Inner Monster

He knows that beneath every smile
there’s a darkness that he can’t conquer.

He sees shadows dance on her skin
and can’t stop the guilt from taking over.

He believes the truth of her nature
is hidden behind grins and laughter.

A single thing consumes him —
the need to reach out and save her.

But he understands how unlikely it is
for him to rescue her from her inner monster.

Nothing more

In your eyes, I saw galaxies,
endless fathoms, and starry
skies. I heard your heart beat
but knew it was empty inside.
Night bled across your face,
inky black, like your life. You
swallowed the world whole,
like it meant nothing to you
at all. I reached my hand
out to you, but we were separated
by a wall of glass. My heart
broke, but I could see that you
were not hurt at all.

I see now that you take and consume.

Nothing more.

Force of Nature

She is a force of nature, a power far greater
than himself. He looks at her and sees galaxies
in her eyes. She is the moon, and he is the ocean.
Her pull is impossible to fight. She exists in a place
far from the earth, but still her influence finds him,
where he stands on the earth, subject to her whims.
He sees her as intangible, something he can see
but never touch. He believes her to be perfect,
beautiful, beyond reproach, but like a star on its last
breath of life, she fears that death isn’t far and that soon
she will disappear, a supernova for all to witness.

Walk of the Unwilling

This is a side story for Netherside, the novel I’m currently working on.


 

I didn’t believe in love at first sight, and I definitely knew I didn’t love the girl standing in front of me, and yet…I found myself following her, truly and utterly captivated by, well, everything about her. Her hair–blue, strange and coarse under my fingers, longer than any other woman’s hair I’d seen. Her skin–void of any color and…were those scales? Her eyes–an almost luminescent yellow that surely bore into the very depths of my soul.

I didn’t love her, but I wanted very much to stay with her for the rest of my life.

The sound of a river could be heard somewhere over the pounding of my heart and the rush of blood in my veins. The woman smiled at me, and I was elated. Her hand was on my face, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember seeing her move. She was just suddenly touching me, and I knew that I would do anything for her.

But I didn’t love her.

That thought remained somewhere in my head. I didn’t even know this girl. And a girl, she was. She seemed to be no older than sixteen.

“What’s your name?” I asked, and my voice sounded distant, like I was hearing it from underneath water.

“Cecily.”

“I…” I stopped; I didn’t know what to say. I no longer wanted to say anything; I just wanted to look at this girl. Forever?

Her hand moved from my face, trailing down my arm, to my hand. She took hold, lacing her fingers with mine. Her smile was full of innocence, beauty, and something unspeakable that I couldn’t put my finger on. But I didn’t care. I didn’t care about anything, except her touch, her scent, her voice, everything about her.

“Come,” she said.

And I obeyed.

When we came to a stop again, we were standing by a lake. The warped reflection of the moon in the water drew my attention for a moment, and in that brief moment, I again reminded myself that I did not love this girl. I didn’t even know her.

“Are you happy?” she asked.

I looked at her again. Happy? Was I happy? Did she even have to ask that? Just by being with her, feeling her hand lightly touching my arm, I was beyond happy. I thought that maybe I was in heaven and she was…surely, she was an angel. No human could possibly be so beautiful, so perfect, so divine.

But I didn’t—

“Yes,” I said.

“I want to show you something.”

“Something…”

She nodded and held out her hand. I took it without a second thought, and she guided me into the lake. Distantly, I was aware of the water sloshing around my legs, ice cold. 

“Something,” I said, shivering.

The girl’s free hand reached out and caught my other hand. She walked backwards, her eyes locked with mine, pulling me along with her. She was smiling still, and I couldn’t be bothered to worry about anything else, nothing except keeping that smile on her face. If she was happy, then I didn’t care what happened. The whole world could burn and it wouldn’t matter to me, as long as it was what she wanted.

The water was up to my chest when we stopped. She tipped her head back, staring up into the sky.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked, but continued before waiting for a response. “I can feel it already. The energy, the lovely, beautiful power.”

She looked at me again. “Are you scared?”

“No.”

“Good.”

She pulled me closer to her body, her head barely reaching my chest.

“Will you lie with me?” Her voice seemed even sweeter than before.

I nodded, and the next thing I knew we were under the water, her body on top of mine, holding me down against the ground. I watched bubbles rise up around her, and for the first time since I’d laid eyes on her, I felt a spike of fear go through me, but it was quickly replaced by pure amazement as I watched her body transform. 

Scales rippled across her skin, her legs fused, twisted, formed into a tail. Her mouth stretched wide and needle-thin fangs filled it until I was sure they would come sprouting out through the bottom of her chin.

