Gamut Magazine
Issue #1


By: AGA Wilmot

You smile when you tell them your name. Wide but not too wide—show your teeth without being creepy, without them thinking that you’d like to eat their eyelids.

Can you spell that please?

The woman—you’re not sure if she’s a receptionist or a nurse, if the uniform is the same or different—has a kind voice. Sweet with a gentle lilt, like a glass of ice tea one spoonful of sugar from being just right.

L-E-N-A S-H-O-R-E, you say. You cluck your teeth so as not to cry.

The nurse-receptionist finishes gathering your information and tells you to take a seat, someone will call your name shortly.

How long? you ask.


So, you sit. You wait. You keep your right hand elevated, make sure the dish towel you’d grabbed before heading out the door, still smelling of tuna salad from the mess you’d cleaned up earlier that afternoon, is covering the evidence. That’s what your landlord will call it when he launches his next surprise inspection and sees what’s happened, what you’ve done. He’ll demand answers you don’t have, not now, not yet. He’ll say, Your damage deposit is fucking gone, Lena. You know how this works. And don’t ever let me catch you doing something like this again.

And you won’t know how to respond. It won’t, you’ll tell him, but you don’t know if it’s true. You won’t be able to say anything for certain until you figure out what happened for yourself. What it was. What happened to the light.

You won’t be able to talk about it either, not with anyone. Not until you know what it was you saw, between the folds. Until then, you’ll lie. You’ll say you fell while out for a late-night run. You braced yourself, striking your knuckles on the ground hard enough to have maybe broken a finger or two. What about the fingers? they’ll say—they, anyone with a pair of eyes and a modicum of curiosity. And you’ll turn your hands around and stare at them, scraped raw and missing one fingernail and half of another, and you’ll say you don’t fully know. Road rash, perhaps. Yeah, that’s it, you slid and scraped your hand when you fell. And they’ll smile back, unconvinced but not interested in prying any further. Maybe one or two people will tell you it’s okay, you can talk to them if you need to, if there’s anything you need to get off your chest.

You’ll tell them it’s nothing, really, and thank them for their concern. That it means a lot to know they care, even if you barely know each other, even if you’re pretty sure they can’t remember your name, or maybe they do but it’s been years and you’re not sure what they recall of you or if you should even ask. Nothing good ever came from digging up the past, you know this, even if you can’t stop cycling through it yourself, imagining your entire life as a series of microfiches on reference at the library for all to see.

To parse.

To scrutinize.

You’ll tell the doctors, too, what you’ll tell everyone else. You’ll assure them you’re okay, that you did this to yourself.

Which is true. You did.

You still don’t know what it was you saw, but you know it was real. You pushed, you hit, you clawed your way through shower tiles until your hands hurt so much you couldn’t even shut off the faucet and had to use your feet to do so. And in the end, staring through the narrow gap you made in the wall, you couldn’t find it again. But it had been there. It was real. As real as the blood seeping through the dish towel wrapped around your hand. As real as the random glances you’re receiving from that couple seated across from you, the husband with his head back while his wife holds a rag to his face, nursing a bloodied nose. Their son is sitting two chairs down with a baseball glove in his lap and a sheepish look on his face.

It was real, you mutter to yourself. You spend the next hour, while waiting your turn, trying to picture it again:

A ripple in the wall, like staring into a lake.

Light, too—a blade of it, like the horizon itself.

It was real. The light had smiled so wide it split the world in two.


You’re at dance class when it happens again. It’s only been a week and your hand is still healing. Yes, the doctor said—admonished, really, like your mother when you were sixteen and brought home your first C on a report card—the fingers are broken and will need to be in a splint for four to six weeks. Whatever you did, he went on, clearly not buying your story about tripping while out for a run, you sure did a number on them.

When you arrive at class, you catch everyone’s stares, are immediately inundated with a cacophony of what-happeneds and are-you-okays, as if you’d been hit by a bus or attacked by an escaped lion and somehow survived. Not the truth—not that you messed up your hand attempting to dig through ceramic and concrete searching for something you still aren’t sure existed in the first place.

