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I was inspired by my love of horror fiction and games. I wanted the readers to get a sense of how life is sometimes unpredictable or unforgiving right after I told them how utopia-esque it could be. I wanted to crush my character, to make the reader feel for them, to temporarily crush the readers' hopes for the character. Filling the readers with dread and unease is what drove me to write this story. However, I also want the readers to look out for their own friends more, as friendships are some of the most important relationships to maintain.
I saw her drop the match, but I’m the one who woke up with the hands gloved with blood and a stranger’s skin in my teeth.
At least, that would explain the peculiar, suffocating white walls. The way no one dares to step within ten feet of me. Even the caretakers leave my medicine in a glass hatch. But that’s only a few of the flashing pictures that have made themselves visible; sight, sound, and my own words are my sole confidants.
Perhaps if I start at the beginning again, I might help you understand the inexorable predicament that was my life.
I was a brilliant child; I maintained at least a GPA of 4.0 , didn’t dare to procrastinate, and avoided the evils of mankind. I held my ecclesiastical beliefs tight and sang in the choir of my church. The harmonies enveloped my heart, washed away my sins, and kept me faithful. They lit up the right path for me and gated off the dark one, the one that the Devil himself was attempting to beckon me towards. The gates kept me out, and he became a shadow in my mind. Lucifer had already fallen, and I would continue to let him fall farther to his imminent and permanent demise.
I had a friend once. Mara. Mara was smarter than I am, much more clever, considerate; you could say she seemed perfect and not be scolded for using such a general and silly word. Her flashy smile and lovely speech won over almost anyone who happened to cross her path. She was almost always there when I needed her.
Almost. She was like the sister I never had. I loved her; she loved me. She’d do anything for me, and I was pretty sure that I’d do the same for her.
The day before I had complained to Mara about my new neighbor, Eve. Eve Arsonalt. She was beautiful; long, blonde hair graced her shoulders, and was often adorned by a sparkling hairpin or headband. Although I never saw much of her (except when she was criticizing me or making me do her yardwork), I only saw her wear outfits of the finest silk and satin, flowing dresses in jewel tones that I could never buy in my lifetime. The woman was not one to forget to exploit her riches. “They’re inherited,” she always says. Inherited, inherited, mine, mine, all mine, go away, stay away, leave, goodbye. If they’re inherited, then why do you disappear late at night? Where do you go? Why leave?
Mara and I decided to investigate.
The moment Eve left the house, and the drunk she calls her husband, Brutus, was asleep, we explored her house. Mara did the honors of picking the lock, and I did the honor of watching Brutus. His beard was one of a lumberjack’s, and I could practically smell the alcohol seeping from his skin. He was slumped in his tattered, stained armchair peacefully, too tranquil a setting for such a broken, troubled man. I wonder why he’s still alive; his liver must be running quite the marathon right now. His liver should have taken its final breath, and quit a long time ago. Brutus must be miserable without his wife.
Mara and I moved everything from gilded picture frames and vases to couches and their clothing. We found absolutely nothing but dust and daddy long legs for hours. Yes, Eve was on a particularly long “shopping” trip today, and Brutus had decided to drink too much. We were grateful for both, because around the third hour of searching, we found some quite incriminating articles.
“Candace? Come check this out!” said Mara, pulling out some coffee-stained newspaper that was at least fifty years old. It was from The Glassing Post: The Newspaper of the 50’s!
My eyes skimmed the article until a name jumped out at me:
Eve. Eve Arsonault. “....was convicted of breaking and entering, arson, and charged with the murder of Charmeine Angelique, Glassing’s beloved mayor...”
Right beneath the picture was a picture of Eve, when she was a known criminal. And she looks exactly the same as she does now. “Eve Arsonault, aged 57, was convicted of arson...”different?
Maybe the caption was wrong. Maybe they got a picture of her sister or something. I’m supposed to be able to trust what I see, but I can’t believe my eyes.
I knew Eve couldn’t be alive anymore.The incident happened more than fifty years ago. How did Eve manage to survive?
