Binary Taste & Other Ghosts: Prose by K. Leigh

Short spurts of prose, bushels of emotion, fluttering word-paintings and curious dark-brights.

Binary Taste & Other Ghosts: Prose by K. Leigh

These murky drabbles were submitted to queer mags and naturally denied space. They're odd, dark and queer in a way that doesn't fit. For that reason, I'm releasing them—free—for all the queer readers who also feel like they don't fit. Please enjoy the dark-brights. I hope my work inspires your murkier side. Not all queer art need be plasticly cheerful or announce itself. Sometimes, you can just feel a thing, press the keys and let the experiences flow. It's healthy.

CW: Politics, sex, gender, society, death, mental illness and more. Adult work for adult readers to contemplate and explore.


How freeing must it be to only ever consider the spurious status of The Other, because to look inwards means witnessing enough witless waste to rupture a weak-willed, shallow sea.



“I could be an evil man,” he says with the casualty of plucking dandelions.

“Yes, but are you?” I ask atop a neck once fit for severing. “The funny thing about evil is that it either doesn’t know and is, or is and always knows.”

“What does the second one mean? Clinical?” the man asks.



Sometimes my heart beats so fierce that I fear I may be dying. It’s only after breathing to bursting does the brain reclaim the body. The nettle-fingers come in like a quiet war. Then the flush-hot, thought-drop, several stammered somethings clear and I know it’s just me being haunted for the evil some did and didn't know.

Anyone who’s felt it shouldn't wish it on another, yet the matching mad make more of me every single stupid day. They may need to talk to someone about that compulsion. Sounds clinical.


We’re all estimated like a thin slip roll at the checkout. Held between the fingers to scrutinize for the worth of it all, or the lack thereof.

Exceptional estimators dabble in espionage for survival and only that. We know smudge-finger inkers would leave off the tax and that’s where they get you.

It’s logical I’d be a spy with a pink paper mask to avoid exorbitant fees.


Everyone has a doppelganger. It’s a thick, hazy fluid that sits in the skulls of strangers. Sometimes it rests comfortably in the spines of those you love, who curiously love you. Further still, it’s a mutated ball of cartilage, possessing an unaware public to haunt an uninvolved somebody.

Everyone has your afterimage. That's how they make sense of all you are and all you’re not. But what happens when the liquid merges with the mush-matter of an already lived-in mind?

You get a second-self written poorly. I’m very skeptical of milky imprints I don’t speak from between my teeth.

They’re always too thin and gamy.


Trust no man who commands legion from the mouths of tiny little birds.
Never listen to the viper who regurgitates every word.
Know no master can convince you of a lie you didn’t already hold.
Never let them tell you who you are and never let them sell you back your soul.


There’s a story I wrote that’s particularly painful. Every bit of it is fiction, except the parts that are nauseating facts. Those are stuck between syllables, lodged in the letters and tethered to two real bodies you’ll never meet.

This one, however. This one was me once upon a time:

“Chaotically, I stumble out into the street to smoke a cigarette and try to find the next glimmering object I can lock in my fist and crush. I’m an addict, a nothing-thing. I want to die, but the lights are so bright and lovely. I’m sobbing and smiling while I smoke and everything hurts yet it’s so beautiful that I want to throw myself into traffic.”

It took me seven years to write this paragraph. It will take me seventy more to talk about it openly with anyone but my partner.


Never be too trusting of someone who can’t dabble in a little gleeful nonsense. The serious take their fun as seriously as a frontal lobotomy. Without it, we’re all wildly inflexible. You can’t trust the seriously unamused to ever hold your heart in confidence.

The heart is a flexible, gleeful nonsense-object.


I have half a mind to eat you entirely someday. From the top of your head to your unruly brows, cleaving a strong neck to your sun-kissed shoulders, sliding the angle of your elbow with a wet mouth, sipping fingers like wine, edging the collarbone, clasping pink between my teeth, darting a gentle tongue to the valley of your navel, running my nose along the ravines of you that draw me to your freckle, a journey to your very toes—and of course a stamen that blushes at me.

I don’t ever remember wanting to consume someone like this. I don’t ever remember wanting to sit inside a skull for very long, either. To rest in your head for all its sweetness. To hold you and be held by you. To sleep, at peace finally, to sleep and fear no old ghosts because you breathe and exist.

I have half a mind and you don’t fault me for it, but you could if you were anyone else. But you're not.


What a wondrous, horrible devil to fall in love with. What a warm, caustic, affectionate creature to rear as my own spawn. What an absolutely infuriating, incessant, beautiful, tiny, stupid, loving little idiot.


To love you is not unlike scraping the bowl of my skull for memory scraps. If you could see what I see in you, your life would be gradient stars. That’s why all of this scrapes like nails on a chalkboard and I hate you temporarily.

