Bronagh’s phone vibrated in her hand with a message alert.


She ignored it and picked at her red hair, probing it for secrets. What do you know that I don’t? Bronagh didn’t remember dyeing it. It sat on her head, framed her face and enveloped the fringes of her periphery yet she was still caught off-guard by it at every passing reflection. It looked strange to her still; apart from the rest of her, yet alive and vital in its own right. Autonomous. And though it surprised her to admit it, Bronagh enjoyed the new attention it conferred upon her in college. It made her feel desirable. Confident. One of the better unremembered stylistic choices she had made then, unlike the painful skeleton make-up she had come to find out about from social media.

She clutched her phone tightly. That particular blackout incident had scared Bronagh the most. The whole day would’ve slipped under her radar had she not noticed that she herself had changed her profile picture into a skull-faced selfie. Bronagh had sleepwalked through the entire day of Alfie’s dedicated assembly and hadn’t yet dared to ask anybody if she had done anything unseemly for fear of humiliation.

Bronagh looked at her notification: a friend request from Shafi. 3:26.


Bronagh let go of her phone and the ground came rushing up to meet her and it. Perhaps she had screamed at that point – she would be unsure later whether her raw throat was perhaps this or from the vomiting yet to come. Bronagh’s deaf mother lay in bed undisturbed regardless. Bronagh’s shaky hands fumbled for the phone once, twice, and then flipped it over to reveal a freshly cracked screen that read 3:27. Her head swirled. Seven… eight hours? Bronagh gripped a corner of the table and pulled herself up slowly. She steadied the world.

It had happened again. It would happen again. It was happening more often and for longer. On the dressing table was a white bank card, wet and in its own small puddle. Bronagh looked at herself in the mirror – at the stranger with the red hair.

“Leave.” She yelled at it, hoping for some sort of response that she never received. Bronagh grabbed the card and looked about her bedroom for a bin with no success. She ran to her bed and rummaged about under it for an empty shoebox instead, opening it to find a small collection of driver’s licences, credit cards and passports that belonged to strange men.

I’m going to be sick” Bronagh managed to say, to nobody that would hear her. She ran to the bathroom and threw up violently in the sink, blocking the edge of the stopper with chunks of undigested foodstuff. She wasn’t sure why she had grabbed her red lipstick from the dressing table but she used it now to scrawl in large jagged capitals across the mirror:


Her own twisted eye stared back at her through the scarlet letters in silence. It would not say no.