This story is by Ashleigh House and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
After an arduous night of heavy drinking and the consuming of a cocktail of questionable drugs, I was unsurprised to wake up not too long ago in an unfamiliar room in an unfamiliar location. I was surprised however, to see a seven foot black monster with horns, red eyes and a cigarette hanging from its mouth, lounging casually in the corner of the room.
I had, in the weeks prior to this moment, begun seeing dark shadows out of the corner of my eyes. Given my downward spiral into the wonderfully disastrous world of depression, alcohol and narcotics, I assumed I was seeing things. I did not trust my eyes and frankly, had more pressing matters to deal with.
I was a chronically unemployed former art student who ,to top it off, had been recently disowned by their conservative family after word got to them that I was, in fact, gay as hell. I was invited to a party not long after this, where I found the stunning solution to all my issues; self-medication in the form of copious amounts of alcohol and illegal substances. It was the most glorious feeling to feel nothing at all.
As my descent into the deplorable continued, these ominous shadows appeared more frequently, at first just zipping across my line of vision. Then they combined into one entity, taking the form of a human like creature with black, leathery skin and long, deer like horns curling away from its head. Its face was familiar but I could never place it. The creature would appear so quick I could never be sure I’d actually even seen it. It wasn’t until this moment that it had stayed still long enough for me to see it in its full form and naturally, question my sanity.
I blink hard, rubbing my eyes only to find it hasn’t disappeared. But it’s surely not real. I’m not high or drunk anymore, just nursing a profound headache. So it isn’t a substance induced trip. Perhaps it’s a hallucination; the drugs and alcohol have finally driven me loopy. Maybe they’ve rotted my brain to the point that a very real looking monster, that’s now looking at me whilst it puts out its cigarette on a dirty old ashtray, is the new norm; I’ve lost it. This is insanity.
I sit up on what I now realize is a stained, thin bed. Quickly scanning the room and trying to keep an eye on the monster that still looks at me, I recognize a dingy motel room of sorts. The bed sits in the middle of the room, a table and chairs near the window on the left, littered with bottles of booze and needles. It smells like mold and damp and cheap liquor. An empty vodka bottle lies next to me on the bed.
I turn my full attention back to this human-deer hybrid creature, at a complete loss as to what to do. I’m in such shock and bemusement at the sight of it that I find myself incapable of doing anything but stare, just as it stares at me. It doesn’t appear dangerous; it hasn’t moved much or talked. I’m hesitant to move for fear of spooking it. But I feel I should acknowledge it. Check if it’s real.
“Hello.” It replies, its voice higher than I thought it would be, almost female in tone. I recoil immediately, shuffling back up the bed, feeling as bewildered as ever. It hasn’t moved; its black arms cross over its leathery chest, red eyes pierce into mine.
“Do you happen to know if you are real or not?” I ask. A shot in the dark. I’m really not sure what else to do at this point. The creature simply raises a dark, bushy eyebrow in question.
“Are you really here or are you in my head? A hallucination?” The thing breaks eye contact with me to look upwards in thought, its lips pursing. In the few seconds it thinks, I am able to look at its face properly.
Upon closer inspection it looks eerily similar to me; hollow check bones and a high brow, slim nose, dead eyes. This observation has only confused me more. The monster looks ill, like a junkie deep in the throes of addiction. It’s repulsive. Is this meant to be me? The revelation settles uncomfortably in my chest. I do not like it.
“I am you.” It says looking back to me.
“Well you’re not.” I say indignantly. It resembles me but it isn’t me. I am me. Here on this bed. I don’t know what’s happening but I need to leave. The monster has other ideas, leaning forward in its seat before speaking again.
“I am. I’m… all your bad parts. You’ve been seeing me more often as things get worse for you. All the parts you do not like about yourself, all your issues and your pain is me.” Exhaling harshly, I try to stifle the anger rising in my chest, burning my neck and ears.
“I don’t need some physical manifestation of my issues to know I have them. I’m quite aware.” I tell it snappily.
“Clearly not aware enough. You know where you should be. But you’re here instead.” The angry red that blots my skin darkens, however this time it’s in embarrassment and shame. I know exactly where I’m meant to be.
“I don’t want to go to rehab.”
The monster snorts humorously and gestures around the room.
“But you need it Billie. You can see the problems you have and you know you need to fix them before they get any worse.” It’s telling me things I already know, that I’m having a hard time digesting. I turn my face away in frustration.
“Look at me. I’m your future if you don’t stop and you knooow it.” Its voice is exaggeratedly high, taunting me.
I shake my head. I’m surrounded by empty bottles and used needles, in a motel room god knows where. I know I need help, I’m not stupid. I know what I’m doing, what path I’ve set myself on. But continuing this addiction to drugs and alcohol is easier than the alternative; than dealing with my issues. Not that this incarnation of me gets that. Turning my head back to where it sits, I jump.
The monster has gotten skinnier. Its cheeks bony, head lolled to the side. Black goo drips from the side of its mouth, maggots crawl from cracks in its leathery skin. It’s a disgusting sight yet I can’t look away. Abruptly it launches forward, falling at my knees, clawing at my legs. I feel horrified. Seeing my own face so ruined and dead is revolting. Its desperation is disturbing. I’m embarrassed to see myself this way. Is this how others see me?
“This is us… us if you don’t go. We die Billie. We die like a diseased animal; putrid, revolting, alone.” I get the overwhelming urge to get it off me, to have a shower and wash its touch from my skin, to rid myself of this creature. It slowly collapses in a wheezing heap at my feet, half dead. My chest heaves as I look at it.
But it’s not an it. It’s me. It’s my future. This monster is me, me if I don’t go to rehab. The realization hits me and I almost gag. Nothing has made my skin crawl like this creature, nothing has made me feel more repulsed or disgusted and there’s nothing I want more than to not become it. I do not want to go to rehab. I do not want to face my demons but I do not want to become my monster more. I need to get better. I nod to myself a few times, shakily, trying to convince myself.
“Yeah… yeah. Rehab. Not becoming this. Anything but this.” I get up off of the bed on wobbly feet, whilst I still have this resolve. I take my eyes off the monster whilst I search for my purse, finding it stuffed by the corner of the bed. I’m dreading walking out of that door but a part of me feels relieved, better, like there’s a bit of hope for me somewhere.
And all because of some strange, hallucinatory, inner demon manifestation of myself. I scoff at the notion, bending to retrieve my purse.
When I turn back around to head out the door, the monster is nowhere in sight. No trace of it. I check all areas of the room and peak my head outside the door but it’s completely gone. Part of me is worried that I imagined the whole thing. I find myself questioning my sanity again, fully believing they’ll send me to the loony bin instead of rehab. But I stop for a minute and take a breath. Hallucination or not, real or all in my head, I have to walk out of that door.
I will not become that monster.