‘The Bird’ by Uschi Gatward

This is the story with the clearest arc in Uschi Gatward’s stunningly unusual collection. A newlywed couple return from honeymoon and open their wedding gifts in their new house. The woman’s nerves are already frayed when her husband wakes her to complain about a noise; “she feels like digging her nails into his arm, giving him a Chinese burn”. The persistent TAP TAP TAP turns out to be a bird trapped in the fireplace and they can’t escape from its suffering – “from its dark prison it can see the chinks of electric light”. An escalating anxiety slips into a surreal sense of wonder as the couple rescue their shiny new life from the smothering presence of the dying bird.

First published in English Magic, Galley Beggar Press, 2021

‘The Clinic’ by Uschi Gatward

It’s always a delight to discover a new talent and prize -winning short story writer Uschi Gatward’s first collection contains twelve delicately paced, coolly sinister concoctions. Her liminal territory occupies the gap between mundane present and dystopian future, with a dash of folk horror thrown in; every story feeling spookily prescient for these times. ‘The Clinic’ begins with a familiar scene and characters: doctor, parents and a clever baby but soon spirals into unnerving and desperate flight, from surveillance into the unknown.

Published in English Magic, Galley Beggar Press, 2021. You can read the story here