Beautiful. She was absolutely, stunningly beautiful.

It was at that moment that my lungs began to ache. My eyes flitted up towards the surface, but I couldn’t move with the weight of the girl sitting on my waist. I grabbed her shoulders and tried to heave her off, but I might as well have been attempting to move a mountain. She didn’t budge at all, only gave me a wicked grin.

“Thank you,” she said, though the voice was in my head. “Thank you for being here with me tonight.”

She lowered her head and tore into my throat. The pain was excruciating, and I gasped in a lungful of air…or that’s what I thought I was doing. Instead, water rushed into my mouth and down my throat, but the agony of drowning was distant, just as distant as the part of myself that continued to tell me that I did not love this girl, the part of me that had briefly felt fear, the part of me that knew this was a monster and that I was dying. The only things that I was aware of were her hands on my chest and the sound of her voice in my head, whispering sweetly, serenely.

She pulled away from me, and all I wanted to do was look at her, but as my blood mixed with the water, that quickly became impossible, as did making any rational thoughts. The last thing that reached the dying remnants of my mind was the feeling of her hands still on my chest, tugging, tugging, tugging, until there was a momentary jolt of pain – sharp and surely unbearable if I’d had the mind to realize it. Instead, though, I was only happy that I could die with her there.

But I most certainly did not love her.

Transient

Amelia is dying, and she finds herself in some strange place with a strange man who tells her she can have anything she wants. What Amelia wants is to go back and fix her life, but can she undo what’s already been done?


I listen.

My heart beats slow. Too slow. I know this. I also know that I’m dying, balanced precariously on the precipice of life. If I fall–when I fall, it will all be over.

I think I’m afraid. Of dying, that is, but the fear seems to be as sluggish as my heart.

Heartbeat. Death. Fear.

I am aware of these. Hypersensitive. I want to think of something else. Anything would be okay, but my mind is consumed by these three things and nothing can replace them.

I wait. Because what else can I do. I know my body cannot be healed–I’m too far gone, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t mind dying, not much, at least. There isn’t anything to connect me to my life. All I have left is an empty house and piles of letters and cards that I never had the nerve to send.

I should die.

Maybe I even want it.

I should want it.

But that fear surrounds me, making it harder to breathe–or maybe that’s just my lungs failing.

I’m dying, right?

I think I hear my name. The word sounds slurred–nearly unintelligible–but that might be a problem with my hearing. The voice calls to me again, distant, disembodied, and I want to answer it–tell whoever it is that it’s okay, that no one will care when I die. No one, at all.

I open my eyes.

I don’t remember where I had been before, but I know I’m not in the same place any longer. I know this because I would never be able to forget a place like this–bright, fresh, filled with the smell of cinnamon and freshly baked bread.

I’m hallucinating; I must be.

“Amelia.”

I turn my head. Slowly, because it hurts. Sitting on the ground beside me is a man. His face is placid and flawless, and I feel tears well up in my eyes as I look at him, though I don’t know why. Something about him just makes me feel unbelievably sad.

“Amelia,” he says and reaches a hand out to touch my face, stopping a tear rolling down my cheek. “Don’t be afraid.”

Afraid? How can I be afraid around such a person? “I’m not,” I say.

He smiles, gently, sweetly. “Good.”

Heartbeat. Death. Fear.

“Am I dead?”

He’s quiet for a moment. A long moment, and I’m sure I already know the answer.

“No,” he says, surprising me.

I glance away, unsure whether I should be happy or disappointed. I don’t understand death, so I fear it, but living means surrounding myself with those god-awful letters and knowing that’s all I have left.

“But I am dying.” It’s not a question. I already know this.

“Yes,” he says.

I briefly close my eyes. It’s okay. I’m prepared to die. I’m ready to die. I need to die.

I glance back at the man. “What is this place?”

“It’s whatever you want it to be.”

Whatever I want. But what is it I want? A second chance? With him? To just tell him how terribly sorry I am, how I know it was my fault and that I regret it? I want…I want more time, but I guess it’s too late for that now. Too late for anything except wasted remorse and tears.

I want…

“I want it to be life.”

He’s quiet again, and I look at him. His eyebrows are drawn together, and he seems to be deep in thought.

Please,” I say.

He doesn’t look directly at me. Instead, his gaze settles on some point past my head. “Anything but that.”

Of course. It couldn’t be that simple.

I want…

I guess it’s too late to be wanting things. Whatever this place is, it doesn’t change the fact that I will soon be dead, that I lost everything — Emmett, Ezra, every ounce of love I once possessed.

“I want things to go back to the way they were before. I want everything back. I want to try it again. I want–”

–to live.

