Common Sense

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.”

“No.”

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.

“Bethany I’m—”

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.

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Eggplant

“What do you mean you’re cutting me off!?”

An outraged roar echoed through the living room as a man hastily jumped to his feet. He was either so absorbed in his anger that he did not notice, or so absorbed in his anger that he did not care, but as he rose, he had knocked over a photo of a man offering a elegant golden band to a woman overwhelmed with joyful tears, causing a jagged crack to abruptly split the couple apart.

Jacqueline cautiously placed her delicate hand over his, and he could feel her hand trembling like a sole leaf in a hurricane of horror.

“Kale, sweetheart, I know how hard it will be to quit, but we can’t afford to keep doing this anymore. If you’ll just consider rehab, I know that‒‒”

Kale let out a cacophonous wail as her forcibly thrusted Jacqueline away from him, not even sparing a second glance as she let out a yelp of pain.

“No, no! You can’t do this to me, Jacqueline! You can’t, you can’t, you can’t!”

His eyes, filled with the hysterics of addiction and outlined with the dark rings of insomnia, captured hers as her seized her by her shoulders and hauled her to her feet.

“Honey, baby, you can’t do this to me!”

“Kale, you’re hurting me. Please stop.”

“Please, baby, don’t do this to me! You can’t do this to me.”

Kale’s unrelenting pleads consisting of the words “Can’t,” “Don’t,” and “Baby” slurred together in a dissonance of despair as his grip on her loosened somewhat, exposing dark, purple discoloration on her gaunt skin, dubiously in the shape of a handprint.

“Kale…” The discordant uproar was silenced by her words, trailing off with on a tender, harmonious note.

“Kale, we really can’t do this anymore. Look at the state were living in! Shambles of what could have been and still could be a brilliant life. We just need to pick the pieces up together. After all…” She inhaled a breath of courage before continuing. “We want the best for our little Junior, right?”

The silence that hung in the air threatened to suffocate her. Her knees trembled more than before and threatened to collapse under the constant pounding of her heart beat.

“You’re pregnant?

Her throat was too parched to respond, so instead she gave a slight nod of her head.

“I don’t understand why that means I have to quit.”

It took a long time before the meaning of his words finally registered in her mind.

“What do you mean you don’t understand?” She croaked, forcing the words through her constricted throat.

“I shouldn’t have to stop smoking just because you’re having a child.”

Something inside of Jacqueline snapped. She wasn’t sure what it was, desperation, hormones, maternal instincts. Maybe a combination of all three. Nevertheless, nothing at that moment could stop the tsunami of thoughts from flooding out of her mouth.

“This isn’t just my child! This is our child; this is your child! Does that not mean anything to you? We should be discussing names or education plans now, not about your addiction! I know you had a rocky start with awful parents, Kale. We both did. But this is a chance to succeed where our parents failed. Don’t you want to give this child an opportunity, a chance?

“Of course I do! But that doesn’t mean—”

“Yes it does, Kale! It means you have to quit! I’m not going to support your habit anymore!”

Bang!

Kale’s fingers trembled around the trigger of the gun as Jacqueline’s, and her unborn child’s, lifeless body unceremoniously hit the floor. Since the boards were rotten and long since warped, all of her blood pooled into a vicious crimson puddle and they splashed all over his boots as he walked over to the corpse. His fingers still trembled was he searched her person, though it was neither from remorse or despair. They trembled out of relief.

For finally, finally, he would be able to get his fix: eggplant.

Eggplant

“What do you mean you’re cutting me off!?”

An outraged roar echoed through the living room as a man hastily jumped to his feet. He was either so absorbed in his anger that he did not notice, or so absorbed in his anger that he did not care, but as he rose, he had knocked over a photo of a man offering a elegant golden band to a woman overwhelmed with joyful tears, causing a jagged crack to abruptly split the couple apart.

Jacqueline cautiously placed her delicate hand over his, and he could feel her hand trembling like a sole leaf in a hurricane of horror.

