By C.H. Pearce

Edie Drudge adjusts her VR headset. At the end of a long day, it sits heavily, pinching the bridge of her nose. The red marks persist into after-work drinks, and are infallibly remarked upon by strangers.

The VR test environment is designed to match the real test lab, where Drudge is totally failing to get comfortable on a metal chair. It replicates the table and chairs, the linoleum floor, the bilious green-painted walls and, to her left, a lab bench and sink. The only differences are cleanliness—VR is cleaner—and the fact that in VR, Drudge appears not to be wearing the headset with a mouthpiece attachment, or gloves.

Set before Drudge is a bowl containing the test sample, and a spoon.

After she’s tested the VR food sample, she’ll remove the headset and gloves, and compare with a sample of the real thing. VR food tester is a highly sought-after job, and thus, a systemically underpaid one. Today has been a good day: sweets, only one retest of blood-in-the-mouth for verisimilitude in combat games, and now, something new.

Green jelly. Drudge rubs her stomach in anticipation.

“Focus, Drudge.” Her manager’s voice startles her fractionally. The manager sounds close, back in the lab—Drudge can feel her breath tickle her ear, and the weight of her hand on her shoulder—but in VR, her manager’s image is absent, and Drudge had forgotten her.

“Final test for today. 0.088. Then drinkies.” Drudge hears the manager leafing through papers, and her pen scratching on the clipboard.

“Drinkies!” Drudge focuses on the final test. She brings the spoon to her lips, bright green jelly wobbling. It’s semi-translucent and visually indistinguishable from the real thing, except it is a shade too bright. It’s vivid in a way that both draws her eye and warns her off, like something between green cordial concentrate and radioactive sludge. Drudge salivates.

Her manager must see her face. “Mouth-watering? That’s not right. Whitecoats never get the blood right. We don’t want it to be so awful that people drop the game, but…”

“It’s not blood. We already did blood today.”

“This is blood 0.088. Says right here.” Drudge hears the manager’s finger jabbing the paper.

“Nah. S’jelly.”

“Colour?” the manager barks. Her voice sounds odd. She swallows.

“It’s green—”

Drudge brings the spoon to her lips. Puts out her tongue, and licks the jelly.

It tastes great. It fizzes on the tip of her tongue.

The manager slaps Drudge’s hand. Wrenches her headset off. Drudge gets a glimpse of the virtual spoon clattering, spraying virtual jelly over the white table with a convincing splat. It’s the same splat they use in combat games. There’s a spray of shocking green.

Drudge blinks. Readjusting.

The real test lab environment is almost indistinguishable from the VR model, except reality is grubbier. The grate of the overhead air conditioning vents are pristine, there; here, they are thick with dust. The trace of a rag’s progress on the table fails to entirely remove the history of previous tests. There is no food sample on the table; virtual and IRL comparison tests are undertaken consecutively.

The manager stands over Drudge, her strong-featured, lined face cast in a frown. She is frowning alternately down at her clipboard and, over her clipboard, at Drudge. She has Drudge’s favourite VR headset tucked under her arm. Something tugs at Drudge, having the gear torn from her so unexpectedly. She has the childish impulse to wrench it back. She puts out her hands, but says nothing.

“Wrong test,” says her manager. “You didn’t taste it, did you?”

The manager has never made a mistake before. She is grinding her teeth. It will affect her perfect stats. It will affect Drudge’s perfect stats, and her ability to get another contract.

Drudge’s tongue tingles like she’s tasted sherbet. She feels different. She wants more than a taste. But she’s not stupid.

“Nope,” she lies.

The manager sighs with relief. Does she know Drudge is lying? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Either way, if they both claim nothing happened, they’re safe. 

“I don’t mind doing an extra test,” Drudge angles carefully. “It looked good. The mistake. Better than blood.”

“Not ready.”

Drudge peers at the form on the manager’s clipboard. There are red warning stamps, and the words “human testing” crossed out and “NO!!!!” written in the margins. Someone—presumably the manager—has doodled a stick figure with a sad face, perhaps because the top of their head is exploding.

“Blood 0.088,” says her manager firmly. “Then drinkies.”

“Cool. Let’s get smashed. Then you can come over and play unDEADend. If you like.”

The manager makes an expression of distaste. They drink together with the team after work every night. The bar is located within the Arcadia Technical Solutions complex; however, the bar and shopfronts are publicly accessible, unlike the offices, labs, and company dorms. The manager attends drinks religiously because they are networking; Drudge attends because they are drinking, and her colleagues are the closest thing she has to friends.