Except you are.

Your instructor comes up to you and asks to see your hand. She cradles it and tsks. Purses her lips slightly when she does, a splash of red so vibrant they look like blood breaking the surface of a fresh wound. You need to be more careful, ma chere, she says. Her tone is a mix of concern and disappointment, like you’re a child from whom she hoped better but expected about as much. You will not be able to dance like this, she says. You will not be able to tango.

You tell her you’re fine, you barely feel it. You lie so poorly she doesn’t even try to hide the side eye she gives you, like one vehicle glancing off another in rush hour traffic.

Except her eye isn’t her eye, not really. You see it for only a fraction of a second, like light sweeping between venetian blinds: a single ripple creasing her face, her eye suddenly multiplied.

You gasp. She asks if you’re all right. Yes, you promise, you’re fine. You’re focused. You’re ready to learn. Inside your chest, though, your ribs start to ache as if you are on your back with a heavy suitcase flat on top of you. You ignore it.

You meet your dance partner’s gaze from across the room. He smiles behind dimmed features. No matter how much light is upon him, he seems perpetually cast in shadow, like he is a void area, a space on this planet that light simply cannot touch. He seems perfectly nice, but you know there is something off. Something not right. He reminds you too much of your father before he left. You were eight at the time. You can’t recall his face—your father’s. A shape and a shock of grey-black hair and nothing else.

Your partner approaches, smiling. You can’t remember his name. You think you should by this point, four or five weeks in, but it just never seems to register. You need to try harder, your mother said when you revealed as much. When she asked if there were any nice men there. You’re never going to meet someone being so aloof like that. If I’d known you were going to just waste my money like this, I never would have signed you up for it in the first place.

You never asked her to, you told her. She only did it so you could meet someone. But you aren’t looking for anyone. You’re happy. You’re content. You like your life.

You said this to her, over and over, but she didn’t listen. She continued telling you about some new recipe she found for butternut squash soup that she wants to try. It was the same when you tried to tell her about your newly broken fingers. She changed topics so quickly it was as if she had to hurry to catch up to the rotation of the Earth or risk being spun off into space.

Two quick claps and your instructor is at the front of the room. She tells you all to get ready, get in position. Your still-smiling partner reaches for your splinted right hand and pauses. Is this okay? he asks. You give a tiny smile in return and tell him yes, it’s fine. He promises not to squeeze too tight. You feel like you should say thank you when really you want to scoff and tell him what fine common sense he has.

The instructor presses play on an iPod connected to a set of Bluetooth speakers and music echoes through the room. Now remember, she says to all, slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Now, you try.

And in the middle of your first promenade turn, it happens. First, the music seems to suddenly accelerate. Then, when you turn your head, you see him change. It’s sudden but feels gradual, like it’s happening in slow motion: his face first, then his entire body shimmers and shifts—expands in vertical rows like a translucent paper fan unfolding across the surface of his skin. And within said folds, numbering in the dozens, you see him reflected—refracted. He is a prism, his appearance slightly shifted within each fold as if you are witnessing a phenakistoscope of a person. And in these myriad folds, his smile changes shape—at once grinning wildly, sadistically, warmly, maniacally, with hilarity and kindness and insincerity and warmth and spite and joy and malice and—

You scream and push back, push him away. You stumble backwards and land on your rear end.

Are you okay? he asks. Did I squeeze too hard?

You see his lips move but can’t quite hear him; his words are submerged beneath the bass drum inside your skull as he leans forward twice—once as himself, once as a filter, like a plastic film pulled from atop a microwavable meal. There are two of him—no, only one plus a rippling figure crawling over him, a shadow like a human-sized hole punched through reality. Both the man and his double reach for you. In their folds you see yourself pulled to your feet, discarded, left on the ground amidst laughter, your hand slapped away—all happening at once.

You keep your hand to yourself. Flop over and scramble to your feet in a panic.

