In “Beast,” a story from Samantha Hunt’s collection The Dark Dark, a woman experiences an adulterous, animalistic encounter and begins turning into a deer at night. Employing this fantastical premise, Hunt speaks to domesticity and its constraints, as well as to desire’s shape-shifting potency—its ability to take different guises as well as its potential to alter living bodies. Over thirty pages, the story’s understated magic realism asks what shapes sexual longing inhabits, and how longing might prove capable of altering one’s entire reality.
Akin to Carmen Maria Machado’s “The Husband Stitch,” in which a woman’s husband is obsessed with the ribbon she wears around her neck (and which proves to be the thing attaching her head to her neck), “Beast” employs surreal imagery in depicting male desire as it works insidiously to transform female flesh. For the narrator of “Beast” in particular, an iteration of masculine lust runs concurrent with her own clouded longing in urges that she can’t quite fathom of herself.