I could tell Mara was trying to piece things together as well, but hadn’t made sense of it yet. Nothing fit, nothing made sense, there must be more! She looks too young... she’s really too old...
“What if she’s a ghost?” gaped Mara, her hands starting to tremulate ever so slightly.
“Mara, don’t be silly. You know ghosts don’t do that,” I snickered, folding the newspaper and sticking it in the back pocket of my jeans.
“Well, then she’s something else, I swear it,” she huffed, shuffling out of one of the many storage rooms and back into the hallway. We both tensed; Brutus shifted in his chair. He shifted right back to where he was, and resumed a drunken, euphoric slumber. We breathed once again.
My heart started to pound when I heard the purr of a car pulling into the driveway. I remember the skitter of windblown pebbles, the engine roaring in my mind, the car door slamming before I realized that our little “visit” was over.
“Mara! This way,” I harshly whispered, snapping Mara out of her fear-frozen stance. She was going to get us caught if she didn’t hurry!
She nodded, embarrassed by her reaction, and started to follow me. We found a slightly cracked window that I could definitely wedge my fingers under and make an escape through.
As I pushed the window up, I heard a key turning in the door, and panicked. Well, the adrenaline helped; I quickly got the window open, practically shoved Mara through, and then jumped through myself before Eve could lay eyes on us, the intruders.
Breathe in, out, in, rushing, rushing, rushing blood, left right left right, run faster, faster, faster, don’t stop, breathe evenly, stop. I yanked my front door open, gestured Mara inside my warm, lively house, and slammed the door.
I awoke to my alarm clock, its shrill, steady blare; it had shocked my heart to a waking pace. My room felt warmer than usual. I could almost go right back to sleep, close my eyes, relax, sleep...
But then I smelled smoke, and sat up straight.
And I noticed there had been no fire in my room. But I could not say the same about Eve’s house.
Eve’s house was being engulfed in flames, and I had been without water. I grabbed my cellphone with shaky, sweaty hands, and called 911.
“Yes....fire....right next to me....yeah, the neighbors.....please hurry.....hurry.....thank you.”
I tossed my cellphone on the bed that was no longer inviting. Cold rushed through my veins as I thought about the aftermath for Eve and Brutus. I did wonder if they had gotten out.
I threw on my ratty, blue-grey slippers, a starry robe, and rushed down the stairs as quietly as possible. Both of my parents were heavy sleepers, but knowing them, they surprised me in the strangest (and sometimes scariest) ways. I was not in the mood for an adrenaline rush; the only things on my mind were sleep and the smoke. I muffled the click of the door opening with my sleeve, and slipped out into the dark morning.
I waited outside, and was soon joined by my parents; I definitely didn’t expect them to be up. “Hey, peanut,” my mom whispered, pulling me into her soft side and pecked a kiss on my forehead. My dad put his arm around my shoulder, and my parents and I formed our seemingly invincible arch.
We watched as the firefighters pulled in, yelling for the hose, setting up the big, clunky metal ladder, the, as Eve would call it in any other situation, “encroachment” of the house moving quickly. They unfolded the hose, gloved hands working to save our neighbors from their blazing plight, the fire that was consuming their house. Finally, they turned the hose on, spraying the house with pressurized water until the flames submitted to and were defeated by their opponent. The two policemen, one Caucasian, one unbelievably heavy set, had started to march and waddle their way over to us.
One of them, the Caucasian officer, pulled out his notepad as the other started asking my family questions.
“Ma’am,” he addressed my mother, “do you know who made the phone call?”
“Honey, did one of us make-”
“Yeah. I did,” I answered, taking a small step forward.
“Well, that was a very good decision, young lady,” the larger one said, patting my shoulder. The notetaker casually nodded for the man to continue. “Did any of you see anything? Anyone around here at suspicious hours?”
“Well, not really, no. This is usually a pretty safe neighborhood,” my dad answered, tightening his grip around my shoulders and glancing worriedly at me. “From the second we moved in, I never imagined anything dangerous like this ever happening. It’s sorta why we moved here. To get away from danger,” he said, letting himself half-heartedly chuckle a bit.
