It started with a simple change. I almost thought I imagined it, when I saw red eyes staring back at me. I turned the sink off and looked just a little closer into the mirror.
They were definitely real. My normally chocolate brown eyes were red as cherries and I was honestly starting to freak out a bit. I left the still foamed toothbrush on the side of the sink and walked out to the kitchen.
“Mom?” I called. My mom was waiting at the table with her coffee and the newspaper. She put the newspaper down and turned to me.
“What is it, Jo?” she asked. I walked up to her and stood awkwardly.
“There’s something weird going on with my eyes.” I bent forward to show her better. After an examination she pulled out her phone.
“I’ll call Dr. Benjamin,” she said simply. “It doesn’t hurt, does it?”
I shook my head.
“No it’s just weird.”
“Do you want to stay home today, or are you okay?” she offered.
“Okay. I’ll text you when I get ahold of the doctor,” she said. “Have a good day at school.”
I returned the sentiments and grabbed everything I’d need for the day. I was out the door and to my car within fifteen minutes.
The drive to school was tedious at best, and my mind kept drifting to what could cause my eyes to suddenly change color. I was almost 18, so it wasn’t like I was some kid starting puberty. It could be some sort of infection or weird strand of pink eye for all I knew, but it wasn’t like it itched or hurt or anything, so I would just have to try not to worry about it until I saw a doctor.
I shook off the constant worry and parked my car in the school parking lot. As I made my way to the school, a familiar figure blocked my path.
“Well isn’t this hilarious. Porkchop thinks she can fit through the side doors,” a shrill voice proclaimed. I tried to ignore Kayla to the best of my ability. “What’s wrong? Has the fat clogged your ears too?”
The sudden urge to punch her square in the face overcame me. I had to take a deep breath to calm myself and to remind myself that whatever she said was just to get on my nerves. I wouldn’t dare hurt someone like that just for trying to fuck with me.
I ended up attempting to run away, only being assaulted with several more degrading comments as I escaped. I soon found myself in first period, sitting in the far corner of the classroom and working on the homework that was due in 5 minutes.
The second bell rang and the teacher began the day by asking for that same homework I hadn’t finished. I scribbled a few more answers and handed it up, knowing I would get a horrible grade for it. I had the idle thought that I could have cheated to assure some correct answers, but pushed it aside as the teacher began instructing the class. The hour went by as slow as it possibly could and I was zoning out by the end of it.
A few classes later, I was given a test. When I found myself unable to answer half of the questions, I looked over to some of my classmates. One had his answers very clear, and I felt the ticking sensation to copy them. Soon enough I looked down at a paper with identical answers to my classmate’s, and a sharp feeling of guilt pinched me. I wrote my name at the top and handed it in before I could stop myself and sat back down.
My head itched for the entirety of the last class. I scratched at it until I felt trickles of blood come from the broken skin across my scalp. I could barely pay attention to the class, and when the final bell rang, I didn’t even notice. Only when the room had been cleared did I get up. The teacher tried to approach me, but I just shrugged the whole scenario off and left for my car, worrying the whole way.
Could the itching be another symptom? What if there was a parasite or something in my head? My mind swirled and swirled as I drove behind the school bus and I nearly forgot to stop at the supermarket.
I pulled in and got the energy drink for the next morning. The drink took its place in the cup holder and I drove back home. I walked in to find a note on the table.
You’ve got an appointment Sunday at 3. If anything else turns up, tell me.
I put my purse down beside the note and walked into the living room. A click of the remote and some mindless show started playing on the television.
An hour passed before I heard the door open and my mom walked in. I had forgotten about the itching already.
“How was work?” I asked.
“Good. How was school?”
“How’re your eyes?” she asked, walking over to me. She looked at me closely.
“The same.” She nodded and walked into the kitchen.
“What do you want for dinner?”
Another hour or so and we were eating at the table.
…Yet another hour and we were watching more television.
… Another hour and I was alone in my room on my computer.
… One more hour and I was asleep in my bed.
An alarm buzzed again in the morning and I went to the bathroom in half-consciousness. I sat on the toilet and started to wake up all the way as I peed.
Blurred vision started to focus and I saw pointed nails on my fingers. I blinked a few times and found that they were indeed actually there. I got up to check them out in better lighting and as I passed by the mirror an odd shape caught my attention.
I turned and saw a pair of horns coming from my head.
My mom came running in, just as disheveled and half-awake as I had been minutes ago. She stared immediately at the horns protruding from my scalp and she slowly reached out and touched them. The horns were about 5 inches long and curved down like the beginning of ram horns, and in the most surreal way, I felt her hand as it glided along the bone. She bit her lip and pulled her hand back when there was no doubt that they were real.
