Shannon Benson was born in rural Northern Ireland but now lives and works in Manchester. In 2018, she completed her degree in English Literature at Queen Mary University of London and went on to study for an MA in Creative Writing in order to pursue a career in writing. She writes short stories which often experiment with horror and the surreal. Shannon aims to unease her readers, and through a macabre lens she examines themes such as deteriorating relationships, intimacy, and the changing body. She is currently working on a novel which explores a woman’s fractured identity in the wake of her sister’s death.
‘What Stays Under’ is a short story narrated by a woman who has been enslaved by an unknown man and his wife. We know little about our narrator, only that she loves her captor and fantasises about supplanting his wife, who she blames for her torture. In focusing on the relationship between the wife and the enslaved woman the story examines the different forms abuse can take and the damage it inflicts upon women’s relationships with one another. The story explores ideas of victimhood, culpability, and identity; considering the erosion of the self in the attempt to survive.
There is a feeling of weightlessness in lying here, of floating in the ether.
I often only feel the texture of the wood when I first lie down. After the lid is shut and locked and I’m pushed back under, I lose all feeling in my skin, as if the darkness has dissolved it away. I seep into that darkness, mingle with it and spread into the space. I ooze into the grain of the wood, the impenetrably shadowed corners, around the curled head of the nails, tightening them, keeping it all together. There is no space to lie on my side, to curl up, or stretch out. There is no blanket or pillow, no softness or attempt at comfort.
All that exists is this rectangle of darkness and me.
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