Occasionally, the manager staggers home with Drudge and they play unDEADend. Drudge doesn’t actually like gaming—especially not facing off hordes of zombies in immersifilm—but they have nothing in common save this singular misunderstanding, born the day Drudge lied at interview about her personal—as well as professional—passion for VR. Drudge finds it unbearably awkward to face correcting the lie, so she reliably perpetuates it.

They test blood 0.088. Afterwards, they drink at the company bar industriously.

Tongue loosened by alcohol, Drudge talks animatedly with plenty of people. There is a big, scarred woman named Sam, with a hat and a coat like a PI. When she removes the coat, Sam shows criminally well-muscled arms. Sam is a good listener. She works in HR. You have to be a bruiser to survive in HR. Drudge is talking too much. Does she always get this drunk, this quickly? She feels different.

It’s fine. Everyone else is drunk, too—if she’s speaking faster and more animatedly than normal, so what?

Her manager glances back at Drudge, her face knotted in a frown. Then she turns back to her conversation, two fingers to her temple.

In the morning, Drudge wakes alone in her family’s offsite apartment. She cannot remember if she was with anyone; occasionally she stops and has a fumbling encounter with someone or other, but nobody remembers it the following day, or they pretend not to. More likely she was alone; this is normal.

Less normal is that Drudge is running late. Her olds work nights, and are now snoring in their bunks; their paths often cross in this silent manner. Drudge takes meds for her headache, and meds to settle her stomach. She pulls on her uniform, and hurries to work. She will have to run to make it to the office by 8am.

It’s such a poor start to the day, Drudge surprises herself by almost bursting into tears. What is wrong with her? Should she call in sick? Of course not—it’ll ruin her perfect stats.


Drudge swipes at the turnstiles in the office foyer, following a whitecoat. It is 7:58am. She is out of breath. She’s going to make it.

The turnstile does not open. It greets her credentials with an angry blare like a short scream.

Drudge swipes again. The machine blares back.

In desperation, Drudge phones her manager on her implanted tech with a blink and a thought. A queue is forming behind Drudge; people are grumbling. Drudge backs into the foyer apologetically to make the call. She is sweating. It is a technical error; it is not her fault. Regardless, if she does not clock in successfully within a minute, she will be marked as late and it will skew her stats.

The manager is not picking up. The phone is going to ring out. Drudge paces the foyer and curses, hand to her ear. Who else can she call? Would Sam from accounting help her—or was it Jen from last night?

“Good morning, Arcadia Technical Solutions, how can I help you?” Her manager’s voice is a sing-song. She is putting on her work voice, and subordinating her brogue.

“S’me. I’m in the foyer. My work pass crapped itself. Let me in?” Drudge is quietly cut that her manager has not listed her number. That she did not know it was Drudge calling.

“Drudge? What are you doing here?” The manager’s voice is grave again, almost threatening: that, at least, is reassuringly normal.

“I work here? Please. It’s 8:01, I’ve already been docked.” Drudge’s skin prickles hotly. Imperfect stats will make it difficult to compete for another contract via the agency.

The manager takes a deep breath. Her voice is calm, like a recording. “Your contract was terminated last night, Drudge. If you don’t recall, I’d venture to suggest that’s a not unrelated part of your problem.” 

“What the what?” Drudge puts both hands to her head. The manager loves her double negatives and weasel words. Drudge cannot understand her. “Did I do something wrong?”

The manager sighs heavily. She seems to take pity on her, and speaks in a low whisper. “You were going on about unionising again. Said you’d gotten in touch with the others. You know it’s forbidden to make contact with the other testers and their handlers, and you know it’s forbidden to discuss such crude matters as pay and conditions. And you tried to convince, of all people, Sam from HR. She’ll break your kneecaps, and mine too. You make my life difficult. I’ve got my own career and the company to think of. Take it easy.”

Threaten to tell everyone about the mistake.

Why doesn’t she? Her own stats will be skewed, too. Perhaps, now she’s been fired, no one would listen anyway.

“You’ll never find anyone else like me.” Drudge’s own voice surprises her—the reverb in her throat, and its echo in the high-ceilinged space.

People give her a wider berth in the foyer.

Drudge can almost hear the manager smiling on the other end of the line, in her office upstairs.

