Winner 2019 – Youth 1 division
As a child I was often comforted in vain with the fact that the monsters of my darkest nightmares were not to be something to take seriously. Unfortunately, I saw reality even as a younger child, like a starlight of truth bleeding through the darkness of blissful ignorance; I followed it as religion. Monsters were indeed real, I knew it although it was denied by many.
How could they not be? I encountered them almost everyday. I could feel their eyes hungrily stalk me as I walked through even the safest places, like school or home. I could sense the creatures’ sickly sweet breath at the nape of my neck and hear their thin, heckling laughter.
As I grew up, I don’t know what happened. The monsters had chosen me to hunt. The constant terror that came with that gave me a certain paranoia that shadowed everyday life.
A blood-red cross eerily began to hang over my head, monitoring my life like a cell under a microscope. And suddenly, I was moving to many places, going from one building to the next. There were many who thought they could help. However, they found that they couldn’t. So, along I went, down the rabbit hole of eternal pill bottles.
But how did they follow me? How could they have done it? Somewhere where I was alone so that no one could stop them. When was I ever alone?
Perhaps while I slept?
Yes! When I was asleep. That must’ve been when. While I was all alone, no one watching, no one listening, the slimy, ever foul beasts got inside my head. It was the one place I could never escape them.
I can see it now! The shredding and gore as they tore their way through my flesh and bone and burrowed themselves into the back of my mind. But that wasn’t enough was it? For the morning I awoke, I realized. They weren’t just in my head, but I could feel them as they crawled like worms through my veins. I could see only the terrors that had been covered up by the blissful veil that used to be my eyes. And how did they get there? They must have started chewing. They had to have eaten away at my brain like maggots on a corpse.
What started as a quiet gnawing on my mind would have become a feast for the fears in my head. They ate their way through my mind, and slithered down until they found my eyes. The creatures in my mind ripped my eyes out of my skull, their claws plunging through my sockets to grip the flesh, and ravaged away at what they stole. They ate me away from the inside. Crawling down my throat, they found my heart.
But they didn’t stop it, no. The fear could’ve sliced my heartstrings into a million bloody little pieces, sucked up my veins like noodles, and devoured the one thing that kept me living, but no. It tightened it claws on my heart, and sent me a to be well understood message:
You belong to us.
The fear had consumed my every thought, my every waking moment. I thought only of the horrors that would occur should I ever leave my room. I saw the dangers in daily life, and of living in general. Every time I stepped into the open, I felt the flutter that could only mean warning. All from the beasts who controlled my heart.
So, I stayed alone. In the dark. Where no light would dare touch me with its sunny fingers, and no eye could lay judgement on my methodology. The silence was so quiet it was loud. The darkness was a shield that surrounded me with privacy. Silence and privacy, one I had too much, and the other, too little. Both led me to a smothering sense of boredom where I was allowed only the thoughts in my head. But were those safe anymore?
I had been avoiding the monsters of my deepest terrors for so long, fearing insistently of the day they would catch up to me. And now they had. The monsters had gained control of me, so what point was there in avoiding them? Like a dog on a leash, the monsters had me tightly collared. It was futile to struggle, because I knew if I did, I would be choked.
And then, the towering wave of realization struck me. But instead of leaving me cold and shivering in the new knowledge as a wave should, it gave me a warmth that crawled over my body like thousands of tiny black spiders. I didn’t have to avoid them any longer…
Perhaps these monsters were really my saving grace, like angels in disguise. All these years hunting me, following my every move, and they never wanted to hurt me. They wanted to help me! To get inside of me, only because then I wouldn’t have to run anymore. And then there they stayed, their precautions ringing in mind.
I was enlightened with the new knowledge of the world.
With this, I came to think of the fear lurking inside of me as a friend, and I welcomed it into my mind, eyes, and heart. I let it flourish, and learned to eat every word of terror it fed me, knowing it would keep me more alive than food. I poured thought onto the horrors that entered my head like gasoline on a brushfire.
I found my room to be my safe place. The fear inside me gave me life and seemed to almost make me immortal. I no longer desired to eat. I no longer wanted anything to do with the humans that lived around me. I felt nothing. No anger, no sadness, no jealousy, just fear. It was a perfect, almost laughably, one-sided trade. Giving up all the pains of living, except only one emotion? It was something I wished had happened to me long ago. Yet, I came to find this fear to be much different than any other. Like white, it was the void where no color dared to live. I had that feeling: white. I made the connection. White and fear were one in the same.
