It’s a lie to say that monsters, real monsters, don’t exist. After all, you don’t have to change into a werewolf at the full moon to be ruled by your animal instinct, to become a beast of uncontrollable hunger and lust. It doesn’t take the bite of a cursed creature to turn you into a rabid dog; you can do that all on your own, by choice or by lack thereof. That’s the truth behind all those legends – we make our own monsters, gladly, willingly, and only after the adrenaline has calmed and the blood dried do we make up fantastic stories to exonerate ourselves. But I have partaken of that moment of madness and blood, and I know the truth. I know what I am.
This is not a home. This is a doll house. This is make-believe. In this place every room is a ballroom and every moment a masquerade. Never let the mask slip. Never speak out of character. A doll has no wants or wishes of its own; a doll is a blank slate. Remember that and you will draw no attention. Is it no wonder a place like this would raise a beast, not a man? That it would mold a monster who at once craves for, yet chafes against, the collar and leash? Perfection and sterility provide nothing to feed a starving soul, so the soul devours itself to survive. I don’t belong here. I never did. But I learned to wear my mask well.
I still have nightmares about that night. Sometimes he collapses and hits the pavement before I can catch him, dying even as I drag him into my arms. Sometimes he’s already dead when I find him, lips blue and eyes glazed. Sometimes he’s still alive but when I set my hand on his shoulder he flinches, lashes out, and the thin little blade finds my chest or my throat or my eyes. Sometimes I bleed out on the wet pavement while he stares down at me, lips curled in a scowl. Sometimes I never find him at all, and all I do is wander through the dark city, desperate and alone.
Daren is like a venomous snake lost in the city. He doesn’t belong here, too wild and dangerous to exist among civilization, yet he has adapted as all predators must. He stays in the shadows, watching and waiting, patient in the way of coldblooded things. Give him a wide berth and he’ll leave you alone; come too close and he’ll strike without warning. No snake has ever shown mercy.
Sometimes I forget I am not an old man, weighed down as I am by the chains of regret and guilt. It feels like I have lived a lifetime already; could I really have had a home, friends, family, scant years ago? Could I have really once been the man I now barely remember? I feel so old, yet we are still so young. I’m reminded of this when Daren whimpers and trembles in his fever sleep, face twisted in a misery he otherwise masks. The child he was not so long ago surfaces in these moments, angry and helpless and afraid. No matter how this illness ages him physically, or how his bitterness ages him mentally, he is still young. And that is the part which breaks my heart the most; he finally has a chance at some sort of life, no matter how dysfunctional we may be together, and that life is limited to months. Maybe a year, if we’re lucky – but when are we ever lucky? A year at the utmost and then this one chance is gone. How can we not feel so old when our time is so short?
you seem more at peace
in the arms of your nightmares
than my own embrace