You grab your coat and purse and hurry out of the studio while you hear your name being shouted by more voices than there were bodies in that room. You don’t stop until you’re home.


You wake the next morning tasting blood. At first maybe you think the adage is true, that somehow your heart had found its way up and into your throat, that it scaled the inside of your esophagus while you slept, like a child climbing a tree. Then you open your mouth a few times and realize from the craning ache in your jaw that you’ve been grinding again. Clenching so hard your gums bled. You try to remember your dreams but can’t recall anything beyond a sensation. Claustrophobia. Walls closing in on all sides, crushing you while you stared straight ahead, at a gap beneath a bedroom door. While you waited for a light.

You get up and go to the washroom, spit blood and saliva into the sink while staring slightly off to the right, to the cracked and clawed-at tile there. Your injured hand starts to ache suddenly.

A chime from the other room—a text message. A series of them, rapid fire. You think: Am I late for work? Did something happen?

Your chest tightens suddenly, and out of the corner of your eye the mirror above the sink appears to shift its alignment. Something happens then. The glass separates and out steps a creature, one frame of film at a time until it’s standing in front of you.

You. A shadow you that trills like an uncertain chord. It speaks, but not with words, none you understand anyway. A jumble of syllables with the lilt and intonation of a question. Several of them all at once, a barrage.

You inch back, out of the bathroom, and slam the door shut. You turn and lean back against it. Slide down to the ground and breathe deeply as your heart continues to race. Thump, thump, thu—

Your heart seizes then. You look down and see a trilling, trembling shadow head emerging from your chest, centre mass. It rotates slowly, a full 180 degrees until it is staring up at you, eyes blackened pits, mouth open like some cosmic nightmare of a Pez dispenser. Between its teeth—at first dozens and then a split frame, a skipped beat later, hundreds of miniature knives bright like if Hell were every star in the sky—is a hunk of muscle dripping with red. It chews loudly, slowly, and never once breaks eye contact. You scramble to your feet again and leap away from the door. Spin around and look and—


Your phone dings again. Still breathing heavily, you go to where you left it on the kitchen table. Seven messages, all from your mother.

You hear a sound in the background. Smacking lips. You turn in time to see a split in the air swell and then fold in on itself, crushing itself into oblivion as if a portal to another dimension re-sealing itself from the other side.

You put your hand to your chest. The space between your breasts. You sense a hollow there you can’t quite touch. You feel lighter, slightly. Disconcertingly. Like gravity might let go of you if you’re not careful.


When you walk down the street, a drumming in your head that has always been there but never before seemed so loud, you start to spot it more and more. Not the creature itself but crevasses in the world. Every time you turn your head, it’s like watching the environment, the city, from behind a pane of rain-soaked glass. And you wonder with each new undulation, like witnessing pieces of the environment spliced and segmented out and altered just enough from one another, if you’re becoming untethered. Like your mom always said you would if you didn’t keep your head out of the clouds. If you didn’t dream more. The message changed so often it was difficult to keep track.

You catch wind of a conversation ahead, think you hear your name passed between two business people on their way to someplace else. You think of rushing to catch up with them, getting around them to see if you know either one. The world opens up then suddenly, widens like a Mad Magazine fold-in in reverse, and sound pours out. Incomprehensible syllables, an auditory assault slowly settling into English: Who are you? What do you want? What’s wrong with her? Why are you even here? The questions trip over themselves, an increasing din, as a seiche appears in mid-air like a fissure, right at the backs of the two business people. The oscillating creature crawls out of the fissure and lunges at you. Sweeps straight through you. When you turn around to try and catch it, you see it galloping away on all fours like a wolf, moving through the crowd as if they—or it—are not even there. It has something in its mouth.

You feel less all of a sudden. Emptier. Hollow. You catch eyes staring at you, spying on you, and you hear it again—a new barrage. This time, the questions, the accusations are too many and coming from all over.