I squeeze my eyes shut in despair.

I can feel the man’s hand on my cheek, consoling, and I let myself imagine that it’s my husband’s hand, instead. I imagine that it’s early morning and we’re lying in bed, waiting for the sun to come up before we get up to start the day. I imagine that soon Emmet will come running into the room because he always wakes up before us.

I imagine that life had turned out better for us.

I open my eyes and find Ezra smiling at me.

Heartbeat. Death. Fear.

I must be hallucinating.

“Good morning, Amelia,” he says, and my heart nearly breaks at the sound of his voice.

Tears well up in my eyes. “I’m so sorry.”

“For what?”

“For letting Emmet die.”

Ezra looks at me, frowning. “Don’t joke about something like that.”

I choke on my tears and cover my face. “Forgive me, please. I swear I didn’t mean to. It…it was an accident.”

His arms wrap around me, and I tremble against his chest, pressing my face against his neck.

“Stop it,” he says. “It was a dream. You had a bad dream. Emmet is fine; he’s sleeping in the next room.”

Sleeping.

Heartbeat. Death. Fear.

My sobs fade to hiccups, and I cling to Ezra because I’m afraid that he will disappear and leave me all alone again, that if I don’t hold on hard enough, he’ll fade away into smoke.

I need him to stay. If I lose him, I’ll die.

But then…I’m already dead, aren’t I? And this is just an hallucination?

I lift my face from the crook of Ezra’s neck and look up into his face. “Can I see him?”

He gives a short laugh. “Of course. He’s your son, too.”

Ezra helps me to my feet, and I follow him into the next room. Emmet is lying on the bed, his chest rhythmically rising and falling.

Alive.

I’m crying again, but I don’t care this time because I’m too happy. Happy that I’ve been granted a second chance like I wished for.

I lean against Ezra, and he wraps his arms around me again. He kisses the top of my head. “Let’s go back to bed, babe,” he says.

***

Gravel crunches beneath the tires as I make my way up the driveway.

I’m tired. All I want to do is go inside and sleep. It sounds like a good plan. I will lie down on my bed and sleep. I won’t let anything disturb me because I deserve this. I deserve a break from my fear and exhaustion. I deserve a nice, long nap.

My cellphone rings, and I pick it up, looking at the screen.

Ezra.

I smile. Maybe I will hold off on my nap for a moment. I can endure the exhaustion for just a few moments so that —

The car lurches and jerks, and my body flies forward, straining against the seatbelt. Everything stills a moment later, and I lean back.

I can’t breathe.

Because I already know what happened.

I knew this was too good to be true.

I unhook my seatbelt, open the door, and step out onto the gravel. I slowly sink to my knees, not wanting to look but knowing that I have to. It’s my punishment. This is what I deserve, not naps, not Ezra.

I bend over and look under the car.

***

I gasp for breath, but I can’t feel anything. I’m floating in darkness, emptiness, a void that exists only to consume me.

No, no, no, no.

“Emmet.” My voice is swallowed by the shadows as if it never existed.

This is my punishment for killing my son. This is what I deserve. I was foolish to think that I could go back to a life of happiness, a whole life, a perfect life. I was foolish to believe that I could be forgiven for what I did.

Heartbeat. Death. Fear.

I cover my face in misery. Why did it have to be like this? Why couldn’t I have just paid a little bit more attention? Why was I so stupid?

Something brushes against my arm, and I remove my hands from my face to see hundreds of letters falling around me, a sick rainfall of my apologies and pleas for forgiveness written in painstakingly perfect handwriting — because that was the only thing I could control, though even that is beyond me now.

“Stop it, please.”

“I gave you what you asked for.”

That voice. That man. I twist around to find him floating a few feet away. His visage doesn’t bring me to tears this time, instead it ignites anger within me.

“That wasn’t what I wanted!”

“You asked to go back. I allowed that.”

“I wanted a second chance!”

“There are no second chances, Amelia.”

“You tricked me.” The tears have returned, and my voice has grown thick with emotion.

The man tips his head slightly to the side, inquisitive. “Yes,” he says and I find that he is suddenly right behind me. “I tricked you. I trick everyone that comes here. You humans are hopeful fools. You honestly believed that you would be given anything you wanted, even when you ruined all you had in life?”

His mouth brushes up against my ear. “Murderer,” he whispers.

I push away from him and whirl around, but he is gone, and I am once again left alone with my letters. Hundreds and hundreds of letters, even though I’m sure I couldn’t have possibly written that many. I’m left alone with the last remaining remnants of my life.

***

Heartbeat. Death. Fear.

My heart stops.