“Seated Woman With Legs Drawn Up” (detail), gouache on paper, by Egon Schiele, 1917.


The thin edge of the paper slices the tip of my finger, but I continue so that blood paints a hole where an eye might have been. I place the frozen swan on the window sill, bloody socket on display.

I want more sheets of paper, to fold a lake, a river, a frozen ocean into existence. Then, giant ice structures bursting through horizons: monoliths pointing to the skies, sharp crystals cut from the elements, glaciers like ragged jewels. At these, I’ll throw myself. Arms spread out; barelegged, ensuring thin skin’s exposed. A thousand origami razor blades in one go.


They untangle from disappointing sex. Nothing new in that. An answer forms inside her head, as twisted as the bed sheet shaping a question mark between them:

“Because there’s always expectation in hotel rooms.”

He swings his legs down, stands, then lumbers to the toilet, his nakedness as bland as the room they’re in. She hears him piss. She knows that together they’ve become a set of rudimentary functions.

She pulls down her bra and reaches for her coat. She needs to get into the corridor and shed the scream that’s stretched itself across her like a skin.


Marie McKay lives in Scotland. She has stories in various places online, including Literary Orphans, 100wordstory, and Flash Fiction Magazine.