The very thing I had been looking for for so many years. The creatures in my mind had given it to me. I had nothing, no other treasure, no memory, I thought, than of that which lived in my head. This was not pain! This was not a chewing of my mind, it was a rebirth! It was an ultimate state of nirvana, of which had been brought to me, not by meditation or a search for light, but by the beasts inside me. A happiness, better than I could have imagined, where I need not feel nor move, eat nor sleep.
I had comfort not in the destruction of my fears, but within their thriving.
I became complacent I suppose, for I thought the creatures inside me would keep me content, but after a while, I found yet another restless gap inside.
What was this feeling? I was filled! There was nothing that could empty me either! I was a cup under a running faucet, always comfortably beneath the brim. So then what was perturbing my calm waters?
After much contemplation, I began to understand. The creatures inside me must have been sending me a message. This insistent voice was calling me, warning me. They were not going to continuously give to me, I needed to give them as well. They needed more. I was not enough any longer. This fear was a puppet, and the monsters pulled the strings. I couldn’t let that fear be cut. I wasn’t going to feel full ever again until I fixed this unrested balance.
They were monsters. This thing in me was a creature, my salvation, but a creature all the same. Like wolves, they needed to feed, I realized. I had been a shell in which they lived, and all the while they had been starving. It had been my fault to let them go hungry, and now they needed food.
They needed blood.
Not animal or something old and stale, but fresh and churning. I could feel my heart pound the answer in my chest. I was correct. What I needed would be human and it would be fresh, a breath or a scream still hanging off their lips, life still tingeing their now silent hearts.
So I searched. I stalked the halls, monitoring those who were foolish enough to fall asleep. Humans so idiotic almost seemed to deserve to be sacrificed. I took careful count of those who watched me at all hours. None of them gave me a reason to be wary. But, I suppose the evil in this world never did.
I grew restless. Days to weeks to months, I couldn’t bear this emptiness! I lived too long with it growing stale inside me. That fear had been like a drug. I needed it. I had to have it.
And I could not upset the carefully fragile place I stood with these beasts. I couldn’t deny them this. They would tear me to bits. They would claw out my heart. They would end me in ways worse than I could imagine, worse than anyone could imagine.
I couldn’t live with this emptiness. Nor could I let these monsters cut my fishing line of a life span. Luckily, I knew the monsters wouldn’t be picky with their food. It could be really anyone. Someone not important, so that no one would notice them missing. As long as they filled this void the size of a canyon in me, I stopped caring. I needed this to be over. I needed to feel that fear again.
And I found her. She was small and cloud-like. Like the smoke wafted from a discarded cigarette, she was thin and pale and seemed almost as if I could blow her away if I breathed too hard. She never spoke nor moved. She was not noticed or cared about, just as she did not notice or care about anything. She would be my sacrifice. My sacrifice to eternal fear, to white.
My mind set, I took no time to contemplate or hesitate. The monsters knew every step I would take to get them their meal, and I found comfort in their control.
The next opportunity I could find, where not an eye could follow me, or shadow could keep in step with me, I crept into her room. In the darkest hour of the night, shadows of black draped the room in a veil of night-time terror and was cut only by the thick slice of light I allowed with the silent opening of a door. There was no sound but the clockwork breathing of peaceful -ever so peaceful- sleep, and the sour smell of iodoform. There were no watchers, no one to hear her.
The monsters inside me, I could feel their hunger, and I could hear the sound of them beating against me. Striking my ribcage for their food, howling for blood. I was only too happy to oblige. A smile crept up my face. The smile of a simple servant, filling the deed of a vengeful master. A smile of wonderful completion.
I brought up the knife, a sliver of sharpened moonlight unsheathed.
I stood over her, as certainly did Death with his scythe.
Her eyes, two blue washed-out canvases, held no expression. Not an interest. Not a care.
Faster and faster, with more malice behind each strike, the beasts called for flesh. For the crimson blossom that only could mean death.
In one swift movement, I drew back the blankets under which she lay, and sunk the blade into her, dragging it down from her collar bone to her stomach. Death mirrored each movement.
