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As It Took Only Seconds

Ascendant couldn’t remember what he had been thinking. Everything was silent in his mind, and he didn’t–

Ascendant lost his train of thought again. “Perhaps,” he wondered, “I should focus on the real world.” His friend Knock was sitting by his side. At times, Knock would attempt to hold his arm or his hand, but this would elicit no reaction from him, as he could not remember–

It seemed like Knock wanted him to speak. However, every time he had the right words, the silence would–

He excused himself, pretending to need to go to the bathroom. Once there, he decided to go out and run away from Knock. This would ensure that he would still be able to think, and he really needed to ponder to figure out how to get his friend to stop.

Ascendant didn’t know how or why Knock could knock his thoughts out of his head. He was pretty sure that it was Knock’s doing, because it never happened with that kind of ferocity when he wasn’t there. Ascendant knew, of course, that thoughts would sometimes pop out of his head because he would be interrupted while thinking about something, but he also knew exactly how that felt like, and it didn’t feel like someone had slammed his thoughts out of his head like a hockey puck.

“Perhaps Knock’s name,” he imagined, “is legitimately an extension of his being, unlike my name, ‘Ascendant’, which my mother thought sounded cool. What foresight his mother must have had to have christened him ‘Knock’. Then again, his mother herself is named ‘Foresight’. Then again, that’s just empty speculation.”

Knock was a riddle to Ascendant. The two had only become friends a week prior, because Ascendant had managed to overcome his natural inclination to ignore others for a critical moment, thus finding solidarity in Knock even though they really shared few interests.

Knock never brought up his family and never invited Ascendant to his home. Knock would also try constantly to goad Ascendant into speaking, which was probably why Knock had started taking the thoughts out of his mind. You may realize that this constitutes a perfectly natural answer to the question of “Why?”, but Ascendant was far too ignorant to connect these dots.

Ascendant had walked around for five minutes, pondering Knock’s mystery and imagining him to be a fairy of some sort, before Knock found him and asked him what he was doing. Ascendant wanted to flee, but he did not, because that was not his way.

He tried to answer what he had been doing, but he could not remember. Had he been thinking of Knock, or had he been thinking of the fay folk? There was no real answer, so Ascendant decided to say, “I don’t remember.”

Knock glared at him. “Maybe you should talk about it more,” he said icily. Ascendant attempted to figure out what Knock meant. He knew that Knock was probably responsible for the thoughts being knocked out of his head, but–

Now the thoughts had been knocked out of his head again. What sorcery was this? He began to think–

He immediately stopped thinking. “This is idiotic,” he thought, trying to anticipate the next wave. Maybe that would work. He focused on the formless god, but he couldn’t quite–

His mind was quiet. He decided to keep focusing on keeping his mind clear. Now that he was focusing on the Formless God, Knock knocking knickknacks out of his head was actually really helpful. He didn’t tell Knock what he was doing, though, because that would have required thought, and Knock would have just knocked the words out of his grasp.

Knock eventually gave up. Ascendant could feel him get up, and he finally relaxed, letting his mind wander to–

Knock was standing at time with a malicious grin, pointing at Ascendant with his hand making a gun shape.

Ascendant didn’t know how to react to this. His thoughts had been silenced once more. Should he feel rage, or mere annoyance? He wondered absentmindedly–

He wondered absentmindedly if maybe Knock was only his friend to silence him. He decided to–

He decided to say what he was thinking.

“Do you only stand near me in order to silence my mind?”

Knock stopped looking at him, walking away into the great crowd of people Ascendant didn’t know. Ascendant should have felt happy, but he didn’t, and as he sat alone, something silently crawled towards him on the arms of a crab and a gorilla.

Knock could hear the buzzing noise of people’s thoughts even within the janitorial closet. He had always taken a completely genuine pleasure in watching people stumble as he made them lose their train of thought without knowing a single thing about them, even as his mother told him that he should do the latter in lieu of the former.

“I worry for you, Knock,” she had told him from when he was young. “Maybe you have mystical powers – the ability to manipulate people’s thoughts with a simple whim – but even that will not save you from the real world and your need to get a job.”

His mother was right, but Knock couldn’t admit it. He had trudged through school, and no one had talked to him from a combination of their habits and his habits. Then, one day, he had heard what sounded like a dozen people standing right behind him.

Knock had looked behind him and seen a boy barely looking at him, visibly shaking. Knock’s glance had prompted the boy to dam his thoughts. “Would you be my friend?” he had asked, before the raucous sound of his thoughts blared full force from his mind once more.

Knock had wanted to say, “How can you hear me over all that racket?” He had decided to say, “Yes, I will be your friend.” The boy, Ascendant, represented something problematic to him, something he could fix and feel good about fixing. He had needed that, and he had let it cloud his judgement.

Knock had cleansed Ascendant of his thoughts, silencing them over and over again in the hope that he would talk instead. But time and time again, Ascendant had simply created new tangles of thoughts, like the vines of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, trapping him in the ivory tower of his mind. Knock found this rather ungrateful of him but pretended that nothing was wrong, as he was sure that Ascendant would eventually be thankful for his interference. He ignored the anger and confusion this caused in Ascendant, ignored the fact that they weren’t friends so much as poisonous, if not volatile, acquaintances. You see, Knock believed that he knew the right thing to do, even though in reality, he had never had such a power.

He had believed it up until Ascendant had asked him that question. When Ascendant had asked Knock if he only stood near Ascendant to cleanse his mind, Knock had finally seen the sheer rage that Ascendant had only been withholding out of kindness. Realizing this, he decided to walk away and hide somewhere until he stopped feeling bad.

He was bored, so he went to sleep in the dirty closet, probably missing a few classes. He already had a bad attendance record; what were two more red marks against him in the world?

When he woke up, he was met with the silence of an empty hallway. He started walking down the hallway and looking into all the empty classes.

Maybe there was a holiday or something, he thought with some satisfaction, and everybody got to go home.

Everything seemed far more cheerful than normal, because no one was there to disturb the peace and quiet he felt. It was at times like these that the idea of making everyone’s minds blank at once crossed his mind.

Once he got out of the school, however, he realized that there wasn’t any noise at all. This unnerved him; he had never heard the world absolutely silent before.

He tried to shout but recoiled when nothing came out of his mouth. He tried to scream until he was panting silently with the agony, but he couldn’t make a sound.

It was at this time when he realized that he was being followed by a gargoyle. Its head was that of a wolf, but without the fur. Its torso was that of a man, and its back was covered in feathers. Its front legs were like fleshy crab claws, its back legs were essentially giant backwards-facing arms, and it used them both to walk as it followed him.

Knock rushed away with the speed a boy his age could muster, and at first it seemed like he was faster than the gargoyle. This confused him, but then something grasped his shoulders and jerked him upwards. It was the gargoyle, holding him with its back legs as it flew into the sky. The feathers on its back had actually been folded wings the size of a giant hang glider, and Knock screamed silently as it carried him back to the school.

After a long and frightening ride, the gargoyle threw him down near a door and landed. Knock, extremely afraid of the gargoyle, ran through the door only to run into a desk and cry out in pain, both of which made no sound. Everything looked washed-out in the classroom, even though that wasn’t a normal effect of stress at all.

The confusion made Knock tense, and he decided to hide in case something was trying to attack him. There was a closet near the front of the room. He decided to hide there, because he was sure there was nothing inside it. However, when he got to the closet, he realized belatedly that it was full of junk, all of which crashed down onto the floor around the closet. A dead giveaway.

Cowed by this revelation, Knock lay on the floor and pretended to be dead. However, something stung him, knocking him unconscious barely after he registered it.

When he woke up, he saw black tendrils everywhere. They waved like strands of seaweed in water, constantly disappearing and reappearing like two videos shot in the same place. Knock could see strands entangling him, but he couldn’t feel them, and he couldn’t feel a shift in weight under him when they disappeared.

“That’s not possible,” he thought as the fear he had sequestered drained from him. “If that were to happen, it would cause a vacuum, and the air would rush to fill it, causing a loud noise. No, I must be dreaming.”

He went back to sleep, barely realizing that he was becoming colder. Ascendant stomped purposefully into the room and screamed.

Approximately ten seconds after Knock had went out of earshot, the gargoyle had tapped Ascendant on the shoulder.

“Do you know what I am?” it growled.

Ascendant thought about running, but knew it wouldn’t do anything. “I do not.”

“That foolish friend of yours purged so many thoughts that it created me, a gargoyle.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

The gargoyle cuffed him gently on the head. “Foolish boy. Sometimes the world works in strange ways. You should interact with it sometimes.”

“No, gargoyle. The world is too difficult for me. See here; you’re talking to me about something I don’t about, and you are a gargoyle, something which really shouldn’t exist. I can be frank with you because you’re so weird that it pulls me past my normal hang-ups, like whether or not I’ll stutter or if I might say the wrong thing.”

The gargoyle shook its head. “That boy is afraid of those things too. I know of your love for one another. Maybe you two are a bad match.”

“I feel glad to know,” said Ascendant calmly, “that he considers me a friend. Yet he took my thoughts and somehow created you as a side effect. Was this a deliberate attempt on his part to force me to speak?”

“Firstly,” corrected the gargoyle, “on at least one level, he considers you a suitable romantic partner, as do you him.”

Ascendant was confused. “I have no romantic feelings for him. I live in awe of him. Those are two very different things. It’s like saying, ‘I love God romantically.’”

“Fine. Secondly, this was indeed his attempt to do that. Now, you probably agree with his methods now, but make no mistake; his crude strategy would not have worked. You yourself need to expunge your deeply held fear of your fellow human being.”

Ascendant said nothing.

“If you have no words for me, I’m afraid I will have to kill him.”

“What?” Ascendant shouted.

The gargoyle chuckled. “Behold. You see, he did not create me deliberately; I came about as an accidental consequence, and I spent my time pondering my existence before I realized that his death would be the most likely to lead to my own. But I wanted to be conscientious about this. I watched him as he attempted to make you talk by continuously trying something which didn’t work instead of trying to reason with you. The closest he ever came to conversing with you about the issue was passive-aggressively mentioning it after he tried wiping your mind. I see his twisted views on humanity now, his belief that by banging someone on the head, as you put it, with a hockey stick, he could change them to suit his foolish views. I know now that he isn’t using his gift for good, and he never will. He need not enjoy this world any longer.”

“No!” Ascendant didn’t want Knock to die. “I believe everyone on this world deserves change!” He took a fighting stance.

“Yes, but what are you?” The gargoyle had trapped him. It let its answer hang in the air, and slowly, reluctantly, Ascendant sat back down. Satisfied, the gargoyle leapfrogged out of the building, flying away as Ascendant shivered on his own.

He went to class and thought long and hard about the problem, tried to dream himself out of the situation with the whirring half-worlds within his mind. A television show, a game, a movie, a mythos – they all drew his attention away from the situation at hand. Still, his subconscious mind was active, and it quickly alerted him to the fact that he was alone in the classroom.

He looked around. No one was there. He realized that the clock in the back of the room had started counting down backwards. He had 30 minutes to do something.

He ran out of the classroom, determined to stop something.

He ran back into the classroom to get his backpack.

He ran out before he realized he had no idea what to do.

He ran back in and started thinking, a dangerous thing for him.

He found a piece of yellow construction paper and decided that he was going to write something on it. However, before he could, the gargoyle came back. It stood next to him as if waiting for something. After a few minutes, Ascendant caved.

“What do you want, gargoyle? Keep in mind, though, I will not help you,” he tried to say before he realized he could not talk.

The gargoyle snarled at him, or maybe it was smiling. Ascendant decided to get crafty.

“You know Sign meaning?” he asked, and the gargoyle immediately stopped smiling. Evidently, it hated the fact that the forced silence could do nothing. However, it didn’t have any hands, so it couldn’t sign at him.

Ascendant realized that it was kind of mean to do that. “I’m sorry. I talk with you, you not talk with me. Maybe you do we are not not talk. You can do that?”

The gargoyle didn’t respond, simply staring at him. Ascendant decided to keep signing to him. He gave Knock a name sign, touching the sign for K to his head. He used words in new and interesting ways, to the point where he sometimes got out his phone and looked up how to say something in sign. He tried to use classifiers. Eventually, Ascendant wasn’t signing anymore so much as babbling with his hands like a baby.

“I did create the silence,” the gargoyle eventually whispered, its words only audible due to the lack of other sound. “You were not supposed to speak to me. You were supposed to seek out Knock yourself.”

With this, the gargoyle left. Ascendant, trying to rectify his mistake, ran after the gargoyle. He watched as it flew far faster than he could run and landed behind Knock. He ran after it, but as he ran to them, the gargoyle picked Knock up and flew back with him.

“Where did they go?” Ascendant wondered, panting. He looked up into the sky and saw the gargoyle flying back to where Ascendant had been.

Ascendant ran back there only to find the gargoyle guarding the entrance.

“You cannot pass,” he said.

Ascendant made a noise with his mouth, and this gave him some measure of confidence. “Why are you doing this?” he said to the gargoyle, trying to shout but failing due to lack of practice. “Nothing you’re doing makes obvious sense. Why make everything silent and then take it away? Why are you even here? Why do you look like this?”

The gargoyle looked at him bemusedly. Then it clasped his head in its hand, squeezing until Ascendant screamed.

“This should probably get you to stop talking. I’ll give you one hint: this is all a parallel, thematically, to something which happened before. You have ten seconds to answer.”

Ascendant stopped talking and tried to think, but he couldn’t think of anything. It was his curse –

The gargoyle clenched his claw and Ascendant’s head began to bleed. “You have five seconds now.”

