My world is full of monsters. Everyone I pass is monstrous in one way or another. Some with single eyes, some with mouths too large for their faces. Some are different all together, put together like china dolls strung out too large over bones that don’t fit right. Some aren’t even remotely close to human-shaped, but instead are massive creatures with scales and teeth that hiss when I come too close. My world is full of creatures that look like nightmares, except my nightmares are only ever filled with pink-and-brown-and-yellow-skinned people like me, who have two eyes, and one nose, and one mouth.
The monster people are nice, most of the time. One helps me pick up the worksheets I’ve dropped, the claws scratching some of the answers out for my students. Later, one opens the door to my apartment building for me, with writhing tentacles covered in vein-y thorns. However, I shudder when the principal walks by, smiling at me with his thin lips, those normal straight teeth, the brown glasses over his wrinkled eyes. Something about him sits wrong with me.
In the mirror, I see only myself, my plain dark hair twisted into a bun, my shirt and skirt over my too-thick-body. My face is set in a frown, as always, lips plump if glossed, too serious. My eyes have dark bags under them, but not the way the monster down the hall has, with heavy lids hanging down. No, my eyes are normal, and dull, and human. Perhaps that’s why I hate them so. When everyone else is monstrous and hard to look at, why are my eyes alone human?
The bunny rabbit on my bed, a childhood treasure, tells me that I’m beautiful, and that I would look very nice in a coffin. He reminds me that there are sixty two pills in my pill-bottle, and that I should use the refill my doctor gave me, so that I have even more, just in case. I sigh, heavily, because going to the market is like trekking through the jungle. If someone talks to me, I’ll get that tight, taught feeling in my chest again, like someone has reached in, and is squeezing my heart with their ragged claws.
I leave for the supermarket. Every step is a painful reminder of how much my body doesn’t want me to go. I’m desperate and hungry, so I continue to push myself toward the market. I wait, nervous, as the woman with no eyes, and a mouth too large for her cheeks, filled with needle-sharp teeth, fills my prescription There is a frond dangling from her head, blinking in the light, like some subterranean fish. Her nails are lacquered pink and white with flowers when she hands the bag to me. I pay with a debit card that I can’t remember the code to, until I think about the rabbit sitting on my bed, and then I remember.
Going home, I sit at the table, counting the pills once more. My rabbit sits next to me, it’s stitched eyes black and beady. I do not place any of the pills on my tongue. I count them, slow. I put the lid on the bottle, and pull up a notepad on my computer. Typing comes second nature to me now. I’ve been a teacher far too long, not to know how to type without looking at the keyboard. Who knows what my little monsters are up to, if I don’t keep an eye on them. Notes, and the like.
I type out an agenda. Tomorrow night is the night I do it. The night I end this all, before I can ruin the world anymore with my rosey cheeks, and my two hands, and two eyes, and two ears. I have decided. After work, I shall go, and find a new dress, and get my hair done, as if I am going to a wonderful dinner. Then, when I get home, I shall cook myself something nice to eat, and have a glass of wine. I type these all down with little bullet points next to it, and then print it out.
In class the next day, the Dulsey twins refuse to use seperate desks. And why shouldn’t they? Bound together from the waist down, their bottom half a spiderly amalgamation of doll’s limbs, their upper halves naked of clothing and doll-jointed. The brother’s face is cracked, one eye hanging from it’s socket plaintively, by some kind of ribbon. The sister is the one whom looks at me, her face pale as ice, and her eyes dull as mine when I look in the mirrors. Her long hair is limp and tangled, reminding me of a doll I had seen in a window as a child.
For once, I let them sit however they wish. The bird child, the one with the razor sharp beak, and a head too large for his shoulders, caws out how unfair it is, but I pay no mind. He’s always chirping about one thing or another. One of the monsters is odd, a swirling whirlpool of water, with little ballons floating tethered to it. Her face is on the balloons, and when she’s upset, she makes an odd squeaking noise. Today, she makes that noise, and I have to stop class, and ask her to come outside with me. She refuses to tell me what is wrong, and why she is squeaking. Her balloon face looks at me oddly, as if I’ve said something strange. She asks if I am alright. I tell her to go sit back down. I shall have to call Mr. Snyder, her father, later, and ask if anything is going wrong at home.
Ah, no… No, I won’t. I smile when I remember that, and sit back at my desk. The jack-in-the-box boy punches the back of the seat of the teddybear wearing chains, and I have to tell him to move back. I wish I had the strength to deal with the boy’s father again. An overbearing monster with tusks and a pig’s snout, wearing a uniform like a military officer, and I hate speaking with him. Never again, I think to myself, and smile again.
The Heller girl, an odd thing made of rusty metal curled into beautiful shapes, like a peacock, who’s heart is a cage, fidgets. Inside, a little girl sobs and cries, and I can never reach that little girl and get her to speak, only ever does the peacock’s beak splutter and shout. I ask if she needs to use the bathroom. She does, and I let her go. When she comes back, she elbows the bird boy in the head, and I have to send her out into the hall. I make her leave her cell phone, so that she isn’t texting. That way, it’s actually a punishment.
