content warnings: body horror, creature horror, body image, graphic depictions of violence

I once had a dream where my consciousness was disconnected from my flesh, and I was floating in darkness. There were two glowing bodies in front of me, pale against the night.

I couldn’t see their faces, but for some reason, I was harrowed. I was horrified.

I kept in my horror, until it reached an apex, when the bodies fell over suddenly—decapitated.

Blood oozed from their gaping red necks, and their heads never managed to hit the ground.

As the blood oozed, I saw the stark white bone of the necks, bathed in vivid scarlet. Two spirits came, and attached themselves to the open wounds. They were floating heads, without bodies, looking for new ones. Their organs were attached and hung where they should be, missing only the bones, the muscle, and the filler.

My grandmother would tell me stories of the Ahp, the disembodied woman who floated her head, with her organs attached. She would roam the day with a figment of a body, but in the night, her body would vanish, and she would search for animals and newborns to feast on to replenish this body.

The Ahp women in my dream found new bodies. Or perhaps they were the bodies they regularly used, but needed to replenish.

Either way, the Ahp approached the prone bodies in the dark, circling, before attaching their heads to the bodies, stuffing the organs inside through the neck, and simultaneously reanimating them.

They were bodies with new heads, moving normally. But upon closer look, I was able to see the seam of where the head and body connected artificially. These bodies moved strangely, like puppets controlled by some invisible master.

I had the thought of bodies on my mind for quite a while, upon waking from this dream.

The Ahp reminded me of the way I sometimes would feel about my own body, my flesh born. The seam between head and body, jagged and scarred on the neck, gave me a visceral sense of wrongness, of uncanny.

What did it mean to have a body, perceived by the world one way, and by yourself another?

I think that there are certain inclinations a person tends to have, after growing up the way they do. If you are told by the media, by advertisements on billboards, and by Superbowl commercials with airbrushed models who have perfect white teeth, that this is what you should look like, this is what you should feel like about it, and act about it—these messages follow you around, like the head of a floating Ahp.

They can haunt you sometimes, in the way you look at yourself in the mirror and suck in your stomach, in the way you press your tongue against the roof of your mouth for selfies with friends and family.

And, if you are told by one area of your life that you should have light, white skin, and dark, black hair, and told by another area that you should have tan, dark skin, and blonde, bleached hair—what about that isn’t haunting, too?

What isn’t haunting, what isn’t twisted, about being pulled apart by two expectations?

What is the fine line between slim, slim-thick, curvy, and hourglass-shaped? What room does it leave for curveless shapes, uneven breasts, and fat beneath your upper arms?

The body is yours. There is no separation that denotes where your head ends and where the rest of it begins.

The Ahp is a creature without a body, searching for one that’s already made. It goes and goes around in the night, looking for those who want to separate their heads from their bodies, who separate themselves from their image and who are afflicted by the dilemma of expectation.

But how do I know that I am not this creature, wearing another body that doesn’t feel my own? How am I supposed to know this body, as I am plagued by the others telling me what it is supposed to be? There are times when it feels like it isn’t mine, like my hands are a silhouette of the actions my brain desires to enact.

There are times when it does feel like mine, when I am the Ahp who peaks at dawn, attaching my organs to flesh and to soul. When the feeling of accomplishment reigns over me after I have just completed a run, a test, and a mile-long journey.

So, where do I begin, and where does the Ahp end?

Visual Credit: Hulki Okan Tabak


Comments are closed.