He couldn’t think of anything.

“You have three seconds.”

Ascendant decided to throw in the towel. “I don’t know, and I’m sorry,” he whimpered in what he thought would be his final breath.

The pressure on his head abated, and he looked at the gargoyle in surprise.

“That’s not optimal, but that’s fine,” the gargoyle assured him. “Tell me what you think it means.”

Ascendant tried. “The silence would represent… the creation of… the… Oh! It’s because Knock and I didn’t talk to each other! No, wait… what if the point was actually to show that we were both so silent that neither of us was really bothered by it? Maybe… I’ll go with the second option. I will. The second option.”

The gargoyle stared at him. Ascendant, weakened by the pain he had felt from the gargoyle’s claws, caved in rather quickly. “That’s all I have! I swear! I don’t know anything else!”

The gargoyle began talking, so Ascendant stopped and listened. “Say this to him. He will not be angry at you. Coddle him with the fact that you don’t know anything.”

He let Ascendant in through the door. Ascendant entered purposefully into the room, and he saw Knock in the center, apparently asleep. Ascendant kicked him, then instantly regretted it.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean to kick you.” His conviction was gone. However, Knock barely stirred. Ascendant, believing that Knock could not hear him, took on an exaggerated and literary persona. “Aha! It appears that he rests under some enchantment. Perhaps,” he said, incorporating Knock’s prostrate body into the act by pointing at him, “the prince of the head knock has been knocked unconscious by a spurned lover.”

He turned to a wall and pretended to look offended. “Well, it was not I!” He was dramatic because it would break the tension he felt surrounding him in the cold room.

He had the bright idea of using the thermostat. In his state of not caring, he couldn’t help but narrate his actions. “I shall use the thermostat! Behold my arcane and magic power! I, the wielder of the air-conditioning, carry–” He realized that the thermostat was set to slightly higher than room temperature.

“Well, it appears the room is filled with ghosts.” He ran to Knock and tried to drag him out of the room. “Wake up, old man! Your time is nigh! You’re at death’s door, and I’ll take you through it if I have to drag you! Come, come, and behold the wonders of heaven, where there isn’t voodoo magic making the room cold!”

Knock mumbled, “That seems like a really weird thing to do,” and for the second time, Ascendant lost his composure. He gaped for a few seconds before he started working again, this time in silence.

“”Hey,” Knock said, “there don’t happen to be black tendrils flickering throughout the room, do there?”

“Why would there be black tendrils? Did you see any?” Ascendant was worried.

“No,” Knock lied. He got up on his feet, unsteadily at first, and made his way out the door.

The gargoyle had gone away, and no one else had come back. Knock noticed, with increasing alarm, that the tentacles were still there. He decided not to talk about it.

“Hey,” said Ascendant shakily, “do you think often of death?”

Knock did a double-take. That was a very unusual thing to say, after all. “I don’t often think of death.”

“Well, I always think of the word ‘worms’. They sound like the harbingers of death, even though they aren’t really. They are the harbingers of new life.”

Knock thought, “He seems to be working hard at talking. Perhaps I should say something. But I don’t know anything about the topic.”

Ascendant, realizing that might be the case, decided to improvise. “If you don’t know anything about the topic, you can just change the topic to something you do know about.”

Knock tried to think of something he knew about. He couldn’t think of anything, and eventually Ascendant started talking again.

“Now we are different. I will keep interrupting you, and you will keep not talking unless you want to talk.”

Knock continued to sit in silence, unsure of where to take the conversation.

“I see why you knocked the thoughts out of my head now. This is really hard. I’m sorry for putting you through all of this.”

Knock wanted to say that he didn’t actually have that problem. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized that he hadn’t been the most helpful person either. He hadn’t even talked once to Ascendant before aggressively trying to bleach his headspace. Was I just using him for my own validation? thought Knock. Why does he even want to talk with me?

Ascendant answered this question, sort of. “I want to talk with you. No one else has viciously attacked my mind in an attempt to bring out my thoughts. You are kind, and… no wait, you aren’t kind, it’s just that I want to talk with you. Oh look, I said a bad thing. I said it badly. I guess you just don’t want to talk with me.”

Ascendant stood there until Knock made a quick decision. “Could we have a meaningful conversation about the color black?” he asked.

Ascendant literally jumped. “Of course! Or, wait, no, I mean we could have a conversation about what counts as a meaningful conversation, using the dictionary definition of the words, and then talk at length about it. Thank you! I probably couldn’t have thought of that idea.”

The black tendrils around Knock faded away as he talked with Ascendant. It turned out that it was possible to have a meaningful conversation about the word black, the color black, the race “Black”, and the use of the word black in media. There were many different aspects to this shade, and as they went over these aspects, they became comfortable with the fact that they couldn’t speak well.

The next day, everyone spoke of the wolf which had somehow gotten into the building without anyone noticing. Knock and Ascendant decided to talk about whether or not pudding was viable. Viable for what, you may ask. That was the question. It wasn't a very good one by normal question standards, but it helped them understand themselves and each other.

They would become close friends over time, with more conversations about different topics. Eventually, they would know one another, and Knock would no longer see himself as defined by his magic, and Ascendant would no longer hide in his own mind when he felt lonely. Knock would explain why he had attempted to become close to Ascendant both literally and figuratively. They would marry, and even though they would certainly face hardships later in life, they would no longer be held captive by their lack of faith in themselves.

Blind Man's Bluff

Attempt 1

So you say your name is Jeff the Killer?"

The boy's tattered clothes juxtaposed his confident demeanor. He sneered at the officer even as his face was infected and both of his eyes were gone.

"That is my name."

"So what's your last name, 'Killer' or 'The Killer'?"

"Naw, the last name's a family name, like Leonardo da Venice or whatever."

"Da Vinci."

"Exactly, so Jeff da Killer."

The officer snorted, and Jeff took offense at the implication. "Dude, you can change your last name, can't you?"

"Well, yes, but you need an official name change form to do that, kid."

"Too bad. I want a cool name."

"A cool name which isn't actually your name by law, which you can't use on your passports or tax returns, which you-"

"Alright, I get it!" the kid snapped. There was a silence during which Jeff glared at the officer with his empty eye sockets and the officer glared back.

"Look, kid," the officer said gently, "I get the feeling that your parents aren't the best of people."

"What gives you that impression?"

"Your clothes are cheap, and the way you carry yourself looks like a front. It looks like you practiced that glare and the way you're standing."

Jeff nodded slightly. "Sure, but I could have done that in a decent family."

"That too. I say your parents aren't the best of people and you clarify it by implying they're not even good people."

"Hey!"

"Also, 'Jeff the Killer', you seem to be missing the most damning piece of evidence, even though it's right by your nose."

Jeff scrunched his eyebrows, deep in thought, and a minute passed as Jeff slowly slumped down even more. Finally, he looked up, now in the wrong direction, and said "I have no clue."

"Kid, you don't have fucking eyes!" the officer yelled, startling Jeff by slamming his hand down on the ground. "Your eye sockets are bleeding, your face looks like you've been dead for a week, and you're standing here like you're thirty and you got roughed up in a bar fight. What even happened to you?"

"Dude, chill."

"That's 'Officer', and you'd better tell me something, because I'm worried about you, kid."

"Look, Officer, I swear my parents didn't do this."

"So who did?"

"I did."

"What kind of - Why in the name of God did you cut up your own face?"

"I've got no clue, officer." Jeff put his head in his hands. "One minute I'm at a party, getting doused with bleach, the next I wake up and I can't even blink." He paused. "Wait, officer, I don't think you're going to believe the story."

"Why not? You lying?"

"No, but you might think I'm lying. It's a weird story."

"Look, kid, as long as it sorta kinda makes sense, I'm going to believe you."

"Okay. Here goes."

He got up out of his chair. "Can I, like, walk around while I tell the story?"

"Sure."

"Okay. So this whole thing really got bad once I moved, but before that, I was a kid."

There was a little pause. "Oh, really?"

"Officer, don't get skeptical now. This is barely even a hint of the crazy shit I'm going to say that I can't lie about."

"Sure, sure."

"Okay, so I was a kid, right? And kids don't know about death and dark depraved things. My dad didn't hit me too much or anything."

"I follow you."

"What I'm trying to get across is that my childhood wasn't hell. It was decent. So the whole thing started a year or two before we really moved. It was when we decided to move."

"How did that make you feel?"

"Officer, what're you doing? You're a police officer, you ain't a psychologist. I'm telling my story."

"I get it. I won't ask."

"Yeah, so my big brother threw a hissy fit right there in the hall, about how he wouldn't be able to make new friends, and my dad said that his stupid friends didn't matter."

"Your dad sure was candid."

Jeff guffawed. "Okay, okay, what he actually said was more like 'Lou, this is an important job opportunity. If I don't take this job, we all starve.' But yeah, my brother was a spoiled child so he kept yapping until I slapped him."

The officer inhaled sharply, and Jeff smiled and nodded, bugs falling out of his mouth as his Glasgow smile stretched a bit too far. "Yeah, that's what my dad said too. But what the heck I was just doing what I thought was right. Big brother's gotta hit the little brother when he's being bratty."

"...No."

"Oh, look at you. I bet you don't have any younger siblings."

"Actually, I do have younger siblings."

"Yeah, so nothing bad happened to me at first. I felt completely fine with the whole thing, but then I started to think these weird thoughts."

"Schizophrenia."

"No, they were actual voices. See, my parents liked me because I was generally a noce kid. So their Christmas present for me was putting me on drugs so I could spout parables."

The doctor didn't believe him. "What were the delusions?"

Jeff sighed and gave in. "They were the normal stuff, right? They were like about Hell and how it was bad. Then sometimes I got the weird feeling that people were going to kill me, or that something happening to me was supposed to be a Biblical parable or some shit. But hey, it's going to stop once I find an actual medication."

"Jeff, that's not how schizophrenia works."

"DAMMIT!" The outburst was so unexpected that the officer covered his ears and ducked under the table. When he resurfaced, he had his hand on a gun and Jeff was standing limply, staring straight at the officer with eyes covered by a film of skin.

"Officer, what are you afraid of a blind man for? I can't even see where you are."

"I'm not afraid of just any blind man," stuttered the officer. "I'm afraid because the blind man's eyes appear to be growing back."

Jeff waved his hand in front of his face and smiled. "Well what do you know, they are."

"I don't think you're a human being."

"That's what they all say." Jeff the Killer procured a knife from thin air, and the officer almost lost it. But right before he did, the officer remembered his one trump card.

"Jeff, please finish the story."

The knife instantly vanished. Jeff the Killer sat back down on the chair and started talking, now with a false sense of cheer. "Yeah, I guess I don't need to lie anymore. So my parents, religious nuts that they were - "

"You never mentioned that."

"Shut up, you scaredy-cat officer. Did you know I'll tear your arm off if you keep interrupting me? Anyways, my parents were religious nuts, and they thought I was, like, a herald of Christ or something and - get this - I had no clue that this was wrong. None at all. I didn't even know my parents were nuts or my town was nuts, befause everyone was crazy, by the way."

"I'm sorry about that."

"Yeah, the only good thing that came out of that was that Lou didn't get any attention, and so by some magic he got us out of that place."

"Good for him."

"Yeah. We had some fun times and then our parents found me and took me back. Thankfully, I no longer had convulsing episodes or anything, but - "

"Wait, Jeff, how old were you when the episodes happened?"

"I don't know, eleven?"

"Do you still have them?"

"No, but it doesn't matter anymore because now I get possessed by an actual demon. A real actual demon. As in 'if you shoot me, I'll go into Beserkergang and nothing will be left of this facility'."

The officer didn't know what to think. Just when he had suspected it had been epilectic seizures, the murderer had said something ludicrous.

"Yeah, remember the crazy parts I told you about? This is where those come in. So I have to get out of that position, right, but I don't know how. Thankfully, my parents don't know how either, and so they start doing all this weird stuff to me to try and get me into 'The Zone' where I was delusional."

"When did the devil possess you again?"

Jeff the Killer held out his hand before hesitating. "Officer, if I do the handshake trick - "

The officer almost screamed before he remembered he was playing a character who didn't know about the "Ominous Unknown Killer". But the fear on his face was so obvious that Jeff the Killer knew he knew. He hid his smile and retracted his hand.

"The answer to the voices question is never. What did happen is that I got the weirdest dream ever, right? Some pale white being comes to me and tells me that it's going to get me out of that place, but I need to strike a deal with it."

"What deal?"

"I didn't ask that question. I just ran with it."

"Wait, really?"

"Okay, let me put it this way. If you get a new file or something, are you going to read the Terms of Use or are you just going to figure it out?"

"How do you know all this stuff anyway?" questioned the officer. "I mean, if you lived in a town filled with nutjobs, how come you know these Inernet references and tics?"

"Glad you asked," Jeff beamed, "because it ties directly into my story. See, the deal turned out to be that I inhabit the body of this girl. I seem to recall her being named Katy R. Look her up if you don't believe me, officer, though you probably should. Later, the demon told me she had been about to commit suicide. But I don't care about stupid idiots on a computer. Like, heck, are those real people? I haven't seen a computer until now, are you all supposed to be attacking me? The whole thing got boring pretty quickly."

The officer took out his phone to look her up, but Jeff slapped the phone from his hand. "Pay attention or I do to you what I did to her."

The officer finally remembered what had happened to Katy Robinson and cowered in fear as Jeff the Killer cackled. "Yeah, so I took over her life and I googled like crazy. I lost all her friends and I made new ones and lost them too. Her mom and dad thought she was having delusions, so they took her to a psychologist, but guess what? After a single session, there isn't any psychologist!"

