Cast of Wonders 477: Three Monsters That Are Not Metaphors (Staff Picks 2021)

Three monsters that are not metaphors

by Dani Atkinson

1. The kelpie is not a metaphor for depression.

“You’re kind of like a metaphor for depression, though,” I tell her, and she snorts angrily. Her hide twitches, dark and sticky as tar pits.

Just because she’s deceptively appealing, and wants to trap me and drag me down into cold grey waters, means nothing. Just because I am already drowning does not make it a metaphor.

The offended kelpie tosses her wet mane and stamps her hoof as she flounces away. The hoof prints she leaves behind fill up immediately with muddy water and mosquito larvae.

2. The brownie is not a metaphor for my ADHD.

True, brownies are household sprites that are supposed to be benevolent and help with chores about the home, but who can instead turn against you according to rules you don’t understand and never remember. Yes, he is now pranking me by hiding my keys and  pens and purse. Everything I set down disappears when I look away.

The brownie is sitting in a corner glaring balefully from under his brown hood. He crosses hairy arms and grumbles in Gaelic. I have ADHD and I have an angry brownie and similarities between these things are coincidental.

Every flat surface is covered in mugs. Some are offerings of cream and honey for the brownie. Some are mugs of tea that I made and forgot I made so I made another mug of tea. I can’t remember which is which. The brownie drinks out of them both.

3. The banshee wailing at the windows is not a metaphor for anxiety.

I was already afraid to leave the house, without her. I already have trouble sleeping. She’s not a symbol for anything happening in my head.

I check anyway.

“Are you a metaphor for my anxiety?” I ask her, opening the window for a moment to the screaming storm.

She stares with hollow haunted eyes. “Something terrible is coming,” she informs me, her voice climbing to a shriek at the end.

“I know. I always know that.” I tell her.

She starts crying. “Something terrible is always about to happen. I wail and wail but it doesn’t make anything better and I’m so scared and I want it all to stop.”

I see hoof prints on the ground around the banshee’s swirling skirts. They are full of muddy water. It might be from the rain.

I invite the banshee inside.

She floats over a chair. I look at the nearby coffee table and I see that the mugs are gone save three. All three are steaming.

The brownie pushes two of them towards me, saying something stern and guttural. I think it’s a rhyming couplet.

One mug smells like vanilla and bergamot. The other smells like chamomile. I bring the chamomile to the banshee. We all sit together drinking tea while the rain lashes outside.

The rain might be a metaphor. Or maybe not. But tea is real.

About the Author

Dani Atkinson

Image of Dani Atkinson

Dani Atkinson is an author in southern Alberta, Canada, who thought that as an introverted book loving computer junkie she was primed for the quarantine lockdowns to be a breeze. That lasted for a couple of weeks until she missed the library so much and became so desperate for company that she started a Teddy Bear Book Club. Dani’s brown bear Teddy most enjoyed reading and discussing the picture books Dani brought home from her year in Japan, while the Baz the polar bear plushie favoured old back issues of fantasy magazines and comics. Their tastes may or may not have been influenced by what they were actually able to hold up when Dani was posing them.  Dani’s short fiction has previously appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Cast of Wonders, and the It Came from Miskatonic University anthology from Broken Eye Books. She sporadically blogs at

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About the Narrator

Katherine Inskip

Katherine Inskip is the editor for Cast of Wonders. She teaches astrophysics for a living and spends her spare time populating the universe with worlds of her own.  You can find more of her stories and poems at Motherboard, the Dunesteef, Luna Station Quarterly, Abyss & Apex and Polu Texni.

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About the Artist

Alexis Goble

Alexis is a multiclass disaster-human living with her husband in Cincinnati. When she isn’t prepping art for Cast of Wonders, designing pins for, or yelling about TV into a mic for Bald Move, she dabbles in a revolving menu of hobbies and art projects. To list them all would be sheer madness. Like any good bisexual, she has a lot of jackets. You can find her on Twitter @alexisonpaper.

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