I’m so tired of being tired. Unfortunately, I’m the kind of tired that sleep can’t fix. My alarm goes off and I ignore it like usual, until I remember I can’t afford to lose my job. Waking, working, weeping, sleeping, such is the totality of my existence. Why the fuck did I take the night shift? I chide myself. Because I need the money. When my pathetic attempt at motivation fails, I remind myself what it was like to live out of my car. Feeding myself with nothing but shoplifted snacks and drinks from the local Walmart. Sure enough, that does the job.
I open my eyes to misty moonlight drifting in through the window. Hey there pal. I greet my only friend from behind a shroud of murky clouds. I lift my head from my tear-stained pillow and check my phone, it reads 1:30 AM. I still have some time. I force my muddled mind to do the basic arithmetic to calculate how many more minutes of sleep I can squeeze out without being late. I stare up at the Moon and lose myself in his pale, round face. Zoned out, I savor the peace and quiet, trying not to think about all the little things I hate about my job. Eventually, I coax myself out of bed and start dressing myself with whatever clothes happen to be lying on top of my dresser. Once dressed, I fumble around my dark bedroom for my keys in a groggy haze. I soon give up and go to flick the lights on, then remember the bulb in my lamp has been dead for a month. Need to replace that. Even as I tell myself that, I know I won’t bother. With a defeated sigh, I return to feeling around the top of my dresser in darkness.
My search is stalled by the sound of my ringtone. Without even checking, I know exactly who’s calling me. The name of my manager is displayed prominently upon the screen of my phone. I brace myself for the malaise of talking to the prick. “Hello?” I croak.
“Where the hell are you? We’re starting in 5 minutes!” I check the clock on my phone, it reads 2:10 AM. Fuck me, how long was I staring at the Moon?
“I’m on my way now, I just… overslept.”
“Be here on time damnit, It’s everyday with this shit.”
“I know, I just… I’ll work on it.”
“Whatever,” then he hangs up the phone, so I go back to searching for my keys. Fuck you too, bitch. I know I shouldn’t hate him for being on my ass all the time. I’d be pissed too if I had to deal with me. Oh well, it’s consolation enough that one day thE S̷K̸Y̷ ̸S̸H̶A̴L̸L̴ ̴S̴P̴L̷I̷T̸ ̶A̶N̷D̸ ̸J̸U̸D̷G̸M̵E̵N̴T̴ ̴W̴I̷L̶L̵ ̴C̴O̵M̶E̸.̴ ̷G̷O̷L̸D̷E̴N̷ ̴T̴R̴U̶M̷P̷E̵T̶S̷ ̶W̷IL̷L̴ ̶B̴L̸A̴R̵E̷ ̵A̷N̸D̴ ̸A̸N̶G̵E̸L̵S̴ ̴W̴I̴L̶L̸ ̴W̸A̵IL̷. Bad thought! I shoot to my feet and stand stock still until I’m certain the episode has passed. So many years free of the terrible thoughts that plagued my childhood. It took years of therapy and medicine to make them go away, but for the past month they’ve taken to haunting me again. While I want to seek help, to make them go away, I can’t bring myself to go back on the pills. I don’t remember much from my childhood, but being on those damn pills, I do. It was like I became a zombie when I took them, like I had become someone else. Chlorpromazine, fluphenazine, haloperidol, perphenazine, they had ruined youth. I won’t go back on those fucking pills, not even if they try to force them down my throat.
The whine of my snooze alarm startles me out of my downward spiral and back into action. With slightly more urgency, I run my hands along the floor until I find my keys lying next to my nightstand. I hurriedly scoop them up and rush out the door. I steal another glance at the Moon as I walk to my car. Must get lonely, being up there alone all the time. I know how it feels. I can’t remember exactly when I started talking to the Moon. I know I’ve been doing it at least since I was teenager. I don’t know why, but the sight of the Moon has always had a calming effect on me. Not that I ever told anyone, they’d think I’m crazy or something. Maybe that’s just what happens when you spend your whole life in your head. Who wouldn’t lose touch with reality if they spent all their time thinking?
