Machines

The toy was pink. Sticky pink in that way only a boiled sweet mistakenly left in the sun on the dashboard of your car can be. Hard, molded, Chinese factory pink. The cockhead-shaped tip was only translucent, but beneath it, the plastic was transparent; the metal capsule of the motor and the brutalist ball-bearings showed Continue Reading

Nathalie’s Tailor

It starts like a low, slow rip of paper, just audible over the hiss of shower water on the slate tiles. A slow exhalation of sharp-edged things that tear at her throat on the way up, making a larger hole for the louder sound that follows. Until she’s crouched in the corner of the glass Continue Reading

Prosthetic

Blair had never kissed anyone, ever. And, of course, no one had ever kissed him. That seems obvious, but when people kiss, it’s never really clear who is doing the kissing and who is being kissed once their lips meet. I met him at a craft fair in Camden. He watched me weld the edges Continue Reading

If In Some Distant Place

“The irony was, I’d imagined the Revolution would be exciting and romantic,” said Madam Dai, fiddling with the gaudy jade ring on her fat middle finger, “But it turned out to be drab and incredibly boring.” Robert pursed his lips to stifle his smile. He couldn’t recall a time in his life when irony hadn’t Continue Reading

Lucy the Scholar

People joke about love at first sight because they know love has nothing to do with it. It’s uglier than that. I met Lucy at a conference up at York the day before nature wrapped the whole of the country in the white blanket of winter. In front of a long table piled with labeled Continue Reading

What You Want

“This is what you want, isn’t it?” she said, tugging my hand down the front of her skirt and pressing it home into the hollow of her crotch. The material was thin; there was nothing beneath her linen skirt. The sound of drunken conversation leaked out into the humid air. The shadows lay heavy across Continue Reading

Veiled Girl With Lute

**This story contains themes that could be triggering for some readers** Standing at her door in the grey-green evening light, he smells of ozone and sweat. Rain has plastered his hair to his face, his t-shirt and his pants to his body. He blinks the drops from his eyelashes. Nathaniel arrives burdened with rage and Continue Reading

The Slow Act of Love

Just as the monsoon rains hit Hue, I visited the secret garden of Doctor Minh Khanh Nguyen. I’d heard about it from a couple of students snarfing by the canal and getting smashed on cheap rice vodka. “Oh,” said the girl, “I can’t describe it. It’s just too obscene.” Her student boyfriend elbowed her. “Don’t Continue Reading

Stone Blind

Once upon a time there was a girl whose mother had died soon after her seventh birthday. Her father, a reasonably successful merchant, was driven almost mad with grief. He commissioned a stonemason to make a magnificent, life-sized effigy of his wife, recumbent and slumbering, to cover her stone coffin. It was an almost perfect Continue Reading

The Erotic Self

Erotica is primarily a character-driven genre; narratives usually focus on the inner experience of characters to offer the reader an immersive encounter with the story. In this chapter, I reflect on Bataille’s concept of a decentred self, able to transcend the discontinuity of the socially intelligible subject and emerge as a continuous being in the Continue Reading