“Sorry about that, sir,” said the notetaker, quietly acknowledging my parents’ dilemma. “This is, actually one of our safest and crime-free neighborhoods. These are very suspicious circumstances, and we’re doing our best to resolve the problem. Good day,” he finished, gesturing the big-boned man to follow him over to the firemen who were now walking out of the house with their heads hung.
Soon after, the Glassing news station truck swerved into, and successfully parallel parked across the street from us. They don’t get many stories these days, with us being a sort of smalltown that barely anyone likes to visit. We’re the town that your relatives live in, but they’re a couple states away and you never want to visit them because there’s never anything major there; it’s really quite dry. Half the year, the town is occupied, the other half, practically deserted because we’re all in search of entertainment. Some of the population will literally do anything for fun, even if it could potentially off someone. That’s the bland little town of Glassing in a nutshell.
A news lady with click, click, clicking high heels made her way over to us, fluffing her oily, perfect bob and straightening out her horribly mismatched, checkered pant suit. She fluffed her hair one last time before wiping her palms on her back pockets and motioning for the camera and sound guys. She checked her nails and lipstick before acknowledging our irritated stares; never before had I seen such an annoying woman. But that wasn't the worst part. Then she started talking to us. Great.
“Hey, I’m Sadie Worthington, might we interview you?” she said way too quickly and nasally for anyone to comprehend at around 2 in the morning; she had energy that made her the quintessence of a caffeine-hyped newswoman, energy that could never be smothered out, unfortunately. How badly I wanted a pillow to silence her voice with at the time was unspeakable. I cursed myself for such hateful thoughts, and became determined to deal with her as quickly as possible. I prayed for her instead.
“Well, first of all, please slow down, dear, it’s early,” my mother grinned, patting Sadie on the shoulder. “I’m Letha. Letha Mallory. And this my husband, Kevin Malloway,” she said, grinning at him, “and my only daughter, Candace. You may only interview us for a maximum of three minutes. It’s already been such a long night, so we all need our rest.”
“Well that’s wonderful,” she said chipperly, waving her tech crew closer to us and sending them a thumbs up. “Hello, I’m Sadie Worthington, here at the scene of what appears to be arson. We don’t have any other information yet, but we do have a neighboring family willing to talk about what they’ve seen. First, the mother, Letha Mallory. What do you know about the incident?” she said, thrusting the microphone in front of my mother’s face.
“All I know is that the fire was still going by the time we all got out here,” she said, a polite little smile adorning her face. “Wait, what’s that?” she asked, pointing behind us at the firemen now retreating from the house. I imagined the lone, formidable white flag on their shoulders as they shook their heads in disappointment.
“What’s this? We’ve just gotten word that Eve Arsonault and her spouse, Brutus, did not survive the fire. Rest in peace, Arsonaults. And that concludes today’s Glassing News. Thank you, and goodnight,” Sadie finished, giving the camera an earnest, flashy smile. “Thank you, Malloways. Your interview was much appreciated. Bye!” she said and walked away, tech crew in tow.
We looked back at the Arsonaults’ crispy, blackened house. The forensic team and firefighters had somberly packed up their equipment, flipped their vehicular lights on, and were driving away into the night.
“Come on, guys, let’s go back inside,” Dad said, “and we can properly mourn them when we’re not so tired.”
I nodded in agreement at the promise of sleep, but what bugged me was that we were just going to go and sleep it off. I still hadn’t liked the Arsonaults much, but what kind of neighbor goes and uses sleep as an excuse to “honor them later?” Are Eve and Brutus at peace? Not likely. At least, Eve might not be. “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”
I thought my bed would have been warmed by the reassurances about the fire. But a bed doesn’t get warmed by death, does it? No. My room remained a mausoleum, as I had left it, and my bed still a tomb. But I climbed in, regardless of the stench of guilt, and forced myself to drift off and be dead to the world for just a few hours. I could always try for peace.
Upon waking for the second time today, I realized my bed was warm again, even as I had laid as still as a corpse for several hours. Sunlight filtered through the blinds, making me squint and shut them with a quick brush of my hand over the shutters. The bright spots from the sun stopped bothering my eyes a few minutes later, just enough for me to make it downstairs.
