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The Man Inside This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

The screaming continued for years with no end; since I was three years old with a bruised, fresh mind. Sometimes the screams twisted and contorted into sobs of misery. It didn't matter which was happening because all that changed was my facial expression. My eyes were usually hard, but on occasion, they turned moist and soft.


I usually forgot about the dying man writhing inside me, but when I found myself getting buried alive, he would burst out at me. When he appeared he said to me, “What are you waiting for? Do it now! Go jump off the roof, go hang yourself from the ceiling fan!” When I was much younger, he would say, “Quick, while they're not looking! Make a run for it!” No matter how much he scratched at my insides, chafing them until they bled, an ocean always drowned out the words.


She never answered the phone when I called, but we always talked when she saw me at the supermarket. Her aesthetic wafted itself around me, drifting up my nose and through my ears. It was at those times that the man inside really came alive. “She doesn't love you and she never will! Go and do it! Why is she so important? She doesn't even know your last name!”


When I dreampt, soft creatures dressed in white surrounded me. I was nothing, just a picture of the warm orange and yellow scenery. The creatures ignored me and made their way toward the river. Somehow, I followed them, stretching myself along the ground. I watched them fall into the river, engulfing themselves in flame, in perfect synchronization.


Once, I decided to tell her about my dreams. In perfect detail, I described the bodies, how they flowed, my positioning, the lake and the fire, and ending with my confusion.


“Wow... Don't be worried, Danny. Everyone has weird nightmares like that,” she said with a smile gracing her lips that was sweeter than her voice.


“Yeah. Yeah, you're right.” But the man inside me was screaming. “See? What values does she possess? She doesn't understand anything about you!”


Deep, down inside I tried to ignore him. He didn't know her the way I did, didn't see the soft curves of her body, how her hair fell in perfect waves. Most important of all, was the way she painted shadows into me, layers upon layers of different people.


It was thee days ago when it happened. It drove misery, pain, anger, and malice into my heart like a bullet from Hell. “Is this what you've been waiting for, Danny? Was this all worth it? You've grown complacent in the dirt! Get up, run!” The monster couldn't be angrier.

*


I missed the sunrise, just like any other day. The routine possessed me: eat, drive, manual labor, drive, eat, sleep, repeat. But the pattern was disturbed that day with an unexpected phone call.


“Hello?” I grunted, wiping sweat from my brow. I glanced tentatively around; we weren't supposed to have private conversations on the job.


“Danny?” a strange, kindly woman's voice answered.


“Uh-huh.”


“I'm afraid I have terrible news for you. I hate to be the one to break this to you... but Michelle Lewis is dead, died in a car crash. Before she passed, she told us to call you. I'm so sorry.”


Quietly aghast, I hung up and slipped the phone into my pocket. The man inside raised his voice and a burning sensation reverberated through my body. I thought I was going to be sick, but I held it all inside. “Just continue the routine, continue the routine,” I replayed the mantra in my head as I continued paving the sidewalk.


I finished my shift in silence. At 5:00, I crawled into my car. A bead of sweat traveled from my elbow down to my rib, reminding me of the trip home. Did I really wanted to go? Home wasn't home anymore. The man inside had taken control. The empty apartment had lost its touch long ago, and now that Michelle was gone, what did I have to stay for?


The ignition burst through the silence and the radio came on, startling the brittle autumn air. I drove smoothly down the highway with no destination. When my eyes began to droop, I paid no attention, just let them shut. And the car kept going until it decided to stop.





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