Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
Humanity has been long destroyed, decimated by its own ego and thirst for power fueled by the ignorance of man. How I pity for those who sought after authority and instead received the full force of the atom exploding in front of their very eyes, obliterating everything they know and love. How it disgusts me that monsters like those destroyed the only place where life resides, and instead of caring and nurturing it rained hell upon our only paradise.
I myself was one of the lucky ones, and my town was just able to escape the corruption that fueled a third Great War between nations. I reside in a small home in the great suburbia of the Northwest United States, far away from where most of the destruction occurred in areas like New York (now referred to as the “Graveyard”) or south of here in former California (it has been quite literally sunken into the ocean). My town was very small to being with, but once the bombs dropped our town grew into a minute sanctuary where only its residents knew of its existence. We have not been visited by any government since the nations declared war, and I don’t presume we shall be unless they happen to stumble upon our dying city when trying to conquer the rest of the Pacific Coast (or what’s left of it at least).
I, Johnathan Rostow III, am the only resident within a mile radius or so, and I sometimes get visitors just passing through who stop to have a chat or share stories of the challenges they’ve faced. What fools they are, how big they think their problems are, how important they consider themselves compared to others. It may have have been better if they died like the others, so citizens like myself wouldn’t have to deal with their sorry lives. If they wanted a real challenge, try living my life.
Once the bombs started dropping, I started to have horrific nightmares when trying to sleep where I would be visited by a beast that would kill any man who came close, and would eventually kill me. Shell shocked, I believe they called it in the earlier days, is what I experienced. However, these dreams transferred into reality, and I soon saw the beast in its full form in front of my very eyes. The sunken eyes, the jagged teeth that filled its blood covered mouth, and the pure white that covered the beast’s skin shakes me to my very core whenever I happen upon it. The first time I saw it I I was walking down the hallway of my home when I saw it out of the corner of my eye, just stalking me through my window that peers out into the emptiness of the landscape. This happens very rarely now, but whenever I do happen to catch a glimpse of the beast I fly into my bedroom and wait until I have regained the bravery I once had in order to confront it. Unsurprisingly, I have yet to see it after I flee.
That damned beast! Always keeping me awake at night, wondering if in that moment it might be my last. I haven’t slept well in days, and I think I am running low on supplies. Maybe if a visitor happens upon my house, I could barter with him for such necessities.
That fucking beast is at it again! I cannot deal with this haunting, the way it follows me around like a fucking child needed to be cared by its mother!
I was visited by a man who went by the name of Christopher, who was in search of a small town near here. He did not seem like the friendly type, staring at me in a cockeyed expression when he first saw me, but nonetheless I welcomed him into my home as an act of kindness for a rude individual. I presume he had been so shocked at my cleanliness and my general compassion for strangers he must have taken it as hostility.
He sat down at my table in the kitchen whilst I prepared a small rabbit for us both to share. He then complained about a stench so vile he said he couldn’t breath properly, and I informed him of the tires near here that were burned daily in order to provide fuel for our town, uttering an expletive or two in response. How rude of such a disgusting man to complain about his host when the latter is doing the best he can to please them? The dirt under his fingernails and bags under his eyes told me enough of his character, that he came from a settlement with no civilization and order that taught only to kill, live, and survive. I did not know this for a fact, and only presumed it based off of other guests I have met before. But once you meet enough people, you can deduce a thing or two about strangers.
I finished cooking the rabbit in my kitchen and I steered the conversation towards the creature that I have seen many times before. I asked if he had ever heard of such a creature before and he only shook his head in response, obviously too committed to the rabbit I cooked to respond with a clear answer. I then got up to grab a knife to cut up my rabbit when I turned around and notice the man was gone, like a snake that slithers back into the comfort of night.
I was livid. I knew the man was unkind, but to leave my food there without mentioning his departure made me enraged like never before. I stormed out to the front door when I saw it.
The creature looked exactly the same as it had the many times before, only this time it was smiling. Not the kind of smile that would be expressed from one friend to another, but like that of knowing something that I didn’t know. The curve of his (I assumed it was a boy) cheeks expressed its hollow cheekbones, protruding out like white ice caps in the Rocky Mountains. His skin was whiter than ever, but its face was especially pale. I only saw the visage for a moment, but that image will forever been engrained into my head. Nothing has and nothing ever will terrify me like that smirk has, taunting me like a small child when he knows something I don’t.