When I start my car, I notice my tank is nearly empty. Just need it to last to the weekend. As I pull onto the road, I fall into a painfully familiar train of bitter thoughts. When did working a full-time job stop being enough to support yourself? I bust my ass 6 days a week and barely scrape by with credit cards. I justify my resentment with the knowledge that I have the goddamn right to have it. I grew up being told I could be anything I wanted. Fucking liars. Only after I graduated college did I realize the lie. That my worth would be determined only by my sacrifices. The irony of high school teachers and community college professors telling me to ‘follow my dreams’ is just too fucking rich. They knew I would become nothing but another cog among the billions. We all end up working jobs we secretly despise. The worst part is that I grew up thinking I would be more. Little did I know. My jaw clenches in anger and I step on the gas until the speedometer reads 60. Speeding doesn’t matter, the roads are always empty this early. With a blank stare, I turn the steering wheel to the left until I’m driving completely on the wrong side of the road. If I turn a corner and someone is coming the other way… Fuck it. What would be so bad about that? I’m just the ghost of someone who used to have a life ahead of them. Who would even miss me? Mom would. But I don’t know how much longer I can care about her feelings. I missed everything about being a teenager, now I’m chained to a dead-end job with no going back. It’s enough to make a man weep. But I don’t weep anymore.
I press the gas pedal harder until my speedometer reaches 70. The fact that my clunker of a car can reach this speed without exploding is a bittersweet surprise. To think I used to day dream about riding a pALE̸ H̷O̷R̷S̷E̷, ̵S̵K̸N̴L̸E̸S̵S̶ ̵O̸F̸ ̷F̸A̵C̶E̷ ̸A̶N̸D̵ ̷N̷A̷K̵E̵D̸ ̵O̶F̴ ̶T̷E̶E̶T̷H̵, ̷W̴H̶O̵S̶E̸ ̵B̴R̸E̷A̶T̵H̶ ̶I̴S̸ ̵T̷H̷E̷ ̴W̸HI̴T̷E̷ ̸M̷I̴S̷T̵ ̷O̶F̵ ̸T̴H̶E̷ ̶E̸T̷H̸E̶R̷. Bad tho— A jolt of surprise shocks me from my trance as a black cat suddenly appears in my headlights. I slam on the breaks and try to turn out of the way to no avail. With a sickening crunch, my car plows over the small animal. A shudder runs up my spine as I feel the cat’s skull collapse from the weight of my car. I skid to a stop and pull over, taking a moment to slow my racing heart. I slowly get out of my car and start to walk towards the cat’s corpse. I don’t know why I’m bothering to check; I know it’s dead. There’s nothing to be gained from doing this, I should just get back in my car and drive away. Despite the reasons to leave, I feel inexorably drawn to the spot where the dead cat lies. Distantly, I feel an odd sense of contentment at the animal’s death. Something about killing it felt… right. I don’t feel anything like joy. I don’t care that it was me who killed it. But for some reason, I know it was supposed to die. I know that it had to die, was meant to die.
An uncomfortable excitement wells up in me. The feeling of vindication at the animal’s death and concern for that vindication war within me. After all this time, it feels like I’ve finally found my purpose. Something that comes effortlessly, tO C̶A̴S̶T̶ ̴T̴H̶E̸ ̵C̸O̸N̶S̶E̷Q̴U̸E̶N̶C̴E̵S̸ ̴O̵F̸ ̷M̵A̸N̴’̸S̶ ̵T̸R̶A̷N̷S̶G̴R̸E̶S̵S̶I̵O̴N̴S̸. Bad thought. Bad thought. I quickly look to the Moon. The serene sight makes me think normal thoughts, good thoughts. I pull my eyes away from the Moon and approach the roadkill hesitantly. It’s hard to see anything in the darkness, but I can see enough. Its silhouette is twisted and mangled, its head is splattered across the asphalt. The cat was clearly starving, as its ribs are clearly visible beneath its skin. There’s just enough moonlight to make out a detached milky white eye. Cloudy and cataracted with age, staring out vacantly amidst the carnage. I feel the urge to move the cadaver off the street out, perhaps out of respect, maybe guilt. As I extend my arms down to lift the stray cat’s body, my phone starts to ring again from inside my car. I look to my car’s open door, then back to the cat, then back to my car. With a sigh, I turn around and trudge back the way I came, then, with a final glance at the dead cat, drive away.