“Do they-“ she began to ask.
“They don’t hurt,” I assured, knowing that that could at least calm both of us a little. I reached up and touched one of the horns myself. It felt kind of like a dog bone and I moved my hand to the base of it, where there was clumped up skin that kind of burned when I touched it. The horns probably attached to my skull and I thought for a moment that this could be some weird kind of bone cancer or something.
“Jo?” My mother brought me out of my thoughts. “We’re going to the emergency room.” Her voice was wavering and I could tell she was even more afraid than I was. That made me think. Why wasn’t I shaking in my socks right now? I had bright red eyes, claws on my damned fingers, and a pair of horns coming from my head, and I was just sitting here, staring at my reflection.
“Uh, yeah,” I replied, barely paying attention. She grabbed my arm and pulled me through the house. I felt kind of like I was floating. I was barely aware of my surroundings, and before I knew it she had strapped me into the car and was driving off towards the hospital.
My mother kept talking, which was probably the only thing grounding her in her panic, and I just sat there, staring out the window as houses and trees flew past me in a blur. For just a moment, everything turned red and my spine felt like it was tearing itself open.
The next thing I knew, I was staring up from a bed at a blank white hospital ceiling.
There were hushed voices over in a corner I couldn’t see and I couldn’t turn my head at all, so they were permanently out of sight. I moved my arm the slightest bit and a needle moved painfully around within it. There was no way for me to figure out what was going on. With much effort and a good number of minutes, I figured out how to get my mouth to work correctly.
“Hello?” I asked. I didn’t even know what to ask so I just hoped the doctors would start explaining things right away. Instead, silence answered me and I felt a burning from the needle in my arm. My body felt numb and soon enough my consciousness drifted away once more.
When I was little, my mother always told me how I was so special I didn’t need a dad. I always told that to my friends when they bragged about theirs, and it made me lose some friends. When I was older, I found out that my father had left my mother after a one-night stand, and she decided to keep me even if she had to raise me herself. She never knew anything of my father other than his first name, Rob, so there was no chance of me going on any ancestry quest or anything to meet him.
Sometimes if she had a very bad day, my mother would drink, and when she got drunk I sometimes asked about him- about Rob. Her descriptions were always closer to an angel than a man- gorgeous beyond belief and an air about him that made him seem so much superior to her- and I could always tell that time had done its toll to her memory of him.
One night, she had been drinking with friends and after they left she kept drinking. She got very, very drunk, so I asked about my father again. She had looked me dead in the eyes and told me that his eyes were inhuman. She said they looked deep into her soul and could rip it apart if he commanded it. She always had called his eyes brown, but just that once, she had called them red.
The hospital came back into view as I came back into consciousness. This time, there was silence in the room, the only sound coming from a humming machine beside me.
I moved an arm. It had a needle in it, but I just wanted to move. Immediately, the needle was gone and I pulled the other arm free as well. My head felt heavy, but I managed to sit up and look around me. The room was empty and the door was closed. I just sat there for a moment, wondering if some sort of alarm went off from me taking my IVs out, but no one came. I slipped down from the bed and walked to the door, wondering why it was so quiet. Shouldn’t there be at least some action throughout the halls?
I opened the door and the hallways were clear. They were completely and utterly clear. I felt like I was in some sort of apocalypse movie as I walked down towards the entrance, stepping carefully as if a single sound could end in disaster. Something red caught my eye and I looked to the source- a spherical mirror mounted on the ceiling.
In it I saw myself, with larger horns than before, and blackened eyes. I saw how ridiculous I looked with this creepy transformation that doesn’t look very natural or even possible by known science. I saw a reddish tint to my skin, and blackened blood dripping from where my arms had been pierced by needles. And most importantly, I saw that the hallway I had previously thought to be empty was actually littered with corpses.
I just stood there and stared at the reflection. I was standing between two doctors- or perhaps nurses- who had their necks twisted completely around and were staring wide eyed at each other, their last moments frozen in death forever. I idly wondered why I wasn’t freaking out more. I turned around from the mirror and the bodies were there, as if they’d never left my sight to begin with.
A quiet gargle came from behind me and I turned around to see a man sitting against a wall with blood pouring from his mouth. He was barely conscious and probably on the brink of death. I walked over to him, not sure what I wanted to do, but drawn to him either way. As I got closer, he let out a terrified scream muffled by his own blood. I couldn’t blame him, but I could be someone here to help. I thought for a moment of how horrible it was that this man had to suffer so much and had to wait for death to take his misery and pain away.
In the next moment, his neck was twisted and he was dead.
I blinked and looked back at the corpse-ridden hallway and my mind filled with flashes of blood and screaming.
Huh, I guess I did all of this.