don’t know whether you will ever be safe when I’m around.
It started in the gallery, in those five minutes where we lost each other. We had found the woman and you tried to stop her bleeding, and she called out the name of her son, Luke. I ran into the gallery and saw a little boy. He must have been about six. I reached out to him, and I saw patches of translucent skin on his arms and face. He started to morph, and he turned into something that I can’t describe. Something with red eyes and claws and scales and teeth, something that smiled at me. He charged forward and I pushed down a statue that crashed onto him. But not before he nipped me. I was about to tell you, but you were so terrified by the monster that was outside that I didn’t. I just wanted to hold you. And then we escaped from the other monster in the gallery, and then – well, the time just wasn’t right.
Yesterday I noticed that my hands were cold. The skin felt hard. I just thought it was the temperature, or the lack of good food. And then when I went out to find food, I noticed that there were patches starting on my skin. Patches where I could see the veins showing through. Just like the monster in the gallery. I was terrified, but I also knew that we needed food. So I kept going.
As I told you, I walked away from the shops and towards the houses. My skin felt – I don’t know – strange. And then I blacked out. When I came back round I was in a house with a dead woman on the floor and blood on my hands. I had no idea what had happened. I had no memory of what I had done – or even whether I had done anything. Perhaps I had been attacked too. I just wanted to get away as fast as I could. So I washed myself, piled food from the cupboards into my backpack and came back to you. To I was so happy to hold you. So happy to be back here. I hoped that what happened was just a dream.
But then it started to happen again, and I knew that I had to get away from you for you to be safe. I don’t know whether I will be able to see you again.
All I want is for us to be together. And all I want now is to be able to go back to our little flat. Our very own safe space. Drinking tea and holding hands in the night.
My darling Sophie, I love you so much. I am ever yours. Lizzy.
Sophie curls into her blankets and sobs. Exhausted, she sleeps fitfully, dreaming of Lizzy and monsters and snow.
A Queerativity Tale is a Queerativity original story updated by a new Queer Artist at the beginning of each month. If you are interested in writing an issue for A Queerativity Tale, please email [email protected] or fill out the Get Involved Form.