“Kale, sweetheart, I know how hard it will be to quit, but we can’t afford to keep doing this anymore. If you’ll just consider rehab, I know that‒‒”

Kale let out a cacophonous wail as her forcibly thrusted Jacqueline away from him, not even sparing a glance as she let out a yelp of pain.

“No, no! You can’t do this to me, Jacqueline! You can’t, you can’t, you can’t!”

His eyes, filled with the hysterics of addiction and outlined with the dark rings of insomnia, captured hers as her seized her by her shoulders and hauled her to her feet.

“Honey, baby, you can’t do this to me!”

“Kale, you’re hurting me. Please stop.”

“Please, baby, don’t do this to me! You can’t do this to me.”

Kale’s unrelenting pleads consisting of the words “Can’t,” “Don’t,” and “Baby” slurred together in a dissonance of despair as his grip on her loosened somewhat, exposing dark, purple discoloration on her gaunt skin, dubiously in the shape of a handprint.

“Kale…” The discordant uproar was silenced by her words, trailing off with on a tender, harmonious note.

“Kale, we really can’t do this anymore. Look at the state were living in! Shambles of what could have been and still could be a brilliant life. We just need to pick the pieces up together. After all…” She inhaled a breath of courage before continuing. “We want the best for our little Junior, right?”

The silence that hung in the air threatened to suffocate her. Her knees trembled more than before and threatened to collapse under the constant pounding of her heart beat.

“You’re pregnant?

Her throat was too parched to respond, so instead she gave a slight nod of her head.

“I don’t understand why that means I have to quit.”

It took a long time before the meaning of his words finally registered in her mind.

“What do you mean you don’t understand?” She croaked, forcing the words through her constricted throat.

“I shouldn’t have to stop smoking just because you’re having a child.”

Something inside of Jacqueline snapped. She wasn’t sure what it was, desperation, hormones, parental instincts. Maybe a combination of a three. Nevertheless, nothing at that moment could stop the tsunami of thoughts from flooding out of her mouth.

“This isn’t just my child! This is our child; this is your child! Does that not mean anything to you? We should be discussing names or education plans now, not about your addiction! I know you had a rocky start with awful parents, Kale. We both did. But this is a chance to succeed where our parents failed. Don’t you want to give this child an opportunity, a chance?

“Of course I do! But that doesn’t mean—”

“Yes it does, Kale! It means you have to quit! I’m not going to support your habit anymore!”

Bang

Kale’s fingers trembled around the trigger of the gun as Jacqueline’s, and her unborn child’s, lifeless body unceremoniously hit the floor. Since the floorboards were rotten and long since warped, all of her blood pooled into a vicious crimson puddle and they splashed all over his boots as her walked over to the corpse. His fingers still trembled was he searched her person, though it was neither from remorse or despair. They trembled out of relief. For finally, finally, he would be able to get his fix: eggplant.

Influenza

Mary Ellen was just a little over twelve years old when she drew her final breath.

Even before the nurse had proclaimed her dead, a suffocating atmosphere hung amidst the hospital room, smothering the people trapped within. The only sound that could be heard was a continual ringing emanating from the electrocardiogram. No one spoke; no one wept. Not the doctor, not the father, not even the mother. The disturbing manner of it all had rendered their vocal chords ineffective.

For the corpse that laid in front of them was not one of a young girl but that of a old woman. Her hair, grayed but a month ago, was now sprawled out against her pillow, forming a monochromatic halo. Her pasty skin had warped under the immense force of time; each wrinkle forming a fragment of the story she maintained within. Beyond inquiry, she truly seemed like an individual who had intimately experienced life.

But she hadn’t. She was barely twelve, after all.

The silence was shattered by shrill screaming from Mrs. Carson.

“What happened to my baby? What happened to Mary Ellen?”

The shock of hearing another being speak stunned the room out of their silence.

Although the doctor attempted to address the situation articulately, his voice could not help but quaver a bit in despair and guilt. “Your daughter simply had the flu. It is nothing to ‒”

The father could no longer hold his tongue.“The flu? That’s a bald-faced lie!  Plenty of people have had the flu before and this didn’t happened to them!”

