Annabel Banks

She knows it will be a boy, because she eats blue fruit; blueberries, yes, but also plums, served with aubergine and dusty, dark grapes, while she soaks the stiff red cabbage and drinks the coloured broth. There are other foods, but no strawberries, or some pinkly perfect peach. While taking her meals, she activates her aggression in controlled circumstances, watching Hollywood movies about women who’ve had enough, feeling the swell of euphoria at each justified killing as they take their third-act revenge.

The blood looked like her cabbages. She licked her lips for more.

In the daytime, she reads articles from hunting magazines and angling periodicals, or the newsletters from sites about cars. She makes new social media accounts and follows large-breasted models, aggressive CEOs, hedge fund managers and tech billionaires, scrolling page after page of their thoughts, manoeuvres, and preoccupations — or at least the ones they allow to slip from their minds to the minds of people like her — eating lunches made of last night’s leftovers, checking the balances of accounts held with high street banks.

It’s not enough. She needs more, so fires a gun, shoots an arrow, harasses women online. Hoodied and heavy-footed, she follows teenaged girls through darkened streets, imagining she can smell the flood of their pheromones, the stink of fear, breathing deeply as she thinks of her body’s delivery system, tiny globules of hormones balancing her blood.

She gave birth. The baby’s passage from womb to world is long, with pain like a guillotine blade, like a punch, like pain from food poisoning or from a torturer being appraised.

Congratulations, they say, on your beautiful child. She looks just like you. Just like you.

Annabel Banks‘s work can be found in such places as Granta, The Manchester Review, Litro, The Stockholm Review and 3:AM, and has been broadcast by the BBC. Her recent collection of short fiction, Exercises in Control, is available from Influx Press. She lives in London.