The line goes dead.

Drudge’s heart thunders in her chest. She acts immediately, corresponding with central agency. She drafts an email begging for another placement, rewrites it to sound less like begging, and sends it off. A day’s loss is bad. Something sits heavily with her, like the day the lab accidentally presented her with a day of full portions instead of samples, and she doggedly ate everything put in front of her without question. She hopes by tomorrow she will have a new placement.


Three weeks later, Drudge lines up another placement. Not in time to avoid failing to contribute her share of the monthly mortgage repayments on the family apartment, revealing she’s been fired, and breaking with her olds as a result. It is all Drudge’s fault; she cannot bear to tell her parents and grandparents she lost her job, preferring instead to wait for the problem to metastasize.

When they guess, they berate her. “Hasn’t your manager always been good to you? Didn’t you say you two were friends?”

Drudge has no response to that. She collects her things. Drudge moves in temporarily with three online acquaintances from unDEADend.

Drudge moves on. Her new life is not as good as her old one. But her pride is intact. She is independent of everyone. She is earning her own money, enough to get by.

Most evenings, Drudge gets industriously drunk, her sallow body splayed on the worm-brown couch, while her housemates play unDEADend.

Tonight, Drudge games with the others. She puts on the VR headset.

verisimili2d has entered the chat

She recognises her old manager’s handle. Drudge balls her hands into fists.

lovelydrudgery opens up a voice channel. She begins to speak. Her mouth is dry. “I miss you.”

verisimili2d has left the chat

Drudge asks her housemates—all immersed with their clunky, ancient VR headsets on—casually, if they know the player who dropped out.

“She’s only the highest ranking player in unDEADend—for now,” said Karin, who is 19, spotty, and combative. “Says killing zombies helps her relax after work. Everyone says that—but her work must be unusually stressful, the way she takes it out on them. She’s been less wound up this month, since she got rid of some weirdo employee. She’s in immersifilm verisimilitude testing, like you were. It sounds like a shitty field.”

Drudge’s stomach lurches. She swallows, and makes herself talk calmly. “It is. Businesses built on love often are. You know what she’s up to now? Does she talk about the state of the industry? I’m thinking of breaking back in.”


Drudge crawls the vents of the Arcadia Technical Solutions complex.

It’s crude. She’d hoped to break in remotely. Ideally, she’d jack into someone’s implanted tech, and walk around in their skin without them even knowing it. But Arcadia’s tech security is tight, and as much as Drudge has been researching, that’s not her specialty.

Their physical security, however, is lacking. Drudge creeps in via the adjacent bar. In the bathroom, she stands on a toilet seat, and lets herself up into the ceiling vents. She crawls until she gets to her old test lab.

Drudge peers down through the dusty grate. She prays she won’t sneeze. She can make out her old manager’s voice below, talking to a colleague. The colleague is laughing.

No, the manager is laughing. Drudge must never have heard the sound. She has a high, wheezing cackle at odds with her grave, mannered speech. There is something endearingly uncontrolled about it.

Drudge berates herself—not for the first time—for being here. What is she putting herself on the line to see? Her replacement? Why is she so compelled to see the face of another grunt who accepted the same meagre Arcadia testing wages Drudge began to question?

Does she want another taste of jelly? Yeah, she does—but she’s hardly going to get it in the ceiling vents.

The truth is, Drudge wants to satisfy herself that her replacement is not as good. A small comfort which she can, having observed it, carry away with her. After that, she tells herself, she will not return to Arcadia again.

Below, the test begins. Drudge watches through the grate. The manager puts the VR headset on the replacement. The replacement is strikingly like Drudge. She is several years younger, fitter, and happier-looking. The manager laughs at her jokes. She helps the new girl with her tech, adjusts her wires, and calls out testing details off her clipboard.

“Blood 0.092.”

That, at least, is gratifying. They can never get blood right. Blood is too unconvincing, or too repulsive.

The replacement moves her hands and lips as if drinking from a cup. Drudge wonders if she looked that silly herself. Drudge wonders if the manager ever looked at her the way she is looking at the replacement now.

The replacement removes the headset and fills out the forms. “Too sickly,” she summarises as she scribbles. “You want more iron and you want to thin it down a little.”

“You’re a treasure,” says the manager. “You fill out every item on the questionnaire with such insights; I never once have to prompt you. Lab says you give them good data.”

The replacement nods. “Are we going to try jelly?”