Having decided to end it all, I decide to skip my normal lesson. I feel light, for once, the ball of worry in my stomach gone, and I invite my little monsters to give me ideas for games we can play. Someone says Heads Up, Thumbs Down, which was a delight from my childhood. I agree, and allow the children to play, heads down, or what passes for them, anyway, and watch Nathan White, the mass of black flesh, tied up in chicken wire, with no head but a cloud of dark dreadlocks falling to the floor, go around, tapping the bird child’s thumb. Victoria Kingston taps the finger of Brie Snyder, which causes her balloon head to wobble oddly. At the end, when everyone has guessed, I call for the next round.
The school bell rings, and for once, the little monsters are sneering and laughing, sharp teeth on display for who knows what reason. I still feel light, and take out my to-do-list. I read off my first stop. A dress. Walking to the shopping mall in town takes twenty minutes. I find a beautiful dress there. Red, like I would never wear to work, with long sleeves made of lace, and a beautiful bow in back. The hips and skirt of the dress are tight, which does wonders for my figure, so I get it. I see Skip, the birdchild, with his grandmother. His grandmother seems determined to put him in a dress small and frilly. I’ve never understood why. I pass them by, without a word from either.
Next is my hair done. In the salon, while the girl is curling and tying my hair back, I see the mother of the bear-in-chains who sits in the third row of my class. Mrs. Tinderfoot is in uniform again, a police officer, sharp and steady. She’s chatting with the woman who owns the salon. I wonder if she knows how much her son shakes when he’s in my classroom? I think, for second, about asking her if she knows. And decide against it. I’d rather not have a black spot on my otherwise perfect day.
Once done, I smile into the mirror. The woman looking back at me is beautiful and dangerous. Not a monster at all, and for that, she is terrifying. I slide a five dollar bill into the maw of the creature who was just cutting my hair, and thank her. She chitters at me with a beak that doesn’t fit her face. Monsters everywhere, and I walk right past them on my very last day. I will no longer have to suffer this place. Never again, and it makes my heart sing. But as I walk back through the park, a sort of sadness sings through me as well.
I will never again get to see the sun set through the trees the way it is now. I stop, and enjoy it, and the fresh smell of sunshine fading away. I enjoy the soft touch of the wind, and revel in the slow crawl of the storm clouds headed my way. The wind is rising, now, and so, I pass through, heading instead for my room. Locking the door, I pull off my shoes. The bunny rabbit greets me, and I smile for it. It tells me my hair will look beautiful surrounded by funeral flowers. I agree.
I set the food to cooking, and when I have a moment, I change into the red dress. It fits just as it did in the store, and I wrap myself in it like armor. I feel invincible in this dress, and that guides my hand to take the bottle and set it next to my glass of red wine. Taking a second thought, I pick up the wine, and sip it. It tastes like something died in the bottle, or like it might have been fruit once. I put the wine glass down. The timer dings, and lets me know that food is ready. I serve myself, arranging the food as prettily as I can. I take a picture, and upload it. It’s the first post I’ve made in months, and within two minutes it has three likes.
It tastes like heaven, in my mouth. Warm and thoroughly cooked, and for once, I don’t feel the gnawing emptiness of hunger in my throat, and I don’t want to. I love this feeling, of being warm, and eating, and chewing. Something about the slow sensation of growing full… Ah, there’s nothing like it. I think about the last sunset I would ever see, and realize that this is the last meal I would ever eat. I have seconds. And then thirds. Without thinking, I put the food away in tupperware, so that some lucky officer will get to finish it off when they find my body.
Then, I sit on my bed. The bunny rabbit is next to me, and I can see the rain pattering against the window in the dark now. I halt, as the streetlights make the water shimmer on the dark asphalt as it falls. This was the reason I moved into this apartment, years ago. I’d seen a view like this no where else, and I’d wanted to keep it. The beauty of rain in the dimness of night, made into cold sparkling stars falling to the earth all thanks to the lamplights the city keeps on for weary travellers. It makes the world into a whole different place, and I watch for a moment, before the bunny’s voice calls me back.
I count out pills. Five, for a breakup that happened two years ago, after he said that he couldn’t stand my negativity. The bunny pushes my glass closer, as I swallow them down. I count out three. Three for my mother who went on a trip to Cancun on my birthday. She’d been planning it for years, so I couldn’t be angry with her. She had quite the time. The pills go down like sorrow.
Four, for the day that my skirt ripped just before getting to work, and when I called in, my boss told me that I might as well not come in that day.
Two, for the weekend that I just couldn’t get out of bed. Not for food, not for drink. I’d slept all weekend. It had been the best vacation I’d had in years.
Seven for the cat I’d run over the last time I drove the car. I don’t own the car anymore. Driving makes my breath choke, and my heart clench painfully.
I’ve lost count now, and the world is slowly turning fuzzy. The clock ticks so loudly that I think it sounds like someone knocking. But I have no friends. And my mother lives two towns over. Who would bother visiting me? Ah, that’s another three. I can’t count anylonger, so the bunny counts for me.
It hurts. I’m dizzy and hot, and cold, all at the same time... more