The Huntress

Image by Del Samatar
Text by Sofia Samatar

For fear of the huntress the city closed like an eye. Only my window stayed open, because, as a foreigner, I didn’t know better. In the morning, poor children would scrub the stains from the roofs. Now the rain-dark head came down and rested on the dome of the embassy.

The moon shed feathers of light, as if molting. In the morning the eaves would drip with pinkish foam. A stench of fur came in at the window. I went to slam it shut, but instead I stood there, fingers gripping the edge of the frame. I closed my eyes in the searching heat. All over the city people were taking shelter in their cellars and under their beds. Once there were two children and they were the only ones on their block who kept the passion for monsters after they grew up.

The only ones. Why should that be? Our dad used to tell us stories of camel herding. He would scare us by mimicking the sound of a lion. This lion didn’t sound like any lion from movies or games or anything. It had a whining hunger. It was a tenor lion.

Her prowler’s voice, surprisingly high and small. Like a question. All over the city people were covering their heads. The leaves outside my window shrank and smoked. Exiles and insomniacs share this feeling: that each is the only one.

I feel like I’m turning into this fierce person. A taskmaster to myself, like a ballet dancer or a monk. Are monks happy? No, they are not interested in that category of feeling. But I’m supposed to be. I’m an American.

The Huntress left dark patches wherever she passed. She left a streak. In the morning, the hotel staff would find me unconscious, gummed to the floor. The proprietor weeping, for nothing like this had ever happened in his establishment, nothing. Had I not read the instructions on the desk?

The fierceness can be seen around the mouth. I compress my lips when I’m thinking. Our dad was the same way.

In the morning the staff would run me a bath. Now the Huntress bent to my window, but she was not there to feed. She was there as a witness.

Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories, and the short story collection, Tender. Her work has received the William L. Crawford Award, the John W. Campbell Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award. She lives in Virginia.

Del Samatar holds a BA in Fine Arts from Rutgers University. He lives in New Jersey, where he is pursuing a career as a tattoo artist.