“No.” The manager sounds worried. “Where’d you hear that rumour? That was a mistake. It was lucky nothing happened,” the manager adds quickly. “They’re still testing the jelly on mice. It alters their brains irrevocably.”

“Like a drug.”

“Not precisely. Like a very good taste. Too good. Then nothing afterwards is good again. Drinkies?”


Drudge grips the grate hard with bony fingers. That was their thing. The same silly voices, the same elaborate hand gestures culminating in a slap of a handshake.

After they leave the lab, Drudge crawls backwards all the way to the women’s bathroom. She checks she is alone before she drops down, and replaces the vent after her. On the other side of the door, the after-work crowd are murmuring in the bar. The pulse of music reverberates through the wall when Drudge rests her head against the cool tiles. In the grimy mirror she glimpses herself, and startles.

Staring back at her is a pale figure. Her reflection is sallow and untidily dressed, her hair plastered to her sweating skull.

The restroom door swings open sharply. A woman walks in.

It’s her replacement. The woman smiles pleasantly at Drudge, like Drudge is a colleague whose face she knows but whose name she cannot recall. “Hey. I’m new. What department are you?”

“Hey, new,” jokes Drudge weakly, hoping that will get her out of answering. She wants to leave, but she can’t take her eyes off the mirror. She is shocked by her own pale reflection in contrast to her replacement’s. The replacement is sharply-dressed, full of life, and slightly taller.

Drudge knows then that she is not the original, as she thought herself. She is already a ghost. The replacement is a better worker, a better friend. The replacement is the real thing.

Why doesn’t the replacement remark on their resemblance, too? Perhaps she is too satisfied with her lot to question it. If Drudge were in her shoes, she might do the same.

Drudge smokes outside the bar until the manager and the replacement finish drinks.

She follows them home.


Drudge is nervously anticipating having to choose whether to follow the manager or the replacement when their paths diverge. She expects the replacement lives in the company dorms.

But they pass the dorms, and keep walking together. Are they going to the manager’s home? It took Drudge years to work up to that. They are talking, laughing, and occasionally reeling drunkenly.

They go to Drudge’s old apartment, where her parents and grandparents are struggling to make mortgage repayments without Drudge’s contribution, but are too proud to ask her to return now she’s found a new job.

Drudge’s heart sticks in her throat. Why are they coming here? Is the manager visiting Drudge’s family in an attempt to intercede on her behalf? It seems unlikely. But Drudge can think of no other explanation for the manager and the replacement visiting Drudge’s family.

The pair do not knock. The replacement unlocks the door to the family apartment, with a key from her own jacket pocket. She ushers the manager inside.

Why does she have a key?  Drudge is sweating. Is she imagining things? When did she last sleep?

Drudge listens to the voices of her family greeting the manager and the replacement. They welcome the pair in for dinner. The door closes behind them.

Drudge presses her ear to the door and listens, crouched in the hallway. She tries to regulate her own breathing, which is so loud it seems impossible she will not be overheard. She pieces the story together. Her family have found a new lodger; the replacement. The manager set them up, knowing she had one new employee in need of a place to stay, and one ex-colleague’s family in need of a lodger. They all have mutual online friends. There is nothing sinister about it.

Why, then, does Drudge grip the stairwell railing for support in sweating hands, making her way down to street level like a climber descending from a peak? It’s fine. In fact, Drudge ought to be happy her family are getting by better than she feared in her absence.

But why has Drudge been left out of it? Neither her family nor her manager contacted her. Perhaps they thought Drudge wanted nothing to do with them, having parted on bad terms.

Drudge is seized by the conviction that if she climbs the stairs now, returns to the apartment, and knocks on the door, her family, the manager and the replacement will be unable to see her. She is a ghost. They will remark on the breeze opening doors by itself, or look at her with fear. Or worst of all, they will see her clearly, and pity her.

At the bottom of the stairwell, Drudge grips the railing until her knuckles stand out white. She sequesters herself outside the building in the shadow of an awning. She smokes a cigarette to calm herself.

Drudge returns home. She will resolve this mixup. Nothing has been right since the day she tasted that jelly. Or perhaps nothing has been right since she failed to finish it.

Drudge creates a new handle and logs onto unDEADend with her housemates. She eschews voicechat. The manager unknowingly engages in text-based chat with Drudge. verisimili2d is unforthcoming about work, but otherwise friendly and conversational. Doubtless she thinks gr33n_machin3 is angling for a job.

