My Monster

I am restless, and sleep evades me like an ill-tempered cat. I wish to brush my fingers through her silky coat, but she forever denies me. The sheets slip from my shoulders as I roll sluggishly onto my back. I stare blankly at the ceiling, watching the shadows cast there by the moonlight slanting through the window. Lights flash as a car passes outside, sending slashes of light through the room. The intensity of the beams sears my eyes, causing my pupils to constrict and leaving bright imprints on the backs of my eyelids that remain even after I squeeze my eyes closed.

My eyelids are heavy, and allowing them to close over my exhausted eyes is a relief. My lashes brush over the dark circles smeared in deep indentations under my eyes. Makeup will not cover the ugly smudges. But when has it ever covered any of my imperfections?

Drunkenly, my eyelids swing open. I glance listlessly around the room; the whitewashed walls are bluish in the darkness. My surroundings appear blurry, the room’s furnishings dark swatches of color against the stark walls. The tall man stands beside my bed again. Every night he stands sentinel. His position and manner are unchanging. He is rod-thin, and his black suit hangs straight and neat over a white shirt, giving him the appearance of a pallbearer. His hands are clasped in front of him. He is silent, yet sometimes I talk to him. He never answers, but he always listens.

So I talk. I tell him my thoughts. My desires. My fears. He grounds me, keeps me sane while I wait.

“I always wanted a puppy,” I murmur in a barely audible whisper. He does not respond, but I know he hears me. “And ballet lessons.”

I sigh. It is too late, and I know I will never have either. Nonetheless, I am happy.

I tell myself that I am happy. I am not sure if I believe it.

The sardonic laugh grates hoarsely in my throat.

Suddenly, I am hot and I need fresh air. I scoot out of bed, brushing past the tall man on my way to the window. My arm pricks as I move away from him, and I reach back to take his hand without thinking. He smoothly escorts me to the window and stands passively at my side as I release the catch and roll the window open with my free hand. The night air is cool against my skin even though summer is at its peak. Clutching the tall man’s fingers more tightly, I stare out into the trees beyond the window. The branches grope at the sky like clawed fingers. The wind whispers through the leaves, and my muscles tense.

Tonight it will come for me.

Breathing in the night air, I convince myself I have found a modicum of peace. I no longer keep the window closed and unnecessarily sacrifice my comfort. It always manages to get in anyway. No matter where I go. No matter where I hide.

At first, I tried. But somehow it always found me.

“I like poetry,” I tell the man, trying to put the thing from my mind. “I know I told you that yesterday.” I speak calmly to the man, but in my mind, my thoughts reel, flying around in my brain and pinging against the inside of my skull.

Roses are red. Violets are blue, I say to myself. You are not safe. It’s coming for you, my mind fills in before I can stop the thoughts from surfacing. Roses are red violets are blue, I think in a rush, frantic, omitting grammatical breaks. Roses. Violets. Roses, violets. Rosesvioletsrosesviolets.

I blink vigorously, trying to clear my eyes. My breathing is rapid. I hear the slight wheeze of my breath whooshing in and out of my mouth and suck in a gulp of air. I hold the air in a bubble inside me. My heart pounds against my full lungs.

I command myself not to be afraid.

No luck. I am terrified and utterly alone. The first night, I asked the tall man to help me. He just watched it hurt me. Tear me to pieces. I run my fingers up and down my arms slowly, feeling the raised lumps of old scars. Some are the odd shape of little half-moons, a galaxy spattered across my arms, constellations mapped on my pale skin.

Cards. A game is exactly what I need to take my mind away from the thing. I sit on the edge of my bed and swipe the deck off the nightstand. I shuffle numbly and deal out the hands. The tall man always stands. I am too tired, however, and I sit despite what the rules of decorum might suggest were I in polite company. I hand the thin man his cards and we commence with the game to pass the time until it arrives.

“Go fish,” I tell the tall man.

He draws from the deck.

“Threes?” I ask. The man hands me two, and I lay down the set.

The tall man is a terrible card player. I win every time. Sometimes I let him win, though, to preserve his delicate feelings. He plays cards with me almost every night, after all. I pass him three fives. He adds a fourth and lays the cards on the edge of the mattress. I throw down my cards restlessly. The man does not complain. I run an apprehensive hand through my hair. My fingers snag in snarls. I grumbled and stalk to the table, the nervous energy coursing through my body making me restive.

I yank a brush through the tangles in my blonde hair. The pain stabs at my scalp, but I ignore the pangs. They are nothing compared to the searing gouges the thing leaves behind.

Slamming the brush down on the table, I walk with determination to the chair across the room over which my jeans are draped. I will not tolerate the beast any longer. I grab my pants, my fingers searching the waistband for my belt. I will end this nonsense by going someplace the creature will never find me. My fingers come away empty, and I grunt in frustration. I recall my belt disappeared the last time I attempted to escape.

