Hauling my bags to the center of the aisle in order to get to the screen, the numbers mixed together like jumbled mush. Finally, my eyes landed on my own flight to New York. Tracking along to the right side of the screen those bold red letters made my heart plunge directly into the pits of my stomach. The flight was delayed, and since it was a redeye it likely wouldn’t leave until morning. Letting out a deep sigh and examining the gate for a nice place to rest. The airport was almost completely empty by this time. Only scattered bodies were wandering around the hollow halls. Grabbing my things and slowly walking over to a nice corner of the airport. Tossing a pillow into the corner and laying flopping headfirst into it. Carefully Zip tying my bags to the nearest chair, more to quell the paranoia than anything. I wondered if people were going to think I was weird. Everything was going to be just fine just had to wait till six in the morning for my flight. With a click, the phone screen flickered to life and I immediately saw his face again. Smug as always, looking down on me like I was doing something wrong. “I really need to change that,” whispering to myself before letting the screen go dark again. Letting sleep overtake me and praying that time would move swiftly.
An ear-splitting screech came crashing through the airport and slammed into me, waking me with a start. Leaping up out of my sleep and pinning myself against the wall, looking around the empty airport. There was not a body in sight, the stores were gated off and the lights inside were dim. The screens flickered and shook as far as the corridor would go. I sat up from my fortress of suitcases and moved out of the corner. Tentatively testing the empty air with my voice “Hello?” Only silence answered back. “Of course the one time I travel on my own some creepy shit would happen.” Sitting down on the nearest chair and wiping my eyes free of the sleep that had made its home there. As my eyes opened something moved at the end of the corridor. They looked huge even from that far away, lumbering almost. Squinting my eyes I could barely still make out the figure. They sat there still staring at me, the more I looked the less their features looked human. Long lanky legs and arms about the length of my entire body. I stood up slowly and walked toward the corridor to try and interact with them. “Hey, are you okay?” To my surprise, my voice came out shaky and disturbed, the hairs that populated my arms rose to attention. They leaned back and looked toward the ceiling, then kept leaning, and leaning. Their back was perpendicular to the floor and it became clear that whatever it was, was not human. Another screech came from it, inhuman and shrill enough to shock even the most sturdy to their core.
My fear ignited and it took not a moment longer to flip on my heels and take off down the corridor. It immediately straightened its spine and came barreling toward me. Its footsteps bounced around the walls around me, my blood pumped fast enough that It alone could kill me. Behind came terrible noises as it pursued it creaked and sloped across the floor at such a speed that no one could truly outrun it. Especially not a smaller than average twenty-something who spends most her most time indoors. My eyes darted around the airport finding someplace to hide. A small coffee stand was near the wall, luckily enough the shop wasn’t gated off. I couldn’t ask for a better hiding place. Rounding a corner and staying close to it, so the creature couldn’t see where I had gone. Jumping over a small gate between me and safety taking cover against the front of the stand and held my breath. Only letting out small puffs of air through my nose to keep breathing. What in the hell was going on? Carefully lifting my phone out of my pocket and opening it to check the time, three A.M. A minimum of three hours before anyone could get to me. “I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay,” I whispered to myself over and over. Another screech came from down the corridor along with the creature in pursuit. It was searching, looking around the shops for any trace of its prey. Getting onto my knees and peeking around the edge of the coffee stand, to catch a glimpse of the creature. It was easily seven feet tall, never seen anything that huge in my life. It dripped with a deep black ooze as it muddled around. It’s back had spines poking out of it, sharp enough to impale me with ease. It’s claws, twice the size, like knives drenched in melting licorice. It moved as if it had not a single bone in its body, spines along its neck flared up as it searched the corridor. Only inches from me now, I watched the black ooze dripping from its body and pile onto the ground. It moved slowly as each step was on a different axis to confuse my sense of direction. Pulling my head back behind the counter, I stopped breathing almost completely. Its claws slammed down against the counter, the long appendages draped over the counter right near my head. I looked up slowly to see its face, its eyes were covered by some sort of mask. The ooze dripped around it as if to hold it in place. It’s mouth held human teeth, perfect human teeth. It scanned behind the coffee stand, it gazed around like it didn’t have any sense of sight. Moving its claws around the counter to search. The thing may have sensed me through sound, it was a gamble worth taking. If it searched anymore it would most definitely find its mark. Part of me hoped the creature didn’t mess up the stand, I wouldn’t want to inconvenience the staff in the morning.