Over the following weeks, Drudge attends to her appearance, which throws into sharp relief all the ways she’s neglected to do so hitherto. She splashes out and gets a haircut. She showers daily. She works out. She buys new clothes. She consciously smiles more often, and takes care to look people in the eye. She games every night with the manager, and sometimes the replacement, and chats with them without sound. It’s tedious, time-consuming, expensive, and sometimes all three, and she has to pick up extra work to cover the expenses which creates the kind of time pressure which almost drives her to distraction.

But it won’t be for long.

“Got a boyfriend, Drudge?” asks Karin. She tucks her lank hair behind her ear. Headset on, she is not looking directly at her. “Or a girlfriend, or partner, whatever, it’s fine. How’re you paying for all this bullshit anyway?”

Drudge practices smiling. Karin looks worried. Perhaps she hasn’t gotten it quite right.

It’s worth it when, three months later, Drudge looks in the grimy washroom mirror in the work-adjacent bar, and does not recognise herself. She sees only the replacement. She adjusts her collar and practices her smile. There’s nothing she can do about the height—but otherwise, perfect.


In the early morning, Drudge coshes the replacement from behind in the hallway on her way out the apartment door to work. Drudge’s family are inside, snoring in their bunks after their night shift.

The replacement crumples to the floor. She is woozy and bleeding from the head. Drudge checks her pulse.

She’s alive. Drudge wonders if she ought to feel gripped by some emotion at this juncture, but she only feels energised, running on adrenaline, like there’s a finish line in sight.

Drudge takes the replacement’s work pass and keys from her jacket pocket. She strips her down to her underwear, and dresses in her uniform.

Drudge unlocks the apartment door, and drags the snoring body of her replacement back inside. She hefts her into Drudge’s old bottom bunk. Almost tenderly, she pulls the covers over the replacement, up to her chin. She leaves quickly with the pass and keys.

Drudge clocks in at work, and presents at the test lab, just as she used to. The manager meets her and they run through today’s schedule. The manager notices no difference between Drudge and the replacement.

There is such comfort in replicating the old routine, hours pass before Drudge remembers what she is here for. Perhaps they could just keep testing forever.

After the third test, she shakes herself out of it.

“You ever think about jumping into the VR environment with me?” Drudge asks. She cocks her head at the rack of equipment, with spare headsets and gloves on charge. “There’s another headset. I don’t see why you wouldn’t try it—at least once.”

“Handlers aren’t supposed to engage in the test environment.” The manager’s smiling face is at odds with her words. Why did the manager never look at Drudge like that, when she was just Drudge? She’d smiled and laughed with her, sure—but never real smiles, and real laughter, like this.

“Just one time.” The manager suits up, and sits opposite Drudge. She lets Drudge calibrate, then logs in.

Drudge is shocked—almost to anger—by how easy it is.

They meet in VR, in a cleaner room, opposite the same table. There’s no glasses of blood, or unsettling spray-bottles of blood for authentic delivery. They’ve moved past blood. On the table are two virtual bowls of bright green jelly.

“It’s supposed to be cream-of-chicken soup.” The manager frowns.

“I know. Grab a spoon.” Drudge grins.

The manager looks gravely disappointed. To her credit, she doesn’t panic. But her disappointment cuts so deep, Drudge wishes the manager had just hit her, or screamed.

Drudge wants to say: “Help me. What is it? Experimental aid to integration with the VR environment—yes? I don’t know if I messed up by having a taste, or by just having a taste and not finishing—do you understand me? I’m a ghost between worlds. And who is the new girl, and what’s so much better about her—aside from the obvious?”

What Drudge actually says is: “Why didn’t you love me for lying for you? Even a little?”

The manager puts two fingers to her temples. “Why are we here?”

“I thought you and I could eat it together.” Drudge meant it as a threat; it comes out almost shy.

“No. What did you do to Pearl?”

“Who? Oh, her. She’s taking a nap. In my old bunk, in my old apartment, with my family sleeping by her. Am I the only one who finds that odd?”

The manager asks urgently: “Is Pearl taking a nap literally or metaphorically?”

She takes Drudge by the collar. Back in the real world, too; Drudge can feel fingers on her throat.

“90% sure it’s just literally? Eat the jelly with me, and I’ll let you go check on whatshername.”