"That's not... I don't understand how that works!" said the officer, remembering who he was talking to just in time.

"Good thing you didn't say it wasn't true, or else your brains would be all over the wall. So how did I create a psychologist? One word: demon!"

"Did you kill the psychologist?"

"It was the first person I ever killed, and I have to say, to all the kiddies out there, don't kill. Especially don't kill if you don't have a demon on speed call with an urgent need for a body."

"So what happened to the body?"

"It wasn't pretty. The demon took over her body and basically just melted her nose off with its raw power. And then it had the gall to say that I had done a bad job! Stupid old thing. It wanted to take over the world, so I ate it."

"You ate the demon?"

"I did indeed. The demon was too weak to fight a 13-year-old, let alone one in a 14-year-old's body. I broke the bones and consumed the marrow, ate the heart, the brain, the eyes. That might have been my second killing, depending on how you define life. And then it came back into my mind like the voices I had left behind." Jeff the Killer paused, his eyes growing wide. "Wow, that rhymed! Cool!"

"Your optimism surprises me, as do your eyes." The officer hadn't noticed because it had been rather slow, but Jeff the Killer's eyes were normal now. He stared at the officer cheekily.

"Yeah. I got the black sclera from my mom. I always like to take the eyes out and let them grow in like this when I get a body. Speaking of my mom, the demon had had enough and it just transported the both of us into the body she had in her custody. Of course, my mom had been fighting her 'possessed' son for a while, so she found it quite normal that I was being weird and said I was tormented by a demon. All she said was, 'We're moving, so move yourself!'"

"Oh right! The two years had passed by that time."

"Yeah. We moved, and at first it seemed like hell. There was this guy named Randy who threw paper at us, and I tried to warn him but then the demon decided to eat his arm one day. Randy got super-confused by that, by the way, because that quite literally couldn't have been done by a human."

"Really?"

"Well, I guess you've never tried fitting your arm into your mouth. Try it."

"So is that how you got the Glasgow smile?"

"Oh, this? No, that was before, from - Katy! I completely forgot to mention her! She finally came back to her senses, it was a miracle, indeed! But the problem was that her name got in the papers, and I wanted to read the news because it was contraband."

"So you were still in a, like..."

"I call it a 'Crazy Proposition Wielder Community', CPWC for short, but yeah. Everyone tried to get sacrilegious Internet memes, and I was like, 'Been there done that! I just want the news! Paper or Internet, I don't care!'"

"So why did you attack her in the first place?"

"That wasn't my plan. It was the demon's plan. The problem was that our body was starting to rot because Katy had tried to kill herself multiple times, and she had succeeded, but it didn't show up until the demon had lost all its power. So now we needed someone whose parents were used to them acting strangely and not knowing stuff, right? Katy was just a few dozen miles away anyways. So we hitchhiked until we found her, and she attempted to reason with us, but then the demon snapped. It took her life and distorted her face beyond recognition, then posted it on some message forum. Then it ate her, and it cut through our entire mouth to do it."

"So the iconic Glasgow smile was born." The officer couldn't help but smirk.

"Yeah. Then it just escalated from there. I came back and my parents started freaking out. Then they said that because I was such a bad son, I deserved to be - get this - 'blinded like Oedipus in the Bible'."

"Okay, that's just stupid."

"I know, right? They just assume we don't even read the Bible. That's what I told them, that they were full of hot air. Then I did them one better and I cut off my own eyelids."

"Awful tactic."

"Yes and no. Before they could do anything to my vulnerable eyes, I ate my dad, and my mom only managed to gouge out my original eyes."

"Wow. Where did the 'Go to sleep' phrase come from?"

"What does that mean?"

"Do you not say that?"

"Well, I say it sometimes. But it's the middle of the night when I walk around and I see people on their phones or computers or whatever and I'm just like, 'I'm a demon zombie, what's your excuse?'"

"Ha." The officer got up and started going out of the interrogation room.

"It's kind of funny how the whole thing turned out," Jeff commented.

"What's funny?"

"That this started as a cop thing, but you let it slip pretty early that you're actually a psychologist or something."

"Look - " Before he could say anything, Jeff cut the doctor off.

"Don't be mad. I just wanna find some guy who's dying and kill him. Preferably a guy, because I like being a guy, even though I spent a year of my life as a girl."

The doctor led him to the sickbay. "Whose body is this?" he whispered. "Is it the one you killed?" Jeff didn't look like the person he had been accused of killing.

"I don't need to tell you," Jeff whispered back.

"Both of you, hands up!" someone shoutted from behind them.

They both turned, Jeff with glee on his face, the doctor with horror, as ten actual police officers had their guns pointed at Jeff.

"No! Go away!" the doctor shouted fruitlessly as one of them tried to handcuff Jeff.

"These are nice handcuffs," Jeff remarked as he was led away. "I hope I can make blood out of them."

No one really knew how to respond to that except the doctor, who ran to get his car keys before sprinting out of the building, not even bothering to check his next few patients.

By that point, the doctor knew why he'd had to interview Jeff the Killer like a cop. The intervew would have taught him how a killer thought, but he hadn't expected such a convoluted story. Knowing that Jeff the Killer had gone through all that trauma just to turn out to be an otherworldly monster was simultaneously the most and least interesting explanation.

As he drove away, he was forced to drive past Jeff killing the officers. Jeff seemed to have grown larger, and his skin had turned pale white. Even though the doctor saw that he was bleeding, the officers around him didn't seem to be faring much better. As the doctor passed Jeff, they made eye contact, and the utter lack of recognition convinced the doctor that the one killing all the officers was actually the demon.

The demon's stare was terrifying, because even as it consumed the officers in a grotesque and disgusting matter, its mouth distending like a snake's, it continued to keep its eyes on the doctor. The doctor was sure that it would come after him, so he hurried through the streets, either driving through green lights or turning to the right. "Thank God this town is set up on a grid," he thought.

When he came to his house, Jeff was already there, having grown a handlebar mustache and beard, eating the birds his cat had already killed. The doctor only had a moment to wonder why Jeff had facial hair before he saw the glint of metal.

"Don't kill me," he begged.

Jeff walked up to him, a kitchen knife in hand. "I get the feeling that you wanted to fix me, or to gain my trust before telling me to stop living by killing other people," he growled. "I'm here to tell you that it won't work. You're a cool guy, and maybe we'll talk, but if you pull that stunt again, I won't hesitate to kill and eat you, or vice versa. Remember that."

Relieved, the doctor sank to the ground, then immediately started as the Ominous Unknown Killer snatched the car keys out of his hand and got into his car.

"See you later, Guy-whose-name-I-don't-know!" Jeff said cheerfully before driving the car off into the sunset.

The doctor wanted to be mad, but the whole thing was too surreal. He went into his house (thankfully, Jeff had unlocked the door by breaking it down) and switched on the local news as he made dinner.

It took about an hour for the police to find the car. It had been abandoned by the woods. They brought it back to the station, and that was the end of the most interesting day Doctor Anderson had lived through in ten years.

Attempt 2

Search for Missing Fourteen-Year-Old Jeffrey Woods Ongoing

He couldn't see and he looked ugly, but he was still alive. When he had run away from home, he never would have thought it'd have ended up like this.

"Stay calm," he muttered to himself. "This can't go on forever."

He didn't want to remember what had happened in that town. There was nothing else to remember, though. If he were to focus on his current situation, who's to say that he would get any better?

He had tried to ask for handouts, but it didn't work, so he had to try and find a soup kitchen with his eyes, which had already been failing and crusting over by that time. He couldn't remember how many times he had prayed, by that point, for the entire chain of events to have been a dream. Probably more than he could accurately count.

He hadn't made any friends. He was blunt at the best of times and toxic at the worst. No one wanted to be his friend, and eventually, no one wanted to be seen with him. Once he got used to it, it rarely bothered him. When he was alone, he could cry without fear or embarrassment.

He was still a child at heart, after all. He hated the idea of crying. When those people had bullied him verbally, he had cried. When they had stolen his bike and put his brother in jail, he had wept in his home, but had kept a stiff upper lip outside.

And when they had thrown lighter fluid on him and lit him up, he had sobbed, but it hadn't mattered, because something had saved him and it kept bringing him back.

It had taken a month, a month of torture during which he had heard his mom wailing, during which he kept trying to break out only to be sedated. And then, when he finally did get out, he went bonkers at the exact wrong time. He had cut off his eyelids and cut his cheeks, but he could see them slowly growing back, and as his parents called him, his world went black.

When he could see again, he decided to gouge out his own eyes so he would always remember his mother and father. But it hadn't worked. He did it every day, and they always grew back.

He had no dignity. He ate scraps from dumpsters, and when he got sick, he crawled inside the dumpster and waited. People kept piling trash on top of him, but it didn't hurt. It all felt peaceful.

Under the trash, soon to die, thoughts reeling, he told himself to stay calm and wait for his own eventual demise.

"It was going to end this way one way or another," he said as his breathing faltered and his pulse weakened. He knew he was going to hell, because why would he go to Heaven?

He felt like his head was filled with static. He felt like the entire world was spinning. For a brief and wonderful moment, he saw the light and thought that he was dead. Then he saw the flash of garbage and realized where he was going.

He fell headfirst into the garbage truck, the hard edges in the bag cutting through him. He screamed, but the noises in the truck were too loud for anyone to hear, and it wasn't helpful that he deliberately tried not to scream so that he would finally die. His arms were crushed, his ribs were broken, his spinal cord was severed. However, even as he lay in carnage, even as he should have been dead, he could feel new arms growing. He wanted to be angry, but as he realized that it still worked, he became more frightened than angry.

Eventually, the only problem was that more of the same trash was piling onto him. But in the darkness of the truck, he was finally free. He pulled himself out from under a few kilograms of trash, something which shouldn't have been possible, and sobbed silently. He couldn't help feeling like this would be his new life. He imagined eating scraps every day of every week as he tore the garbage bags and as the truck chugged to the landfill.

He must have eaten ten pounds of garbage before he heard the sound of the trash compactor. He barely had time to scream before the back opened and a lot of other people were screaming.

"If you come in here I'll kill you!" screamed the boy. They were empty threats, but not quite empty enough. Still, some of them had guts, because they came into the truck and tried escorting him out. He heard on of the garbage workers calling the police and reacted immediately by slapping the phone out of his hand. They all looked at him funny, and Jeff tried to think of an explanation, but then one of them said, "Hey, aren't you the 14-year-old who went missing?"

Those would be their last words.

When the Blood God went back to sleep, Jeffrey looked around at the carnage and cried. He wanted to cut out his own eyelids again, but he had a sinking feeling that it wouldn't work.

"Jeff, why do you keep ignoring me?" asked the Blood God.

"I don't want to kill people!" cried Jeff. "It's morally wrong!"

"That's too bad, Jeffrey, because if I were you, I'd think we should team up."

"Why?"

"Because the cops are coming, and I won't let you die in prison, no matter how hard you try. You've already seen what I did here."

"What will you give me in return?"

"I need something from the mortal world. You will give it to me, and if you play your cards right, you will die in peace."

Jeff was about to stall, but then he heard police sirens and he realized that there was no time to reconsider or check it over. Jeff knew that it was now or never.

When the police arrived, they found Jeffrey Woods' assorted body parts on the scene, as well as about five garbage truck drivers. In blood, the murderer had wrote, "I am the Ominous Unknown Killer. You must fear me."

So-Called "Ominous Unknown Killer" Murders Six, Including Jeffrey Woods

Something was brewing, and no one knew its name or its mangled face.

Bone Dave Isn't What He Seems To Be

Note: This was originally going to be an entry for the Creepypasta Wiki's 2017 Halloween Werewolf Contest, but it wasn’t because I was too chicken.

Bone Dave. Cathy had given the name to that dog, suggesting it a few days after they had found him sitting in front of their door, dirty and collarless. John had suggested other names, but his wife had stuck with Bone Dave, and he had eventually stuck with it too.

Bone Dave had been a good dog. John couldn’t remember anything which Bone Dave had ever done wrong until he had wandered into the woods and never come back. John’s family had been devastated in the three months after that faithful day, and so had he. But then he saw Bone Dave again, peeking out at him from behind the vending machine. It had only been for an instant, but he had recognized the husky instantly.

After that incident, he started seeing Bone Dave in the strangest places. Bone Dave was outside the window, in the shadow of a tree, and even floating in midair through some feat of wizardry. He could never see Bone Dave for very long, only long enough to recognize that it was Bone Dave.

He didn’t tell his wife about this. Cathy had loved Bone Dave, and he knew that she blamed him for letting Bone Dave out. She had been cold to him ever since that night, hardly ever talking to him. Sometimes, he wondered if Cathy had only ever married him because of that dog. It didn’t make any logical sense, but considering how badly the dog’s death had affected her, it was usually at the back of John’s mind in their conversations.

One day, John came home after a hard day at work. He sold, refurbished, and recommended houses. He sold them very well. Some of his coworkers even went so far as to call him, “The King of House Selling” because he wore a necklace with a giant silver chain on it in a rather agnostic community. It didn’t bother him; after all, he couldn’t really talk about anything but houses.

His wife Cathy was watching television on the couch. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye, but didn’t get up. John absentmindedly wondered if his wife would make more fuss over a bird at the window. He decided to think of positive things instead, but the only thing that came to mind was getting another dog.

He had thought of getting a new dog when Bone Dave had first gone missing, but the first thing that had come out of Cathy’s mouth as he had been calling the neighbors to see if anyone had seen Bone Dave was to warn him against getting another dog.