Still, I refuse to suffer at the claws of a despicable creature that plagues my nights and torments my mind. I wrap my fingers around my throat.

I squeeze.

Darkness blooms on the edges of my vision, swallowing the phantom light of the moon outside. At last, I will be free of it.

A gravelly growl emanates from behind me.

No matter how many times I hear the sound, no matter how many nights I prepare myself for its arrival, the creature never ceases to paralyze me with fear. I go stiff as a corpse after rigor mortis has set in. My palms are slippery with sweat. They slide from my sore neck, my plan foiled as if the thing knew I was attempting to escape its vile clutches without receiving my due.

I force myself to turn around and look at the beast’s hideousness. Our eyes lock. The thing is an unrecognizable mass of matted, greasy fur like some vile monster out of an archaic epic. Long, black claws jut out of its fingers, and sharp fangs protrude from between lips distorted in a grisly smile.

Closing my eyes, I resign myself to my fate. At the last moment, I change my mind and I lunge towards my enemy, fingers hooked into knobby claws. I feel the beast’s claws dig into my flesh like knives. My nails tear through hair, grazing skin. Blood wells, mixing with my chilled sweat. My forearm burns where the beast’s claws sink particularly deep. I wipe at the hair stuck on my face with slippery fingers to clear my vision. I see it dart for me and try to dodge, but the creature latches onto me, attempting to tear my arms from their sockets. My hands and fingernails are bloody from the skirmish and slip away without effect when I try to pry its grip off me.

Finally, I twist out of the creature’s hold. I stumble and fall, my momentum carrying me backwards. My trajectory takes me into the thin man, and I trip past his lanky form. My head cracks against the bedpost as I tumble towards the blood-spattered floor. Sprawled on the ground, I wrap my arms around my throbbing head to shield myself from the beast. I curl up to protect my stomach; the creature pounces while I am unable to fight back. My skin burns with pain from the numerous lacerations slashed across my shoulders and arms.

Maybe I have finally lost the war. Maybe this is the last battle; maybe I will not walk away from this one as I did before, in pain, but alive. Maybe I will no longer have to live in fear. Maybe there will be no more waiting. Maybe.

Fear buds in my stomach. My heart practically thuds out of my chest. All I can see is darkness. My mind stutters, reaching for lost images of my life. Pictures flash before my unseeing eyes, a cacophony of colors and sounds. The sound is sucked away as if I stand at the far end of a tunnel, and the disjointed visions swirl into sudden clarity as one scene captures my mind, yanking away my control. I am suddenly awash in light.

“Adele…” The thing rasps in a sibilant whisper of a voice.

My heart constricts. Ohmygod. It knows my name. I scream, my throat raw. I cannot remember yelling for that long.


I thrash, one last attempt to escape. I no longer desire death.

“I don’t want to die,” I shriek.

The beast releases me. As it does every time I admit that I have had enough. When I plead for mercy.

The words slice through my terror.

“Adele, honey. It’s Mom.”


Distantly, I feel a pressure on my arm. I fight the urge to lash out. The touch is too gentle to be mistaken for that of the creature.

“Mom,” I whisper, voice raspy from screaming.

“Yes…yes,” she says desperately, her voice thick with tears. Her presence pulls away. Her words are harsh in my ears. “She’s my daughter. Yet, I stand here, doing nothing. Do you know how much I wish I could help her?”

A deep voice in the background intones, “I’m so sorry. You shouldn’t have to see her like this.”

“What?” My mother’s voice is hardly restrained, bordering on a screech. “You expect me to pretend I don’t know what’s happening.” It is not a question.

“I can do no more than apologize for being unable to assuage your daughter’s discomfort.”

Anger floods my mind. He does not understand. He has never fought the beast.

I remain silent.

My throat hurts too badly, and I am too tired. I pant softly, exhausted from my battle with the thing.

I finally open my eyes. My arms bear new scratches, and my shoulder drips blood. My left arm suffers the worst of it, bleeding from a deep gash. A woman in blue kneels beside me. She rights the tubes connected to a plastic bag with clear liquid swirling around inside which is attached to the wheeled pole lying on the ground by my shoulder. Then she props me up against the bed. The woman smiles, placating. I do not wish to be placated; I dream of eternal escape.

I allow the woman to replace the IV in my arm. She deftly bandages my wounds. When they heal, I will be prepared to fight again. For my independence. For my freedom.

Next time, I shall conquer the beast.

I gingerly turn my head towards the short metal table beside the bed. I squint at the reflective surface of the utilitarian furnishing. My gaunt face stares back at me. My hair hangs in limp tangles. But I am alive. I have survived another skirmish. The battle is not over, but for now, I have won.

I smile in triumph, my features twisting into a grin. The beast returns my depraved smile, eyes glinting maniacally, fangs hideously bared.



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