“Not this kind of flu.” The nurse solemnly muttered.

“What do you mean ‘this kind’?”

The doctor shot the nurse a particularly nasty look, mumbling under his breath about loose-lipped practitioners.

“The influenza virus has adapted symptoms that have eluded even the most esteemed scientists. Nonetheless, the government assures us that those scientist are diligently working towards a cure. The hospital can and will reserve the right to keep the body for observation. Furthermore, I am not at liberty to disclose the particular circumstances of your daughter’s death, so I ask for you to cease any further questioning.” Despite his best efforts, the doctor’s polite and professional demeanor seemed to crumble underneath their inquiries.

“Like hell we will! I don’t think you understand doctor,” Mr. Carson added in sarcastic emphasis. “But this isn’t your little science experiment. This is our lives you are dealing with. I don’t care about what rights your hospital has or doesn’t have. As a father, I can and will reserve the right to know what happened to my little girl. And if all I have to go through is some scrawny kid abusing his authority,” Mr. Carson sized up to the doctor, his eyes posing a silent challenge. “I will.”

The doctor seemed outwardly unfazed. “Have you just threatened me, Mr. Carson?”

“And what if I have?”

The doctor let out a weary sigh before reaching for the briefcase at the foot of the bed.

“These are the TH-7 files; the files for the variation of influenza your daughter had.”

He looked into the doctor’s steely eyes suspiciously, an unspoken question surging through his veins. Why the sudden change in heart? He began to open his mouth to request further answers, but the doctor had heard every silent word he left unspoken.

“Do you want to see these documents or not, Mr. Carson?”

The man didn’t seem to know himself anymore.

Grabbing the manilla folder with trembling fingers, the parents hastily scanned the documents within.

Mrs. Carson’s voice trembled in disbelief. “This…is impossible, right? This is chemically impossible!”

“You’ve seen the evidence with your own eyes, yet you will still deny the truth?” The masterful facade the doctor had put on earlier has completely faded away. Now the only thing that was put upfront what exhaustion

Mr. Carson’s eyes involuntarily flickered to where his daughter slept in eternal slumber.

“Is my daughter the only one?”

“Unfortunately, no. In the past years, there has been several cases of this variation internationally. To keep from global hysteria, it has been…swept under the rug, in a manner of speaking.”

“But surely some people have taken notice,” Mr. Carson interjected. “The symptoms are so distinct, it’s impossible to hide this fact from the entire world, isn’t it?”

The doctor averted his eyes, and for fleeting second, Mr. Carson could have sworn he saw guilt flare up in them.

“Indeed, you are correct, Mr. Carson. Although at first only select individuals were chosen to sustain this secret, certain people have unearthed this burden of theirs. Whether they set out to discover this or stumbled upon it in an unfortunate accident, they have figured out the hard way that curiosity eradicated the cat.”

It felt as if a serpent had slithered up Mr. Carson’s back and was now spiraled around his trachea, effectively cutting off his air supply. Terror caused his throat to become parched and he struggled to find his words.

“What do you mean?”

The doctor now refused to meet his gaze altogether. Instead, he turned to locked eyes with his nurse.

“Nurse Johnson, please inform the special operation agents that Mr. and Mrs. Carson have been snooping through our filing cabinet and have uncovered the TH-7 files. They will need to be eradicated posthaste.”

The nurse kept her poise as she vocalized her affirmative and hastily scurried towards the door.

Although Mrs. Carson still remained thoroughly baffled throughout the entirety of this affair, Mr. Carson had of relative comprehension of what was transpiring here and  understood that no amount of brawns would allow for him  to escape from here with his life intact.

Kneeling down beside her bed, Mr. Carson gently seized Mary Ellen’s now shrivelled hand. Although he had never been an exceptionally religious man, at the present moment he couldn’t help but close his eyes in prayer.

Lowering his voice Mr. Carson whispered soothingly to Mary Ellen.

“I’ll see you soon, my little girl.”