Not a sound escaped her lips. Not a scream, not a plead, not even a gasp. And certainly it never would. She lay quite dead with the same look of those who could breathe. With the very same look, or rather lack of a look, she had before I had robbed her of her life. Although, I wondered idly, if she had been too poor to steal from in the first place, in that she never quite had a life to lose.
The white cloud that lay before me was forever stained a ghoulish red.
And a red flower did bloom. Like a glorious orchid of certain demise, it rose from the slice and unfurled its bloodied petals. Through the blankets it wove its way, pooling in the valleys of her mattress. Like roots extending, it snaked its way down to the floor, and made red reflections on the tile.
And I stared. My eyes burning holes into the wonderfully exotic sight. I ate away at the masterpiece -yes, masterpiece- devouring the details, savoring the most splendidly gruesome parts for the creatures inside me. And what a feast it was! I could feel them throwing themselves against me, begging to taste the blood, to feel the flesh on their fingertips!
I glanced down at the red pooling blood and saw my face mirrored. A distant, but not different, red reality refracted back at me. I saw my face, and suddenly felt sick. It had all been for nothing. There were so many expressions, so many emotions, playing like flashing lights across my face. Surprise. Fear. Anger. Sadness. Agony. Only one of those had I wanted. Fear. That had been the deal, the trade. Fear was what had led to happiness. That was all I wanted.
What had I done wrong? Why couldn’t they let me fear? That was all I ever wanted.
And I heard them inside my mind, like a thousand voices from within. The sound was seductive and repulsing all at the same time.
They needed to have their emptiness filled. And I was the one who needed to do it.
And it dawned on me. These monsters were no different than me. They yearned for the same thing: a cease to the voids. This was what filled them, just like the concrete that filled those cracks in the desolate roads, abandoned by the world outside. And I looked at the corpse, if not for the blood and twisting, snaking organs I could see, I would expect her to sit up and stare me in the face.
I could hear them beg me for more.
I could hear their voices, their roaring pleads for one more. The beasts wanted one more body. They needed to fill themselves. They screamed and howled so loud the noise brought me to my knees, and I clamped my hands over my ears so no one would hear the sound. It bore through my head, a fierce, almost primal, raging of noise. Like people were firing bullets from one end of my skull to the other. It got to the point where it was so loud, it was almost quiet. The noises flowed together like stream water, instead of thousands of different sounds, it was the same persistent screech but as one voice, and one pitch. One large blare of immeasurable pain.
And I had no choice. There was no option to get the sound to go away. None! Like a child screaming for their toy, this was something I didn’t have the will or tolerance to ignore. I agreed them this.
And the noise ceased.
I stood, my hands dropping as dead at my sides as the body in front of me. I took one last look at the shell in front of me with disgust. I realized in the back of mind, how boring her kill had been. The next one I would have to make dinner and a show.
Visions of her corpse plagued my every action, my every thought, thinking alone became tedious without seeing her deathly stare in mine. It wasn’t guilt that kept her alive in my thoughts, nor was it paranoia or fear. Rather, it was regret. The kill had been so easy, too easy. Not enough struggle. There had been no fight. Like a gladiator in a colliosium, the spectators needed to pleased with the beast-like brutality of it all. Yet, my opponent had been sent in already dead. The fight I planned would have the colliosium in my head ringing with applause!
He was a mountain of a man. The world was his shadow, he blocked all forms of light that reached their rays down to earth. Or maybe he was the light source, I could never tell. He radiated a warmth and light that could only be from a glass bulb and an outlet. He spoke with softened blows, a gentle voice, and encouragement that I knew to be only feigned truths. Always busy, always moving, always bustling around, like the world would never wait for him to catch up.
But I would. I was going to have to wait for this one.
It was days before I was able to get him into my room alone. No other watchers, no one to monitor us, no one to run away screaming. Just him, me, and the beasts inside.
He came to me alone, dressed in the white of a ghost who almost never saw home. He carried another chain to drag me further down, along with the smile he only hoped could hide that fact.
I was the better actor though. How well did I pretend! I listened to him talk, even replying at times! I played along, thanking him for his encouraging lies, agreeing to his impossible promises. I smiled along with him, although I couldn’t take all the credit for that. The irony of the situation was hilarious! He had been slowly killing me for so long, and I was going to do the same for him, but I was bold enough to just do it more promptly.
