Brandon could hear the sound of footsteps, silently creeping up the stairs. He could just imagine his Bethany now; a mix of alarm and trepidation clouding her eyes as his girlfriend tried to silence her heart that continued to thump in a rapid, erratic pattern. It had beaten in a similar manner when they had first met. However, instead of her regular anxiety, her heart was fueled by the butterflies fluttering gleefully in her stomach. He knows this because he had felt the same sensation: a sensation of love and adoration so strong, that even with his own mother he had never felt this way before. So on that very day, the day when his life first intertwined with hers, he decided to make a vow. A vow he swore he would never break till the day he took his final breath.
“I promise I will always treat you like the princess you are.”
And he did. At first. He always came to her rescue, saving the poor damsel in distress all while maintaining his dazzling, charismatic smile. He slayed all of her dragons, whether it be something as severe as financial issues or something as insignificant as a growling stomach. To her, he seemed perfect; like a prince in shining, steel armor.
It’s too bad she didn’t realize how quickly steel rusted.
For on one fateful day, inside of Brandon’s head, a voice appeared. It was nothing more than a sound; echoing and reverberating against the walls of his mind. When it came, it came bearing the title of ‘Common Sense’ and claimed that it would enlighten Brandon with its philosophy of rationale and logic. Brandon didn’t think much of it at the time; after all, it seemed like only good could come out of his new companion. But then, right when he had started to trust this newfound associate, the accusations began to emerge.
“Hey, I’m going out with my friends tonight to see that new movie. Is that alright?” Bethany had told him with a elated expression flaring in her eyes as she gleamed down cheerfully at the electronically lit phone in her hands.
Brandon had opened his mouth to say “Of course!” when Common Sense decided to interfere and assert its own opinion.
“She’s a liar.”
“She’s going out with another guy.”
“Don’t trust her; She’ll leave you.”
Bethany’s gazed whipped up to meet his infuriated glare. “Huh? What do you mean ‘no’?”
“I mean, you’re not going. You’re going to stay here with me. We can go see that movie later this week together if you want. But it’ll just be me and you; no one else.”
Although she looked rather disturbed by his vindictive response, she reluctantly agreed. And as the days turned into weeks and weeks into months and months into eternity, this became embedded into the foundations of their relationship: an unspoken rule between the two of them that she wasn’t allowed to leave the house unless she was beside him. For a while, all was good. Bethany was a very obedient girlfriend: constantly submissive to his every command. Tonight however, it seems like she gained a streak of defiance; as if she thought she could break the regulations and expect to get away with it.
If he weren’t so furious, he would think her naivëty cute.
“Where were you this evening, Bethany?”
Bethany froze as she felt a chill run up her spine from his irate, acrimonious question. She began backing up when she saw the enraged expression haunting his eyes.
“Brandon! I didn’t know you would still be up.”
When Brandon saw her trying to escape back down the stairs, he reached out and aggressively seized her wrist.
“She was out with her friends again.”
“You were out with your friends again!”
“She was trying to make you angry.”
“You were purposely trying to make me angry.”
“She’s a liar.”
“You lied to me!”
Bethany, unable to take the accusations thrown at her, raised her voice to match his volume. “What was I supposed to do? You don’t let me leave this house without you! I can’t see my family, my friends, anyone anymore! I just can’t do this anymore, Brandon! I want to leave! I want to—”
Brandon couldn’t remember what happened next. All he could recall was that a white-hot wave of rage overtook his senses until all he could see, smell, think, and do was anger. When the heat began to dissipate and the darkness began to disperse, the sight that was revealed to him made him recoil in horror. Bethany stood in front of him, her eyes wide with disbelief and betrayal. Her wrist was stained with a grotesque, yellow bruise in the exact place where his vice-like grip was mere moments ago. She was protectively caressing her cheek, which was tarnished with a flaming red mark that was dubiously in the shape of a handprint. It didn’t take long for him to piece everything together.
He wasn’t even able finish his sentence before Bethany ran out of their apartment, the door slamming shut with a resonating crash.
Brandon felt his brain shut down and his emotions run rampage as, once again, anger hijacked his senses. Only this time, his fury was intertwined with another emotion: regret. He felt a burning, desperate desire in the depths of his stomach to turn back the hands of the clock; to take back his mistake. And his rage increased tenfold when he realized he couldn’t.
Swearing horrid, obscene words that made his mouth feel disgustingly vile, he unleashed his rage on a nearby mirror, shattering his reflection so severely that it became unrecognizable. Although crimson blood trickled down his clenched fist, he found himself unable to stop, because the pain from the shards of glass that lodged into his skin was a pain he was able to endure. Losing the one and only person he had ever loved; being alone; that was a mental anguish he wouldn’t ever be able to sustain.
Eventually, his anger began to ebb away, leaving him to face the bitter disappointment that plagued his heart head first. Gasping for breath (as in his heated moment of outrage, he had forgotten to breathe) he assessed his damaged fist, carefully trying to remove a reflective shard that was embedded into his knuckle. Moving his gaze from his hand to his mirror, he howled in horror. For the thing where his reflection should be was most certainly not him. Instead, a gargantuan behemoth was glowering at him, hostility gleaming in its sickly pale green eyes. The beast growled, baring wicked, razor sharp teeth that were coated in a repulsive yellowish plaque. It eyed Brandon hungrily, as if contemplating devouring him whole, all while flashing his wicked, deformed claws that gleamed under the moonlight filtering in through the open window.
Brandon could hardly believe the atrocious deformity in front of him. Trying to convince himself that this is and only will be a dream, he closed his eyes, inhaling a deep breath all while silently praying that when he reopened them, all signs that this mutant ever existed would vanish.
He opened his eyes. His voice hitched in his throat. For peering at him from behind the shiny, reflective mirror wasn’t that grotesque, green-eyed demon, but something much, much more horrifying. They way it looked into his eye caused his heart pump dread and terror into his veins and his blood to run ice-cold.
For staring back at him wasn’t some kind of hellish leviathan or freakish mammoth, but a man. A man named Brandon Smith. A man who has now harmed the one and only person who has ever mattered in his life.
And that was more horrifying than any monster could ever be.