[This was first written for a Creative Writing class in January — it’s not as good as i wanted it to be, i wrote it in one day, with little to no effort, when my dad was in the hospital.]

THE MORNING AFTER
A SHORT STORY
SUMAIYA AHMED

LAST NIGHT’S a blur.

            Salem wakes up with hazy memories, unsure of how she got home, let alone into her bed. The sunlight is creeping in through the gap between her satin curtains, a sliver of light dancing across the wooden flooring and the bottom of her bed. Specks of dust float around the room, irritating Salem as she slowly sits up. Everything is brighter. The world outside her window louder.

Her head is pounding.

            On the pillow beside her is a single red rose. No note.

            “What the fuck?” she says out loud. Even her voice seems too loud. The silence of her apartment holds her in a suffocating embrace, causing her to breathe in sharply. Swallowing back the slowly rising panic, she shoves back the duvet, almost stumbling in her haste to get out of her bed. The rose remains on her pillow. A quiet taunt. A soundless reminder.

            The bathroom is flooded with light when she rushes in, falling to her knees in front of the toilet. She leans over the toilet bowl, dry heaving. There’s nothing in her to puke out. She already vomited last night.

            A flicker of a memory flashes through her mind, lightning-fast. It’s quick silver and molten, burning behind her eyes. A man, tall and blonde with silvery grey eyes, a wicked grin and a voice laden with sin. A few drinks, tasting like magic and stardust. Then . . . nothing.

            What happened after?

            God. Was she drugged or something?

            Salem wipes a hand over her mouth. Something soft brushes against her calf. She jumps, startled, and looks down. “What the fuck?”

            It’s a tail. A goddamn tail.

            Like it’s all white and a light grey. And fluffy. Like a tail.

            She tentatively reaches down to touch it, her fingers shaking as she brushes her fingers over it. A strange sensation courses through her as she lightly runs her fingertips along this new, weird part of her. Her breath comes out in short gasps, heart beating faster. It’s thudding against her chest, a crescendo rising in rhythm and beat.

            She thinks she’s going to be sick again.

            But she isn’t.

            “What the fuck!” Salem repeats, this time less confused and more pissed. The pounding in her head dulls to a slight throb as she clambers to her feet, flushing the toilet. Her tail swishes sideways as she walks to the sink, rinsing her hands under warm water. She stares down at her hands. A black inked swirling pattern is unfurling over the back of her hands and along her arms, as if an invisible needle is tattooing her.

            “I’m actually going fucking crazy.”

            Her voice bounces off the high ceiling, echoing around the bathroom. It ripples around her, the word crazy repeating itself like a mantra in her head. Her tail curls around her right leg, almost like an attempt at comforting herself. She shudders.

            It’s not real. This is just some weird, crazy dream.

            Salem avoids looking at her hands as she squeezes out some toothpaste onto her brush, wetting it slightly before starting to aggressively brush her teeth. She maintains eye contact with her reflection.

            Silver-grey eyes flash in front of her. Salem chokes and splutters. Blinks. Spits into the sink. The eyes have disappeared. She shakily breaths out and washes her toothbrush, before putting it back into the holder and washing her mouth. She grabs the mouthwash and pours a little into the lid. Routine. She has to follow her routine.

            She swirls it around her mouth for a minute before spitting it out. The lilac and rose gold drinks cross her mind. They’d sparkled under the coloured lights of the nightclub. Silver eyes bought them for her.

            I really should’ve listened to my mother, Salem thinks to herself. She doesn’t remember how many she drank. It was more than three. Slowly, the memories slither to the forefront of her mind’s eye, snapshots of an old cassette tape: they danced. Kissed. Found a quiet, isolated corner and fucked. Drank some more. Kissed again. He kissed the pulse beating on her neck and—as if someone hit pause, the memory stops. She doesn’t know what happened after.

            A shower will help.

            Hopefully.

            But her tail will get wet. Jesus goddamn Christ.

            Stripping out of the oversized t-shirt, belonging to an ex, Salem chucks it into the wicker basket. Her eyes land on three deep-looking cuts on her forearm. She frowns.

“You’ve got to be shitting me.”

            Sighing, Salem tries to shake off the thoughts running through her mind. Stop thinking, she tells herself firmly. Relax. It’s fine. I’m fine. Stepping under the football-sized shower head, Salem tilts her head back as the water splutters out, gushing over her. It’s hot and soothing, easing the tensed muscles of her back. Her tail swishes back and forth, reacting to the fear and confusion and anger smouldering like lava through her veins. There was a slow burning in the pit of her stomach, a volcano of feelings waiting to erupt. Usually, Salem had her emotions under control. Today, she feels like an utter mess.

            Shampooing, conditioning and exfoliating takes half an hour. Wrapping herself in the warmth of her fluffy baby pink bathrobe felt familiar and safe, keeping her from spiralling into a rabbit hole. Her tail flicks around her legs, the tapered end brushing against her ankles. Weirdly, it’s as if her tail has always been there with her. As if she didn’t just wake up with it this morning.

            Her bare feet leave behind wet footprints as they pad along the light oak coloured floor, walking into her bedroom. On the bedside desk, her alarm is going off which makes her grit her teeth in annoyance. Every time she hears the alarm, she wants to kill herself.