Parallelism

A British teenager sat at a school desk, absentmindedly twirling a mechanical pencil between her fingers, noting how the light reflected off the neon pink plastic.

“I really hope I passed.” She whispered under her breath to the blonde student sitting next to her.

Her classmate offered a grin of reassurance before turning back to his math assignment.

“Student number twenty-eight, please approach the front desk.”

The girl casually sauntered over to the instructor, the sound of her high-heeled boots drowned out by the trivial chatter of her classmates.

The man behind the counter, adorned in thick, horn rimmed glasses, handed over a manilla envelope.

The girl took a moment to inhale before she tore it open.

“No, this can’t be!” The girl exclaimed, disappointment tinting her tone. “How could I have failed?”

The student turned to the instructor with doleful eyes. “Surely you must’ve made some sort of mistake?”

The instructor gave an apologetic grin. “I am sorry, student number twenty-eight, but it appears that you failed your exam.”

“But you don’t understand,” the girl whined. “I really needed to pass.”

“You may sit down now, student number twenty-eight.”

Stomping her foot in defiance, the girl turned on her heel and stormed back to her seat.

“My parents are going to kill me.”

A Russian teenager sat at a mahogany desk, anxiously twirling a stiletto between her fingers, noting how the light reflected off of the edge of the blade.

“I really hope I passed.” She whispered under her breath to a blonde assassin sitting next to her.

Her classmate offered her a cold glare before returning back to his victim’s autopsy report.

“Hitman number twenty-eight, please approach the front desk.”

The girl stiffly traipsed over to the instructor, the sound of her knife-heeled boots echoed in the silence of her classmates.

The man behind the counter, adorned in opaque, black shades, handed over a manilla envelope.

The girl took a moment to inhale before she tore it open.

“No, this can’t be!” The girl exclaimed, desperation tinting her tone. “How could I have failed?”

The assassin turned to the instructor with hysterical eyes. “Surely you must’ve made some sort of mistake?”

The instructor face show no sympathy. “I am sorry, hitman number twenty-eight, but it appears that you failed your exam.

“You don’t understand!” The girl pleaded. “I really needed to pass.”

“You may sit down now, hitman number twenty-eight.

Letting out an involuntary sob, the girl turned around and staggered back to her seat.

“My parents are going to kill me.”

Together Forever

I woke up with a constant throb hammering in my head. I groan as I shift around; my hand brushing against something pleasantly warm. I sluggishly awaken to see an unfamiliar woman sitting beside me, concern tinting her auburn eyes. I forage through my brain for information on who she was and discovered I couldn’t remember anything. Only my name: John Heisenburg. My heart began to race as I hastily sat up, only to wince as I felt the white-hot ache rush through my head.

“Woah, easy there,” the girl said as she tried to coax me back into the bed.

I frantically began to spew out questions, my mind clouded in a delirious, frenzied haze.

“Where am I? Who are you?”

The girl’s face fell as a defeated look of disappointment passed through her eyes. “Do you really not remember me?”

My mind was shocked out of its hectic state when I saw the sincere sorrow on her face, and I immediately felt guilty for interrogating her. The girl noticed my remorseful expression, so she gave me a stunning smile that almost took my breath away.

“The doctor said you might have memory loss. My names Kaley; I’m your girlfriend.”

“My what!?” I squeaked, my voice jumping an octave higher as she giggles sweetly at my reaction.

There was no way this girl was my girlfriend. She looked like a model or some famous actress who belonged on the big screen, not by my side. She had jet-black hair that just barely brushed her shoulders and alluring amber eyes that glistened like a refined jewel under the sunlight filtering in through the open window. She had a perfect hourglass figure and, like a divine deity that descended from the heavens, held an aura of elegance around her. How was I supposed to believe she was my girlfriend?

She saw the bewildered expression plastered on my face and began to explain. “I know it must come as a shock, but we’ve actually been dating for around three years now. I can still remember the day we met as vividly as if it happened yesterday. I was a freshman in college and you were a sophomore. I was walking to my class one day and you were in such a rush that you crashed into me, spilling your steaming hot coffee all over my favorite white dress. You felt so horrible that you refused to stop apologizing to me for days on end. Eventually, you decided to make it up to me by taking me out shopping to buy a new one. Then our relationship just kind of happened from there.”

