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"Release Me" by Shirley Chan

The demon walks into the coffee shop and moves toward me, his cloven hooves tapping on the ceramic tile floor. He is late, and I will have to console him. For now, he is still walking, walking toward me. I stare at the stringy goatee hanging down from the indent beneath his lower lip, I stare at the patchy fur on his torso, I stare, I stare. He grins, and it tricks me. I forget why I am staring. His face. It is a blur. Blondish, reddish hair, pasty skin, and pinkish grin, a flash of wet shiny teeth, too white, too white to see. And all the while, he continues to move toward me.

He gets closer. His pendulous belly, his round rump, his knobby knees sway with each clipped step. His blurred face smiles as if he’s won. I know what he is. I could banish him. I have a choice. I have a choice, and I let him stay. Let him slide next to me, let him knock a knee into me, let him press one furry thigh against me. I was never cursed, so I never knew I could be.

The demon says. The demon says that I am pretty, and I am hungry so I eat his words. And his face is too close, and his body is too warm, and his breath is too dense, and he pushes the air down around me.


He holds the air down around me.

Shirley Chan is writing a memoir about growing up in a Chinese restaurant. She is an alum of Tin House and Writing by Writers Tomales Bay, a Rooted & Written fellow, and assistant prose editor for The ASP Bulletin. Her work has been published in Longleaf Review, Paranoid Tree, HAD, (mac)ro(mic), UX Collective, and NYC Midnight. When the words part of her brain needs a break, Shirley embroiders. Learn more at and hang out on socials @irleywrites.

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