1. (in Greek mythology) a fire-breathing female monster with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail.
2. a grotesque product of the imagination.

Chimaera (published in Lonesome October Lit)

Her slender fingers brushed the palm of his hand.

‘Your hands are rough,’ she said.
‘Oh, thanks.’
‘They’re still my favourite part of you though.’
‘What, my hands?’
‘Yeah,’ she said, bolting upright on the couch. ‘I had another scary dream last night.’
‘Yeah, I was visiting my mother’s grave and—’
‘That is scary,’ he said, staring up at the nicotine-stained ceiling.
‘No, that’s not the scary part. When I walked away from her grave, a skinny sweaty man jumped out in front of me. He had no, no eyes, and his grin made me nauseous.’ She rubbed her bruised eyelid with the back of her hand. ‘Then he pointed behind me. When I turned around, this enormous lion was standing there. Well, it wasn’t actually a lion,’ she said.
‘What was it then?’
‘It had a lion’s head, but its body was, well, something else. I remember it had wings and horns and scales.’
‘Holy shit,’ he said. ‘Then what happened?’
‘The lion tore into my leg, and I woke up drenched in sweat.’

He pulled away from her, got up off the worn-out couch, walked out of the living room. She picked his phone up from the grubby glass coffee table and skimmed through his messages.
‘What are you doing?’ he said, marching back into the room and snatching the phone.
‘I was checking the time.’
‘What, in my messages? You’re full of shit,’ he said, shaking his head.
‘You’re hiding something,’ she said to him.
He snatched a clump of her short, yellow hair and shoved the corner of the phone into her temple.
‘After everything you’ve put me through,’ he said, twisting the phone.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, gripping his arm.
He dragged her up from the couch and smashed her through the coffee table.
‘Fucking look at what you’ve made me do,’ he said, weeping into his hands.
She picked herself up from the shattered glass and hobbled over to him.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘I never—’
‘Oh, always fucking sorry. Well, no more. You can crawl back to your bullshit family, see if they’ll cope with you,’ he said, pacing the room.

She hobbled over to the window and looked out through the blinds. The street was bare, except for a young couple who were viewing a house for sale across the road.
‘Looks like we’ll have new neighbours soon, love,’ she said.
‘Fuck this, I’m going out,’ he said, slipping his jacket on.
‘Where to?’
He stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him.

Her feet left a trail of blood crescents on the cream stairway carpet. She put a hand on the bathroom sink and swallowed two olanzapine tablets.
‘I Forgot my wallet,’ he called out, coming in through the front door.
She came out of the bathroom and smiled at him from the top of the stairs.
‘You want me to make you something to eat?’ she asked him.
‘Fancy a chippy instead?’
‘If you like. Get my usual,’ she said. ‘Oh, and a battered pineapple ring, if they have any.’
He smiled at her and turned to leave.
She hobbled down to the living room and noticed his phone amongst the coffee table debris. She picked it up and read the last message. It was from Lisa.

If you can get away early tonight, love, I’ll let you fuck me where it hurts xx.

Her face boiled red, she hurled the phone at the wall and growled into her hands.

He came in through the front door holding a white takeaway bag.
‘They didn’t have fish cakes, so I got you half-a-fish,’ he said, going into the kitchen.
He walked into the living room holding a long silver bread knife.
‘You want some bread cutting?’
‘I’m not hungry,’ she said. ‘And who’s Lisa?’
‘What?’ he said, looking at his phone. ‘Have you stopped taking your pills, you crazy cunt?’

He came towards her. She plunged a long shard of glass into his throat and jerked it out. His blood rained over her, over the yellowing walls, over the beige floral curtains. He stumbled around the room, gasping for air, eyes bulging with disbelief.

Her slender fingers brushed the palm of his hand.
‘Your hands are rough,’ she said.

She hobbled into the bathroom and tossed his severed hands into the bathtub, atop his dead body.

She sat on the toilet, a bottle of gin in one bloody hand, a bottle of painkillers in the other.

A seascape painting hung askew on the wall above the bathtub. She stared into it. The sound of waves scraping the shore echoed around the room. It reminded her of the bread knife sawing through wrist bone.
‘I’m sorry, Eric,’ she said and guzzled down the gin and painkillers.

The bathroom door burst open. It was the young couple from across the road.
‘Please, help me, I didn’t mean to do it,’ she said, staggering up from the toilet.
The couple looked at the bathtub.
‘Oh, beautiful taps,’ said the young woman.
‘Well, if the taps are beautiful, we should move in immediately.’
She stood in front of them and held her bloodstained hands out.
‘Please, help me,’ she said.
‘Oh, I forgot to tell you, Auntie June rang yesterday.’
‘More nonsense?’ the young man said, levelling the seascape painting.
‘No, she was telling me about a house to let at the end of her street. Actually, she did mention something about her psychic. She said that in a previous life she was a much-loved queen of Ancient Egypt.’
‘Sure she was, funny isn’t it, how they never turn out to be gong farmers or 17th-century rapists.’
The young woman rolled her eyes, took the young man’s hand, lead him out of the bathroom.
‘Wait, don’t leave me here,’ she said, chasing after them.

The couple had disappeared. She stumbled back into the bathroom and looked into the bathtub. It was empty.
‘Eric?’ she called out while searching the house.

She lingered at the bottom of the staircase. A gangling figure shifted across the upstairs landing.
‘Eric?’ she said, stepping onto the staircase. ‘Eric?’ she said again, taking a step forward.

The skinny sweaty man’s head swung over the bannister, his insane grin revealing a set of green, twisted teeth. And with his shrill voice, cried out,
‘The mind is but a moth, dancing with a rippling flame.’

She collapsed onto the hallway floor as he slithered onto the staircase. A foul, fiery breath licked the back of her neck. She turned and was face-to-face with the chimaera. It let out a thunderous roar. She scampered, backwards, into the living room and held the door shut.

Her eyes darted around the room, stopping at the glass coffee table. It was as good as new. She covered her face with her hands and sobbed.
‘Lisa, are you okay?’
She lowered her hands. Eric was sitting on the couch.
‘Come and lay down,’ he said.

Her slender fingers brushed the palm of his hand.

‘Your hands are rough,’ she said.