THERE SHOULD ONLY BE GREEKS: New Short Fiction by Emma Brankin

Oh my God. It’s exactly like a Greek tragedy. There should only be GreeksBuffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 4, Episode 22).


Dead Eyed

I want to scorch their eyeballs and drain them of the gloss of sight. I want to chew on every sinew in their brain and clot their insides with concrete. Watch as they fail to resist their churning bodies grinding to a halt. I want to marbleise their solid backs and freeze those immovable arms that pin girls down. Let them become a monument to depravity, to entitlement, to “Boys will be boys.”

As their faces turn into a whirlpool of regret, it’s always the lips that are the last to stiffen and rest. They gasp ‘please’, ‘don’t’ or ‘help me’. Nothing they haven’t heard – and ignored – from bodies underneath them before.

Although . . . there was that one who muttered to me: “Medusa, you frigid, snake-haired bitch.” I watched those hateful words lodge in his mouth as my gaze gleamed like an executioner’s axe.

Once they are gone, locked forever at their worst, I stand up. Adjust my skirt in the mirror and stare with grey, flat eyes at my reflection. I reapply my eyeliner, glue my left eyelashes back on, go downstairs to pour myself a drink, turn on my record player and hope that maybe, next time, they will just leave me alone.


I’d Like to Report a Prophecy

Cassandra watches her eyes ruin with red and purple. Sees her own face bulge and whiten in desperation for breath. Her cries become formless as she tries to dislodge his grasp from her neck, her hands nothing but wisps of air.

She details her latest prophecy to the police officer standing in the hallway of her flat. She describes her ex’s violence, aggression and belittling in a voice that walks a high wire, balance tilting with every step.

“He’s going to kill me”, she says, looking at the officer with eyes as grim as head-stones.

The officer scratches his neck. Tells her, he wants to believe her. That he wishes she could show him proof. But when it’s just one person’s word against another’s, his hands are tied.

“You won’t do anything until you’re zipping me into a body bag”, Cassandra says, as the future, cruel and all-consuming, twists through her mind.

The officer pats her on the arm. Offers a strained impression of a sympathetic smile. Suggests perhaps she could stay with a friend.

Cassandra sways gently in her doorway as she watches the officer pushing away into the night, darkness closing around him like a fist. How lucky, she thinks, that he’ll only have to die once.


Helen of Troy Town, Rochester, Kent

We marched for the beautiful white woman snatched from the streets. We shouted her name, voices exhausted, faces ablaze.

We wanted everyone to see how much we cared. How we were unsettled by the confidence in her sharp, green eyes that we recognised also existed in our own.

Because women like Helen – in her French Connection turtleneck and flattering capri pants, with her sturdy-jawed boyfriend and bespectacled parents weeping on their doorstep – should not be discardable and forgettable, just another face flattened onto a missing poster.

Oh, the other woman was beautiful too, we said with furrowed foreheads. But we hadn’t marched or tweeted or petitioned or strained to see ourselves in her kind, brown eyes. We didn’t cry out her name. We could barely even pronounce it. When the other woman’s body was finally found, each scream sliced from her throat, skin dampened by weeks of woodland dew, we were, frankly, suspicious. Who was this corpse to cloak itself in midnight? What kind of person loses their way in the murky, shivering weeds?

You see, there are only so many women we have the time to mourn.

But Helen was different. Helen was not a sacrifice. Helen was the beautiful woman walking home from work who was snatched into thin air. The woman coveted by every camera. An enigma who police officers proclaimed as their life’s duty to track down. The face that launched a thousand Netflix documentaries. We absorbed Helen into our consciousness and then, like endless slits of light across the horizon, beamed her into multiple lives and stories. Helen would never be forgotten. We would never let her truly die.

One way or another, we would always bring her home.

About the Author

Emma Brankin is a writer and educator from Glasgow, Scotland with a Masters in Creative Writing and Education from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her debut short story collection, Attention Seekers (Valley Press) was released in July 2023. Her work has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize’s Short Story Contest and, in 2021, she won the Short Story contests for Fugue Fiction, To Hull and Back and Superlative. Other stories have appeared in publications such as Narrative Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly and X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine. She assists her cat Sabre with his burgeoning social media career on Instagram via @sabre_reads

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The Glasgow Review of Books (ISSN 2053-0560) is a review journal publishing short and long reviews, review essays and interviews, as well as translations, fiction, poetry, and visual art. We are interested in all forms of cultural practice and seek to incorporate more marginal, peripheral or neglected forms into our debates and discussions. We aim to foster discussion of work from small and specialised publishers and practitioners, and to maintain a focus on issues in and about translation. The review has a determinedly international approach, but is also a proud resident of Glasgow.

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