It was a disgusting habit, but Renee just couldn’t help it as she clicked on the next video.

There was something inherently satisfying in watching popping videos. Seeing people evicting the parts of themselves that were not meant to be there. As a result, Renee often found herself looking resentfully at her own growth.

She was certain she’d seen every video available online in just the last few weeks, watching them under covers so that the roommate lying next to her wouldn’t see. Renee knew she would be upset and repulsed.

Still, she needed to see more. She watched more serious removals. People gouging out larger pieces and repairing the patches left with stitches or filling them with superglue. Salving pieces until the flesh burned and pucks fell out. Her roommate noticed how tired Renee looked, but when she claimed to be feeling fine, her smile was very convincing.

Eventually she found herself watching surgery videos. People had operated on themselves before, in desperate circumstances: caesareans and appendectomies in remote locations with no other options. She felt along the edge of her growth and made a decision. She began gathering the necessary materials in secret.

The hard part was making sure that her roommate wouldn’t disrupt her. A blow to the head sorted that easily.

With all the tools at her disposal, Renee looked at the flesh that connected her to her growth, which was now mumbling as blood pooled from her head.

It didn’t matter what the doctors had told them. She could do this, she repeated as she made the first cut.

An Anniversary

Our loved ones come to visit
For one raucous night each year
With creaking limbs to dance with us
And familiar smiles from ear to ear

They never do look quite right
Not quite what we remember
But we greet and embrace them all
Our long-lost, well-loved family members

Anne’s grandpa walked with a cane
But tonight he seems quite spry
Unfurling his crooked spine
She laughs as he lifts her to the sky

Roy’s wife had beautiful eyes
Shining, like a new penny
And as he meets her smiling gaze
He can’t recall her having so many

The barman was a large man
Muscled and barrel-chested
Now from his torso spouted beer
Twas superb, the drinkers attested

Mother sang sweet as a bird
Her voice now comes like a wave
Singing about next year’s crops
As I help her step out of her grave

For only one night each year
Never more but rarely less
We celebrate with the dead
Before we put them all back to rest

It is known by all who live
That death comes with morning light
So reunite with weapons close
They only recall us that first night


Pete had never been a slim man, so when he gained a few kilos he hardly noticed. A few more and he started to blame Christmas and New Years celebrations. Weirdly the only physical change was a swollen stomach, but that was not large enough to justify the extra kilos on the scales.

A few more weeks and even his most polite friends started expressing their concerns. He just slapped his expanding gut and joked about needed to run off some baby weight at the gym.

In private, he chose to ignore the growth. He hardly looked in the mirror, walking directly from the shower to cupboard to find some previously baggy clothes to wear.

He had convinced himself that it could not be too bad, as he had felt no pains, although he could swear he felt it shift sometimes. He refused to see a doctor, telling loved ones not to worry, that he would go if it got more serious. In his mind, the uncertainty that only flared up when he thought about it was better than living with the constant reminder of a death sentence that a doctor might give him.

The pain started below dawn. It was quick.

Pete lay in his bed, on his side. His stomach had burst, but he was unable to moved. He lay in a pool of his own cooling blood, paralysed by the pain. He looked at the phone on the nightstand, and impossible arm’s reach away. He heard skittering beneath the bed and saw a glimpse of something that stared back at him, before hiding again.

It had his eyes.


Lucy had stopped leaving her flat weeks ago. The thought of what she might see terrified her, almost as much as who might be looking back at her.

It had started small, looking at her friends’ Instagram posts. Some had smoother skin, brighter eyes, whiter teeth. Old friends now wore unfamiliar faces, reshaped into symmetrical strangers. None of it was quite right. She had assumed they were trying new filters or programs to alter their looks, but they did not look quite right in person any more, either. Features highlighted in their photos were unnatural in real life.

As she sat in the restaurant with her friends, two began to debate on ways to improve their smiles. One, and she could not longer recognise who they were, wanted a wider smile. The other agreed and pulled a knife from their bag. A moment later, the other said she wanted higher cheekbones. The other gushed through bleeding lips that it would look great on her, and helped angle her head on the table, so that the force of her bodyweight being dropped on top would use the table as a chisel, pushing the broken bones into place.

Lucy was silent in horror at the sound and the lack of reaction. She stared at her food and tried not to look up at her smiling, weeping friends.

Lucy stood in the bathroom, days later, looking at the photo one of her friends had taken of the group at dinner. She was smiling, of course. It would have been rude to look sad in that sea of perfect faces. A friend she no longer recognised beamed widely with bright red lips. Beside her, another with high cheekbones smiled lightly, wearing too-dark rouge. She looked so out of place with her bumpy skin, yellowed teeth and uneven features. But between what she had gathered from her garage and under the sink, she had found everything she needed to fix it.

Little Brother

My little brother has the biggest bedroom
Which I do not think is fair
He takes up the entire basement
and Mum says I’m not to go alone downstairs

I sneak down some nights
After my parents go to bed
He cries until I visit him
And stroke his soft forehead

Other nights he waits quietly
His joy barely restrained
He rushes to hug me when I visit
But I tell him not to pull at his chains

He is not in the family photos
Hung upon the walls
and when I ask my parents why
they say visitors would not understand at all

For a little brother, he’s very large
Taller than mum and dad
But he’s gentle and he’s happy
Unless something makes him mad

Mum is trying to show him
How to brush his teeth
But he has far too many
For any brush to reach

Dad still tries to teach him
How to read and speak
But it’s hard to form words
With hard lips, like a beak

I tell my brother I have a surprise
As I turn the key, the chains unlocked
I hold what I think is his hand
Tonight, for the first time, we will go for a walk