And the voices aided me. Their howls of approval reigned in my head as soon as he walked into the door. It drove me further into this deep-end of servantry. I had a sense of perfect complacency, of comforting control. My life was the car that some else drove, someone much better at driving. I had a new will that connected perfectly with the creatures’ needs. A will of filling that very same need. A need to fill a need.
And that unyielding commitment made the whole act feel like something I wasn’t forced to do, but rather willfully did. I wanted this man to die. I needed to kill him. There was no question in my mind about it, and that gave me a startling sense of clarifying fear. Yes. It was the sign I was on the right track. That I was following the exact footsteps laid in front of me by the monsters.
I was drawn back from my thoughts when he left his seat and turned around. His boulder-like back faced me as he furiously scribbled on a notepad.
It was time. They signalled the move. The drum of my heart beat only when the monsters allowed, and now was their time. The beasts had no more patience to spend, and lost control. The familiar pounding echoed with prompt purpose in my chest, a raging riot of mass proportions.
I glanced over at the pitch-black leather bag he had brought with him. There it was. Just as I planned. Gleaming in the sparse sunlight, sat a weapon of the watchers. It filled the mind with numbingly cold venom, and had caused both struggle and sedation in my life.
I wrapped my ashen fingers around it and stood. My legs wavered underneath me. I smiled. Finally! It was mine once more! They were giving it to me. It was as mind numbing as the venom. It stopped every function, prevented every priority. It was fear and I loved it.
I saw his left wrist dangling lazily at his side. A blue vein crawled up underneath the pale skin, like a running river with a thin coating of ice on the outside. This would be my entry way. I breathed in raggedly, the drunken smile stretching wider across my face as I stumbled towards him.
I lunged forward, grabbed the bulky wrist, and aimed flawlessly for the river of blood. I pressed my thumb down and injected the poison. Like a snake paralyzing a bear, size didn’t matter as much as intellect. He turned suddenly, with equal surprise and warranted fear. Before he could make anything more than a single gasp of bewilderment, I clasped my hand tightly over his gaping mouth, and threw myself on him. We both landed harshly to the ground. Although he was a giant, he was still no match for a snake aided by monsters.
On the cold tile, I lifted myself upon him. I looked into his eyes, and could see the venom taking effect. I felt him jolt and buck underneath me, of what I assumed to be his sorry pass for an escape. I heard his muffled screams beneath me, but the pathetic hope in them only made me press his lips into his teeth harder. His eyes were half closed, and most of the energy he would have needed to really struggle was gone. I kept him down for what seemed like an eternity. His rhythmic breathing counted the minutes down to his own death. I watched the conscious life drain out of him. Then his eyes closed and I knew I had already won.
He wasn’t dead yet, but he almost was! I couldn’t control it anymore! The irony was too great! All those years, all those years, I witnessed my own will to live drain away because of him. Now there he was, the puppet master who controlled all my strings, being rendered useless by his own puppet. If only he had know his puppet had a bigger, stronger, master now. The laughter tumbled out as rushing water. I doubled over -still on top of him- in the bubbly feeling. The laughter was the birth child of an anxious fear mixed with a humorous turn of events.
Still bubbling over with laughter, I stood and turned towards my bed. I pushed the mattress away from the box spring and saw what I wanted underneath: my knife.
I could hear the voices begging me to take it, to give them everything they wanted so I could have everything I wanted. And I did, submissively, with no hesitation or guilt of what was to come.
I grabbed its leather hilt with shaking hands. It felt familiar and cold against my palm. Instantly, a wave of nauseous fear consumed me. The laughter sprang out of my gut once more, and I had jarring thought of whether the laughter was all my own, or perhaps it was the laughter rising from inside, belonging to the creatures that resided in the cavity of my stomach and lungs.
I took the gleaming piece of certain fatality, and just like the girl, cut it through his clothes, and deep, deep, into his chest, and drug it across his abdomen. I watched as the blood bubbled up, and with it, my laughter grew. I withdrew, the scalpel coated in red and gore. My hand, a dripping red glove. I exhaled, and beheld my masterpiece.
And again! How the blossom did bloom! A red rose of farewells never to be said, and lovers that surely have been left behind! It was a flower grown and reaped by death himself, something I had the powerful pleasure to tenderly take care of.
The crimson liquid poured out into the world. It pooled into oceans of blood, oceans so large I thought I could see waves lap up against the tips of my toes. It stained the tips of his hair red, and stained his ghostly coat the ghoulish red he deserved. I licked my lips and stared at the scene, finding myself almost as satisfied as the monster inside me!
