The Human Genre Project


SELKIE

Mutations in the FMO3 gene, which is found on the long arm of chromosome 1, cause fish odour syndrome. This is more common in women than in men.

Her eyes so large and dark. Her hair as soft as fur. Her mouth, hot and strong, pulling him down beneath the surface.

Every night he eases alongside her before plunging in, not able to stop himself. He used to prefer slim women, but her sheer luxurious weight drives him on. The rich feel of her flesh is like butter. He bites the back of her neck as she calls out. He’s never bitten anyone before. After the first time, he saw teethmarks in her skin and was ashamed, but she didn’t seem surprised.

Afterwards, when they’re both beached on the sheets, he has to roll over to get away from the smell. She says it’s because she eats fishpaste sandwiches for lunch. But there’s never any fishpaste in the house.

She likes the sea, likes to look at it out of the bedroom window. She says it reminds her of where she comes from. She’s told him the name of her country, he thinks it’s one of those new ones in eastern Europe. The name’s difficult to remember, it sounds made-up.

One day he comes home from work early and finds her lying in the garden by the fishpond. She doesn’t seem to notice him creep closer as she continues to nuzzle something on the ground in front of her, before she flips it high into the air with her nose. Briefly, stupidly, he wonders why she’s not using her hands. The body of the fish flashes gold in the sunlight before it tumbles down into her mouth, and is mangled into paste.

Now he knows what she is, and what he must do. She’s dangerous, after all. Who knows where she’s really from, what diseases she might spread. He could have caught something already. And the fish in the pond were expensive.

Her death is requested on a form. Permission arrives through the post, telling him that afterwards her body must be given up. It’s not his to keep. He tries not to imagine the autopsy, the scientist leaning over the cold table and dabbling his hands in her formless body.

His next wife is a local girl. But still their house smells of fish.

Pippa Goldschmidt