The Wingspan of Severed Hands (Excerpt)


Joanna Koch


Pink petal vomit, blue acid bile, bone ivory foam. The party thumped on the restroom wall while Adira sank in her stall. Convulsions came like clockwork, hours of labor that birthed tangible nothingness. An invisible entity emerged from Adira’s empty belly, stripping unnecessary flesh from inside. Something more than biological, it lingered in the yellow pall of the spotted dance-hall mirror, crept closer in the clenched anesthetic tingling that spread on her tongue.

The angel revealed itself to Adira three hours after checking in at the hotel. Adira honeymooned alone with the toilet while the boy dozed off to porn. Emptied out, Adira’s gullet unburdened her. The opposite of feeding, she nurtured neither dragon nor mirror, but some innate, ineffable monster. Her body reversed, and a double formed from bloody mist. A red Hiroshima silhouette burned to life on the hotel bathroom wall.

Adira divided. Angelic cells split inside her embryonic egg sac. Her double hatched: a nude, semi-transparent, red-tinted, skeleton girl. Shadows of bone haunted unfleshed holes within the figure’s outline. Suggestions of heart and vein pulsed first in silence, then in a soft murmur as rough sketches rendered substance under elastic skin. Arteries grew with slow deliberation, red roots seeking paths in dark soil, seedlings reaching high, craving light. The skull hung down with hair long and disheveled like Adira’s. Ankles crossed, toes hovering above the floor, arms bound behind her back, the twin’s shoulders sprouted enormous hands that spread open like owl wings. Fingers flared like feathers with open palms forward.

Adira reached for the tips of the terrible fingers with her small, human hands, feet on tip-toes, arms spread. On contact, the double looked up. The skull sprouted flesh. Lips opened in a mute gasp. Adira flattened her breasts and belly against the double on the cool tile wall. Where she pressed her tongue, depth created a warm open mouth.

More fullness erupted where Adira made contact. Vein, sinew, and skin wrapped the bones with life. The double clutched Adira with its powerful wings. Feathers threaded fingers, whispers wedded flesh. Twin tongues circled. The tile wall melted into a red silhouette seared into liquid with menstrual excess. Liquid sought liquid. Mouths and groins spiraled. In the morphology of their melded kiss, the wings slicked with gore and lost their grip. Adira fell to the floor. The bloody twin disintegrated; a myth of angel meat, an unstable presence, a quotient reached by imbalanced belief.

The blood it left behind filled Adira with the rich, red, vibrant power of death. Red in every cell, hair thick and dripping dark; red in arms and thighs, in melted muscle and bone. Her dissipating liquid twin sloughed back into thought and left Adira alone with the blood and the boy. One hand in his boxers, the other on his slender chest, he dozed on the hotel bed. His lips lost their sneer when he was asleep.

Adira climbed on top of the rapist and attacked with her mouth, copying his violence. The blood of twins poured onto the white hotel sheets. The boy struggled. She clamped him in her teeth. Slippery and stained, he was on top of her quickly, hands around her wrists, pinning her down. He didn’t care that she was awash in blood. He said it was time to teach her a lesson. The boy pushed Adira’s arms back and over her head and pressed his fingers down into her pale, putty-like flesh. Her arms squirmed like thick snakes, softer, softer. He crushed her wrists like wet clay.

He squeezed. Her arms collapsed into stumps. Her hands hit the floor like dead fish.

Not screaming, silenced by shock, Adira heard nothing after the loud, sickening slap when her amputated hands fell off. Uncertain how to breathe, she struggled to see through the crawling static that clouded her vision.

Behind the boy, wings spread. Monstrous hands opened wide, fleshy dragon wings that aimed an armory from the shoulders of a spatiotemporal anomaly. The angel-twin’s mouth hung slack. It dripped with yellow bile. An egg formed like a bubble in its mouth. The boy churned his cock inside Adira with his head thrown back. The egg dropped and cracked on the boy’s frontal lobe. His cranium fissured, and his spine split in half. Raw egg and boy innards slopped over Adira. Wings like hands closed over him as organs dropped out of the boy, bisected.

When police responded to calls from the neighboring rooms, the boy was gone. They found the maimed girl unconscious in gore, and a snow angel of menstrual blood smeared on the bathroom wall.

Meet The Author

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Joanna Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. Their short fiction can be found in Year’s Best Hardcore Horror 5, The Big Book of Blasphemy, Synth, and Not All Monsters. Joanna is the author of “The Couvade,” a Shirley Jackson award nominated tale of queer werewolves and family secrets.


Find Joanna at and on Twitter @horrorsong.