again and again
I’ve been given a choice.
I’ve been given a stack of papers, a pencil, a match.
The choice is easy; I burn the paper and pencil. I burn it all, the flames heaving.
I turn and I walk away.
I do not see the dark shape that emerges from the fire. I do not see it fix its murderous eyes on me.
It stalks down the road, back hunched, claws clicking on the sidewalk cement, the afternoon sun warming its shoulders, painting It invisible. It passes through human crowds unseen, a whole feast just for It but—It is looking for someone.
It can feel excitement rising inside like tongues of flame licking Its rotting flesh. Red burns in Its eyes, lighting Its hollow skill from within. It longs to spring into action but—It is looking for someone.
Aha. The girl is conspicuous, alone. The girl who had invited It in, who had opened its flaming door.
As It approaches, Its eyes pick up on the hair rising on her arm and neck, her uncertain sweep of her surroundings. It suppresses a laugh. She sees.
She snaps into focus, iron will hardening her eyes from black ink into stone.
Tense up—and then fire. Its muscles spring as It launches itself at her, and the struggle is over within seconds.
It leaves her alive, leaves her face intact, as It tears her apart, ripping entrails out with savage satisfaction, marveling at her organs, at their softness, at the life that should’ve filled Its own body. It squeezes until its fingers cut through tissue and bone, blood gushing down Its arms, red as fire.
It leaves her alive, to die on her own in the shadowy, autumn-afternoon sunlight.
But her eyes never wavered. Even as she was dying, she had glared with defiance against the pain.
That’s why It knows she’ll come back tomorrow. The damage It inflicts will never be permanent, and she’ll always choose to wake up again, to walk the same road again. And It—It will be waiting.
To tear her apart again. And again. And again.
Again and again until the fire in Its eyes overruns the stone in hers, until she lies hopeless and thus, truly dead—It is a wildfire that can’t ever be put out, a torch that willpower can’t ever suffocate.
It grins in anticipation, and waits for morning.
How do you avoid something that will always be waiting for you?
I don’t know. That was five years ago and I still don’t know.
But I’ve survived. I’ve learned how to take the pain. I’ve learned how to protect my vital organs, how to get up and keep going even after It has finished. Maybe one day, I’ll learn how to run far enough to escape It, how to fight hard enough to kill It, how to get rid of It before It gets rid of me.
I shoulder my backpack and step out into the street.