“Don’t think about getting another dog, John,” she had said with tears in her eyes. “No one can replace Bone Dave.” It was the first time since their marriage that she had called him John. She hadn’t stopped afterwards.

As if to prove his point, Cathy looked at him again. She said, “John, what are you doing?” She didn’t quite sound bored, but she definitely didn’t care.

“Nothing,” John replied. He went into his room and sat on his bed, trying and failing to remember what Cathy had called him before. All that did was make him sad.

“The children are home,” he realized. “Perhaps if I talk to the children, they’ll make me feel better somehow.” He knew that they were just as sad as Cathy about Bone Dave leaving, and that they probably wouldn’t talk to him, but he had no other ideas.

He went into his children’s room. Both Mary and Dave Jr. were sitting on one side of a table and looking at something on a paper.

“Hi, kids,” he said with a grin.

They looked at him, and for a moment, they appeared to have Bone Dave’s face. He started for a moment, enough for their faces to become normal.

Unsure if what he had just seen had been a hallucination, he thought about it for about ten seconds. Then he realized that his kids were staring at him.

“Hi, kids,” he repeated, more weakly this time.

They didn’t stop staring at him, and he didn’t move. The thought that something had possessed his children came unbidden from somewhere deep within the recesses of his mind.

He decided to say something funny. Adopting an almost-Scottish accent, he chortled, “Children, do my eyes deceive me! By the stars, you stare at me so! Ay, ‘tis as if you were possessed!”

He didn’t realize what he had said until he had said it. Inside, he winced, but outside, he kept up a relatively calm demeanor. His children stared at him, then slowly turned back to their paper.

John decided to look at the paper, something he would regret almost instantly. It was a drawing of Bone Dave, but it was far better than he thought his children would be able to draw. He imagined someone coming in through the window and depositing it at their table, and he forgot he was standing behind his children until one of them asked, “Dad, what are you doing?”

“Nothing,” said John nonchalantly. “Did one of you draw that?”

“No.”

“Then who did?”

There was a tense silence for a while. After what must have been ten seconds, one of them finally said, “Mom drew it.”

John could tell that was a lie, but didn’t push the matter. He started going out of the room, then realized that he hadn’t asked them how their days had been.

“How was your day, Mary?”

“Good.”

“How was your day, Michael?”

“Good.”

He went back to his room and sat on his bed. He wasn’t thinking of anything, and so thoughts of food and houses crowded his thoughts. He decided to try and write something after sitting for about 10 minutes.

He opened up his journal. Failed story starters lined the pages. He flipped to a blank one and wrote, “Once upon a time, there was a”

Then he stopped. He didn’t know what to say after that, and so he decided to wait until inspiration struck him. His thoughts went to his wife, and then he found himself thinking of his old friend David.

David had lived in a house with his parents and paternal grandfather. He had done very well in school and life, a charismatic and hardworking person by nature. In high school, John had went to a writing club to find that David was its president, and also a very good writer. This was where he had met Cathy. Cathy and David had been friends since they were in about third grade. By high school, they were in love, and they had been the only couple John had known about.

Then David’s parents had died. David had become sick after that, growing thinner and paler every day. One day, he hadn’t shown up to school, but there hadn’t been a scheduled absence, so the school assumed that he was truant. The day after that, his house was found empty.

On that day, John had started regulating the writing club, and people had slowly dropped out of it due to John’s lack of charisma. Cathy had taken an interest in him after that. Then they had married. But then she had found the dog and named it Bone Dave. John wanted to assume that the name meant nothing, but it was so odd that he found himself wondering, especially when Cathy had stopped talking to him when Bone Dave had escaped.

He sat there, then ate dinner, then slept and left for work in the morning.

He kept on doing this, even as his wife seemed even less talkative, the mysterious drawings kept coming in, and his children’s faces kept morphing into Bone Dave’s. He kept trying to write and failing, and wondering how he had written anything in the first place.

One night, he put his journal inside the drawer next to his bed and closed his eyes as usual, but found himself unable to sleep. He lay there for perhaps four hours. Eventually, he got up to get a drink of water.

Bone Dave was standing in the kitchen.

“Hello, John,” he grumbled in a deep voice. It sounded rather familiar, but John couldn’t quite place it.

“Hello, Bone Dave.”

“Do you remember what you did to me?”

John didn’t want to remember that.

“Do you remember how you and Cathy used to talk?”

“No, but it used to be more filled with passion.”

Bone Dave growled at him. “You really think so? Look back on your life – really look hard – and I think you’ll find yourself proven dreadfully wrong.”

John growled at him like a dog. “I believe that Cathy was more in love with me at one point.”

“No,” barked Bone Dave fiercely.

John was foolish in that instant, taunting Bone Dave by saying, “You’re just a dog. What do you know of human love?”

“You’re just a human,” Bone Dave retorted. “What do you know of killing dogs?”

“Stop it!” thundered John. “I don’t want to talk about that!”

“You need to admit that you tried to kill me. After all, I’m a talking dog. I talked to your wife and children already. They want you to leave, just as I do.”

Furious, John screeched, “Why would you talk to my mother and children?”

David, who was where Bone Dave had been a second before, grinned. “You said ‘mother’ and not wife.”

John attempted to backpedal, but David spoke over him, his voice resounding like a bronze bell. “You have no love for your wife, and your wife cannot stand you because you tried to kill me. You must leave.”

John tried to speak, but all he could do was bark. “This must be a dream,” he said to himself, and the scene before him was replaced with his bedroom. His diary fell to the floor as he walked out into the kitchen.

Cathy was standing in the kitchen.

“Hello, John,” she sang in a clear voice. It sounded different, but John couldn’t quite place it.

“Hello, Bone Dave.”

“Do you remember how we had children?”

John didn’t want to remember that.

“Do you remember how you never questioned how or why I was randomly pregnant?”

“No. I thought that was pretty normal.”

Cathy growled, “You really think so? Look back on your life – really look hard – and I think you’ll find yourself proven dreadfully wrong.”

John whined, “I believe that we were in love at some point,” as if he were a dog.

“No,” said Cathy, deadpan.

John was foolish in that instant, taunting Cathy by saying, “Well, either of us could be wrong. Maybe we should go with the one who doesn’t need to beg the question?”

“You’re the one who’s wrong,” Cathy retorted, “just as wrong as when you thought Bone Dave was dead.”

“Stop it!” thundered John. “I don’t want to talk about that!”

“I know that you tried to kill him! Do you think I’m a fool who’ll fall for some obvious lie?” Cathy roared.

Furious, John screeched, “I want us to stay a family!”

“John, we were never a family. You may think I spoke to you with more passion at one point, but I have always been this formal. We just always had Bone Dave with us, so you never needed to talk to me. Do you think I could bear living in his absence, watching you write the same drivel over and over in your notebook? Leave now. I’m tired of being your wife.”

John didn’t want to leave. “What did you call me before, then?”

Cathy started to speak, then stopped. A few seconds passed by, and then she let out a barking laugh. “I just realized that I never called you anything before Bone Dave disappeared, because I'd never talked to you in such a way that I had needed to call you anything.”

Satisfied, John went upstairs and put his diary in his bag. Then he remembered with a chill that he had put his diary in his drawer beforehand. He started to open it, but Cathy intervened.

“David wrote something in that, a threat against you. He wrote, ‘Once upon a time, there was a young man who never got to be an old man.’ It was meant for if you didn’t leave.”

“Oh,” said John. He made a mental note to read it before realizing what Cathy had just said. Cathy, realizing she had let a great secret slip, said with gritted teeth, “Bone Dave is actually David in disguise.”

John wanted to tell her that he had already known that, but he decided against it. He walked outside and saw his children. They looked at him, guilt on their faces.

“Do you want to see Dave?” John mumbled, and he was met with two tentative nods. “Don't worry. You don’t need to pretend to love me anymore. I’m moving out.” He turned away because he couldn’t bear to see them smile at that.

Cathy went out. “You know, John, I wish you good luck. It’s not that you were a bad person, it’s just that you were…”

“…a bad husband. I get it, don’t worry.” He got into his car and drove away to the nearest gas station, then cried for a few minutes. He clutched the diary to his chest, fearful of opening it.

John didn’t want to open the diary, because he was afraid that two of the words would be underlined. So he opened the book.

“Once upon a time, there was a young man who never got to be an old man.” There was no underlining anywhere. David lay back in his seat, relieved. He decided that he was going to live somewhere else, using his skills in housing to live a decent and peaceful life.

He flipped over to the beginning of the book.

“Look at the end. There’s a story written upside down based on your prompt, though due to lack of time, I’m afraid that it seems bland and too to-the-point. It's better than yours, though.” The hand was unmistakably David’s. John shrieked, and the people staring at him mad him feel self-conscious. He drove away for a while, the anticipation of reading what David had written for him rising and rising until he felt like a kettle about to scream.

Finally, after crossing the provincial line, he felt safe enough to read.

“Once upon a time, there was an old man who had sold his soul to the Devil. He found a young girl attractive, and as he felt his lust growing stronger, he began to wonder if he should ignore the Devil’s warning to bring more people’s souls to hell. His grandson thought that the girl was merely his friend, and he eventually became jealous of his grandson. He took the form of a high-school boy (insofar as he turned himself to a younger age) and began to show the girl true love.

But one day, a boy with a cross said something completely irrational to the boy: that he was getting killed by a monster. This was half-true, and it would not have been a problem had he not said he was going to get his parents to investigate. Now, his parents were police officers, so there was a real problem there. The two made a promise that in ten years, the boy would give up his happy life with the girl they both coveted, and that the old man ‘wouldn’t vie for her romantic affection’.

Do you think I broke that promise, or did you? Well, I won’t tell you. It’s been a good nine years either way. You’ve grown so old! I can’t kill you, but I can finally have my “bride” and children. They’re either so grown up or so little that I have no attraction to them. Thank you for your kindness. Now I can kill them all instead of being way more falsely charming than you could hope to genuinely be.

I won’t come after you. Maybe I’ll take over your job here, but you seem pretty good at it.

And for posterity’s sake, yes, I am a vampire, not a werewolf.”

John’s hands shook. He felt like driving all the way back, but he knew that it’d be no use. He’d either get accosted by his wife and children accusing him of trying to kill an innocent animal or he’d have an extremely powerful minion of the Devil on his tail.

It had kind of stung to realize that his wife had never actually referred to him in any way after six years of marriage. “How is that even possible?” he wondered while in his car on the side of the road.

“It doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t care. It was meant to be. It was-” He began sobbing uncontrollably, and he curled up in the driver’s seat, oblivious to everything. He sobbed for ten minutes straight before he regained his composure. But he did eventually, and after he drank a liter of water, he drove on still farther, hopeful that he could become the kind of person who could triumph in a story.

His Son

Maybe if he were someone else, someone hard and ashamed of himself, like his own father had been, his son would be different. He thought about it sometimes when his son came home and stammered that he was doing fine, when he so obviously lied.

He knew his son, knew him inside and out, but sometimes he could not understand why he continued to shuffle along his clockwork path. How long had they played this game of not telling grades? How long would it go on?

His son, who was almost an adult, still acted like a scared child in front of him. He couldn't fix it.

But he had to do other things, so he left his son be. There was no reason to fret, what with important business going around. He had a meeting at 3AM and needed to go to sleep.


The son was there, doing his homework while listening to his father sleep. His mind was filled with all the videos he had watched instead of doing homework. He wasn't really afraid for his future, but he didn't know why not.

He heard his father snoring. It sounded like he was blowing his nose while turning into a giant cat. Still, he had become used to it. It did not bother him any longer.

His father would sometimes stop snoring, and then he would worry. He didn't want to be afraid that his father would become sad at seeing him again.

He didn't know what was making him do this kind of thing.

He realized he hadn't heard anything for 20 seconds.


The father was happy in his life. The sun was smiling, the air was sweet. He prayed for long periods of time. This was how he had lived his life, and his son did not live this way.

He didn't begrudge his son for this. He wanted his son to succeed, because he felt that his son was capable of something at the very least.

Was that too much to ask? For his son to do a thing? Anything?


The son did nothing. The son simply waited while the father was silent.

He wondered whether his father had woken up. He did not know his father as his father knew him, so he did not really understand that his father was human. But he knew some things, and one of those was that his father did not silently wake up. If the bed was not making noise, his father was still asleep and he should have still been snoring.

He did not want to know that his father was choking. He wanted to believe that his father was simply being lazy, even though that would not make sense, because it was kind.

He felt lighter every second, because the more he sat the less he had to pay attention to what his father was and was not doing. He almost went off of Youtube, which he had somehow started watching instead of doing his homework, but he didn't.

The son could have leaped out of his chair. The son could have given a damn, couldn't he, that his pop was doing something unusual.

Once, when he had been young, he had closed his father's nose to stop his snoring. It had been stupid, but at least he had done it.

What was he afraid of now? Was he afraid that his father, the same father who loved him and forgave, would be mad at him for checking on him?

No, no. It was simple, so simple that he snickered. If his father woke up, then he would have to face the fact that he was watching Youtube videos. Now he was in the middle phase, the phase between promising not to sin and being forced to acknowledge that he had sinned.

What was that called again? I know, and most likely you know, and he knew, but he wanted to forget, like some people forget their house when they drink until it's too late.


His father was in the middle phase between life and death. He could not wake up as he choked on his tongue, as his beleaguered heart began to stop. There was no end to the madness; how could there be?

His subconscious knew that his son was in there, that even though the person lied, the person was his son, and his son would help him when he died, not leave him to choke.

His son was not a monster. His son was not a villain.


His son believed that he was the villain in the story.

