fireworks over a lake

She delicately dips her toes in the darkening pool before her, and sheds her skin once more. The cool waters rush up to meet her, taking the last of her breath away. Her dress billows out, leaving a scarlet streak across the clear surface surrounding her. She gazes at her reflection, and watches herself run her fingers through her charcoal hair, feeling it come away from her scalp with a dull pain that doesn’t seem to entirely belong to her. She brings the black tendrils down toward the water, almost as an offering, as if they had become a new, living creature in parting from her.

She cradles her face with her hands, gives her cheeks a small tug at first, then digs her nails in deep, gently lifts the skin clean away, discarding that too. The ice cold winds barely have a chance to ravage her raw features before the remoulding begins again, her once thin lips becoming fuller, redder, her aquiline nose rounding out, becoming softer. Her sky blue eyes turning emerald green; her features knitting themselves together anew. Her scalp fills with tiny pinprick sensations as her black locks are replaced with ruby red. She wonders how many more times she can put herself through this; if this time she will finally be happy with the person she has created, with the life she chooses to live.

She lets out a silent scream as the rest of her flesh falls away from her, her whole body giving in to the reshaping process, the salt water tearing itself into her bloody form, cleansing her of her past. She steels herself for the last part of the ritual, waits for her heart to beat one last time, plunges a fist into her chest, and rips out her now dead heart, letting it drop to the bottom of the ocean. A faraway part of her wonders if she should just let herself drift down too, end this once and for all. But even as she thinks this she is back on the shore, her naked form clothing itself once more, her newly grown heart beating ever faster, ever stronger.

She shivers, and watches the fireworks light up the midnight sky, hears the faint cries of happy New Year carry across the water to her, with the whispers of New Year’s resolutions. People promising that this year will be different, that they will be different, be better.

She wonders if she will be able to promise the same.

Copyright 2022 Dawn Judge

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

Story notes

My inspiration for the story came from a writing prompt from Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass, where the idea was to write about what you thought the most dangerous month of the year was.

Dawn Judge

Dawn Judge is a Scottish-born author who has loved the horror genre and has been writing horror stories from a young age. She recently gained an MA in English through the Open University. Her Twitter handle is @pinkflowerdawn for updates on her next writing projects.

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