Fiction by Liz Breen

Note: “Carcinogen” first appeared in In Parentheses Magazine.

As he watched her through the window, the man noted that she was not particularly beautiful. Yet he knew that if he could be anything in the world, he would be her cigarette.

He would be her brand. She wouldn’t settle for anything less than him – his particular blends of tobacco and menthol, the way the smoke flowed through his filter. If he didn’t appear in one gas station, she would go to another. She would search for him tirelessly. And once she found him, she would yearn to be alone with him – midday in the alley behind her office building, her body pressed against the cool marble, high heels on. Or at dusk in her car, windows open, shamelessly airing their sins into the world. She would want him on her lips always, and he would want the same. He would want her lipstick stains at his base, would want to know what it felt like to leave a woman tingling with satisfaction after every encounter. And the pleasure he would receive just from watching her eyes roll back, her back arch, her chest rise and fall, rise and fall, quicker and quicker before he finally burned out…

Over time, she would need him more and more, and he would remain steadfast, perfectly manufactured to suit her demands. Still as robust as the day they met back when she was just sixteen. Surely, a mother or aunt would try to sway her, steer her away from him. “He’s no good for you,” he could hear them saying as they looked up from their games of solitaire.

But his woman wasn’t interested in what was good for her. In fact, he hoped she never adhered to the Surgeon General, never paid him any mind. It’s not that he wanted to kill her. He just wanted to have an impact.

Liz Breen is the grotesque kind of person who loves television and literature equally. After stints at reputable productions such as Antiques Roadshow and CONAN on TBS, Liz now serves as Associate Producer for the Emmy-award winning children’s series WordGirl. She is also currently an MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts. For more information, check out (no really, she pays for that thing) or follow her on Twitter (@beinglizbreen). 

Featured Image photograph by E.B. Bartels,

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