Saturday, March 9, 2024

“The Hangover and the Hag” • by Angelique Fawns


My mouth is as dry as the Sahara, and a drummer beats a violent solo behind my brow. Thirty years old and you would think I would learn to ix-nay on the Chardonnay. Cold fingers massage my muscles as a cramp laces up my neck. Damn. The pain snaps like the whip of a dominatrix. My head is frozen, seized like the radiator pipe that hisses with steam in my infant’s room.

Pssst. Pssst. I can hear it now. The clunky heater fighting the winter chill. I should be in my own room. But stiff muscles, a breeze on my bare legs, and the tattle-tale radiator tell me I’m not.

I peel my face off the shag carpeting, being ultra careful to keep my neck still. Bits of fluff stick to my chest, the carpet torn as if a large claw caught on it.

Confusion joins pain as the dominatrix flagellates my back. Each strike is a reminder of my stupidity. Lapping up glasses of Friday night relaxation. Frowning at the bottom of the bottle. Throwing my five-year sobriety coin in the trash.

My hair sticks to my neck as I turn my whole torso to check on my child.

Electra’s crib is cast in shadow. The wildcat bumpers catch the dull gleam of the moon. I sway on my hands and knees and listen. For gentle breathing. For a random gurgle.

It takes a herculean effort to blink, hoping the throb in my skull will dissipate so I can stand without throwing up. As I reach my feet, sharp, urgent pain streaks through my nervous system. Swallowing acidic bile, I manage to stumble over and grab the rung of the crib. My knuckles whiten.

It’s empty.

An electric guitar joins the drummer in my head. Heavy metal horror. The chords echoing through the empty nursery.

“Electra?” My voice shakes and a shiver runs down my spine.

Are those sticky tendrils on my neck damp from sweat or water? I gulp, praying to any God who will listen that I didn’t bathe my daughter while drunk. A wooden block of black-out sits where a memory should be. Self-loathing makes me shudder.

I promise to any deity who will listen that I will never drink again.

The band ramps up the volume, torturing my synapses.  I run to the bathroom and fall on a slightly moldy bath mat. My stomach seizes when I see the cool sludgy water filling the tub.

A dark shadow rests under the bubble grime.

This time when the bile rushes up my throat, it spews out, acidic lava splashing onto the cracked tile. Wiping my mouth with one trembling hand, I thrust the other into the opaque water. Reaching into the brackish bath is the worst moment of my life. Seconds feel like centuries.

My fingers close on a soft terry cloth. I grasp and pull out the hand towel. Relief makes me light-headed.

But the musical torture in my head rolls into a driving elegy for my lost Electra. Did my nana’s predictions come true, and the devil is taking her due? Did a one-year-old manage to crawl out of her crib and wander away?

Using both hands to hold my neck still, I do an awkward shuffle down the stairs. My nostrils flare with an unfamiliar odor. An animalistic estrogen. Rotten and pungent.

A creature crouches in my living room, a baby clutched against her furry chest. I recognize Electra’s downy dark hair nestled between the pendulous breasts. I blink, hoping the half-feline, half-human nightmare is a hangover hallucination.

Saliva drips from her lioness fangs, her thick orange hair a mane of wild around her vacillating eyes.

“Rrrrr,” she growls.

Cold terror silences the throbbing in my skull. The band is on break. A horror so absolute they’ve forgotten how to play. I recognize the monster from my childhood cautionary tales.

Nana warned me about Lamia the first time she caught me stealing bourbon from her pantry. “The female demon comes for the wicked. Alcoholism runs in this family. Don’t invite her in.”

Thick saliva fills my mouth. “Put her down!” Hot fury cooks my words, and melts the mass blocking my memory.

That odd cat-like woman with her alcohol-free wine samples this afternoon. My gullibility.

Lamia roars and Electra squeaks in protest. My body cools with a degree of relief. 

Electra is alive.

My eyes flick to the coffee table. I see my fallen soldier, the empty bottle of California’s finest. Lamia’s beastly head falls to my infant, her long tongue slurping across Electra's face. Determination bubbles up my spine, and my band strikes up an electrifying battle march. I changed the tune of my life once before, and I can do it again.

My hands reach for the wine bottle. My feet carry me several steps to the monstrous apparition, and I crash the bottle into her hungry face. The bottle shatters, shards of glass cutting into the furry flesh, whiskers falling like icicles.  Blood spurts from her eyes. The gluttonous gleaming in her eyes flooded with red.

Electra screams, bits of glass raining down on her perfect cheeks and impossibly smooth skin. While Lamia reels in shock, I grab my child. Tearing her from spasming claws.

Her face transforms into my mother’s. “Pour Mummy a cocktail, will you? Have one yourself. No one likes to drink alone.”

Blocked memories flood back. “You’re dead Mum, and I will break the cycle.”

The creature wavers as I squish Electra against my own chest and run. Slamming the bathroom door shut, I know I will never be tempted again. I listen, my ear pressed against the wood of the door and hear nothing.

Until Electra, shocked by her rude awakening, screams with indignation.

The hangover band in my skull starts another set, Electra wailing the lead.

It’s the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard.



Angelique Fawns is a journalist and speculative fiction writer. She began her career writing articles about naked cave dwellers in Tenerife, Canary Islands. Her stories have only gotten stranger since then. Though she has no idea how she finds time to write, it often involves hiding in a dark corner of a pub, sipping on Chardonnay, and letting her nightmares spew onto paper. Find her work in Amazing Stories, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Space & Time, and Mystery Tribune, to name a few. If you dare, check out her podcast, Read Me A Nightmare, or her blog at

If you enjoyed this story, you might also want to read “Graveside Dining,” which we published last October.