            She practically skids across the floor as she reaches over to grab her phone to turn the alarm off, cursing when she realises that the alarm is a reminder for an interview she has at three o’clock. For her dream job. At UNC*NSORED magazine. Fuck.

            And she has a tail.

            She has a tail and she has an interview in three hours. Fuck. Fucking shit sticks.

            The silver eyes are burning into her, as if the man is in the room with her. Salem freezes, straightening up. She looks around her room. Her eyes land on the rose. For a minute, she has a staring contest with it. Hesitantly, she moves to pick it up, and stiffens again. On the back of her right hand is a pair of very familiar eyes. His eyes.

            It’s surrounded by a swirl of thick strokes, black ink coiling and twisting into sharp and gorgeous patterns, like some kind of Wiccan shit. They stare up at her, almost teasingly. This, combined with growing a tail, is freaking her the fuck out. For a second, she stops breathing, unable to move or do anything except look at the tattoos that no needles inked into her, incredulous. The patterns reach all the way up to her shoulders, on both arms, curling around to her shoulder blades where it forms a pair of wings.

            Oh god. She has these tattoos all over her hands and arms. Which looks super unprofessional. How is she going to get the job now?

            But are they even tattoos, if they formed right before her very eyes? Just when she noticed her fucking tail. She takes in another deep breath, turning her attention to her phone instead of the rose.

            You’ve been Marked by The Three.

            Salem jolts, gasping loudly. The chilling hand of fear runs a finger down her spine. Her heartbeat increases as she grips her phone in her hand tightly. A gust of wind rustles her curtains. Salem’s entire body trembles, fear spiking through her bloodstream, setting fire to her insides, as she sinks down onto her faux fur rug, still holding onto her phone, not knowing what to do, but unable to get that voice and those eyes out of her mind.

            She doesn’t know who or what ‘The Three’ are or what she’s been marked with. Unless . . . she heaves in a deep breath, untying her bathrobe, letting it fall away from her body. She glances down at the three angry, blood red, fresh wounds on her forearm.

            Could it be these?

            You’ve been Marked by The Three, the voice repeats. Salem winces, her hand going to her head. The veins in her temples are pulsing. Her tail whips out and curls over her leg, making her blink and look at it.

            “Where did you come from?” she murmurs softly. She slowly pets her tail. “Jesus Christ, I hope I don’t turn into a cat.”

            She sniggers to herself. I’m going crazy. Officially insane. I’m so going to get sectioned. Oh fuck me.

            Her phone vibrates with a text from her best friend.

            Priya ❤ at 12:57 PM: good luck for the interview baby!!!! You’ve got this – i believe in you 1000000000000000000000% and know you’ll get the job. (and if by some bs reason you don’t, just suck the mans dick and you’ll defo get it;)) ilysm ❤ xxxx

            Letting out a little laugh, Salem quickly taps out a reply. She’d gotten her nails painted a deep blood red two days ago as a treat for herself. Two hours ‘til her interview. She needs to start getting ready now.

            With her hands inked and a tail coming out above her butthole. God. What the fuck was going on.

            There’s no point telling anyone anything. Not just yet. Not until she’s able to get her hands on more information. And in order to get said information, she’ll need to find the owner of those silver eyes looking up at her. From her hand. Why the fuck are his eyes on her?

            A hysterical giggle escapes her mouth after she replies to Priya. Her shoulders shake as peals of laughter rise up in her bedroom, sounding as if she’s close to crying. “Oh my god,” she gasps out. “I’m fucking mad.”

            She ignores the buzzing of her phone, still laughing. Her tail swishes back and forth rapidly. “Oh, fuck off,” she snaps, her laughs abruptly stopping.

            Salem sighs loudly, standing up, naked. She walks over to her dressing table and grabs her tub of cocoa butter to moisturise. Routine. She needs to follow her routine now. Put cream on. Put her underwear on. Straighten her hair. Do her makeup. Get dressed.

 Her hair looks sleek and pin straight, reaching her waist, a waterfall of the night sky. Her makeup is a flawless soft glam; lips painted a glossy browny-nude paired with a cat eyeliner look and subtle contour. She’s wearing a black and white contrast jumpsuit, a black blazer with gold buttons, and white heels. She feels powerful. She looks powerful.

            The art decorating her hands, however, are a bit of a problem. One she doesn’t know how to remedy. Fuck.

            Okay. She’s got this.

            She’s still going to her interview. She’ll woo the interviewers. She’ll get the job. She’ll become the best writer to exist. She’ll start her Post-Colonialism Masters in October. And she’ll get her answers about why the fuck she has a tail.

            Salem grabs her bag, shoving the necessities into it, and walks out of her room. Her heels click against the floor. She sees the silver-grey eyes looking at her. Feels those eyes looking at her.

            You’ve been Marked by The Three.

            She shudders, an instantaneous reaction to the voice, to the words. Her tail curls around her leg again, a comforting touch. Salem breathes in and out slowly. She ignores the sweat slicking her palms and opens her front door, stepping out into the brightly lit hallway. She locks the door.

            I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine. Everything is fine.

             Yes, it is, a voice replies.

            “What the fuck?”

Posted by:Sumaiya Ahmed

Sumaiya Ahmed is a student, poet and freelance features journalist, aiming to break down the boundaries of cultural stigma and shame attached to mental health and sexuality within the South Asian culture, and bringing marginalised topics to light. She is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Poised.

2 thoughts on “The Morning After — A Short Story

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