I slowly and soundlessly slipped my shoe off of my foot. Crawling out of the stand while it searched, careful not to make any sort of sound. “My poor converse,” I thought before hucking the shoe as far as my arms would let me. The shoe cluttered along the ground and the creature immediately took notice and sprinted off toward it. As it ran out of sight I let myself rest against the wall, letting my lungs fill with air for the first time in minutes. Three hours, I just had to make it three more hours. I took off my second shoe and kept it held in my hand. More silent to move around without them. Slowly waddling down the corridor as the screens still flickered around me. Each of the labels on the screens showed my flight, like a labyrinth of LEDs questioning all of my decisions. There was a small glass room, it looked like a VIP room for rich travelers to hang out in and drink chardonnay while talking about how much they love their trophy wives. The glass room would likely be able to keep the sound muffled long enough to call for help. Slipping inside I sat down at one of the chairs, looking around the room for any exits, there were two doors in the room that each led out, which means there was an ample amount of escape routes. Opening my phone with a click and there he was again but his face had shifted and warped, he somehow looked even more disappointed in me than usual. Ignoring it and quickly dialing 911. The phone rang three times, each time my heart stopping for a moment, wondering if maybe the creature could hear it. Finally, the line picked up. “Hello! I’m currently in the airport and something is out there chasing me, please send help!” The line was silent for a while longer. My words became more desperate and my voice began to shake like an earthquake, the words squeezed out like the last drops of toothpaste. “Please, anyone, I really need help.” A response came from a familiar voice, the last thing that I expected to hear. “Collin sweetie, it’s a little late to be calling don’t you think?”
“Mom? No, I’m not trying to call you. I’m trying to call the police. Also, we talked about you calling me Collin.”
“Oh right, sorry honey. Why are you calling the police?”
“Because there’s this crazy monster thing chasing me, I need help.”
“Are you having one of those panic attacks again?”
“No, I’m fine now. But this, this is real.”
“It seems like you’re having troubles again.”
“No Mom, I’m okay. I’m fine, really.”
“I see. Are you still sure about this surgery?”
“What? Yes, I’m sure about it, but that isn’t important right now.”
“You know you can’t come back from it, it’ll be permanent. You won’t ever be normal again.”
“I am normal. Listen, I really don’t need your commentary right now Mom.”
“It’s not commentary. It’s advice. You can just turn around and leave, get away from that monster thingy too.”
“I’m not just going to back out of this, I’ve waited far too long for this.”
“Why don’t you ever call me?”
“I’m sorry, I just get busy. It’s not like I don’t enjoy talking to you. I just get scared”
“You get scared of what?”
“I don’t know. Everything?”
“How will you ever find a partner like this Collin. Even that one boy thought you were too much.”
“Please stop calling me Collin.”
“Would you like me to call you that fake name you made up?”
“Yes! Because that’s my name. Look, I’m sorry that I am such a disappointment to you, that I’m not this perfect child. That I’m an abomination of nature and all I will ever be to you is something that you want to hide!”
From the other side of the airport came a loud and angry screech, I had done it now. I guess not even the glass could protect me from myself.
“I have to go, Mom. I’m sorry..”
“Have a safe trip, Cynthia”
I wasn’t quick enough to escape; on the other side of the glass, it stood and stared at me, even without eyes the thing looked straight through me. It stared at me a thousand times through a thousand eyes each of them saying the exact same thing in the back of their head. “You’re a freak,” The thing spoke, its mouth didn’t open and close like it was truly talking. Its mouth was simply agape as the words came out. “You’re not good enough,” It felt crushing, like everybody in the airport was staring at me all at once, invalidating me with just their thoughts.
“I can’t believe this eldritch demon is insulting me, what in the hell.” It quickly became less passive in its pursuit as it slammed its entire weight against the glass, screeching as it did. The glass cracked under its weight. Its claws scraped against the glass like a nail on a chalkboard. Its body contorted against the glass each time it slammed up against it like it was breaking any bones it had each time it made contact. The glass threatened to break, it was only a matter of time until it shattered and the thing got through. I scrambled to the other exit on the side of the room, watching the creature’s ooze like body slip through the tiny cracks in the glass, black sludge dripping down the glass. I slowly opened the door and made my out, being careful as to not make any noise as the door closed. The door closed and the glass shattered behind it, marking my need to escape as I took off down the airport corridor in my socks. The halls began to match one another and blended in painfully similarly. “I’m okay, everything is fine, you’re gonna be fine” I repeated to myself in between breaths.