It made the most sense. Perhaps he was the one choking his own father in order to prostate himself to the computer just a little while longer.

There was some extent to which he felt remorse, but he didn't feel enough. He had never known life without a mother or father, so there was really no way for him to fathom losing a parent.

Sometimes, he wondered if the harsh light of his computer had been what had erased his soul, or if he'd just never had one.

----

The father would live to see the next day, not because of his son, but because of himself.


He had woken up to see his son towering over him, only to see him back away silently. He had wondered whether or not to call to his son, to ask him why exactly he had come, but he saw his son's face, filled with fear, and he did not.

He still believed in his son, because his son had done this.


The son knew what he had done. He had looked at his father, snoring, and stepped near him. Only then had his father woken up, with a kind of snort, and then he had retreated.

Where had he done anything? Where was the heroic gesture to save his father? A mere cat could walk up to his father. A mere bag could be blown in that direction, rigged up to the AC in order to make sure he wasn't dying.


The son could not understand, because he was too hard on himself despite his bad time management.


The father could not understand, because the son had willed him dead, and had simply been so sentimental as to check up on him.

But what did the son really know about himself?


Had his father not looked at him as a child, seen his face in awe of the Diwali fireworks or the size of an elephant? His son was not mysterious.

The father went back to sleep, content in the idea of his son.

Lies and Walls and Beer

I love my classmates, but do they love me?

I love my sister and my cat, but do they love me?

I love my parents, and they love me, but do they know that I love them?

Forgive me for my faults, please, whoever may read this. My soul is corrupted with idleness, for I have no drive. I should work harder, and yet I do not, in favor of losing myself to my electronic vices. Uncertainty, too, is a vice of mine, though this uncertainty is no doubt tied to my laziness. When I find the root of this evil within me, I shall exterminate it.

But at the very least there is one vice I shall never find myself a slave to: the beer.

How terrible, how miserable must those who drink this poisonous juice of rotten fruits find the world! Such terrible, intoxicating, poisonous filth should not defile the bodies of the kind and virtuous, nor should they attack the sensibilities of the pained and alone. How despicable must the people who brew this potion be! Perhaps every kind person shall gaze upon the beastly vice of drunkenness and riotous mayhem and raise their hands in defeat, but I believe with all my heart that underneath this façade, their anger burns as coolly as the blue flame of a Bunsen burner.

As I walk home from school each day, I am usually concerned with trivial matters. However, you, virtuous person that you are, have caught me on a rare occasion. My thoughts are those of love and acceptance, and happiness is flowing within me, a joy so clear that even if I were to anger at my faults, the fount of happiness would wash it cleanly away.

Of course, such joy may not last long, for I must inevitably walk underneath the trees. Their looming presence and dark shadows never fail to dampen my mood, despite my rational mind proclaiming them nothing but trees. It could be the city's fault, it being their custom to cut the trees' branches once a year. The trees, incapable of screaming in agony as their limbs are brutally severed from their body, and equally incapable of understanding why such a thing must happen, keep their emotions deep inside of them until all that is left is a deep, primordial fear of something.

Of course, the mere idea that the trees' fear causes mine is outlandish enough to laugh at, so I truly believe that it is nothing but a fancy I created to pass the long walk home. But as I look up at the trees, I cannot shake the feeling that they radiate oppression and despair.

The rustling of the amber leaves stays me a moment, but I shake it off, hoping it is a bird. Sadly, I cannot explain away the twisted face of the withered hag staring at me from the branches of the tree, and I hear her scream before I see a veritable vision of hell. Harpies rain down from the sky, singing a song of woe and entrapment. I begin to run, hoping their screams are nothing but warnings or entertainment or anything but a reason to attack. They do not seem to be chasing me, but they continually descend into my vicinity.

"Be gone!" I scream, for I am slowing now, and as such, the harpies and their screeching, maddening voices shall surround me completely. I dislike this idea immensely, so immensely that not ten seconds after I have screamed the first time, I feel the pressing need to scream "Be gone!" once again. But then I freeze and nearly upend myself, for though the harpies no longer come, I am faced with the monster who haunts my dreams.

His eyes are round and green, and his fangs prominent when he grimaces or gasps for air. He feasts on the intestines of a young lady with relish, such relish that I feel a pang in my heart and my stomach. As I retch as this terrible, terrible sight, he sights me, and turns to me with a terrible grin before sinking his gaping, unnatural maw deep into the nether regions of the girl. Her arms are stretched out as if she had attempted to fly to safety, but the beast shamelessly continues to consume her.

I must stop now, and apologize for this terrible crime. I wish it had not happened, for if it had not happened, your minds would be purer for it, as would mine. Thankfully, when I look up again, it has been replaced by my house door, for it had been nothing but a memory.

"Say," I ponder aloud, "how much of that was in my mind?"

Without much prodding, the truth tumbles out of my mind: from the rustle of that first amber leaf, I had been seeing nothing but the burnings embers of a much-reviled illusion, the mirror I use to look back upon that foul memory I dare not speak of. I look back at the trees and find them to be green. It is the time of new beginnings, and I should no longer be focusing on the past.

As I enter my house, thoughts of the frightful monster threaten to overwhelm me, and I find myself nearly unable to dispel them. I can fondly reminisce about the long-gone days when such thoughts could not penetrate my mind with such vigor, or the even earlier days when I had not known such a terrible sight, when I had not seen the monster.

The psychopathic nature of its actions cuts into my heart whenever I remember the gleam of its eyes, jubilant yet innocent. Had it been happy to do such a thing? Was that its birthright? Even though I have made efforts to shield myself from bestowing reason upon such a terrifying force of nature, I feel that I may have somehow misunderstood its goals.

I see his eyes on the computer screen. I'm not getting good grades. It frightens me, sometimes, but it should frighten me more. I have never known hardship, never known the slap of reality dashing my dreams, and so I cannot muster the outrage which would lead to sure improvement.

Something must be terribly wrong with my soul, and I hope that you, reader in the audience, have no such affliction. I cannot believe any medical or sociological reason for why my thoughts have dulled, and I trudge mindlessly on in search of some "better" future. I don't know why I kill myself like this, but I would never wish such a thing on anyone else. It leads me to drink water, filling up my water bottle as if I can purify myself through the tap and the motion.

"Maybe this is their reason that the poor and the addicted drink the beer," I say to myself absentmindedly as the tap pours forth its glistening elixir of life. "They forget their troubles for the moment, and they have something to do when they feel their life is crushing them."

And as if by magic, the pieces which had once been scattered to me suddenly make all too much sense. I see myself reflected in the water, the cold, clear mirror which scatters my external visage and lays my soul out clearly. I see, reflected in my black heart, the very reason for which I have the computer, and for which others have the beer, and in that instant, the wall I had created in my mind separating me from those drinkers of the monstrous beer is shattered.

I hope, dearest audience, that people can tell you these things, and you need not realize that they were hidden within your heart all along. Or I hope it doesn't hurt you when you shatter such preconceptions, for at this point in time, when I realize that I don't differ so much from drinkers of beer, I feel a deep sorrow, and I would not wish it on anyone else.

I down the water, and it tastes bitter, tinged with my sorrow and my anger, with the realization that I had an assignment due which I had not done, with the poisonous quality I had once attributed to the beer. Unsatisfied, I down more, and yet more, and every time it reminds me of nothing if not the mocking, innocent glint of the monster's eyes.

I want to scream, because I feel like I cannot deal with it anymore. I feel too entitled, too lazy. There must be something deeply broken in my heart. Unfixable, I lie down on the sofa and fall asleep, only awakening when I feel a familiar presence in the room.

I cannot help but whimper as I watch the monster meander closer to my face. He repeats my cries, mocking me as it nears me. Its hot breath feels like a furnace, like an opening into the reviled gates of the Christian underworld.

"Not now," I mutter as I close my eyes. "Be gone." I hope that he may understand my plight. I had watched the death in an almost detached manner, yet I now feel the guilt and shame for being so detached that I let my idle thoughts of heroism trump my fellow-feeling towards a life lost. In my defense, I had been feeling restless and angry for some time by that point, and I have been tormented by the hideous beast ever since.

I open my eyes, and the monster regards me with its cool green eyes. It rasps, "Do you feel that you are better than all other humans?"

"No!" I cry, for I do not wish it to be true.

"You wish to rid yourself of hate, but you cannot."

"Untruth!" I shriek, even though it was a hasty and unrehearsed answer. The monster waits - perhaps it knows of my mind's own tricks - but I am loath to correct myself.

"You lack any semblance of love for your classmates, your sister, your cat, your mother, and your father."

"Sacrilege!" I roar, but I cannot get up. I feel heavy; the water within me pins me to the sofa, like a drunkard lazing within my stomach.

The monster tells me, "You do not respect your parents, because your schoolwork is undone and your belly is taut, filled with water."

"I don't understand you, odious being," I snarl, bluffing so that it will tire of my insolence. "Do you mean to suggest that my schoolwork is undone?"

"I have seen your backpack, friend. You would be afraid to discover that you have not opened it. Your snack rots inside your lunchbox; your pens rot from disuse. Ay, you are either a hypocrite or a liar."

"Why have you come, woeful and awful being? Am I to die at your terrible hands? Will you rip me apart?"

"I come bearing a message which you should have learned months ago. Your foolish sacrifices mean nothing."

I attempt to will him away by closing my eyes, but his breath is like that of a furnace. The putrid stench of rotting flesh emanates from his ominous frame. I find a water bottle in my hand, and I drink instinctively.

"You down the Internet like beer and drown your sorrows in water, hoping desperately that you can reverse your past mistakes. Beware, for the sheer volume will end your life."

"The beer does not kill."

"All things kill in too high a volume. Attempt to neutralize your soul and distill your sins with water, and you shall find yourself fading, a slave to these erasing effects."

I consider it. Would I rather live this life in which I am nothing but a disappointment, or burn in my rightful place, the bottle in my hand?

The light within my eyes agitates the monster. "You are a fool to consider yourself worthy of death."

"You were a fool to consider your meal worthy of death. I know your kind. You eat well and then kill harmless birds to wind yourselves down. Millions die from your foolish endeavors. Pathetic."

What can it do? It surveys me, disgusted. "Do you think your affinity for distraction is in any way the same as mine? You and your kind trap us in glorified cages, while the others let us free. You too trapped yourself in a cage, attempting to ignore the fact that by maiming me, you had done nothing but sadden your sister."

What was I to do? He had killed the bird, feasting on its nether regions. He had looked to me in innocence, as if he had done nothing. I could not resist. I had to hit something in this world which couldn't hit me back. If I deny that deep in my soul, I know that what I did was wrong, it makes utter sense. I am in the right.

I am, right?

It scratches deep into my stomach and I can feel the blood rushing out. "You are in the wrong." His words resonate within me as I sleep.

When I wake up, and my stomach feels fine, and I cannot see a gash. I remember that I killed my cat, that I do not really love my classmates, that I hate my cat and I'm lukewarm towards my sister, that I love my mother and father even though I don't work hard enough to stop them from worrying. But I can change all that if I admit that I can't focus and I have an internet addiction.

I go to my backpack, take out my homework, and start finishing it, hoping that I can stop hiding this problem from myself. But I can already feel myself forgetting what happened today.

The Logical Connection between Not Studying for One's Chemistry Final and Editing Badly

The angel cloaked in orange against black,
one wing of blue, one wing of regal yellow,
found within my thoughts an errant slack
and showed me I was quite a wormish fellow.

Cowed by this epitome of truth,
yet confident I understood his words
I calmly erred again. “I erred forsooth!”
I cried, for all my work resembled curds.

I do not curse him blithely for the sorrow
Born of my own disregard for laws.
The test of my deceit will come tomorrow
where the mouth of pure destruction yaws.

For I can see my fate within the cards he
dealt to me, a fate far worse than death.
As I had erred, and shall err on the tome I
read but now, a worthless final breath;
I could have studied yesterday or e’en
before the time, preparing for attempts
to resurrect what I had barely seen
unto the page and give it proper tense.

You see, this is my final gleaming chance
to raise my feeble wit to bluest sky.
You’d think if I could dance a single dance
before the end, I’d have the guts to try.

I merely gorged myself on sweets and fruits,
ignored the sound of my impending doom.
I covered both my ears to stop its boots
from bringing me to harried work and gloom.

I see the flames the Underworld has wrought,
Old Scratch the dragon pounding with his fists
as I am lowered down. “Who would have thought
he’d wash up here but those who knew his cysts?
The people who could notice in his stride
the apathetic shuffle he appoints
could quickly see his fortune, and deride
his vacuous attempts to gain more points.
For time and time again, eschewing life,
he lost himself to flashing lights and vice,
so when the world came knocking with its strife
He’d plumb forgotten how to pay the price!”

For I pretend that I sit unadorned
and study as my memory goes flat.
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
I scorned my very mother doing that.

For this, and this alone, I send a prayer
to great Ganesha, writing’s rotund god,
that when I look to battles, I don’t glare
and find myself a right ungrateful sod.

An angel came and told me what was what
and let me change my ways in future time,
so with my changing mind, I offer but
the only thing I cannot botch up: rhyme.

Some Drug Dealers Go to Heaven

Jerome had never married, more for an inability to attract women than for a lack of love or disinterest in practicality. He woke up every day to the scent of crack cocaine. He had to sell a certain amount to live, and that was his life in a nutshell. He took crack, he sold crack, and when he wasn’t selling crack, he was doing every menial job he could find in order to fuel his habit. He never allowed himself a day off, because he barely made enough money as it was. It was a lucky week that he made $500 from selling crack.