Try as I might to dispel it, the sight of the cat’s corpse clings to my mind’s eye all the way to work. It was just a stray, no one will miss it. Once I arrive however, I’m forced to sit through a chewing out for being late, which I endure stoically. Finally free to work in peace, I use my mind to sweep myself away from the mundane, monotonous and macabre. To forget my regret and loneliness. It comes easily in this empty place, in these empty days. Where all feelings are sterile and inoffensive. After all, who has time to realize how miserable they are when they have to wake up early the next day. No one here ever talks about anything. God, when was the last time I even talked to someone outside of work? If I have to hear one more conversation about the weather, I’ll— careful, think good thoughts. But in spite of the drudgery, I come back every day, because the work isn’t too hard, no pain, no loss, just the decline of thought, just thE F̸A̷I̴N̴T̴ ̸S̵M̵E̵L̸L̷ ̵O̸F̵ ̵R̵O̵T̶. Bad thought.
While my body goes through the same motions it does every day, in my mind, I shape reality to whatever form I please. Each hour I am the hero of a new fantastical tale. The chronic daydreams I lose myself in often feel more real than the world outside my head. Out there, it feels like the whole world conspires to break me. But in here, all my fantasies come true, and I live them over and over again. It’s not all heroics and hedonism though. Sometimes my daydreams are dark and violent affairs. I used to get anxious about such fantasies as a kid, but I’ve long since learned to manage them. Or at least, not let it show on my face. Now, the people I’m talking to have no idea when I’m imagining, in vivid detail, how I might kill them in that moment. They just see the same blank face, the kind that’s easily lost in a crowd. Not at all like what you would expect the person who has my thoughts to look like. You would expect someone like me to bE V̵E̶I̸L̵E̴D̵ ̴I̴N̶ ̴B̴L̷A̶C̶K̷ ̸R̶O̷B̵E̴S̴,̶ ̸W̸I̷T̷H̵ ̶C̸H̴A̶R̸R̷E̷D̵ ̵FE̵A̴T̵H̷E̶R̶S̵ ̶M̷O̸L̸TI̸N̶G̸ ̷F̵R̸O̴M̴ ̷B̴R̵O̸K̵E̶N̵ ̷W̷I̶N̷G̶S̴. Bad thought. Bad thought. Bad thought. The rest of the work day passes in a blur, yet I stay acutely aware of the passage of time. On my way home I scan the road for the stray cat I ran over, but find no trace of it. Not even a blood stain. I guess someone cleaned it up while I was at work?
By the time I get home, the sun is at its zenith amidst a clear sky, and as oppressive as ever. Some people would call weather like this beautiful. All I see in the blazing sun is the cost of the air conditioning it will take to fight back its heat. I much prefer the company of the Moon. I take solace in the fact that my one day a week off has finally arrived. I relish the thought of sleeping in tomorrow, but the reality of sleeping late is never as satisfying as I always anticipate it to be. As I shower, I tell myself that today will be different. That today is the day I finish all the projects I promised myself I would yesterday. That I do all the things that need doing. It’s only out of my commitment to routine that I bother. There’s no doubt in my mind that as soon as I get out of the shower, I’ll collapse on my bed and stay there until my warbling alarm wakes me Monday morning. I’ll lie there, hoping to fall asleep and never wake up. Praying I’ll disappear. But such impertinence only seems to make whatever god might be listening delay. Otherwise, I’d be long gone.
