This story is by Alita Baggett and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
I would see it early in the morning, coming from the coffee shop, headed to work to open my start up.
Able to observe from a distance, unnoticed at first, one morning it saw me and stopped in its tracks. Attempting to show that my poker face was legit, I stood there anticipating it to charge me. But that particular morning it didn’t. Afterwards, every time I saw this thing, it seemed as if it were just the two of us on the street. On the rare occasions that there were other people around, they’d walk and ride by as if they saw nothing at all.
Orange and red with a coat of matte yellow slicked over it, living lava-like texture, long neck and medium length tail, head shaped like a human from one direction, but if looked at from another angle, a stretched oval. Spiked hair as if trying to revive 80’s rock. Just as it was comfortable in its skin, it had also become comfortable in someone’s house. That person, becoming accepting or sapped of strength from fighting against whatever the creature was offering, had allowed it to stay with them with no known date of eviction.
I followed it a few weeks ago, interested in seeing where this thing came from. I’d heard about creatures like this. Some call them myths, others claim to be able to see them when they decide to make themselves known. Arming myself with courage, I woke early on a Friday morning to see if I could obtain some type of clue as to where this thing was coming from and why it decided that early morning would be the best time to take a walk. An old, empty, broken down house was what met me on Otis Place that day. Planks on the steps missing; dark. Once with vibrant color, this house had deteriorated little by little; this brokenness took time. One board, one window at a time. You’d think someone wouldn’t live there, but a woman holding a child by the wrist walked out of it. Stopping at the threshold of the entryway without a door, she turned and called out to another child a few times, waited, sighed in defeat, and began to walk out towards the street.
That same week, looking for it in one direction, it came from another. It circled me on the corner that I’d just crossed over while sipping my almond mocha. It was almost as if it wouldn’t or couldn’t touch me; as if there was a layer of protection keeping me from its poisonous skin that gave reactions only one if its regulars could testify to. That day, while at the office, instead of focusing on the proposal I was supposed to be editing to keep my business afloat, I was staring out of my window, anticipating another appearance from the strange two legged, three armed creature.
On a Thursday, it did what I assumed it would never do; it entered me. Walked towards me, through me, and decided that I would be its new place of residence. Once the morphing of bodies was complete, I began to see with a different perspective. In some ways I felt more confident in the decisions that I was making. On the flip side, those little projects that I knew would lead into larger projects, I’d second guess myself to the point of not even beginning what I had planned on starting. My level of defensiveness was taken up a notch; things that I used to easily let go of, now I wouldn’t or rather couldn’t. What used to take one hour, now took two hours because of my whining and sulking. By this point, my business was going bankrupt; my already small pool of employees was shrinking, and depending on the day, I did not care.
My alarm would let me know how I felt about the day ahead: some mornings I would awake and wish that I could be drowned eternally in the darkness that I saw when I closed my eyes, other mornings I would be thankful that I at least had my favorite coffee drink to look forward to.
Months later, I felt it come out of me as I slept; awakening me due to the separation of body and mind. Opening my eyes, I watched it roll over with its back facing me and exit my bed quietly, like a lover not wanting to wake the one that it just put to rest. It walked off and disappeared into the night.
This thief stole my sense of reality. I had lost passion for what I was doing; forgotten the what, who, and why I got up for work each morning. Pride and stubbornness pulled me away from those that I loved and lost, one of those people being myself. My house deteriorating; gave cause to examine whether or not the paint that I used to coat my walls was toxic or not. If what I was using for my steps would be able to hold me and whomever else would come into my life to stand with me in coming days.
Every now and again, we’d still encounter each other on the street in the early parts of a new day. The first time that happened, it paused mid-stride, and rather quickly made haste past me as if the sun rays had rested on me in such a way that I looked like someone it wanted to get to know. Now, we pass by one another as if we’ve never met. I’m not completely sure as to what caused it to reconsider its new living arrangements. I did come to the realization of this: I let it enter me, but it couldn’t, or rather, it chose not to stay. Either way, I’m not yet sure how I feel about it; my alarm still determines how my day will go.