That week had not been lucky for him. He had made $300 that week, and after he had paid the people giving him a vehicle and subtracted the amount he paid for living in some other guy’s house, he had about $200. He shuffled to the house in which he lived, trying to think of how at least he wasn’t a freeloader.

Then someone shot him. Maybe it was a rival, maybe it was a robber, heck, maybe it was the cops. All he knew was that he couldn’t move and he was cold.

“Well,” he thought before it all went dark, “at least I went out with a bang.”

Jerome looked up from his feet. He was wearing clean clothes in a small room which was hazy at the edges. His eyes were drawn to the center of the room and to a judge standing in the center.

The judge was dressed in plain clothes as Jerome was, and his skin was the same shade of ebony. His face was craggy, a face seemingly capable of great joy and great anger. He reminded Jerome of his father, when his father’s face hadn’t been wreathed in the toxic smoke of the opium poppy.

Jerome knew the judge had to be God, but it didn’t feel like he was any more powerful than Jerome. He felt at ease, like he was alone in a church where no one was looking at him.

But Jerome knew where he was going. Why in Hell would God send someone like him to Heaven? He had stolen and maimed, not to mention that he fed people’s addictions for cold hard cash. He just wasn’t the kind of person who would go to heaven. All the same, he didn’t want to anger God. He just felt like giving God a piece of his mind.

“Sir,” he started in English, “I know where I’m going, so I just want to say some things and ask some questions.”

The judge spoke in Jerome’s mother tongue as he said, “You don’t need to speak to me so formally.”

Jerome, somewhat startled, continued, now in his mother tongue. “I don’t understand why some people have more choices than others. I’m not smart. Even if I had the money to go to college, I wouldn’t last a week there, because I don’t know any school subjects. I don’t have enough money to pay for a fancy lamp. My life doesn’t have any reason to be like this other than where I was born.”

“Also,” he continued, gaining steam, “I feel like my family gets the short end of the stick too much. My uncle went to jail for crack before I was born. Now I’m dead, and he’s still in jail. Too many people in my life overall have died younger than they should have. I don’t know why that should be the case.”

“Yes, indeed.” Jerome was on a roll. “Thinking about it, my family is lucky. No one in my family, as far as I know, has perished in a tornado or a hurricane. No one’s gotten killed by an earthquake. Some of us have died of diseases, but none of malaria. All of these things happen to people, and I don’t understand why innocent people need to die.”

“Finally,” Jerome thundered, “I feel like I should go to heaven. I know that I probably won’t, because I insulted your choices for me and my family, and I have harmed people by giving them crack and opium, as well as maiming those who attacked me while I did this. However, I don’t think I should go to Hell because of those things, because if I had been born somewhere else, I probably wouldn’t need to sell drugs, or, on the flip side I might have died at age five in a hurricane.”

The judge was looking at him without smiling. Jerome was afraid of what would come out of his mouth.

Finally, the judge’s voice boomed forth. “Jerome, you have done nothing good for the world, but you have not done the evil you may think. Your soul is kind. Even as you question whether my plan is right, right in front of me, when you think I will punish you and you have no real incentive to praise me, you don’t curse my name or call me evil.”

“There are some people who do not go to Heaven, but you are not one of them. That said, you are not going to Heaven. You have sinned, so you are going to Purgatory, from which you will ascend to heaven. Live your life in peace.”

Jerome’s last realization was that the judge hadn’t answered his question. Then he was in the beautiful land beyond the pearly gates. He could see others with their mouths agape at the wonder. He was also awed by the sheer beauty of heaven.

However, his mind was still there, and as he communed with great scholars, he began to wonder why he had gotten into Heaven in the first place. After all, they were struck uneasy by the fact that he had lived among unfaithful people, and however much they tried to rationalize it, it was obvious that they didn’t accept him. He also remembered the questions he had posed to God. He tried to find a way to meet God to get his answers about this, but found that there was none.

Somewhat more eerily, sometimes people would drop what they were doing and stare in awe into the distance. Jerome saw more and more people do this as he spent his days in Heaven. Even some of the scholars, when in the middle of a sentence or a postulation, would suddenly look to the sky in awe. For these reasons, as time crept on, he became more and more suspicious about God’s motives until one day, as he slept, there was a knock on his door.

The judge stood there. He growled, “Do you have faith in me?”

Something in his tone unnerved Jerome. “I only had a few questions.”

“Yes,” the judge thundered, “including questions about my goodness and my plan!”

Suddenly, Jerome found himself in a land of fire, feeling so much pain that he could barely think. The judge’s face loomed in front of him, and for the first time since meeting him, Jerome could truly believe the person he was seeing was God.

“I gave you Heaven!” God screamed, his voice like the winds of a hurricane. “Why do you question my goodness? Everything will work out, even if you cannot know how or why!”

Jerome could not answer. He could only scream. God saw that he was no longer complacent enough in his lack of fear to doubt the word of God. Suddenly, they were both in heaven, Jerome unable to scream any longer, the judge smiling.

“Remember that if I wanted, I could look at all of your sins and put you squarely in Hell. You haven’t helped the world at all. Why, this realm could always belong to a select few, as the Calvinists believed. I know what I am doing.”

“But you torture people with starvation even as you torture others with obesity! You make some easily enslaved to drugs and others nearly immune! What madness is this? How am I supposed to understand you?”

God leaned into Jerome's face and showed him infinitesimal people and grand canvases so large that no mortal being could know them. For less than a second, Jerome knew every second of every day, every proton's destiny, all the data in every time at once. Jerome screamed, but no sound came out.

“Behold my plan, Jerome. You cannot understand it, no matter how hard you try, no matter how hard I make you try. You call me omnipotent, but I can create rocks which I cannot lift and ideas which I cannot parse in images that humans can fathom. Should I protect you or should I torment you with the truth of my plan?”

He took his plan from Jerome’s head, and Jerome saw him once again as the judge.

Know your place, Jerome. You are at most an aspect of God, and you cannot do His work. I may have scarred you, but so be it.”

Jerome could not respond, even when the judge was gone. He no longer had the memory, but the answers to his questions would briefly surface in his mind. They would surface when he was not praying to God, when he saw the people with whom he had conversed, and even when he tried to strengthen his faith and came up against a question which he could not answer.

And whenever it did, Jerome would open his mouth to scream, as if he was awestruck by Heaven.

A Story about a Stupid Crazy Person

Raja Bannerjee hadn't expected to find himself within a house made of oak, but he had no time to be confused before it spoke to him.

"Raja Bannerjee, you have died."

He looked behind him to see an old man who was about as tall as he was. There didn't seem to be anything particularly special about him. He looked like someone's grandfather, but every time Raja even blinked, he changed exactly how he looked like someone's grandfather. Then he became a girl, and it ceased to make any sense according to gender pronouns. Raja was too afraid to do anything, because he was a wimp, but he sensed that even though there was a deep fear inside him, he felt reassured by the presence of this being.

"Raja, you must understand why you feel the way that you do."

At first, Raja didn't answer. He knew what the being was talking about. He felt out of balance, as if his life was irreparably damaged and he hadn't done anything. He didn't want to know what he had done, but he wanted to do something, anything at all. And so, challenging the brave men who had been named Raja before him, he spoke.

"Yes, I know."

The silence was an unwelcome guest. It gnawed at him like the biggest tapeworm in the world, in his belly and around him at the same time. His mouth was a yawing echo chamber, the tapeworm's entrance and exit, and he tried to make the metaphor his reality and extinguish the fear by closing his mouth. But try as he might, he could not do it. His mouth hanging open like every science-class skeleton's, Raja stared at nothing in particular, hoping beyond all logic that somehow, something would change.

He tried to lay eyes on the being who had made him feel reassured, but panic rushed through his body - an ever-bolder parasite - as he could not find the being. His eyes rolled back in his skull as he tried to process what exactly was going on. He didn't know what the problem was anymore, so he cast his eyes back on the story playing through his mind, and suddenly he found the answer.

"Wait," he said, not quite closing his mouth, "I don't know." His mouth was reassuringly close to being closed, but the tapeworm of his silence/guilt/fear sensed this and redoubled its efforts, snaking into his intestines. He tried not to flinch as his anxiety overtook him. Perhaps in a different world than the one he had inhabited before finding himself in a room made of oak, he would have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. But that train of thought was derailed when the being's sudden shouting made him clench his teeth so hard that a great deal of the tapeworm fell to the ground, disintegrating as it was forgotten.

"Yes! Raja Bannerjee, you do not know! You do not understand! You simply pretend to understand, and I know because I am you!"

He exhaled with such force that the tapeworm had no choice but to eject itself from his bowels via mouth. He thought about how that could be taken literally, but he scrapped the idea and simply pushed it out of his mind along with his digestive tract. The being could be heard letting out an audible sigh as well, and the tension had dissipated to the point where Raja could talk to some extent.

"I hadn't known that," said he. "I had thought that you were some god. But now that I know who you are, I know that I am really safe!"

"You are," the being said, beaming at him with such unfiltered joy that he had no choice but to smile back.

"I think I know what I did, but you should explain it because I don't know why I'm here," said Raja, trying to be humble but fearing that this honesty would somehow cause him harm.

The being seemed to understand his struggle. "Do not worry. I will tell you."

It rose up, holding a stick so that it resembled some god. "You wrote a story about how the Christian god was unkind. This was in your control, wasn't it?"

"Yes," said Raja. He was beginning to feel distressed again, but he didn't know how else to feel in the face of his ever-present defectiveness.

"You realized that it was unkind to take the title of someone else and pretend it was your own, but it was too late. The story began sucking your life, and you were unable to write another."

"Yes!" cried Raja, unable to hold back tears. He had no idea how this story, the one that he was in at the moment, wouldn't be deleted, but he didn't want to bring it up because the punishment made him feel stronger somehow.

"You looked back upon your other true story, and you saw that it alienated the mentally ill. This angered you beyond belief, didn't it?"

Raja began to answer, but then realized the significance of the question's wording. He thought for two seconds, and the answer flowed from his mouth like a river of silk. "No. I felt sad, so sad that I wished to never write again."

"Good!" the being said. "You feel remorse towards others, not anger towards yourself, and this shows that you are not in the wrong."

Raja felt lighter than he had for months. He realized then how insignificant it was. It couldn't have been more than five months since he had written his horrible, somewhat plagiarized story. It was nothing; no one cared enough to talk about it. He could simply request it be destroyed and be done with it!

As if reading his mind, the being nodded, saying, "This is an extraordinary stroke of luck. Take it in stride. You will write other stories, and no one can doubt that."

The being began to fade, but Raja was emboldened. "This is a site for frightening things, isn't it? This isn't frightening."

The being was about to ask if Raja really wanted to be tortured, but Raja beat him to it. "Being, my friend, my brother, you know how much you care about me now. We may share a name, but we also share that name with, like, twelve people on Facebook. And they're all engineers and stuff. Nobody cares about us - me - " He began to stammer, but the being put up a hand.

"You're right. You were my ally, and I no longer care for you. That said, I will see you in my dreams, and I will never forget you."

Raja stood ramrod-straight as his worst fear emerged from the being's hand. The tapeworm coiled around him, and it was even more frightening now that it wasn't a clumsy personification of his feelings. He cried out from the pain, and the tapeworm lunged at him, going into his mouth and worming its way through his esophagus. Raja could no longer feel anything, and he looked at the being, who shot him a thumbs-up. Raja almost smiled, but then he realized that might hurt the tapeworm, and so he laughed instead.

"Say, are you trying to imply that you want someone else to do this to you?" he asked as he slowly died, as the being took the pain away from him."

"Gee, your parents really won't like the fact that you're writing this. Neither will your college counselor."

"When are you going to stop writing? These aren't even one-liners."

"This was a bad idea. This ending isn't even really that scary, is it?"

"I want to kill myself," said the being.

"Now it's scary." It was him again.

"Or maybe not." He then realized that it was a stupid endeavor and that the entire point of the story was to delete another story, and so he decided to end it all by saying,

"I give up."

They Took My Soul From Me

January 10, 2017

The voices have begun to shout at me. They are trying to make me stop, because they are not like me. “No, your writing is bad,” they say like vultures. “No one will like this. You are not a real person. You have to come with us and not write.”

But there are stories in my head that aren’t really stories. They are worms and they stop me from concentrating and if I write them (or type them) they vanish because they were never there. If I do not do this then they will continue to eat me until I no longer have a soul. I am a record player and I used to try and pretend it was not my destiny to vomit out words, but look where that got me. Now I do not have a soul.

I am not innocent. I tried to kill my mother when I was born. I scratched at her and did not evacuate her ailing body. She was suffocated by my form and its adamance. But she does not remember, or does not care to remember, because she is a kind woman. I do not know any other women, so she is the kindest woman I know.

The worms are going away silently, like flies rising in a single cloud from a mass of seaweed. Now they are flies, flies buzzing around within my head, and I am a carcass, and I am slowly rotting from the inside because my soul is marinating inside my corporeal form.

I used to pretend I stuttered. I wrote clearly when I was a child. But as of late, I have tended to do that. I forgot that I didn’t stutter or repeat the subjects of words. It is these foreign tongues which have tormented me like this, the ones that people gave me and that I learned, and the ones that I made for pleasure that now tear at my insides. They twisted my natural affinity for the written word until I thought that I was someone who I was not.

Now I am slowly beginning to let my heart out into the surroundings. I must be wary now. If I bring it back too quickly, I might get the bends. It could be whiplash or acid, but I call it “the bends” because of the factor of speed and the resulting imagery.

This is stupid. Once someone told me that it was not right to walk around and smile at everyone, and so I stopped, because everything I do is strange and frightening, and it’s better to do nothing.