After collecting myself for a moment I raced to the front door to only find a bloodstain leading to the door, as if a man had crawled desperately in order to leave. It must have been Christopher’s, as it wasn’t there before he arrived.
“Why me?” I shouted into the nothingness. “Why must you haunt me, a man who has done nothing wrong, unlike his brothers who have torn each other to shreds in desperation for even just a glimpse of absolute power?”
I have tried asking the many nomads since then that come across my home about this beast, but none have provided me with a solid answer. And just like Christopher, they all end up disappearing from my home without a single trace, killed by this beast. Until then, I must live every waking moment too terrified to move around my home, too terrified to see the creature that induces fear into me like no other thing in my lifetime, too terrified to doom visitors to the same fate Christopher had.
I’ve been driven mad by this beast, who has taken away any possibility of human interaction in this destitute wasteland. Those few moments I have with others aren’t enough to preserve my humanity, driving me to the point of considering to end it all. I can’t take this any more. The stench that Christopher mentioned has grown more and more with each passing day; I presume that those people need a lot of power to survive. It’s overwhelming. I can’t take this shithole any longer. I need a way out.
A visitor knocks on my door. I hesitate to answer, knowing of the poor man’s fate. He pleads with me, telling me he is desperate for food and water and won’t take much, only enough to survive. I consider myself in the man’s shoes, and I find that we are one in the same; desperate to find results, desperate to survive the horrors of our environment. I shuffle to the door and open it to find a small man, covered in dirt and mud, skinny enough to pass through the eye of a needle. His blue eyes look up in awe, surprised that I have answered his calls for help. I invite him inside, and he relentlessly thanks me for my kindness. Finally, some appreciation.
I show him to the kitchen and he sits down quietly in his chair. I grab a squirrel I hunted the day before and set it over the stovetop. He starts to talk to me, but I only nod or shake in response. I do not want to grow attached to this man before he leaves me.
The rabbit finishes cooking, and I turn away from the man to pick it up and start cutting it up. I turn back around, and to my surprise I find him still sitting there. My mouth gapes in awe, and the man asks what’s wrong. I do not answer him, believing that it is only a matter of time before he is ushered away from my life.
He continues talking about his life before and after the bombs fell, describing his journey across the nation in order to search for sanctuary and his family. I slowly begin to realize that this must be the work of the creature, taunting me in a way similar to that smile not so long ago. I just nod and shake my head in response to the man’s stories until I eventually can’t take it any more.
I fall onto my knees, and the man rushes to try and help me up. I start to bawl like a child, and explain to the man how he’s going to die soon if he doesn’t leave. He’s extremely confused, only focused on trying to help me. The poor soul. He doesn’t know what’s coming yet.
I begin to calm down when I see it again. That fucking monstrosity, only existing in the most horrifying plane of existence, just staring back into my own eyes with the deepest gaze not possible for a human. His teeth begin to show, his pale and lanky body curled into a ball. I scream at the mere sight of him, shouting and babbling like an animal to my visitor that causes him to become visibly terrified. I tell him about the creature, my eyes welled with tears and dribbling spit through the whole ordeal, when he asks me to show him the creature.
I yell loudly and tell him it’s a death wish, that it’s suicide to try and approach him of my own free will. The man insists, and drags me to the hallway where my bedroom is, telling me I need to lie down. This is where that damned window is, and I try to tell the man but he is having none of it. I’m kicking and screaming, pleading with him that if he wants to live that he should leave right now, before the creature comes to take him. He explains it’s only my imagination, that I haven’t had enough food, etc. I know that this man is going to die.
We pass the window, and I see him. I stop yelling, stop my pleading, and only peer into the window. The man lets me go and looks into it. I see the creature emerge, tall and lanky like it hadn’t eaten in weeks, with its deep, sunken eyes staring back into my own. It’s fingernails are almost too long to be human, its skin a sickly pale color. But the eyes stare into my own, so dark that I can see my own reflection, and I now realize how black they are. It’s so terrifying – yet so beautiful.
I tell the man to look into the window.
“John,” he says, as the creature raises a knife above its head and my visitor’s face goes pale, “that’s your reflection…”
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