The Shirt by L. B. Limbrey
A shirt came into the shop – tartan, size xxl.
“That’s nice,” I remarked, thinking nothing of it.
It was hung up on a rail and left for a week. I walked past it daily.
I recognised that shirt, I realised, and with recognition came a cold dread. It rankled me, its red check presence on a rail in my nice, safe workplace.
We put it out when menswear sold down. £4.50.
“I hope that shirt sells soon,” I said. “It reminds me of someone.”
We did not speak of whom.
After two weeks it still had not sold, hanging limp and red – an empty skin – on the rail. Every so often I would forget about it, but then it would catch my eye, bright against the beige and black of the rest of the rail.
A small pool of wet redness appeared underneath it one day and I cleaned it up with a tissue.
“Bloody customers hurting themselves and not telling us,” I said.
“At least we don’t have to do an accident report.”
As it was it would have sounded more like a poem or a lost and found in purgatory:
small pool of blood
no known owner
under XL menswear.
That night I dreamt of the shirt filling itself out, fattening, sprouting limbs, a head, an abdomen so much as definitive legs. The back tore open and pale, hairy flesh burst out and a grinning devil loomed over my bed, gleeful eyes staring lasciviously, hands reaching down to touch my breast.
I forgot until I read an article about goat husbandry the next day.
Those empty eyes boring into my subconscious, that clammy hand caressing me while I could not move. The weight of him. The weight of the aftermath.
Monday morning the pool of blood was bigger, and things couldn’t fit on the rail so easily, the shirt filling itself out with something nameless and fleshy. We cleaned up the blood and pretended, along with the customers, that nothing was wrong.
By Tuesday morning the meat had grown and people began to complain about the smell. We did nothing. I had high hopes that someone might still buy it – a collector, a connoisseur, a pervert perhaps.
By Wednesday the inevitable could no longer be avoided: sprawled, hanging limply from the rail in its tartan shirt was a dead and foetid goat-headed man, horns shorn down, swollen togue lolloping from its mouth.
We dragged it to the basement and buried it beneath old bits of drywall and fluorescent lighting.
The smell went away after three days.
I dream again of normal things: long corridors in my grandmother’s house, a boy I shouldn’t love, and birds.
L. B. Limbrey is a non-binary poet, horror writer and environmental activist. They have work published in Rituals and Declarations, Dust Poetry, Corvid Queen, Grimoire Silvanus, Cypress Journal’s ‘The Red House’ anthology and Dynamis Journal. They write the Queer as Folklore blog and do talks on women's fantasy writing and queer folklore. You can find them on twitter and Instagram @ScornaLott and their work at http://www.scornalott.wordpress.com