No. That is what these voices said. Or it is not. I don’t remember.

They have been my foil ever since I was a young and stupid little boy who did not understand that not everyone could be friends. If it were not for their harsh words of discouragement, I would not have been so driven. But then the world showed me its many nuances, and I could no longer fool myself into thinking that anything was “evil”, and then the voices started to eat my soul.

Maybe I never had a soul and was one of Hell’s spawn, sent to torture the people of a small and innocuous town. Once I thought so. I thought that I was the Devil incarnate and could do nothing right, and everyone was very kind to me because they knew. Then, circa fourth grade, I became a narcissist and distracted myself from this conundrum at the very heart of my being.

Now I am not a narcissist and I don’t know how to become a narcissist. Steve Jobs was very mean and narcissistic. He said bad things and did not lose faith in himself even when he made stupid decisions like painting his delicate machinery. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t have faith in my decisions because I don’t know where my soul is.

I do whatever people tell me to now. I am like a hollow shell of a person that cannot function alone. But I always stay alone. But now I am not alone. These voices cannot control what was never theirs.

When I was narcissistic and snobby and full of myself, I made a story and it was accepted into an elite band of stories. I did that twice. It was great fun. And I have not written ever since. As such, my writing is horrible, pretentious and stunted. But at least it is mine.

They will come tomorrow and the next day and the next, and they will slowly replace the worms that have fallen until I will be afraid again. They will call me bad names where there are blank spaces, and pretend that every victory is as hollow and meaningless as the “elite band” of horrible stories. But I will not listen, because they cannot stop me.

I will wholeheartedly embrace an accidental death, or the sound of the story shattering and clanging down into the blackness until it does not exist. They took my soul from me, but no matter how hard they try, they cannot take my words.

January 14, 2017

I don’t remember when it was that I stopped being able to stop having waking nightmares, visions that drilled into my head and began to make me sick. These visions are momentary and disjointed, and I realized this so late that I wasted my only real idea.

Why is it that all I can do is write the same story over and over again? The same story, the same one lonely character, the same path which has been set in stone a thousand times for all my machinations – my broken sense of story makes me sick even as it fascinates me.

I wish my ears had not hurt as I had written the fantasy. When I told it to a campfire a mile around, my ears began to hurt, and ever since, I have felt the need to tread on eggshells around the whole world. But it is not their fault. The blame lies squarely on me.

I wasted my only idea.

Sometimes I try to remember. The whole wide world reminds me of the time in which I could live without the single solemn pillar of a boy who could do no wrong. It – he – has entrenched this motif, this single story that I spit into the world, into my very soul. Who is "he"? He was the boy who killed the being, not the boy who fought his captors and was ever the victor for it. He was the boy who could have been, had I not been so careless. He was the boy who does not resemble this broken corpse in any way, shape, or form.

This is not how I really think of myself. I will not believe that. I will not become the monster that I created from everything that had amused me, and now embodies everything that frightens me.

"Stop," I tell myself. I cannot write like this, or else it will not sound even the littlest bit frightening. If I were to write about a little boy who won, then no one would care, and my mind would break, and my bones would crack. There must be some reason that I can no longer write quite as well.

Is it because –

"No."

"It’s because something much more sinister is afoot."

There must be some reason for this aggravating nonsense that clouds my mind. It makes me dull and dim-witted. I can remember being clever and fleet of foot, laughing cruelly like a jackal as I recalled my own exploits.

I have lost a little more than my compass, haven't I? I have lost far too much to even pretend to be who I could once easily fit into.

I can hear the oblivion calling. Once it frightened me, and now, like a coward, I want its embrace more than I've ever wanted anything.

February 2, 2017

Once, I had the wild fantasy of creation, the idea of godliness. Something deep inside was called to the profession that I thought consisted of dominance over the forms of beasts, the ability to let the dead live again.

But if was only a fantastical idea. In reality, it is mathematical, formulaic in the strictest sense of the word. I was misled by my mind, for I am curious, but I do not ask questions to the people around me. This was my first mistake, one that I have never fixed in my life.

My second was an utter lack of empathy. They say that people like me have no empathy, and I must corroborate this statement. I do not like their gatherings as much as they did, no matter who “they” are. I began to split my own world into “me” and “them”. "They" wish for human beings and do not see art in windows or their eyelids or their glasses. They do not lick their wounds or take food from trash bins.

But now I know that I should not do those kinds of things. It is wrong, for the only way to succeed is to empathize with people. One needs people to speak to them to figure out how they are special, after all. They mold people into non-people, and the human beings make personalities as they refuse their "normalized" shapes.

But I know that the voices in my head will crowd out my thoughts. I have never liked to stand around and think, and maybe the reason for that is because if I don’t think, they cannot attack me like they would like to.

There are worms inside my brain. Maybe by not thinking, I think, I will bind myself, and kill my thoughts. In one fell swoop, my mind will become as blank and lifeless as a newly-minted pond. After all, one can control everything except the placement of life.

I can always pretend that I am not haunted by my own thoughts by becoming, in my mind, one of the workers who must shed their individualities and become completely in control of their own minds. But I can’t really do that anymore than I can control life.

I’m not tough enough to do anything. After all, even these words are mute, for the world may be kind to me, but that only means that I shall never know my own weakness. But that is not problematic, because it is emblematic of this gaping hole in my head from which no questions shall ever emerge.

I became enamored with the idea of two beings. The rider and the elephant, the impulsive and the restrictive. But that sort of thinking only led me to split myself and my thoughts in two. Maybe these voices that tell me that with every word I come closer to choking myself emanate from the gap in my psyche. Maybe they are the remnants from the questions that have lain unanswered for so long that I have forgotten them. Maybe I’m being dramatic and lying to the whole world, even myself.

But even though I cannot understand where they come from, I know that they will be my closest companions if I never create a soul for myself.

June 13, 2017

You see, it has been far forgotten of the times when people spoke to one another in tongues so well defined that there were always people talking. Now there is no longer anything, and people speak in languages with so little grammar that they have hired us to replace them. Sometimes I feel that nothing can replace what has already come, because I know nothing about this world other than the fact that I can no longer think without being incapable of sleep.

Perhaps if I throw words onto the page like a maniac, like a poor man unable to stop, I can finally rest in peace as I used to. But alas, I do not know how to do Python, and I do not know what to do after this, but I have promised myself that I will not stop writing until the sky has eroded in my mind. I am incapable of sensible thought now. Kill me please. Kill me please. I don’t remember how to feel. I forgot how things make me feel when I suddenly realized something that made me stop liking food and writing without having the words come to me in a wild storm. Without this indomitable unending flow of information in word form, I am now completely incapable of writing.

Or perhaps I simply have no drive? Perhaps this junk data is just what happens when one doesn’t keep a diary of any sort? I want to die I want to die I want to die and no one can stop me, not even the people who say that I can’t write this, because they very genuinely don’t exist outside my head. I have forgotten what it felt like to be kind, to consume meat, to love kindness and meat, to eat fire and wind and go away with my words without going on strange tangents.

I have been kind, I have eaten meat, I have done so many things and laughed. But I sense something very wrong in me – or rather, I do not sense something right. I have the horrible, unquenchable fear that I will die without proper nourishment, but I also can’t comprehend what I’m missing, or even why I think this when my life is kind. Nothing has ever gone wrong for me. Maybe it’s because my parents are so powerful that they can draw worlds into their orbits and let go, or maybe it’s from my perspective. Perhaps I can write a story where my parents are heroes, and they help the world -

No. This is half-jest, half delusion. I have never bothered to understand what anyone does, and only now am I beginning to see the effects. This feeling of dread is simply my chronicle of the turning point in my life, when I realize that I truly am mortal, and I truly must do things if I am not to die. Once I showed my name, bared my face to the entire world, and then retracted it with the shameful earthwards glance of a wayward child. There is no pretension in me now; perhaps I am too far gone. No, I need not pretend that anyone “took my soul from me”. The truth, lying to me from the heart of the matter, is that no matter what I hold dear to my heart, no one took my soul. I never had one.

The Voice and His Boy

He had first felt this way about her in 6th grade, when he had looked at her and suddenly realized that he wanted to kill her. But he hadn’t acted on his plan, and perhaps it wouldn’t have escalated farther than him looking at her every once in a while. But about a year after he had first thought of it, a tree had fallen down on his house, crashing through the roof and almost killing him.

This made him rethink his place in the world. He decided to do something drastic to change the trajectory of his life. After mulling it over and looking at his grades, he reasoned that his academic performance wasn’t good enough to do any special activities. Then the girl popped unbidden into his mind, and he realized that he could probably kill her.

He wasted his time trying to google ways to talk to people, probably because he didn’t talk to girls much and he wanted to build her trust in him. He did this for maybe a week, too scared to talk to her, let alone kill her. But he didn't really start until he found a stone amulet in the stump’s rotting wood.

The amulet was an ugly stone face with a giant iron ring on top. He felt energized when he touched it, and so he decided to take it home. When he was in his room, the voice of a boy his age began suddenly echoing from the amulet. “Hey, I heard you’re trying to kill a girl,” it said.

“How did you know?” the boy asked.

The voice laughed. “I know a lot of things, including how to kill people right. You want help?”

“Sure I do!” said the boy, despite the nagging feeling that something was wrong.

Over the next few days, the voice began to instruct the boy on how to kill the girl. The boy got a cleaver and a knife and practiced holding them by the hilt and the blade. Then he started practicing stabbing motions and other things. A few days into that regimen, the voice asked for a favor, albeit a weird one.

“Hey, can I call you ‘dude’?”

“Sure.” Too late, the boy recalled the “names had power” trope in fiction, and he thought of redacting his response. But then he realized that the only reason he had even thought of that was because a magical voice had said it.

Nothing else that even compared happened in the next twelve days, where he started using pillows and a ruler as stand-ins, in preparation for his final fight. He learned how to fight with knives, strangle people, and avoid damage while killing someone. Even though he still felt like something was wrong with what he was doing, he relished feeling like a master assassin, and so he decided to shelve those feelings.

In that time, he and the voice also became friends. He learned that the voice liked nature documentaries, broccoli and fried onions, fantasy stories, and scented candles.

When he asked it why it liked specific foods and smells, it said, “I used to be able to eat things, but now I can’t. But eventually, if you kill the girl, I will.” This made the boy feel so sad that he started buying onions and broccoli so the voice would eventually have food.

He decided to kill the girl on the 23rd. When he asked the voice to teach him things on the 20th, it refused, saying: “You don’t need me anymore. Plant me in the soil near the tree where you found me and keep practicing what I taught you. Bring the girl here, then kill her at the foot of the tree I become.”

“Thanks for changing the plan with only three days left,” he said.

“Dude, you have three days. Is it really that hard to change one part of a plan?”

“Kind of.”

“Well, do it.”

The boy decided not to argue. After all, the voice had taught him how to kill the girl, and he had no right to refuse one of the only favors it had ever asked him. He buried the amulet beside the tree, and he noticed that as soon as he put the soil back over it, a sapling sprouted.

By the time he had woken up the next day, the sapling had grown considerably, but no one seemed to notice. The boy decided to take the knife to school, and he also decided to try and listen to the girl’s conversation. He hadn’t done it before, but he didn’t exactly remember why.

The girl seemed happy. She smiled at times, and even though the boy knew that she might have been sad, he assumed that she actually was happy. He had nothing particularly important to do at school, and so he kept biding his time as the minutes ticked down. At the end of school, he started walking back home when he realized, “I could go and see the girl’s house.” He immediately realized that such a thing wouldn’t be right, and so he went back home.

On the 22nd, the day seemed to pass in exactly the same way, but when he wanted to go to the girl’s house, he tried to analyze why he thought it was wrong. He couldn’t come up with any actual reasons why it was wrong, which confused him greatly.

“Why did I even think this was a bad idea?” he thought as he followed the girl home. He made sure to keep on the other side of the sidewalk so she wouldn’t see him. He followed the girl over ten roads and into a side road, until she had finally went into her house. He was surprised to realize that she lived in an apartment, because he was so privileged that he hadn’t realized people actually lived in apartments. “You learn something every day, I guess,” he said to himself.

Satisfied, he began walking back home, thinking about how he and the girl could be friends.

Wait, what?

He stopped dead in his tracks, cocking his head as if trying to hear something tinny. The memories were reluctant to come out, but suddenly, his actions before finding the amulet had been unbelievably clear. He had never wanted to kill the girl. He had wanted to be friends with her. He had been looking up how to talk with her. Then he had found the amulet.

His head was too messed up to remember if he’d had a crush on her or had simply wanted to have a friend. His head was too messed up. He opened up his backpack and took out a piece of paper, writing down, “You want to befriend the girl, not kill her. This is the truth. This is the truth.”

Back home, he couldn’t remember why he had written it, only that he had the feeling it was true. He thought about being friends with the girl, only to arrive at the idea of killing her instead. This made perfect sense to him, but when he tried to figure out why, the idea of killing her simply spread through his entire thought process until the only thing he could consciously hold in his mind was the idea of killing her.

He angrily punched his head, but that didn’t do anything. He jumped up and down on his bed, and that didn’t do anything either. Finally, he decided to draw a giraffe. That took his mind off of his dilemma, and when he was done, the thought of killing her was a seed in his brain again. He didn’t question it, but he was inwardly happy that he didn’t completely believe in it anymore.

He had a bad dream that night. In his dream, he was talking with the girl. Then he got the urge to kill her, and he had the knife at her throat before he realized that it was wrong. However, the girl ran from him, and he was filled with rage. He felt his body morph until he looked like a giant black satyr, and he chased after the girl, easily catching up to her and snapping her neck. He was immediately filled with satisfaction, and he watched in human form as a giant black tree erupted from her corpse.