My mother had taken the liberty of making breakfast this morning. The smell of waffles and the rich scents of bacon and eggs seized my attention, and I rushed downstairs to ease my growling stomach.
My mother immediately set a plate of two waffles covered in syrup, whipped cream, and strawberries. My favorite. Soon, she pulled the eggs and bacon off of the stove, and plopped them both on a plate before handing them to me. “Thanks,” I said, pecking my mother on the cheek as she grinned in return. My father’s eyes lifted from his newspaper briefly, twinkling at me. His eyes slipped back to the morning paper. My mother placed a glass of good old orange juice next to my plates. Life is good.
“By the way, you have school today. Even though school is right down the road, there’s been something about ice on the roads. That means plenty of accidents, and for you, a delay of one hour. So, yeah...you’ve got two hours until school today. What a shame,” she said, a wry little grin forming on her face.
I giggled as I finished up the last of my breakfast. “Well, that was great, Mom. I gotta go finish some homework. Thanks! Love you both!” I said, blowing them kisses and chuckling when they both dramatically “caught” them and smacked them on their faces. It was hilarious at home, but at school? I’d never hear the end of it. That’s why I hate and love school; no one dare to lay a finger on me, but the verbal abuse is like a river with my classmates. The teachers can’t build a completely perfect dam, which means the river was unstoppable. I know I’m strong, and I’ve built my own dam. Sort of explains why I’ve only had Mara as a friend, but I would soon lose Mara faster than I’d found her.
I remember walking out of church about two years ago, before the dreadful fire. Sunday mornings were breezy, the sky clear, the last remnants of summer drifting away into a beautiful, crisp autumn. Mara walked out behind me, clutching her older, more weathered Bible under her leather-clad arm. She appears to be that “emo” chick that sits in the corner and writes dark poetry, which she actually does, but she really got into supernatural stuff. Demons, ghosts, anything weird that happens not only in Glassing, but mainly in the U.S. Despite her interest in those preposterous, ungodly beings, she is a firm believer in Christianity, like me. That’s what keeps us grounded, and our friendship solid.
Soon after, though, she seemed to be more...distant. Lonelier than usual, even with me around. I was never enough for her. She became more erratic; rage became quotidian with her presence. She went from being a bystander of the school fights to being a daily challenger. We’d all watch as she beat the crap out of the next sucker who dared to cross her path or mine. But it increasingly became people who had hurt me; those foolish, foolish seniors just couldn’t keep their mouths shut.
I remember the girls’ faces as Mara roundhouse-kicked their guts, gave them two shiners each, and made sure at least one limb per person was damaged. Badly. Blood steadily dripped from the gashes that covered their arms and legs. One girl lost an eye to Mara, and was stuck looking like a pirate for the rest of her life. I was grateful of Mara’s protective nature, but I was beginning to rue the day I met her, and feared she would one day “eliminate” me. Every time I would say this, it was always the exact same reply. “Don’t worry about it. You’re too good of a friend, Candace,” she’d grin, and get back to her beatings. Her reply always made me nauseated, even when I tried to return her shark-toothed smile. Jesus! She had never bitten anyone, or so she says, during her fights. But her teeth could tear someone limb from limb!
She also started disappearing more. Each day, I would see less and less of her, and some days I wouldn’t know where she was. She started skipping class, calling me during classes, and asking me if I wanted to ditch with her. What an awful question! Why should I skip? Mara was very sister-like to me, but I could stay in school and go to college and everything would be fine. No ditching necessary!
But then I never saw her outside of school, either. And when I did, she’d give a tiny little wave and scurry off into the neighborhood. Sometimes, I could swear that I saw a squirrel or a rabbit or some tiny little animal squirming around in her grasp.Yesterday, the same date around one year ago, she had taken a rabbit, held it down, and cleanly snapped its neck. I didn’t gasp; it was truly nothing new.This had become an annual occurrence. I’d always left Mara to practice whatever black magic or white magic or whatever it was, without ever mentioning it to her.
