By Stephanie Hutton
Intoxicating lights lure me, night-bitten. Not a place for good girls, not a place for fresh flesh. But the Strong Man beckons with the bass of a whale. My thighs pulsate. He feeds me cotton candy till my molars are glued into a forever-smile. He likes it that way. I shoot, shoot, shoot at the passing ducks but all my luck left. The Strong Man smashes them down in one swoop, reaching over to hand me a goldfish in a bag. That makes three of us now. I watch the trapped fish swim in a loop as if it might end up somewhere different. Nausea surges. On the Merry-go-Round I think I pass my father, smoking his pipe, hands behind his back. When I come around once more he has vanished. Or never was. People scream as they whoosh down the rollercoaster, but only because they know they are safe. I stay silent. In the hall of mirrors, he holds my waist as I see all versions of him: charming, snarling, violent, sorry. The band around my wrist cuts into flesh. But I have paid my fee, so I will stay.
Stephanie Hutton is a writer and clinical psychologist in the UK. In 2017/18 she was shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize and Bath Novella-in-Flash Award. Recent publications include Gravel, Ghost Parachute and Atticus Review. Her debut novella Sisters of Stone is published with Ellipsis Zine.