When I wake next, it’s night, though it takes me a second to realize. My eyes come into focus on the looming brilliance of a full moon. I’m not sure if it’s just a trick of the eye, but he seems larger than I’ve ever seen him before. I’ve seen the Moon in all phases and at every time of the year, I’ve even seen supermoons, but this is something completely different. I close my eyes and rub my face to clear my head. But when I open my eyes again, the Moon is still taking up too much of the sky. He’s so large that he nearly fills my window sill. My eyes remained fixed on my friend for some time. Eventually, the novelty of the sight wears off enough that I can pull my eyes off him.
I sit up and scan the room for my phone. I have no idea how long I’ve been sleeping or what time, or even what day it is. Still in a fugue I stumble out of bed in search of my phone. The fruitless search gives me a restless ache in my legs that prompt me to movement. In an uncharacteristic moment of spontaneity, I dress myself, eager to get out of my studio apartment. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice my car keys sitting on my nightstand, framed perfectly by a beam of moonlight. Okay, I can take a hint. I grab my keys and walk out my front door without consideration for my wallet or phone. I don’t know why, but I feel as though I have to move, have to go somewhere. Problem is, I have no idea where.
I get in my car and pull onto the road with no idea of what I’m doing or where I’m going. At first, I simply take turns at random, paying no mind to my destination. After a few minutes of driving, I realize I’ve been taking the same turns that I would if I was going to work. Part of me says it’s just chance, but a bigger part tells me there must be a reason I ended up here. There’s been too many strange happenings tonight for this to be a coincidence. I’m not the kind of person to believe in superstition. I talk to the Moon, sure, but I have no illusions that he can actually hear me. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m just a lunatic off his meds. But this is different. I feel drawn to... wherever I’m going, in my bones. Where I’m going becomes apparent in a moment of elucidation as I recognize the road I’m on as the same one where I ran over— no, say it. Where I killed the black cat yesterday.
I arrive at the exact spot where the cat’s body had been and pull over. I open my car door and step outside. The night is disorientingly bright from the illumination of the Moon. I look around, not expecting to see anything, then jump in surprise and fear when I spot movement along the tree line in my periphery. Feeling the same ominous draw that brought me here, I cautiously approach a conspicuous gap in the roadside brush. I walk right up to the edge of where the illumination of the Moon is obscured by dense tree cover. I peer in with silent expectation and freeze in confusion at what I see. Sitting primly in the middle of a shaft of moonlight, is a black cat with unearthly white eyes staring back at me. It black fur is glossy and full of luster, its small body lithe and graceful. There’s something in its eyes too, something deep, something knowing that pulls me into the forest towards it. After I take my first ponderous step closer, it spins around and springs deeper into the woods. I walk slowly to the spot where it had been sitting and look up. Through the canopy I can see a sliver of my friend’s face. Are you going to tell me what all this is about? With no information forthcoming from him, I resolve to get my own answers.
I consider whether the cat I’m currently chasing through the woods in the middle of the night is the same one that I killed yesterday. The answer is obviously no, animals don’t come back to life. Then again, if you asked me if it was possible for the Moon to be so big as to take up a third of the sky yesterday, I would have said no too. Of course, it’s always possible I’m even crazier than I thought and just hallucinating both. After a few minutes of chasing my new feline friend, getting scratched by low hanging branches and assaulted by burrs all the while, my foot catches on a thick root and I trip, eating a face full of dirt. Ow… When I rise to my feet and brush myself off, my eyes lock with the cats. It’s standing with its back to me, head turned around, looking very deliberately into my eyes. The message is received loud and clear, ‘follow’.