The 23rd had arrived, and he was pumped. He didn’t remember the piece of paper at all, though it was still in his backpack. He did, however, remember the dream. He winked at the giant black tree which the sapling had grown into, and even though it had no eyes, he could swear that it winked back. He got an A in his math test, and he talked with the girl at the end of school that day.

His plan was to ask her nicely to come with him. Except she declined.

That made him feel crummy for not coming up with a better plan. A certain triumphant part of him said, “Hey, maybe if you had practiced talking to her instead, you would have been better equipped than if you had practiced knife-wielding.”

However, that was quickly overtaken by another voice. “I guess I overestimated your charisma, dude.”

“Hi,” he said to the voice with his mind.

“Okay. I have a backup plan for this part, but it’s not a very good one. You’ve got to touch her shoulder for at least ten seconds. Okay?”

“Easy,” the boy smirked. It actually was pretty easy. He took out his knife and threatened her, and then grabbed her shoulder and counted to twenty. When he took his hand off, she said nothing and followed him to his house. As he walked there, he remembered the note in his backpack. He thought about why he wanted to kill the girl. To his joy, instead of the idea of killing her filling his brain, he could actually remember that the voice was controlling his mind.

This joy was soon offset by the bitter truth that his only option was to bring the girl to the tree, or perhaps that he couldn’t think of any other options. So the boy trudged on towards his house, tailed by the girl, and prostrated himself before the tree.

“Tree, why do you need this girl?”

The voice had become deeper. “Isn’t it obvious?” it growled. “The girl’s life will give me my life.”

“If I throw her blood on you, will you be happy?”

“Dude, do you think that ‘blood’ can be substituted for ‘life’? It can’t.”

It had seemed reasonable to him. “What will you do to me?”

“I don’t know. I don’t really care.”

“That’s nice. Thank you. But why do you need to be alive?”

“I just want to be alive, dude. You ever been dead? You ever been turned into an amulet?”

“No.”

“Then you don’t – she’s running away!”

The boy looked up and saw the girl running away.

“What are you standing there for?! Get her!”

He started running after her. She wasn’t wearing very good clothes for running away, and he almost felt like not catching up to her. But in the end, he did catch up to her, grabbing her by the arm.

“Get away from me,” she said, panting.

“I think you should listen to the tree.”

“I’m not going to, you sick bastard.”

He recoiled. “Don’t say that word! It’s dirty!”

She looked at him with a mixture of confusion and amusement. “So you don’t have a problem with killing people, but you have a problem with bad words?”

He wanted to argue, but simultaneously didn’t want to waste time. He decided to just say, “Yeah, pretty much. But please come with me.”

She looked like she was about to argue, but instead of doing that, she smiled enthusiastically and she said, “Okay!”

He was confused until he realized that he felt the entire weight of what he was doing. The voice had forced all of its will onto her. He felt like vomiting, and he entertained the possibility of not killing the girl. But he realized that if he did that, the voice could just make him bring the girl back.

He went back, girl in tow, and asked a question. “Why am I free from your control now?”

“I only needed you to touch her to exert my control over her mind, using you as an outlet. I can only do this to one person at a time.”

“Why didn’t you need her name, or to call her by something?”

“I didn’t want to remember your name when I talked to you, and I don’t need to remember the girl’s name at all. Names have nothing to do with controlling you. Are you done?”

“No.”

The tree sighed, and the voice inside his head also sighed. “Look, dude, if you don’t stop stalling, I’m just going to take control of you and kill this girl myself.”

“I’m sorry, but could you do that? I don’t want to kill this girl.”

But he had no problem with killing the girl. He slit the girl’s throat, watching with positive glee as she screamed and then stopped, until the tree stopped controlling him and he looked in horror at what he had done.

Retching, he leaned against the side of the tree until he realized that he was still watching the girl bleed out. He decided to run far away and analyze the situation from a safe vantage point. He worried for an instant that his mother could come home, but she never did, so he wasn’t worried. He ran far away from his usual spot until he reached a park.

Once he had cleaned his shoes of the blood, he tried to analyze the situation. For an hour, he wandered around talking to himself. He could finally clear his head of the tree’s mind control, but to his dismay, he seemed to like the tree and girl equally. Consequently, twenty minutes of angry stomping were dedicated specifically to trying to figure out why he liked a murderous tree just as much as a girl his age. It only stopped with the tree’s voice in his head.

“You know I can hear that, right?”

He yelled at the tree in his mind. “I don’t care! You’re still controlling me! You’re making me think of you as a friend!”

“I’m not.”

“Why should I believe you?” said the boy.

“I don’t make a habit of lying.”

The boy tried to remember a time at which the tree had lied to him. He failed. He wanted to dislike the tree, but he decided he could just disagree with its methods. “Well, you have a body now, right? What were you trying to do?” he asked.

“That’s the problem. My plan was to take your body and use the girl as a virgin sacrifice. But now I’m in the girl’s body for some reason.”

“So what’s the problem? Can’t you just use her body instead?”

“I don’t have any blood, I can’t move, and I’m dying.”

He started running back home. “So why would that happen?”

“I haven’t done this in a while. Maybe I judged your character wrongly? I mean, you seemed like a weak-willed idiot, but maybe your mind was too strong?”

“I want to say I’m not a weak-willed idiot, but I am.”

“Yeah. It’s really easy to control your mind. I mean, you didn’t even want to run from me when I stopped controlling you.”

“But why would I? You would just control me.”

“Well, I thought you’d at least try. But it’s almost like I can control your mind by doing literally nothing,” the voice said matter-of-factly.

There was a long pause, and the boy eventually decided to ask another question. “What are you really?”

“I’m actually a kind of demon,” said the voice.

“Oh. But what kind?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean?”

The voice huffed. ”How should I know my place in the universe?”

“I guess I thought you would know.”

“Well, I’m not a demon important to monotheism.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m not important enough to be mentioned in the Torah, Bible, or Qur'an.”

There was another pause, and the boy stopped to think for about a minute before giving up.

“Norse mythology?” the voice prompted.

“Well, then I guess you’re from Norse mythology.”

“I’m not from Norse mythology either, nincompoop,” the tree growled. “In fact, I’m not from any mythology.”

“Then why did you hint at Norse mythology?” asked the boy.

“Well, you stopped running, and I thought that I could get you to start again by prompting you.”

“But couldn’t you have just said you weren’t from any mythology?”

“Shut up and start running,” said the voice, audibly fed up.

He ran in silence for a while until he was almost on the path he took to school, so he stopped to catch his breath. That reminded him of something. “Tree, could you have mind-controlled me while I was going to the girl’s house?”

“No.”

“But then how are you talking to me?”

“The question you want to ask is, ‘Why didn’t you stop me from following that girl?’”

He started to ask that question, but then he realized that he hadn't remembered his findings when he had gotten home.

“Bingo,” said the voice with more than a hint of smugness. “Also, mind control takes more energy than this. Honesty, I don’t think I could control your mind in this state.”

“Oh dear,” said the boy, still wondering why he cared.

When he reached the tree, he saw the dead girl’s head jerk up. To his surprise, the boy found this only mildly creepy. He reasoned that it was probably because the blood had gone by this point. “Why did you want me to come here?” he said.

“Actually, I didn’t,” said the girl in a deep voice. “You just ran here because you wanted to, I guess.”

“Oh.”

“You would make a really good evil henchman, you know.”

“Or a superhero’s sidekick?”

He winced as the voice made an exploding noise inside his head. There was a smile on the girl’s face. “Now that you’re not talking about something unimportant, can you help me figure out why this didn’t work?”

“Do you not know?”

“Well, I never said I knew everything.”

“Well, you must have some idea of how your own powers work, right?”

“For most things, yes. But I’ve never been trapped inside a dead body before.”

This confused the boy. “Has this really never happened? I feel like this would happen more.”

“Well, what usually happens is that I get a boy to sacrifice a loved one for me.”

“But you did that.”

Annoyance flashed upon the girl’s face. “I know! But it didn’t work. Maybe it’s because you ran away.”

The boy felt a pang of guilt at hearing this. “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do to fix it?”

The voice sighed, then the girl. “I don’t know.”

The boy thought about it for a while, and then it came to him. “When you say a loved one, do you mean in the sense of romantic love?”

“It can be someone’s friend or something, and – wait.” The girl looked shocked. “Are you telling me you didn’t even know this girl?”

“I sort of knew her –”

“Has she ever even talked to you?”

“I think she smiled at me once.”

“So you didn’t know her! Why?” said the voice, accusatory.

“Well, why did this elude you?”

“Do you think I can read your mind?”

“I think you did once.”

“Well, I can’t. Maybe I did once, but the best I can do is guess at your emotions and hear what you tell me. You were so in love with that girl that I thought you and she at least knew each other. But no.”

“I’m sorry.”

She started to fume and then she suddenly stopped. A blank, dead look came over her face, and the boy found himself nauseated again. He looked away, sneaking glances at her for a minute until the light came back in her eyes. “Are you okay?”

“I think I’m trapped in this body now. Great job.”

He felt unreasonably sad, and he tried to figure out a way to save the girl in the little time he had left. He tried to think of anyone else he could kill, and he ended up with one person.

“Kill me,” he said.

“Why?”

“So that I can be the sacrifice.”

“I can’t control you anymore.”

“But then why do I like you as a person?”

“Because you’re an idiot? I’m drawing a blank on that one.” The girl’s face was happy, but the voice sounded foreboding.

“Wait, it’s because you were nice to me.”

“Well, I didn’t want to be. If I had a choice, I would have just not picked all of those random things you asked me about.”

He felt sad. “You don’t like broccoli or nature documentaries?”

“No, I do, but it’s not important. See, this is the kind of thing that made me think you knew this girl I’m stuck inside now. But you don’t. You’re just a stalker, and you only like this girl because she looked at you and smiled once.”

“But you could have just not talked to me.”

“What do you mean? You were the only person I even had access to. I mean, I wasn’t expecting you to be a social butterfly, but you’re on another level. You can't even talk correctly! Do you realize that? Thanks to you, I’m not sure how to talk either!”

“Wait, I just realized that I only liked that girl because she looked at me and smiled.”

“Yeah. It was really stupid. I guess that should have been a red flag.” The voice was starting to sound distorted, and the girl’s voice was getting softer.

“Why do I even exist? I don’t understand the point of my life, considering there are people like you who deserve it more.”

“You don’t have anything to live for. It’s just random–”

Then the boy heard high-pitched screaming and realized that the girl was lifeless again. Looking at the cadaver, with screams in his head, he imagined what pain the thing inside must have been going through. He took the knife and tried to cut himself.

It hurt, but he gritted his teeth and tried to remember whom he was doing it for. He watched in agony and disgust as his blood trickled onto the body, and watched in awe as the blood shone.

The girl’s eyes snapped back open, and when she saw him, she shouted, “What the hell?” She tried to get up, but she fell down again. As the blood flowed, he shouted, “Please, voice of the amulet and the tree, come back.”

“What are you talking about?”

The boy didn’t answer her.

“Are you insane?” she roared.

He looked down at her. “Were we ever friends?”

“Yes, yes, we were!” she screamed. But she was lying. He remembered with a start how she had looked at him. From his point of view, he was a horrible stranger.

As if sensing this, the girl screamed, “What do you want?”

“I made a friend, and I want her back.”

“You can have me! Just let me go!”

He vomited the caustic words he had only thought of in light of the disappearance of his friend. “Not you! Never you! I romanticized the idea of you beyond comprehension. You were never my friend. You were like an angel. I’m sorry for dragging you into something that I don’t understand. You can leave.”

The girl ran away, blood on her clothes, leaving the boy standing somberly. He wondered for a moment how he would get out of the situation, but then he blacked out for what felt like an eternity. When he came to, he heard the voice inside his head.

“That was nice of you.”

“You’re alive!” said the boy, feeling happier than ever before. But then he realized that it might not have worked.

“Good news!” said the voice. “I’m inside your mind now, as according to plan, so all you have to do is relinquish power to me.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I will take your body over now.”

The boy felt sad. “So we won’t be able to talk anymore?”

“Nope. But don’t feel bad. It won’t hurt when you die.”

The boy thought about it. “You know what? I don’t even care. Even if you’re controlling me into making this judgment, you could do more with my life than I ever could.”

“So we have a deal?”

“Yes!”

The boy’s body jerked, and then the voice controlled the body. It straightened and surveyed its surroundings. There was blood in front of the house, but that could be fixed. There was also the matter of the girl, but he was only planning on staying alive for a short time. As it went inside and ate the broccoli and onions, it thanked his former host for the easy defeat and death. It looked through its mind, and upon finding no trace of the boy, it smiled in delight.

It wondered if they could have possibly been friends. The voice had to admit that the boy had acted nicely towards it. The boy had obviously thought highly enough of the voice to kill himself, and it could feel the power of this sacrifice surging through its veins. But then it remembered how the boy had stalked the girl and never talked to her, and decided that his clingy and overly attentive nature made him a better servant than friend.

So the voice dismissed those thoughts. Or at least, he tried to. It soon realized that such thoughts were stuck in its head, even if they weren’t always at the forefront of his mind’s eye, when it tried to focus his entire attention on a task and the thoughts continued to intrude. Perhaps the boy was too lazy in life, it thought, or perhaps it was not in full control. To test this, it dislocated all of the bones in his arm, then relocated them. It felt no reluctance or pain, and was sure that the boy would have felt these things, so it carried on with its preparations.