2023 Short Story Competition


I was heading to work when the first goat arrived.
I stepped out the door, jacket half on, and nearly tripped over the creature on our front
porch. The goat looked up at me, its eyes unblinking and artificially yellow in the glow of the
porch’s old halogen bulb. It carried an apple in its mouth.
I was so surprised that I stood motionless as it brushed past me and clopped into the
kitchen, where my girlfriend, Eliyah, sat eating her cereal. The goat dropped the apple at her feet
and then turned and walked back out the door.

Goats started arriving every morning, bringing food for Eliyah – bread, corn, carrots, half
a granola bar. Sometimes they came while I was eating breakfast with Eliyah, pawing at the door,
and other days I passed one on the sidewalk as I walked to work. It was winter, so there was no
real sunlight at that time, just blues and greys. But I started to recognize the silhouette of a goat
walking towards the house. Sometimes there were three or four of them.
“Do they ever come while I’m out?” I asked one evening, pressed against Eliyah on the
She shook her head. “They’re only here in the morning.”
“They must be from a farm nearby or something.”
“No. I followed one of them last week. Did I already tell you?”
“It came right after you left, and I didn’t have my first Zoom meeting until 10.00, so I
followed it. It just walked into the forest and disappeared.”

“Goats don’t live in forests. They’re usually on rocky cliffs and in barnyards and things.”
“I know! It was weird.” She brushed a curl of hair behind my ear. “I don’t know where it
ended up going. I lost track of it.”
I wiggled closer to her, squishing my cheek into her shoulder. “Weird.”

One morning, I opened the door to see a goat holding a fish carcass in its mouth. Spindly
bones protruded from the fish’s rotting flesh.
People always say that goats will eat anything. I wondered what exactly ‘anything’
The goat stepped forwards, trying to get inside, but I lurched back and blocked the
doorway. The goat’s eyes cut into me, sideways pupils shining. I stayed where I was, hand
pressed to the doorframe, blocking the way in. The goat stood still as well.
“You okay?” Eliyah appeared behind me. At the sight of her, the goat dropped the dead
fish on the welcome mat. Then it tilted its head and watched me for a few seconds.
I glared back at it.

The following day a goat brought a chicken leg. Then it was a sausage. A few days later
one showed up with a plucked turkey carcass.
I left work early that afternoon and walked home along the edge of town, where houses
and farms blurred into forest. The sun was low in the sky, and the trees at the edge of the forest
were golden and shining with wet moss. I stood along the treeline and stared in. The deeper the
forest got, the thicker the trees seemed to be, until no sunlight at all was able to stretch itself

I shoved my hands deep into the pockets of my coat and walked home.

“You’re back already?” I heard Eliyah ask as I shut the door.
“I’m going to take the rest of the week off,” I said, kicking off my boots and rubbing my
pink fingertips together. I hung my coat up and tucked my hands under my arms to warm up.
“I-” I stepped into the kitchen and Eliyah was sitting there at the table. Her computer and
agenda were shoved to the side. The turkey carcass from the morning lay on a spread-out
newspaper in front of her. “What is that doing here?”
“I’m just looking at it,” Eliyah said, crossed arms resting on the table as she examined the
dead bird. Her voice was flat.
“Just curious.”
“Eliyah, it could have germs and stuff.” I crossed the kitchen and pulled the compost
bucket out from under the sink. When I pulled off the lid, I saw that it was already filled with
food – corn, apples, the sausages and dead fish.
“I’ll take this out and then come back and get the turkey.”
“Okay,” Eliyah murmured.
I dumped the food in the big compost bin behind our townhouse. When I came back,
Eliyah hadn’t moved from her spot at the table. The turkey’s featherless flesh shone in the
shallow light in front of her. It looked like a freshly cooked meal, ready to eat.

The next day, Eliyah and I were sitting together having porridge when the first daily goat
Eliyah stood. “I’ll get it.”
“Please don’t.”
“Maybe it’ll go away if we leave it.”
She stayed standing, fingers tapping on the rim of her bowl. After a few seconds, she
sank back into her chair. We sat there well into the morning, listening to horns thumping
insistently against the door, demanding to be let in.

I had to go back to work the next week. “You’ll be okay?” I asked Eliyah.
“Yeah, of course,” she said, putting her headphones on. “I just have a few meetings this
“Okay.” I stood in the hall, hand hovering over the doorknob as I looked into the kitchen.
“Love you.”
She looked up at me and smiled, eyes curling at the edges. “Love you.”
My head felt compressed and my chest tight as I walked to work. By the afternoon I was
hot and shaky and definitely ill. I told them I wasn’t feeling well, texted Eliyah, and went home,
swaying on the walk back.
The kitchen was empty. “Eliyah?” I croaked. I wiggled my phone out of my pocket and
saw that she’d texted me.
Just out for walk in the forest. Leftover soup in fridge – pls eat
There was a little heart emoji at the end of the message.

I got into my pyjamas, ate, and crawled into bed, craving the coolness of the pillow
against my hot cheek.

I slept until the morning. My head was thick and heavy when I woke. I stretched my arm
out, searching, but the other side of the bed was empty. My heartbeat hitched.
I got up, a blanket pulled over my shoulders, and wandered around the house. I couldn’t
find Eliyah. Maybe she was out grocery shopping or something. I sat out on the front steps,
hoping the sharp winter air would clear the fevery haze from my brain. There were no new texts
on my phone since the message from yesterday. I phoned Eliyah three times, but she didn’t pick
I sat out on the porch for over two hours. No goats came that morning.

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