Your chest clenches down on you like the creature left its fist inside of you and you run home. You’ll call in sick. You’ll say you had an emergency. You’ll tell them anything but the truth: that a blight on this world stole another piece of your heart and won’t give it back.


You sit in bed and try to think. You’ve seen it before. You thought it a mere trick of the eye, but increasingly you realize that whatever it is, it’s been following you for some time. You remember telling yourself it wasn’t real when the mirror in the elevator started to vibrate on your way out of his apartment three years prior—the first and last time you had sex with anyone. It just wasn’t right, you said when your mother demanded to know why you weren’t going to see him again, the nice boy from the deli she’d given your number to without your consent.

You remember seeing voices like overlays in the air at the start of your very first Conservatory piano exam—you told your mother then you thought you’d heard your scores spoken aloud before even one note had been played. She told you that an active imagination was the death of small children. She told you no one liked a precocious child.

You recall, vividly, suddenly, the light from under her bedroom door when you were only ten. You remember seeing it when it wasn’t there, and imagining it wasn’t when it was. You remember the way it quavered when you weren’t sure if you should go in. You’d been looking after her for a few years by that point and still didn’t know which was best. If she’d had a good sleep and you didn’t wake her, she’d lost the day and it was your fault. If she’d had a poor sleep and you did wake her, even if you knew she had errands to run, it was your fault she didn’t get more rest.

If the light wasn’t already on, if she wasn’t already awake, the end result was unknowable until observed. Schrodinger’s bipolarism: you had no way of knowing what the day had in store for you until you risked your own well-being to find out.

The light—the absence of it was a threat. And on the other side, why-didn’t-yous or thank-yous or how-dare-yous or I’m-so-gratefuls or—

The space ahead of you wavers and wobbles and cracks like a pocket universe shattered, a thousand eyes staring back at you and twice as many teeth as the air darkens and solidifies and crawls over to where you sit upright in bed. It glares into you a moment before nestling down next to you on the comforter. Your hitcher. Your familiar. It reaches up then, and in its outstretched hand you see myriad possibilities: it might slap you, attack you, hold you, dance its fingers up and down your sternum like hail bouncing lightly on pavement.

Instead, unsurprisingly by this point, its hand seems to slide right through your flesh. You feel its fingertips atop your heart, its palm as it wraps itself all the way around the muscle and just rests there, even as your heart beats harder and harder and your breath pops in staccato. Vertigo glides across your vision. You place your hand atop where its should be, had it not passed right through you.

You lean back and try to control your breathing. It settles in next to you, curled up like a cat. A lover. A companion.

It doesn’t let go until you do.


You don’t return to dance class until your hand is fully healed. There are bits of spackle beneath your fingernails. Your dance partner notices this. Smiles the same as ever. Doing some renovations? he asks.

You smile back and nod. Just something I needed to fix.

Are you ready?

Are you sure?

Are you going to fuck this up again?

Are you going to freak out?

Is there something wrong with you?

You smile wide and answer only the first question. It’s the only one you heard with certainty. He nods and takes your hand, and the two of you start to move. Your instructor looks on apprehensively. You keep your focus on him. You try not to think how the dance will end. You try only to be in this moment.

You try, stifling your anxiety even when he shatters abruptly into a hundred different pieces. When he asks you more questions than you can comprehend about things that haven’t yet happened. When he smiles so wide across so many versions of himself it seems to stretch from one end of the room to the other. You search for a single crack of light inside the various abysses, its horizon haunting you like a slit wrist that will never heal.

AGA Wilmot (BFA, MPub) is a writer and editor based out of Toronto, Ontario. They have won awards for fiction and short fiction, including the Friends of Merril Short Story Contest and ECW Press’s Best New Speculative Novel Contest. For seven years they served as co-publisher and co-EIC of the Ignyte- and British Fantasy Award-nominated Anathema: Spec from the Margins. Their credits include myriad online and in-print publications and anthologies. Books of AGA’s include The Death Scene Artist (Buckrider Books, 2018) and Withered (ECW Press, 2024). Find them online at