“Pearl.” The manager thinks about it. She actually thinks about it. “You eat the whole thing—as you’re so keen to finish what you’ve started—and once you’ve done it, then I’ll have a taste. Then you let me go.”

“You drive a hard bargain,” lies Drudge—again, she’s shocked by how easily the manager is giving in. Either the manager is curious to try the virtual drug, or desperately worried about the replacement.

Drudge eats a spoonful before she can change her mind. Then another. The jelly slides down her throat like a cold slug.

Something pops in the roof of Drudge’s mouth. It’s lovely. It’s sweet. There’s a fizzy feeling in her brain. She’s a console and someone spilt soft drink all through the grey matter. She’s never felt so good. It’s sticky, sweet, and satisfying. She’s tried a lot of different things to feel good in her 20-odd years, and none of them have hit the mark like this.

True to her word, the manager brings her spoon to her lips, darts out a pink tongue, and licks the jelly tentatively. She makes a face like she’s sucked on a lemon.

“Tastes like battery acid,” says the manager.

The session doesn’t end—it begins, hyperreal, while Drudge’s old life reduces. In the other room, all she is a body. If it weren’t necessary to feed and water herself and set up VR gear so that her real life can be conducted virtually, she would prefer not to have a body at all.

Drudge returns home on autopilot. She logs back in gratefully, exhausted and disoriented from the short walk.

Online, Drudge’s mind is sharp as a new pin. She continues to play unDEADend under her gr33n_machin3 handle every night. She rarely leaves VR.

Weeks pass.

“Hey, you.” Drudge recognises the manager’s avatar in the forest map of unDEADend, beyond the city. They’re on a high lookout, with a view of the city and sparse forest behind them. Drudge uses voicechat in-game, albeit in a way she finds difficult to explain; her body sits slack jawed and silent on the couch in the sharehouse. Even Karin has stopped treating her with concern, and now regards her as part of the furniture, and an occasional gaming buddy who reliably pays rent.

“How are you still alive, Drudge?” asks the manager. It’s difficult to read her expression, because her avatar wears a helmet with a tinted visor, and she is not looking at Drudge. She is peering from behind a tree to take a shot with her sniper rifle. She’s aiming at a lone, slow-moving zombie weaving towards them from the city. She sees it before Drudge; Drudge can barely make it out beyond the tree line.


She misses. It lurches on.

“Where are you getting money from?” the manager demands. She takes aim again.

“Virtual work. I only log off to eat and use the bathroom. You’ve just got to commit to the change. I’m trading virtual items. You ought to look into getting paid to level up other people’s avatars—you’d be brilliant at that.” Drudge wishes she could backtrack; her suggestion reveals she’s given the matter too much thought. She coughs, and counts the items in her impossibly full backpack idly. “How’s work?”

“I was fired,” says the manager. Bang. She gets the headshot. Drudge squints into the distance, and sees the enemy slump. The manager’s stats go up. She’s still got the high score, even though Drudge is much improved since the change. “And replaced.”


Drudge shivers bodily with the most all-consuming joy she’s felt since the change. She’s smiling wide enough to split her face, she can’t help it. She hopes it’s hidden under her helmet.

“Oh dear,” Drudge says unconvincingly.

“I want to look into it,” the manager mutters, “but—not uncoincidentally—I am no longer in a position to do so. What do you believe the virtual drug is?”

It’s been so long since the manager asked for Drudge’s professional opinion. Drudge never got the knack of giving answers the manager found satisfactory.

Drudge thinks about saying: “I believe it’s an aid to VR integration, at the cost of our integration in the real world. I believe we were deliberately, unknowingly used as the first human subjects. How else could our replacements have been ready for immediate deployment?”

What Drudge actually says is: “The best thing that ever happened to me. Go back and finish it. Let your replacement do the drudgery; let her—”


“—him, sorry—imagine he superseded you. You’ll never look back.”

The manager strides deeper into the forest. She doesn’t say a word; not even that she might think about it. Drudge watches her walk away.


About the Author:

C.H. Pearce writes weird speculative stories. She lives in Canberra with her partner and two small children, studied history, and does visual art.

Her short fiction has appeared in AurealisAward Winning Australian Writing 2016, and StarShipSofa. She’s currently querying her first novel after completing a mentorship with the Australasian Horror Writers Association, and she’s working on more short stories and a novella.

Find her online on, Instagram @c.h.pearce, or Twitter @CHPearceWrites

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