And the gore, oh the gore! It gushed from his center, the entrails spilling among him! It was the turkey dinner of sights! So filling! So fulfilling!
Happiness and fear and laughter and anxiousness, collided together in one hailstorm of pure bliss! I cackled, laughing louder and clearer and purer than ever before! The fear was so great! It soon clouded over the laughter, happiness, and anxiousness until it was all I could feel. All I could think about was how undoubtedly, purely, terrified I was.
I dropped to my knees. My laughter died a slow death in my mouth, but the monster’s still carried out, thin, but joyful. I cradled my head in my crimson hands. Rocking myself back and forth, I could feel the monsters howling and screeching me.
The mountain of a man had crumbled, and what a fight it had truly been!
I could feel the reward crashing onto me, again and again and again. Fear! So much of it that I was drowning in my own mind. The towering waves of terror crashing down on me, and the darkest depths of certain despair eagerly waiting to pull me down. Still, I didn’t reach up to a faraway heaven to be miraculously rescued. I knew I was hopelessly lost in this sea or sorrow. And I didn’t wish to be rescued. I wanted, with all my heart, to drown. To let the fear rock me into an endless sleep so I could finally feel fear forever.
The only thing I could still see from underneath the rocking waves was sitting right in front of me. A body. Bloodied and laying still, the ghostly sensation of death hovered above the lips of what used to be both human looking and alive. It brought me back to where I really was.
I slowly brought my head up and brushed the blood out of my eyes from where my hands had left stains. My eyes strayed from the interesting part, up to his face.
A gasped slipped past my lips.
His face was that of pure terror.
I haphazardly crawled over to the syringe, tripping over my bloody gown and took up the needle with quaking hands. In my stupid rush to kill the man, I hadn’t emptied out the sedatives fully. Perhaps he had woken up after a minute or so, and died conscious?
I hadn’t realized I was still laughing, but it flared like fire in my chest now. I cast the syringe at the opposite wall, breaking it into a million glittering fragments of tiny glass that rained down across the room. I bowed down, my head resting on the floor and laughter uncontrollably spilling out of my mouth.
None of it was my own.
I couldn’t laugh. This fear inside me was stifling, I couldn’t move or make any sound. It was so much fear. I didn’t feel a thing. It was a numbness all over that soothed me enough to look at his face once more.
My eyes widened and my mouth hung agape as I really noticed it. He looked so much more, so much more, afraid than I was. His whole world looked to revolve on the fear he had felt. I wanted that. I needed that.
And the laughter withered in my gut. For the first time in forever, the monsters became silent inside me. It was deafening once more, so silent my ears fired with pain. Astoundingly silent as they realized my gaze was no longer being captivated by the meal I had so tediously prepared for them, but instead was trained pointedly on the clinquant razor shining like savior in the scarce sunlight.
I held out my now steady hand from my spot on the ground. My eager fingers only brushed against the metal before I heard the sound. A screech unlike I’d ever heard before. The loudest, most horrible, most painful sound I could ever have the displeasure to turn towards. But this didn’t come from an animal or human or even machine. This came from the monsters, the monsters inside me.
As soon as it came, I clutched my ears in instinct. Why were they doing this?
But I knew. As soon as they made the sound, I knew. It all became so blatantly clear.
My masters had turned against me. They needed me, they needed to feed through me. They needed something to keep them alive. They had never cared about me, and simply controlled me through giving me what I yearned to have in small doses. This would be the biggest dose I could get. This would be the last and greatest dose.
I ignored the pain and brought my hands down. I didn’t care if anyone heard! Let the whole world hear! I snagged the scalpel out of the corpse. I could feel more fear, more than ever, ever before flood through my system! I shook horribly as I stumbled to my bed. Laughter of my own flowing freely from my lips.
I sat down, threw my legs over, and laid myself down comfortably across the bed and breathed in, eager and ready. The fear palpated my heart to violently, I could no longer breath. I smiled and closed my eyes. Fear so strong the screaming of the monsters was lost between the sound of my heart throbbing and laughter, loud and pure and clear. I drew up my gown, and pressed the blade against my skin. I felt the scalpel trigger fire as it ran across my stomach. I felt blood flow over me like a wave. I was madly gasping for ragged breaths I knew weren’t coming. And one last surge of fear, and then something new.