Or rather,  I hate the you that others painted; a brittle magenta idol, cracked to bursting. A terror-tremor, start-and-stop, the worst of words, the feast of monsters, stuck and falling, always deliriously lost for the something left behind, but it’s here!

It’s you and yours and was never anyone else’s!



A painting can be conjured before you, at any time, immediately. It’s not unlike magic, but in truth, it's psychology. It doesn’t work for some. For most people, they can see its crackling sky-paint in an eruption on a pink-dipped horizon, pierce the blue to discern black, navy, umber, seafoam and gray-green, smell the faint lavender oils used in linseed’s stead, catch the dark scent of a stained wooden frame and touch the smooth satin surface, then the mottled creases, with the tips of their fingers.

Did you enjoy the painting?


I feel that I have been screaming since the day I was born and yet very few people can hear me. Maybe it’s a pitch so imperceptible that only cats can. Perhaps that's why they’re so adoring.

For the few humans who’ve managed, what is it that you hear? It should’ve been a bleating love-song.

Is it that, still?


Humans are tragic. The capacity to learn is baked into the software and yet time and time again we see the opposite holds true. Digging in the heels. Letting history rip them to shreds. Seeing everything, learning nothing, and hobbling through time as if the terrible is new, the good is impossible and every future has been written into natural law itself. Tragic.


I have—not once—related to womanhood in the entirety of my life. I don’t know what that word means to begin with. How does the experience feel? Is it kittens and pink? That certainly isn’t accurate. Well, is it gestational? That isn’t right either. Womanhood would then be defined, personally.

By someone that isn’t me.


I worship in the house of the flesh to pull pleasure from the spine and turn caught gasps into dreamy/sweet I love you’s. Let me never leave the warm shroud of your skin. Let me stay here forever. Immortal and in love with loving you in every way I can.


When you know your mind is capable of conjuring specters at will, you’d know not to walk with ghouls. Real or imaginary, there’s too much at risk in entertaining a haunting.


When one is submerged they might think to ask for help. Thinking to ask and asking are two very different things, you know. If you’ve become accustomed to asking and never receiving, you might not think to ask ever again.

You might not even dare to think at all.

I merely float until there’s enough energy to kick. Maybe once, maybe twice, and then after hours, there’s the shore my body sails to, all on its own.

Landing—beached and mostly deceased—the curious ones marvel at the genius of my maiden voyage. Such a self-reliant mermaid. Such a marvelous strength.

Up on my arms, body numb and blue, all that’s left to do is pull myself across the hot sand. They clap, as they always do, and maybe congratulate themselves for being there. Yet there’s never any pull, is there? No true risk for the heavy, half-dead body.

I no longer think to ask.


A hero is bestowed with a quest, either by fate, birth, happenstance, etc. The hero is a stand-in for the reader. For this reason they are: plain but obsessively/dangerously lusted after, smart but average, unremarkable but powerful, and/or perfectly imperfectly mediocre.

A guide appears conveniently. They're marginalized in some way and very wise. They set the hero on the path, they die to create emotions, and then more events happen. Maybe a romance occurs.

If the genre is YA, there will be a black screen that drops into place from beyond the void. If the genre is adult, there are likely flower euphemisms or descriptions of sad tits. If the genre is queer—but written by a cishet—there are sex scenes present. If you could call donuts made of sand sex scenes, that is.

The bad guy is very bad. We know this because they do bad things, are bigoted stereotypes of evil, or they impede the good guys. The good guys are very good. We know this because even if they do bad things, the author doesn’t care.

Gay characters die whenever because they’re plot devices. Mental illnesses explain demons or make the villain more evil. Black characters aren’t real in historical fiction. All Asian characters are exotic objects.

The good guys win, the bad guy loses and everyone claps.


Most people never notice when someone says all the right words but barely moves unless beneficial. Like a slow-rolling boulder until convenient. In truth, they’re a synthetic slab of earth that wouldn’t know natural tectonics if magma made an introduction. Sadly cursed in seeing every meager mountain for exactly what it is, I’m left scrutinized before I raise my tool. Nobody likes a quarryman defacing such proud symbols of shining solidarity.

People assume those like me brandish a wordsmithed axe for gold, as though the cracks have anything unfoolish to begin with. Rubbish.

In truth, the careless stones crush if left alone for long enough. Dominating the skyline foreverly, they’re liable to slide when provoked without looking at what’s below. Tiny, tended plots suffocate and die. Gentle earths trampled are starved of seminal rains, left loveless and unseen, because the stone is grand. The stone is great. The stone only moves to stretch its peak to heaven, leaving nothing but nothing for nobody at all.

Save your sympathy for the smeared flowers and those like me that pull them free—or try to anyway. The mountains do not need it.


Sometimes, I daydream that I’ve killed myself and all my friends gather at my very sad funeral and say things like: “I wish she—er—he? Knew how loved they were. Is that right?” They say things like: “A candle that burns twice as bright burns twice as fast.” They cry terrible, dreadful tears.

