Hallo, Aro: Monstrous – K. A. Cook

Cover image for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aromantic Flash Fiction. Cover features dark pink handwritten type on a mottled green background with a large line-drawn peacock feather, several sketch-style leaves and swirly text dividers. Green arrows sit underneath each line of text. A translucent overlay of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold alloaro flag sits underneath the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

Contains: A world where sexual attraction sans alloromantic attraction takes on fangs and teeth–and a pansexual’s aro liberation means accepting monstrosity.

Content Advisory: Depictions of amatonormativity and allo-aro antagonism, along with romance and love mentions, attempted kissing/kissing mentions, physical intimacy and casual sexual attraction mentions.

This story uses the expectation of romantic attraction as a metaphor for what is seen to make one human to reflect and explore amatonormativity and the way allosexual aromanticism is feared as predatory. Please expect a piece that leans into this construct of allo-aro-as-monster and does not consider how this metaphor may apply to non-allosexual aros.

Links: PDF, EPUB and MOBI editions are available for download from Patreon.

Length: 1, 000 words / 4 PDF pages.

Your days are depthless silhouettes of human puppetry.

The first time you hear the world speak of monsters, they feel far off and distant. Abstract. Some people surrender to the beast, cruel and rapacious. Some people lack the willpower to resist its siren temptation. They twist, change, devolve. Yet your parents, good and loving, tamed the beasts inside them. They remained human. They walk hand-in-hand under sunlight and moonlight, delighting in both, fearing neither.

They laugh when you ask about the chance of your monstrosity, their certainty unshakable. Grandma is no monster. Pa is no monster. You’re safe, dear.

The inner beast first flexes its claws in your late teens. You look at people, fighting to find the part meant to wish for dates and love letters. Yearning bubbles in your belly and mind, but you know it bereft of the softness that divides human from monster. Sexual attraction without romance becomes a predatory, beastly want. Dangerous.

Long ago, your parents told you to fear men and loathe women who want but can’t, won’t love.

You’re young, says Mum. You’re normal, says your teacher. You’ll master your claws.

The creature settles. Relatives spin story after story of how their partner helped gentle their desire, conquering their beast.

You breathe, you trust, you wait.

Other people, the lost and the broken, give themselves over to their monstrosity. You, born of kin resolute in their humanity, are safe.

Why don’t you look on people with the kind of want that makes benign the other, the want that will deny the creature ascendancy? The soft desire, the natural and expected yearning defined by roses and candlelight, a lifetime of specific companionship, this bewildering thing called romance?

You’re a late bloomer. You haven’t met the right person. Are you trying to meet people?

Pretend, then. Pretend when you walk home with a boy, voice gratitude for gifts of heart-shaped jewellery, allow your hand to rest in his. Pretend when he takes you behind the toolshed for his expression of human desire, a partnership sealed with a kiss. Love. You stand rigid, hoping that you’ll want this if you just let his lips touch yours—

Inside becomes outside.

The beast, silver-haired and snarling, desperate and undeniable, leaps free to bear you away from the boy who thought you his.

Part of you, fearing this transformation even as you lope and jump in your muscled body, screams in a voice no human can comprehend.

Part of you, fleeing romantic intentions you can’t return, howls in brilliant relief.

Monster.

You.

Human mimicry returns when the sun rises, but none can now miss the beast sheathed beneath your false skin. Your family promises their love and acceptance—you can’t help it, can you? You didn’t choose this, did you? Did you? Nothing will change … and everything changes. Nobody asks about your work; friends avoid your art for fear of spotting the monster’s shadow within. You drift to the edges of your own life and kin, a ghost yet breathing.

People pretend that they don’t see the metal tags swinging from your new leather collar.

You, the master of human pretence, know that they don’t try hard enough.

This prison possesses no doors or bars. Just the chain of restraint, the need to look without giving into the want provoked by long-haired boys and pink-lipped girls. The need to look, your claws sheathed and your skin furless, with no more than wistfulness before turning away. Not for you, that gorgeous dancer smiling with bright promise. You won’t be caged, in this world so afraid of fangs and howls, if you obey the rules designed to keep the beast at bay. You’ll be safe if you go home alone, substituting the wrong kind of want for a detached, distant nothingness.

You still yearn, still desire; the beast shifts, bound and unfulfilled. Kisses raw and desperate, a prelude to skin brushing skin, a prelude to a night of touch and release. Kisses that speak of today’s fucking over future marriage. All a fantasy, a dream, an illusion. Impossible.

Remember.

Your monstrosity puts humans, seeking a human partner capable of mastering their inner beast with obedient romance, in danger.

Remember.

They’ll be safe if you never venture outside, avoiding reminder of what you can’t have.

Family insist that you must become used to the ache in your hands, the itch down your spine, the slow pace of human movement. Like a dog scolded for whining at your owner’s feet, you fight to hide your pain, to adjust, to be good.

Will you be safe?

By night you dream of running over paddock and hill, free like your wolfish ancestors.

By day you imagine approaching that dancer, imagine eir hands fearlessly stroking ruff and fur. Sometimes you think that ey too is a monster, eir throat free of leather and metal; sometimes you think that eir affection isn’t dependent on your obedience to human norms. Sometimes you dare to hope that a human can still desire a beast.

Raw sores break out on your neck, skin rubbed red and seething. Your days are depthless silhouettes of human puppetry, a body constrained by shoes, collar, rules.

Nothing changes.

Remember.

Why?

All the reasons that come to your tongue—family, friends, work, art—lack vibrancy.

You draw your wildness: moonlight dappling fur, glistening fangs, glowing eyes. You paint on your bedroom walls to the grating clink of metal tags, disregarding landlord and parental disapproval. You see a strange, alien hope waiting in that silvery hide.

Why?

Your teeth are sharper, your eyes brighter, your toes ending in claws, your needs misunderstood. Can’t human teeth harm another? Can’t human nails part skin and release blood? Can’t humans use romance’s trappings to harm another? Can’t love and marriage provoke pain or violence? What harm has your beastly body wrought beyond a failure to meet society’s expectations?

Why do you permit your collaring?

Human fingers tremble as they unbuckle leather.

Furred legs gather themselves to leap into the night, silver-haired and powerful, beautiful, triumphant.

Unbound.

K. A. Cook is an abrosexual, aromantic, genderless, autistic, queer adult who experiences chronic pain and mental illness. Ze writes creative non-fiction, personal essays and novels about the above on the philosophy that if the universe is going to make life interesting, ze may as well make interesting art. Ze can be found online at Queer Without Gender and @aroworlds.

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