This time, it was particularly interesting, and I was stupid enough to keep watching. So began the most bizzaro, ritualistic action of my dearest friend.
She drained its blood into a bowl as she cut her own arm enough to draw blood. Some of her blood dripped into the bowl, and she picked it up and starting speaking to it. She began to frantically pace around the courtyard and was talking to the bowl for several minutes before smashing it against a wall. I jumped when the remains clattered around her, and when she looked around her, I almost croaked with dread.
Her eyes were black. No, not her irises, the entirety of her eyes had clouded over with darkness. And the strange part is, she didn’t have aniridia. Her eyes were usually blue, no melatonin, no nothing but light blue. Her hands were also covered in animal blood, some of it dripping onto the ground. Not that it mattered; the earth was her accomplice. It started to rain soon after, and her eyes changed back as the cloudburst washed away her horrible deed. But I knew she had seen me by her feral, predatory grin and the way she stalked towards my house. I had to get out of there. I had to run from the monster that had taken my friend.
I took one last look at my room, and felt incredibly odd. What was missing? I wasn’t sure. But it was time to go, and fast. The summer storm wouldn’t be there forever. I snatched my black raincoat, an ornate, but freshly sharpened knife that Mara had given me (to defend myself when I got older) and my black rainboots as I ran down the stairs.
My parents had already left for work, and had left me a note explaining that they both got called in today. That’s good. Now they can’t see me running out of the house in fear that my best friend might be after me. It’s not like I would have called them and worried their poor, fragile hearts anyways.
I pushed the back door open, and sprinted to Eve’s back door. I figured that if I stayed close to my own home, but not too close, Mara would assume that I was hiding. She might give up. Hopefully she would.
My heart was pounding by the time I unlocked our backyard’s back gate and moved through the small patch of wooded area that separated Eve’s backyard from mine. I pulled at the protective plastic wrap that shielded the other neighbors from the toxic substances that now lay inside the house.
Oddly enough, it looked like the house had been burned years ago. What year was it, anyways? I could have sworn the fire happened just last night...
I heard a crash as Mara broke down my front door and stomped into the house. “I know you saw me, Candice. Come out and talk. Let’s just talk,” she hollered, and more things crashed together and were shattered. Damn, I couldn’t have hated her more right now. She didn’t have to break my things, you know.
I moved further into the burned-up house, and found myself a nifty little corner to sit in that didn’t look too disgusting, but was tucked away just enough that Mara couldn’t possibly see me.
There was an eerie silence. No crashing, no slamming, no searching. Just deadly silence. Then, a figure broke down the plastic barrier, rushed over to me, and threw me out of my corner.
I coughed; my nose managed to get crushed from the throw, and I was trying to stem the blood flow with my sleeve. But my enemy didn’t let me rest; they kicked me in the gut, and by the growling of the person, I knew that Mara had finally found me. I warily fingered the knife in my raincoat. “Well, well. Look what we have. Lilith herself,” she said, yanking me up by my shirt to make sure it cut into my skin.
I suddenly blacked out, or greyed out. I wasn’t sure, but my vision fogged up the the point where I could see everything clearly, and could still think, but I couldn’t speak, let alone control any of my body. I was hearing another voice, another one! But I couldn’t see anyone else, and Mara still appeared to be talking to me.
“Hey! Wake up and answer me!” she said, slapping my face. It stung, and much more than a regular slap should.I spit out some blood, but I seemed to instantly recover, and someone else started using my mouth to speak.
“Get off me, you insolent brute,” Lilith said, and with a wave of my hand, sent Mara slamming into the wall. She fell, coughing violently and groaning, from the now cracked dent in the wall. “Who are you to assume that you hold more power than me at any time? Besides, I found this vessel first. You’re late by a few years, sweetheart. I could smell your disgusting, filthy blood all over that weak human. You’re pathetic, you know that?”