Maybe they start a charity in honor of my various society-born illnesses. Maybe my annoying books explode in popularity like two not-friends suggested during ‘reciprocal’ venting: People will love your writing after you’re dead.

All the self-pitying sentences I could conceived—equipped with black clothes and drab faces—play out like moving pictures. The sky itself is so sad that the pathetic clouds sob. Except that’s not how it would really happen, and because I know this, these daydreams of death keep me alive.

I plan to outlive every single person as a sometimes-miserable, impossibly intelligent and profusely creative old bastard. Only succumbing to death with my partner’s frail hand in my frail own as we gaze at each other, laugh about the always-miserable world, and make one last joke before the curtains fall.

No one deserves the pleasure of my demise save death and I will fight him for forever—haggard and high on the milk of spite itself. Eat me.


I am a coward. I drape some colorful, chloroformal pageantry on what I think and it becomes a blurry shroud. Not unlike a pretty, painful, glittered something-said, but indirect. It’s always indirect.

Indirect means I get to live.

Honesty is dangerous. I can only ever be uncowardly in certain ways, one of which is hate. For ages, I thought that was all. It took truly being loved to know another flavor of it.

True love wasn’t known at the start. It wasn’t even the best of times for me and mine. It was when my partner—a then-coward—wounded me in a way I shouldn’t have survived.

Instead, he let me hurt him back.

Honest, aching, sobbing, hurt and hateful with weak, stupid slaps and fitful, terrorized screaming—he let me. He loved me enough to promise a never-again and let me scream. Then he loved me enough to forfeit life if he couldn’t keep the promise. I’d never had anyone lease their life to protect mine. I’d never even had anyone love me enough to let me show honest pain, even.

Love affords honesty, but that’s the only flavor besides hate, I’m afraid. I will keep the indirect protective prose, because I was not born an artist, you see.

I was born vulnerable.


I wonder what would happen if I played the game like all the rest. It’s not that I don’t know how to, it’s just that I’m very broken.

In this game, we all sit at a table with assorted chairs. Some sit low to the ground, some are up in the clouds, and I’m in the middle. The goal for the cloud-sitters is to never drop. The goal for the mid-seaters is to reach the sky. The goal for everyone else is to get off the ground for once in their fucking life.

The rules are simple, yet change on a dime. The players say one thing, but do another. Sometimes we use cards and dice, sometimes pieces, but there are constants. The first is that you only win when others lose. The second is that you must lie to win. The third and final constant is that all must play or die.

After a roll, I’m prompted with three choices: Flattery, Silence and Challenge. The smart play is to Flatter the cloud-sitters. The safe play is to sit in Silence. The bad play is to Challenge the game for the sake of all—and because I’m broken—that is what I do. For this, I’m stuck in the middle and can’t even move anyone up behind me. Only cloud-sitters can pull that off and they never bother with it because they’re afraid of losing space in the never-ending sky.

Every game plays out the same, for I make no new choices. Like I said, I’m broken. Or, more truthfully, this game is more broken than I will ever be.


How am I supposed to feel when the world is just so raw
When every single problem shares the same forever-flaw
When we’re never solving nothing and even brand into the law
How someone has to love and fuck and live and die

Tell me, how should I?

Tell me, how am I supposed to walk
Into every day, sleeping death past-noon, to rise and gawk
And to decay, for there is no sound, no sight, no way
And we stumble, for that’s all the good we do
And worse: to scrape with claws, to slake anew
Some ancient lie, a breeding ground
An old, gold, demented dying-sound

Tell me

Tell me in all this dread, stainsome dip-dye, searing red
In void-rot paint-slick ephemeral, stuck within gut-thick
Tortured nothing-thing; well what am I if not
If not just a bleeding, fucked up, fucking heart?
If not just the broken, tender, greener me, holding fast to dying tree
For surely if it grew, it felt, it lived, just the same, you see

So tell me, if you can
If you can even understand
Tell me. How am I supposed to feel?


I know that nobody needs these drabbles. They’re all rather bitter, if beautiful and some are downright depressing. But what I do know is that I need to evict my churning brain like blood-ink or the words will leech me all the same. They might even snap at someone who doesn’t deserve it.

And so, I write.

At the end of the day, the only one who lives inside your skull is you. The only one who makes sense of your human nonsense is you. The only one who sees the fantastical, too-blue skies behind your eyes and feels all your prickly bitterness is, well, you.

And so, you must write.

To write is to cherish your voice, regardless of how fragile, bitter, beautiful, sick, sad, or clumsy it may be. In a world so loveless, maybe the best way to love yourself is to want your voice beyond all reason.

Even if nobody else does.

And there's some evicted ghosts for you.

K. Leigh is an ex-freelancer, full-time author, and weirdo artist. Read their lgbt+ sci-fi books, connect on Twitter, visit their site, or send them an email if you’d like to work together. 🌈 🏳️‍⚧️

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