The Inner by Emily Harrison

He tells the customer on the other side of the counter that I’m “good to stand and look at when it’s quiet, helps pass the time.” He says it like it’s nothing and hands over the boxed-up pizza. The customer stifles a laugh, scuttling out the door with a reptilian backwards glance.

I stay still and silent. He turns to the ovens and lifts a stack of greased black trays towards the sink, dropping them in. The belt that pulls the pizzas through is still rotating.

I watch him through his reflection in the mirror opposite. His long hair is flecked with dandruff, partly concealed under a red bandana. His back is sweaty in the reflection too – strips of wet from his shoulder blades to his lower spine. I can taste his smell. Sour to the tongue; gargling vinegar. We don’t have air con, just a pluggable fan. It’s broken and the July heat stifles.

I watch myself in the mirror too. The smooth foundation I put on hours earlier has rubbed off a little around my chin and top lip. Under the fluorescent lights I look like a patchwork doll. Neck red from the warmth, arms pale from avoiding the sun. I burn easily.

My eyes flit between myself and him. Him and I. His back and my face. I settle for me again.

“She’s good to stand and look at when it’s quiet, helps pass the time.”

He’s said worse. Once claimed that if a guy paid enough, I could be the free part of the buy one, get one free deal we run on Fridays. “Imagine that. I’d eat you up.”

I look back to him. He’s oblivious, done with not washing up and instead moving metal pots of pepperoni, sweetcorn and peppers from the workstation down to the double fridge, crouched low on the floor.

It’s only me and him in the shop tonight.

Now’s the time.

I close my eyes and inhale. When I re-open I’ve split in two. My outer self, protected – invisible. My inner-self, my inner image – how she brims with wants and desires. She turns towards him, slow like a ballet dancer in a music box. I watch her through the mirror.

He’s left a knife out. The one we use to prepare the slivers of near out-of-date chicken. My inner-self slides it silently off the counter.

The belt of the oven keeps rotating. Finished with half-arsed tidying, he creaks back to standing, stretching his arms above him. Patches of sweat reach from his pit to sit parallel to his chest. He catches my inner-self looking and says – “what’s up with you tonight, not on your period are ya?” She tells him she’s not – we’re not, and extends a hand, reaching like the Creation of Adam. His brows rumple together then raise expectantly as she sweeps a single finger across his stubbled cheek to his dry lips. He says something lascivious and kisses it slowly.

My inner-self keeps the finger to his skin and I watch as she orbits it up to the indent of his left cheek bone. She digs it in hard then, without warning, nails cutting and splitting. He recoils – “what the fuck” – but before he has chance to go further, I watch my inner-self bring the knife from around her back and stab it through his front, just under the clavicle. It’s quieter than I thought it would be. Cleaner. She stabs another near his heart for good measure. The knife slips in easily. Out easily too. I sharpen them daily because he tells me to, running the edges across the steel mechanism we keep in the dusty storeroom upstairs. I watch my inner-self wipe the blade across her legs twice, front and back. He falls to the floor face first.

There are options. His blood is collecting, snaking across the linoleum.

It’s near closing time and the ovens have been on for five hours. 250 degrees or more. There’s a cleaver upstairs.

“Imagine that. I’d eat you all the way up.”

It would take bloody work to do it. It’s not an absolute. My inner-self could chop him into meagre pieces like the scraps of chicken we sprinkle onto the tomato bases. She could serve all of him to the masses in the cardboard boxes I fold like a factory robot – plasters on my thumbs from where I cut myself on the serrated edges. We have blenders upstairs.

But it all seems like too much effort for a person so undeserving.

My inner-self passes on the thought and bends down. I watch as she hooks her arms under his damp pits, shirt now soaked in his own cells. She drags the near corpse – she hasn’t checked his pulse – and hauls him up onto the lower counter, limbs heavy, flopping limply. His eyes are open, irises treacle black. His mouth is open too, hanging loose. On my first week at the job he made me look at his two gold fillings. He opened wide, dry tongue out, and set his pinkie finger to them, never explaining why.

She sits him like a string puppet, head propped against the wall, legs uneven and off-kilter.

“She’s good to stand and look at when it’s quiet, helps pass the time.”

My inner-self turns to me. We acknowledge ourselves; a nod, a smile, and re-join seamlessly.

The shop closes in twenty minutes.

He’s never looked so good.


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Emily uses writing as an escape from reality and doesn’t drink enough water. She has had work published with Barren Magazine, Gone Lawn, Ellipsis Zine, Storgy, The Molotov Cocktail, Retreat West and Riggwelter Press to name a few. She can be found on Twitter at @emily__harrison and