Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
I think you misunderstand what I mean when I say dark. I don’t mean the night time, when the sun goes beyond the horizon, with the light fading into bruised decay. I don’t mean when the electricity goes out and you’re in the shower, soap in your eyes, frantically searching for a towel.
When I say that monsters find you in the dark, I mean an empty, lifeless place. An abyss. A place well-lit can be filled with despair. Empty and lifeless.
I remember meeting a monster, face-to-face, for the first time. It was a warm fall afternoon, with the sun shining bright as could be. I’d just finished working early and went for a walk in the park, wrapping my fingers around a paper cup of coffee. Just cream, no sugar. It had just finished its swirl when I looked up in time to receive a shoulder to my face.
My nose was spilling blood everywhere, on my clothes, on her clothes, and mixed in with the brown liquid. The pain was excruciating and my ears had been filled with a sharp ringing. My nose wasn’t broken, but the pain hadn’t still pretty bad. Holding my hand up to my bleeding nose, I finally looked up.
She was beautiful, my monster. Her hair was long and red, much like the leaves falling around us. Her eyes were green and dancing, and I thought I could see a merry soul in her. Her black coat was wet, and her face was aghast.
“I’m so sorry!” she had said. Her hands were digging in her purse, looking for tissues. “I’m so careless.” I watched her, my eyes wide. She was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen. I could barely manage a thank you when she handed me a few tissues with her small, gentle hands.
Shaking her head, the monster had taken my other hand in hers, eyes wide. “Do you need me to take you to a hospital?” She seemed desperate to help me. I shook my head. I was thinking of two things at that moment: how fast had she been walking to do that much harm, and how I could just stare at her forever. Clearing my throat, I finally spoke.
“Please, don’t worry about it. I wasn’t paying that much attention either, really.” I fake laughed, trying to make it seem like everything was fine. My clothes had been perfectly ruined. She was dissatisfied with that answer, pulling out a small wallet. “At least let me buy you coffee. Are you free?”
Again I was stunned. I nodded before my mind comprehended what I had just done. Smiling suddenly, she had grabbed my hand gently and pulled me behind her, back to the coffee shop I had just come from.
A few minutes later, I was sat across from this woman with a fresh cup of coffee, with both cream and sugar in it. I had no idea what to say. I thanked her, thinking she’d leave right after. But she stayed. I found it quite odd, but as she’d already had such an effect on me already, I hadn’t minded all that much. “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” she said all the sudden, startling me.
“W-what?” I managed, picking up the coffee. “What do you mean?”
Running her light fingers over a stray length of red hair, she said, “Well, you look very familiar. I don’t know too many people, even for living in this place for as long as I have.” Mid-sip I looked at her, confused. I had wondered what she was getting at.
“Well, perhaps a name would help,” she said finally, looking at me expectantly. Her lips tugged into a sincere smile, her hand holding up her head. I was slightly reluctant, but I complied. “I’m Bri,” I said, placing the cup on the table. “Bri Leeds.”
“Bri!” she exclaimed, looking excited for whatever reason. “What a beautiful name! Do you work at Greta’s?” Greta’s Stop was a design boutique. My friends convinced me to apply after graduating two years ago, so I had more time to spend with them. I nodded again. “Yep, I work there full time. You shop there regularly?”
“Oh, yes!” she said, sitting up straight. “I buy most of my clothes there, actually!” I had noticed some of her clothes looked familiar when she said that. But I realized she hadn’t offered up her name. “What’s your name, then?” I asked, looking her in the eye. I wasn’t letting it slide by.
She paused, her green eyes darting. The monster, now that I think about it, looked a bit trapped. “Melanie,” she replied, her voice now low, more serious. “Not as lovely as your name, that’s for sure.” I managed a small smile. “Nice to meet you, Melanie.” I felt my nose had stopped bleeding at that point and took the tissues away from my face. The pain had subsided too.
“My, what a beautiful face you have,” she said, twirling her hair now. “I do so apologize for walking so fast. But, perhaps, it’s fate, as I get to meet a beautiful girl such as you.” Despite the weird feeling in the pit of my stomach, my face had turned slightly pink at the compliment. My heart skipped a beat, watching those gentle fingers twisting, turning that long red hair. “T-thank you,” I stammered, “but really you are much prettier than me.”
Leaning forward, her green eyes had widened. “Oh, no! It’s rare to find one with eyes like yours, or hair so dark, like the night sky!” Referring to my brown eyes, which many had told me changed colors in the light and with my moods, I blushed even more. “They are nothing compared to yours.” And it was true. No one could have hair that red without dying it. Or at least in my experience. I looked down, staring into my cold cup of coffee. The light and dark had mellowed out, settling into a murky tan. Bland and boring.
And it was then the monster’s hand touched mine. I lost then. I should have realized my misfortune in those green eyes, in the lips that whispered that I should take a walk with her, in the way she knitted her fingers between mine. But I was enamored from that moment, and I remember when I had unlocked the door to my apartment and led her inside. I can still feel those fingers running through my hair as her lips touched mine. They were ruby red, pressing desperately. And her scent entered my blood as I touched her skin, entwined in her hair like a web that I still can’t escape. Her soft voice and gasping breath were the only things that I heard. Her trembling body under mine, above mine, nearby as we lay there was no different from my own.
But most monsters hide in sheep’s clothing.
It was another bright day when I opened my eyes. The only thing covering me was the comforter and her arms, wrapped around my waist. Crème walls intensified the sunlight. I heard her groan, pulling closer.
I felt odd, at best. My body didn’t feel quite right. No, it was my soul. It felt so… empty. I remember when I held my hand in front of my face, staring at it in the light, I could see every detail, but not understand it. I had wondered if it was my body that I was looking at, or a stranger’s. I felt her stir, the monster from last night, whispering for me. Bri, right? Yeah, of course. Why would I question my own name?
That’s when I realized just how cold her hands were.
Her hands held tighter and tighter, and I wondered if I could remove them without waking her. She was already awake, though, looking up at me. But her eyes were not the same. They were still the same shade of green, the ones that had peering at me in the darkness of my room, searching me for all of my vulnerabilities. Except they were deep and hollow, with no end to them. They were an abyss. They were dark.
I froze. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t breathe. This woman had been so beautiful and bright and cheerful, like the fall leaves. She was the same person, but there were the holes, the crinkling shape and curling edges, browning. I pushed myself out of bed, pulling her hands away from my waist. Mirrors hold many truths, and the one mine showed me was terrifying. I was me. I was the one I’d always been. But I looked desaturated, like all the blood had been drained out of me.
The light and dark had mellowed out, settling into a murky tan. Bland and boring.
Her red lips had been next to my ear, whispering again. “Bright eyes, such as yours, are odd for hair so dark.” Her fingers laced themselves into my hair, more like talons now. Her lips trailed from my ear to my collar bone, and I felt the sensation, but tinged with fear.
“I’ve searched for a feeling such as this for many years,” she said, her fingers trailing. I gasped, my body growing colder and dimmer. “It’s hard to find many so willing at just the touch of a hand.”
I remember, as her hands cupped and fondled my fading self, detaching and looking back, and seeing her. It was the same woman, the woman with the long red hair. But she was different. In the light, she seemed to adjust. And by adjust, I mean her body shifted, like a chameleon camouflaging.
She was definitely a monster, with eyes dark, and she knew that I saw.
Today, her eyes are brown, changing color in the light. Today, her hair is black like mine used to be. Today, I have counted 543 wounds on my arm. She puts them there, the monster. Her long nails cut into me every hour, counting down the hours before I surely bleed to death. But the feeling of her touch takes the pain away, for sure….