“Not as crass as the first daughter of Lucifer going on a juvenile killing spree in a town that won’t get noticed no matter what, hm?” the demon smiled, laughing a little as she sniffed, brushed herself off, and stood up. “I found a better vessel than Candice, that Christian poster-child,” she sneered, “whom you’ve managed to snag. Mara is much stronger, much more knowledgeable about our demonic creed. I do, however, admire the fact that you’re killing off competition. The body count is splendid. Got rid of some of those particularly annoying ‘children’. And those neighbors were awful, Lilly. I’m so glad you got rid of that...creature, Eve. At the rate she was killing those demons, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she got to Lucy himself. At least a tiny part of your work was admirable,” the demon said, smirking at Lilith.
Wait. Eve and Brutus...were burned....at my hands....their blood is on my hands....I thought might be sick right on the ashen floorboards.
“That’s not why I’m here, Azazel, you know that. I don’t care how many I kill, how many are possessed or have potential for evil. I’m here to start a revolution against my father, Lucifer.” Azazel looked confused. “You know! King of Hell?” Azazel smiled in sudden recognition of the seldom-used full name. “Not that he’s much of a demonic king at the moment. He’s such a coward, anyway. I’m trying to be the brave one, the real deal. So maybe I won’t hear anyone’s crap about Lucifer owning me because I’m the ‘first child of Hell’,” Lilith growled, making a squeezing motion with my fist. Azazel began to choke and clutch her throat.
Azazel just had to have the last word, didn’t she? “This doesn’t make you any more badass, you know that?” she mocked, baring her teeth and letting out a raspy chuckle. “Noone gives a damn about you two anymore, remember? You’re old news. What the heck would a revolution do? You know the angels would be here in two seconds to shut you down. And you know what? They’d succeed. The last thing anyone needs is a whiny...”Lilith squeezed harder, “little girl who can’t understand that she won’t get everything she wants.Quit trying for attention you’ll never get, Lilly. Get over yourself.”
Lilith used my face to toothily smile at her as she mercilessly clutched my hand into a fist that made Azazel wheeze and her eyes pop out of her head. The demon was smiling through her agony. “You should honestly think before mocking me, idiot. Our names are Lillith and Lucifer, not whatever petty nicknames you demon filth choose to call us. I honestly can’t believe the people my father sends for me these days.This is a new low for father; I’d prefer angelic visits at this point.” Lilith sighed and waved my hand in dismissal, which snapped the Azazel’s, really Mara’s, neck.
A cloud of black smoke was ejected from her mouth, and my best friend’s body collapsed. Mara had been used like a pawn in a board game. Thrown away like trash.
All I could think was that this Lilith, this awful, merciless demon, had possessed me and killed my best friend. I already despised evil creatures, but this was awful. What had I done to deserve this mess?
I was faithful. Protected. Hidden. And evil still found me. I guess that’s the way life works, huh?
“Thanks for the body, Candace,” Lilith cackled, and ejected herself from me.
I was gasping for air, clutching my stomach from the violent ejection. I didn’t have much time to think before I heard sirens, police sirens, pulling up the driveway. Police officers rushed in, pointed their guns at me, and after realizing I wasn’t a threat, rushed over to me, slapped the cold handcuffs on, told me my rights, but I wasn’t listening, I couldn’t hear them over the sound of blood rushing in my head, as it is still. Dear God, make it go away...
And then I’m here. Writing about it. I can’t forgive myself for realizing Mara’s possession too late. After all, she told me everything I know about demonic creatures today. And I ignored every word. Ignorance became a theme with me; the fire. Mara. The sacrifices. The foreign, bloody skin that was picked out of my teeth.
My parents died that day, too. They were my last living relatives. No one to save me, take me out of this place. Not that I’d let them. I screamed in anguish, as I knew that it was the work of some other demon. Like Azazel.
Despite the cool colors of these walls, touching them fries my skin. I don’t try to get out, to slip past them. If I can’t protect anyone, then why should I attempt to escape?
It never matters anymore. It’s my fault. I was a blazing target for demonic presences, and I’d let every single one of them slither past my purified psyche.
My mind is a tainted, additional asylum. I can't protect anyone from myself by doing anything but embracing permanent confinement. Everything burns like hellfire. I just want to burn.