I flipped through my mental memory scrapbook for any of these pleasant experiences, but my mind came up disappointingly blank. She noticed my frustration and gently grabbed my rather large hand with her own delicate, dainty palm.

“It’s ok, John. If you really can’t remember, I’ll just have to make you fall in love with me all over again,” she declared with the beginnings of a warm smile building upon her face.

I could feel the warmth exuding from her hand as I squeezed it tenderly.

“I think I already am.”

Even though I had spent three days lying immobile in my hospital bed, I never once found myself bored. After all, Kaley was right by my side. She came to me the second the hospital opened and only left when the doctor forced her to leave. And throughout the day she told me all different kinds of stories about our relationship.

When I asked her how I got injured, I could feel her stiffen beside me. I look up at her eyes to see them filled with alarm and dismay. Then all of a sudden, she began to sob violently.

I felt the thorns of guilt prick my conscience as I hurriedly grabbed her hand, lacing our fingers together in a lovingly intimate manner.

“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” I muttered soothingly as I offered her a tissue.

“No…no it’s fine,” she sniffed, delicately dabbing her puffy eyes, swollen from her tears that still continued to stream down her flushed cheeks.

“There was this girl. She was in love with you, but when we started dating, she was slightly…jealous of me, to say the least.”

She paused for a moment as she inhaled a shaky breath.

“She tried to murder me.”

My mouth ran dry and I could hear my heartbeat pounding powerfully in my ears.

“She broke into our house while you were sleeping. She was gripping a lead pipe tightly in her hand. It was covered completely in rust and blood. She had a deranged, hysterical gleam in her eyes and kept raving about how I stole you from her. She went to strike me, but you jumped out of nowhere and took the blow.” She looked at me in admiration, her cheeks now glowing a rosy hue. “You saved me.”

I could feel my heart swell up with pride and my face flush red. She leaned over and kissed me gently on the on my lips. Even now I can feel the warmth tickling my mouth.

Days later, after the doctors deemed that I was ready to return to society, Kaley lent me her shoulder and we made the lengthy, sluggish expedition to the parking lot.

“Now you sit here,” Kaley sternly insisted while easing me into the wooden bench in front of the building, “And I’ll bring my car out front. With all that head trauma, it’s probably not a good thing to have you walk that far.”

I opened my mouth to protest that I was one-hundred percent okay when I felt a warm finger pressed against my lips.

“No, no, no,” she chided playfully. “Just let your girlfriend take care of you.”

Before I could even utter a single word, she began to walk off, her high heels clicking against the asphalt.

After a few moments of watching the ants scurry across the pavement in a similar manner to how the people were scurrying to their cars to get a head start on rush hour, a yawn forced its way through my lips. This wasn’t unusual, with the previous sleepless nights. I decided not to fight the darkness and instead welcome it with open arms as I lazily closed my eyelids that were heavy with insomnia.

For a while, I took great pleasure in the comforting, peaceful silence that the dark had offered me, as opposed to the irritating clicks and beeps that echoed throughout the hospital’s hollow hallways. I don’t remember how long I was enjoying the serene lull before a flash of flaming, cherry-red hair caught my attention.

I sluggishly moved my gaze to see a girl, her back facing me so I could easily admire the wavy vermillion locks that cascaded elegantly down her back. When she turned around, her shimmering jade eyes causing my pulse to accelerate to an almost alarming rate and my palms to glisten with sweat. Her white, angelic dress that just barely brushed her knees emphasized her vibrant hair and viridescent eyes even more. She then flashed me a quick grin that displayed her pearly white, slightly crooked teeth. I almost forgot how to breathe.

I stood there, gawking for what felt like an eternity before she waved her hand infront of my face, giggling slightly.

I could feel my cheeks heat up and hurriedly adverted my eyes away in embarrassment. But, as soon as my eyes left hers, I heard a terror-stricken shriek that cause a chill to rapidly diffuse through my veins; my whole body becoming numb.