My torturous traipse through the forest ends when I stumble into a small clearing about ten feet wide. I rest with hands on knees and catch my breath. When I lift my head, I’m left dumbfounded. Before me, bathed in ghostly moonlight, is the surreal sight of a S̵͠C̷̳̎Y̴͔͋T̸̞͊H̶̡̕E̶̪͘, embedded in a tree stump. It’s somehow both mundane and mystical. At first glance it seems like just a regular farmer’s scythe, simple wooden handle and plain metal blade. But a closer inspection reveals small, hair thin runic circles inscribed in the wooden shaft and an eerie white mist spilling forth from the blade. The whole thing is easily taller than I am. As my eyes follow the tools— the weapons sleek form up, my eyes again meet the cats. It sits precariously on the protruding grip along the shaft. As it looks imperiously down at me, it whispers a secret to me. Something that I realize I’ve known all along. Death is not an end, but a beginning. The cat then breaks eye contact and jumps down and stands to my left. My eyes then push further upward until they meet my best friend.
His majestic form fills the canopy opening of the clearing. As my eyes rove his face, I can see through small patches of sky in the tree cover, that he has grown once again. His form is unending now, stretching from one end of the horizon to the other. Feeling possessed by the ceremonial atmosphere, I take a confident step closer to the S̷̢̈́Ċ̶̘Y̶̗͐T̶̥͌H̵̛͓E̸̱̓. Now within reach, I stretch my arms and grasp its handle firmly, and something changes. Skin burns away from my body in a purifying fire. It hurts, but only for a moment before my nerves are cooked and die. Muscle melts away and sloughs off in grotesque chunks, leaving only bleached white bone. Now reborn, my skeletal hand tightens around the handle. With a final look around, I see that where once there was a black cat, now there is a gruesome and noble steed, fit for the reaper himself. Pale skin stretched tight over its body, each exhale spewing ethereal mist. Familiar milky white eyes look back at me. Just earlier today, I would’ve been surprised by this. But not anymore. It is as it should be.I return my attention to my weapon, and pull. As I do, it feels as though everything I ever wanted has come true. Every wish granted; every dream made real. But most of all, holding this S̸͈͋C̴̡̍Y̸͕͘T̷̫̓H̷͑͜Ẹ̸̃ is every purpose fulfilled. All but one. I understand now, as I pull my new instrument of peace and war free of its prison. I understand that my entire life has been a test for this moment. All paths lead here, tO B̶E̴ ̶O̵N̸E̶ ̸O̷F̵ ̴F̷O̶U̸R̸.̵ ̸T̸O̶ ̵M̷A̷K̷E̴ ̶E̵V̸E̴R̸Y̵ ̸W̸O̴M̵B̸ B̷A̶R̸R̷E̸̸̶N̶ ̴A̴N̸D̷ ̷E̸V̵E̴R̸Y̴ ̴S̵E̶E̷D̴ ̶H̵O̶L̵L̴O̴W̴.̶ ̸T̸O̸ L̸E̷A̷D̴ ̶T̷H̵E̷ ̶D̴A̵R̵K̷ ̴L̴E̵G̴I̶O̵N̴S̸ ̵O̴F̸ ̴H̶A̵D̵E̸S̵ A̸N̷D̸ ̶CL̵A̸IM̷ L̵O̷R̶D̶S̴HI̵P̸ ̵O̸V̶E̸R̴ ̸T̵H̴E̶ ̴E̸A̸RT̸H̸ ̶I̶N̷ ̵H̷I̸S̵ ̷N̵A̷M̶E̸. ̵T̴O̷ ̸D̴E̶C̵LA̴R̸E̸ ̴U̷P̸O̵N̵ ̶T̶H̸E̶ ̵W̸O̸R̶L̶D̵ ̴O̴F̷ ̵M̸A̶N̵ ̴T̷H̵A̷T̷ ̶T̵H̸E̴ ̴B̶LI̴G̶H̶T̵ ̸O̴F̵ ̵T̸H̷E̷I̷R̶ ̶F̵I̷N̴A̷L̷ ̶P̸A̷S̶S̸IN̴G̸ H̸A̷S̴ ̸C̸O̵M̶E̵, ̴A̸N̶D̴ ̸HI̶S̵ ̸N̴A̷M̸E̶,̸ ̴I̷S DEATH.
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