THIS IS WHAT YOU MUST DO

Kirsty Logan's flash fiction piece celebrates oddity and individuality during those times we most try to hide it. Illustration by Tahel Maor.

First, walk through city streets congested with lightning-eyed boys and half-sleeping girls. Choose one if you like; take him home, make her coffee, talk all night.

Next, cut down the alley veiled with shredded billboard posters, dangling like torn silk. Choose your usual path if you like; the alley lit with fairy lights, crammed with teahouses.

Then, slip into the club, lights dyeing the fog of dry ice. Choose to stay here if you like; dance yourself into a bliss, sweat until you’ve washed away the city’s dirt.

Finally, sidle through the bodies on the dance-floor, slick with sweet spilled liquids, until you reach the back door. Peek around you – quick now! If no-one is looking, you can go through.

Now exhale. Push out the smells of the city: smoke, exhaust, strange flesh. Breathe in the smells of the bar: cinnamon, pepper, polished wood.

Although the door that leads you in appears to be pockmarked plywood, the bass-thump from the club will not penetrate. The only sounds here are the chink of glasses and the soft croon of the jukebox.

Before you look around the bar, you must prepare yourself. Outside – through that club, down those alleys, along those streets – people hide their deformities. They hack off their wings, file down their horns, saw off their tails. They think the scars are better.

Here, in this bar, they do things differently. Feathered wings unfurl, the twitching tips reaching to the ceiling as their owner ruminates over the jukebox. A unicorn horn – two feet long and gleaming white – knocks gently against the lights suspended over the pool table. Pointed teeth, as sharp as morning light, clink against the rims of glasses.

Not all the changes are ornamental. There are hooves ticking against the bar’s wooden floor; arms halfway to bird wings; a scaly tail, fat as a tree branch, curled around a table leg.

You may stay a while, but not too long. You do not belong here yet.

Later, at home, you will look in the bathroom mirror and notice a bump on your forehead, hard and white as bone. You do not need to file it down this time; you know where to go. It’s just a bar down an alley in the city, like a rainbow is just refracted light.



'This Is What You Must Do' was published in our 10th issue, The Wild Issue, which has now sold out. To ensure that you never miss a future issue of the print magazine, subscribe from just £10 a year.