I tentatively lifted my gaze from the ground to once again meet those viridans orbs. This time, however, they were no longer vigorously shining but instead dull and lifeless. Her dress was stained crimson with the blood trickling from the severe gash on her forehead. Her once pale, porcelain skin was now tarnished with grotesque yellow and purple bruises, as if she had been beaten repeatedly with excessive force.

She opened her mouth to speak once more, though her voice was no longer filled with determination or glee, but uneasiness and anxiety. With every word she spoke, her voice cracked and wavered as she feebly muttered one word, over and over again.

“John…John…John…”

“John…?”

I woke with a start as I felt a warm, petite hand delicately shake my shoulder, rousing me from my slumber. I began to sit up, only to grimace in pain as the perpetual ache in my head only proceeded to throb faster.

I heard feminine laughter as I looked up to meet those amber eyes that I had grown accustomed to over the past few days.

“I just left for a minute, and you already fell asleep! Don’t tell me you forgot about me?”

“How could I ever forget someone as beautiful as you?”

Her cheeks began to flush ever so slightly as an appreciative smile grew on her face.

“Why thank you! Now come on, sweetie, we should get you home.”

She lent me her shoulder once more as she helped me into her bright, cherry red corvette.

Cherry red.

Why did that seem so familiar?

I paused for a moment as my eyebrows furrowed in concern.

“Is something wrong?” Kaley asked, concern lacing through her words.

“Nothing, It’s just…there’s something I’ve forgotten, and I can’t seem to remember what it was.”

“Well, that doesn’t really matter now, does it? After all, we’ll be together forever now.” she said affectionately.

“Yeah”, I replied, gazing fondly into her amber eyes. “Together forever..”

After finally arriving at my narrow, cramped apartment building, she eased me onto my rugged sofa.

“Now I’m going to the store to get ingredients for dinner. Tonight it’s your favorite: rib eye steak and mashed potatoes.” She said flirtatiously and, with the slam of a door, she was gone.

While she was out shopping, I decided to take a nap. Spending the past three nights in a small, lumpy hospital bed, I should’ve slept like a baby. However, I kept hearing this shuffling noise coming from the closet. At first, I thought maybe it was the generator, but then I realized it was the sound of something moving. It was the sound of something alive.

I got up from the sofa, sheer adrenaline masking the pain pounding through my head, as I crept towards the closet. My heart hammered erratically inside of my shaking chest, and I had to force myself to breath. I took a slow breath in, and swung opened the door.

There was a girl. Her disheveled. cherry red hair clung to her hollowed out cheeks. Her green, lifeless eyes were overflowing with tears and showed no sign of stopping. Her pale skin was dyed crimson from the handcuffs that dug into her wrists. Her malnourished, gaunt body was tied to a chair with grimey, oxidized chains. Her screams of horror were muffled by the soiled rag that was used to suppress her cries for help.

All of a sudden, every single one of my memories came rushing back and washed over me like a flash flood. I knew who this girl was.

She was Emily. My girlfriend of the past three years.

I remember everything now. How I met Emily at college, when I spilled coffee all over her dress and spent the whole day shopping for a new one with her. How I had to comfort Emily when she was anxious about the anonymous, threatening emails she was receiving. How this girl, one whom I only recognized from my english class, came to our apartment. How she came with a lead pipe. How she tried to hit Emily, but ended up hitting me the head, effectively knocking me out. How this only happened seven days ago.

I stood their as shivers ran up and down my spine, petrifying me with sheer terror. Suddenly I heard the creaking of the door closing and the clicking of the lock.

Slowly, I turned around, my heart pumping dread into my veins with each passing beat. Terror-stricken brown eyes eyes locked with deranged, hysterical amber ones. I could just make out the gleam of a knife in the pitch black darkness. Then, she gave me her signature, dazzling smile once more as she spoke in her honeyed voice that sent cockroaches crawling on my skin.

“Don’t worry, John. From now on, it’ll just be you and me. Together. Forever.”