Lunar Phase by Olivia Loccisano

There it was: the black cat. Whenever it crossed Lidia’s path, something adverse would happen. She was not sure if she was overly superstitious, paranoid, or just acutely perceptive. She was jealous of her life before childbirth; as a travel photographer, she experienced the world in ways that many people would never in their lifetime. She missed the colourful and populated streets of Calcutta, the bright and vivid nightlife of Buenos Aires. There, she had not an inkling in her mind that she had any other parasitic responsibility.

At the house, as usual, Lori was nowhere to be seen. In the toilet, Lidia found three decapitated Barbie heads. Lidia’s scolding of Lori did nothing. Her daughter always unable to look her in the eyes, gawked at the side of Lidia’s face, smirking at her cruel and childish joke. There had always been some hazy embargo between the mother and daughter, like a foggy glass door. Lori was eleven and far too old to be doing these pranks. Lidia was resenting the thought of talking to Lori about the blood she found in the child’s underwear while doing laundry. She was not worried about how puberty would affect her daughter, but how it would affect Lidia’s own life. Lori was, and always had been, a messy child, and never had good hygiene. Lidia felt that Lori was much too old to begin listening to motherly advice about keeping herself clean. Her chaotic habits had already been, no doubt, crystallized during Freud’s growing stages of childhood development. She was too late to teach her about feminine cleanliness. There were many things that went unspoken with between the two. Lidia never spoke to Lori about the raw chicken breast in the fridge that her daughter had eaten. She figured that any food poisoning or illness would teach Lori to never do it again, but illness never followed, and the child continued to bite raw meat.

Lori never let her mother do her hair, but that day was so humid that her hair clung to her face like wax on a windshield. Lori let her mother tie up her hair in a ponytail. As she clenched her hair, Lidia noticed something peculiar at the back of her daughter’s neck: a pocket of hair that had sprouted. She rubbed her thumb over it and Lori winced, running away and lollygagging in her ponytail. Lidia never asked the child about it. She knew what was happening to the poor girl. It had happened to Lidia’s mother, and her mother’s mother. There was no medication that had been created for it, and all she could do was simply wait for Lori to find out about the metamorphosis she was going through on her own.

Lidia took a deep drag from her cigarette that night in the yard. She had put Lori to bed but heard her daughter’s staccato footsteps rustling behind her. The child was wheezing. Lori always had a countenance of pride, to a fault. Whenever the child did something wrong or whenever she fell as a baby learning to walk, she never cried. Her face never showed fear. Lidia could never see what the child was feeling other than pure arrogance and dignity. But this time, Lidia noticed terror in the child’s face. Never looking her mother in the eye, Lori stared in awe at the moon continuing to wheeze.  

Lori panted to the moon. Each gasp was a loud barking cough. Lori had had croup as a toddler and Lidia was used to this sound, but she was now far too old for croup. Lori stared at the moon and walked towards it. Beneath her ponytail, Lidia could see that the hair on her neck had sprouted further outward than before and had grown in length since the afternoon. Lori rasped to the full moon until the crescendo of coughs turned into a howl. She stood on all fours and howled like a wolf.

When the child was finished, Lidia carried her back inside, and for the first time since she was a baby, Lori let her hold her. On her bed, Lori wheezed and shook with dampness clouding her beautiful features. Lidia placed a cool washcloth on the child’s head and Lori touched it with her tiny hands where hair had begun to grow on her pale knuckles. Lidia held her child tightly and slept in her bed that night as she spooned her, caressing her, and feeling warmth and affection from the child for the first time. As Lidia lay there, she contemplated the day. Perhaps the cat she saw that morning had not been black; it might have in fact, been grey.

Olivia Loccisano is a writer and filmmaker from Toronto, Canada. Her work centers around transformations of the body, specifically through dark fantasy, body horror and magical realism. Through storytelling, she explores how young women and children navigate strange realms of life through their own imagination and rituals. Her body horror script “Simone,” won Best Short Screenplay at the Renegade Film Festival, formerly known as the Women in Horror Film Festival. Her short stories and poetry have been published in Pink Plastic House, Prometheus Dreaming, Drunk Monkeys, La Piccioletta Barca, and more.