After running for what seemed like an hour I finally made it to a large room with a whale hanging from the ceiling like an aquarium. There was a statue under a skylight, the waning moon illuminated its face just enough to see how sad it looked. I sat down on the bench to catch my breath, looking at my white socks turned black from the airport floor. It was four now, only two more hours until that thing hopefully disappeared or at least someone came to help. Though would guns even harm the thing? Would anything really harm it, it seemed to be out for me. But why, was it trying to chase me off from something. It would be so easy just to walk away from this, airports rarely ever close all the way. Why am I fighting so hard for this, I’ve never fought this hard for anything in my life. Not even for him. At the same time, this was all so important to me. Spending years of my life always feeling odd inside of my own body. I couldn’t run away when I was this close. Closing my eyes for a moment to think, letting my ears watch out for the creature as my mind focused on what to do next. Every time I closed my eyes it got more and more horrifying, the thought of what would happen to me if it caught me. Would it just use one of those claws to off me quick, or would it torture me? Making me listen to that awful voice says all the things my head thinks about me. Countless therapy sessions, countless pills, and medications just to try and be normal. Part of me just wants to be normal so badly, to be okay and never be stuck in a rut again. Outside of my eyes, a faint blue glow shone through when I opened them I saw the entire room flooded with a cyan glow. Small transparent fish floated around by the plastic whale as if I were now under an ocean. Standing up and walking around the room, moonlight drifted in through the skylight and illuminated the sea scene. “What is going on,” I said silently to myself as I walked around the room. As the fish swam above my head in the air, the phone in my pocket began to buzz uncontrollably. Lifting it free from my jeans I saw that he was calling me, the smug face of him begging me to answer the call. Putting the phone up to my ear and answering cautiously, “Hello?”
“Hey, Cynthia. Its uh, been a while.”
His voice had bounced around in my brain and my nerves bounced freely around, sending fear, happiness, and anxiety through me all at once. Sitting silently and half expecting the line to just cut.
“Cynthia, are you there.”
“Yeah, I’m here.” The words choked out of my throat and into the open air, this night could not get any weirder.
“How are you?”
“A little preoccupied, if I’m being honest.”
“How come? Is everything okay?”
“Not really, I’m in the airport and something is after me. This crazy goo demon.”
“Are you having another attack? Do I need to call someone?”
“No, I’m okay. Just a little scared of the thing trying to kill me.”
“Is it really about the creature? Or something else, I know you always felt pretty terrified of the surgery.”
“I have to do it though. Even if I am scared. If I don’t do this, I might as well just let the thing have me and be done with it all.”
“I hate when you talk like that.”
“Do you remember when we went to that aquarium?”
“Its where we had our first date, of course, I remember.”
Above me came sea turtles, otters, dolphins, they all swam around near the skylight just out of reach. They danced around the skylight as if they were trying to impress the moon. The light shining through them and turning the whole room into a kaleidoscope of color.
“You were so happy, I never saw you like that before. You admired every living thing like it was so important to you. Wonders never ceased with you, and it drew me into you even further. It’s a shame that you abused that.”
“What? I didn’t… I really tried to be better for you.”
“You gave up so quickly. The moment things got hard you left me alone. I told you so many things, I gave you everything you could ever want and you still spat in my face.”
“That’s not fair, and you know it isn’t. All I wanted was to be loved. You did so many awful things to me, you truly made me believe I was nothing. You told me that no one would ever love me except you. I believed that for so long, sometimes I still believe it. You broke me into pieces every night, put me back together every day just to repeat the cycle. You abused me.”
“And you fucked me up. You did the exact same thing to me, you told me how much you cared for me, then turned around and ignored me for hours, or even days. You left me time and time again and left me thinking that everything was my fault. But it’s not my fault, it’s yours.”
The skyline went dark as shadows crawled overhead. The ocean above was clouded by a predator stalking the smaller fish. The skyline quickly turned into a bloody red as tears streamed down my cheeks and frustration built up even further inside of me. “At least I came back, and I tried every single time to make things work between us. I’m sorry they didn’t. I’m sorry that you got hurt. But it can be over now, I’m moving on and you can too. You don’t have to do anything because I’m gone. You can just be happy. And I can finally try and be happy too. Goodbye.” Hanging up finally and slamming the phone against the bench. Using my hands to cover my face, my insides felt as if they were prodded with a hot knife. Each of my limbs were trembling after the fact. He was wrong, she was wrong, even that thing was wrong. I could do this, and I could finally love myself. “Classic Cynthia, Always have to last word.” His voice boomed over the speakers in the room. My eyes shot up the ceiling just in time to watch a shark circling the fish in the air. Screens around the room flickered on as his face looked down upon me at every possible angle. “You never could be wrong, could you? Always had to have the last laugh, you knew full well what you caused. What I did to myself because of you. How many scars are dedicated to you.” The room started to drip with scarlet life as the floating fish were no more than specks in the air. My throat in a vice grip, keeping me from speaking any of the thousands of thoughts on my mind. “You say that it’s my fault you hate yourself. But you hated yourself far before I got involved. You get off on it I think, you love to be miserable and soak up all the pity from others. Hell, you hate yourself so much that you’ll fly across the country and mutilate yourself just to gain some self-worth” The screens were dim but lit up the powdered scarlet in the air as it dripped down the walls. The shark circling overhead as if to intimidate the next target. Trying to find the space to breathe, walking around the room now covered entirely in red. The light blue of the moonlight aquarium now enveloped in a dimly lit red. “But this isn’t why I’m doing this, I’m not doing this for anyone else but me. Why don’t you understand that?”
Through the scarlet lights, the creature reared its ugly self. Lumbering slowly toward me it screeched, loud enough to even block out his voice. It slowly moved into the red lights as its claws dragged along the ground. “You better run Cynthia, as you do from everything.” Unfortunately, he was right and I took off down the other side of the airport. Each screen flickered on as my feet carried me as fast as they could, his face began to appear all around me. My heartbeat was loud enough to block out whatever he was saying. I continued to run, my feet carrying me as far as I could go. I could run infinite loops around this airport with no end. This whole night had to stop, all of this had to stop. I stopped, took a deep breath and planted my feet. Turning around to face the creature head-on as the monitors around the airport went dark. “So, is this just, where I die? At an airport at five in the morning? Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be so dramatic.” The thing simply stared and craned its head. “So, are you gonna come and kill me, or just keep standing there like a bad horror movie. Need my last monologue?”
“Why do you run?” it spoke coldly without any sort of emotion.
“Because I’m scared of whatever it is that you are.”
“I come from you.”
It opened its mouth and my own voice came out, it sent shivers down my spine to see its neck rotate ninety degrees as it spoke like me. “I don’t deserve anything. I am worthless. I’m not enough for any sort of joy.”
“That isn’t how I think”
“You will travel by yourself, across the country with no support system. Undergo a procedure that may or may not kill you. For what?”
“Because I’m tired of being someone I’m not. I’m sick of being an amalgamation of others’ expectations. This is what I want, what I’ve wanted for years but never had the confidence to do.”
“Then why am I here?”
“I don’t know what you are.”
“That feeling of everyone looking at you, and thinking that your hair is too long. You look too much like a man to be a woman. You’ll never amount to anything. I am that ’
“I don’t think like that anymore.” As the words loosed from my lips and the creature got closer, jabbing one of its claws into my leg. Feeling warm blood drip down my leg as it pinned me against the gate.
“Liar” it spoke in my mother’s voice, cold and calculated. “Liar” now in his voice, disappointed.
“I’m okay, really,” I spoke out through the pain. The thing plunged its claw further into me, sending lightning strikes through my entire body as its masked face got even closer.
“You lie. You lie. You lie” It said in alternating voices, hers, his, and my own. “You are lying, the more you try and escape reality, the faster it comes,” it spoke in its own voice.
The pain was overwhelming, warm tears fell down my face freely. Which each beat of my heart I felt blood spill from my leg and my body wreath in pain. This creature was a part of me, the part that was there every single day, every night, the part I have tried so desperately to ignore. “You’re right… Every time I leave my house, every eye, every chuckle, every swear is directed at me. At least, that’s what it feels like.” The creature slowly took its appendage out of my leg and smirked like it wanted more. “I hate myself, even more than my family, or him. I cannot stand myself. Every single day I hope that I wake up in the body of someone else. That’s why I’m going to New York. I have to get this surgery, even if it means I’ll be deformed forever. Or that I won’t be able to have kids, or I’ll never be a proper woman. It is the one thing that will make me feel like me. Giving up on this is just as bad as dying here.”
The creature stepped away and sunlight began crawling toward it. It only smiled as the sunlight got closer and closer to it. I tried standing up on my feet but could barely even accomplish that. It started to dissipate like fog in the mid-afternoon. “Does this mean, you’ll leave me alone.” The creature merely smiled and shook its head. The sunlight hit the creature’s body and I closed my eyes. Letting the morning sun fill the airport, when I opened my eyes the thing was gone. All that was left in its place was my other shoe. Grabbing the shoe I began walking toward my gate, the aquarium room was empty now and the whale stood atop the room like a crown jewel. Seeing the corridors I had run down for hours, the glass room surrounded by confused men in suits wondering what had happened to their special room. Looking down at my leg and watching it drip slowly with blood still. Ruining one of my favorite pairs of jeans, that thing was an asshole. Though it wasn’t gone, just not visible anymore, it was just following slowly behind me. I don’t think it’ll ever stop following. The coffee shop brimmed with life as people grabbed their coffee and ran off to their flights. Many people’s eyes were locked on me, this woman limping with a bloody leg down the halls. What did they think of me? Did it really matter? Arriving at my gate to see all my bags in place. Letting out a sigh of relief as the stewardess approached me, looking quite shocked at the state of me. “Ma’am, are you okay?”
“No, and that’s okay. I think”
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