The Monster in me

We’ve got a brand new submission by Shahd Thani for our Supernatural theme so we hope you enjoy this creepy short story by her.

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

She looked at me with redemption in her eyes and I wanted to drown in them. Her presence was a balm to my tired soul. It was our last class of the day and the students had amused themselves by telling the teacher Emirati ghost stories. The projector had been turned off with the end of the lesson. We had been taking Edgar Allen Poe and H.P Lovecraft. The lights were still off. The blinds were drawn against the harshness of the afternoon sun. We were over thirty students but everyone was quiet. Some were playing with their phones but I could hear the shifting as they strained to listen. Students searched their memories for family lore and legend to add to this conversation.

I remembered suddenly being at the playground and playing under the date tree with my friends. The other children looked at me strangely. “Do you want to play with us?” I asked politely

“Mom, he’s talking to himself”

“He’s crazy”

I remembered so vividly the look on my mother’s face when I told her my friends’ skin looked almost green and they had one eye that looked into my being. The demons had claimed me from an early age.

I don’t remember fearing them until I felt my mother’s fear for me. When she lay next to me in bed, I would point them out huddling behind curtains.

“There is nothing there” She reassured me, but her gaze was not like those at the playground. Her eyes fell where my own did. I knew she saw them as clearly as I did.

I wouldn’t have spoken even if I wanted to. I felt the spindly fingers at the base of my neck threatening to choke me if I breathed a word.

If I told them my story, would anyone believe me? If I told her I carried a demon inside me, would she want to save me or escape in fear?

Salama shivered involuntarily and for a second her eyes met mine. She knew! I held my breath but she gave me a little smile and rolled her eyes at the exaggerations the guys in class were adding.

“There was a story about Bedoins wandering the dessert traveling under the cover of night. They were two men and a woman with a newborn. The baby would not stop crying. For days and nights, the baby wailed until the men told her the child must be haunted. She would have to leave him behind.” Saif spoke solemnly

“She left the boy, but her heart could not bear leaving him behind. She came back to find him a few hours later but in his place she found a toad of a man who mocked her for coming back for him and chased her off. The baby was a changeling” His cousin Ahmad finished the story

They spoke and my blood vessels started to itch. They say when you speak of faith and doing good in life, the angels stop to listen. The Djjin also stop and listen when you mention them in fear of you spreading their secrets. It is why we get goosebumps when we are afraid. A random Djjin strokes your skin with a clammy finger.

There was a roaring in my ears. My head started to pound. The classroom started to spin and for a minute, she filled my gaze with her golden halo. In the corners of my eyes, I saw spindly creatures and they all knew me.

I hurried out of the class. I almost stumbled as I left. I needed to be out in fresh air. I sat on the steps wearily. I was tired of being 19 years old and carrying a creature within me. It was like being strapped to a time bomb. I had lived too long.

I remembered my mother crying at my bedside and apologizing to me. She reached to stroke my feverish face but her hand hovered above me afraid to touch me. I thrashed and struggled as the demon spread into my blood stream and clutched at my heart. There were deep grooves and scratches and I felt them on the other side of my skin. I was sweating with the effort of resisting.

I own you, it crowed in my ears.

“It’s not your fault” I wanted to say “You did not do this”

“You did this! You enslaved us for your own bidding” An unearthly voice croaked out of me, its timbre so deep that my tonsils ached. “Now watch as we enslave your son for the rest of his life”

“No” She wailed. It had been her last word.

I never knew what sin she was guilty of that demanded me as penance. I would have forgiven her anything, but I never forgave her dying instead of staying for me. It seemed so easy to sleep forever entombed than to be alive and fighting.

I don’t know how long I sat there, but soon my classmates started leaving.

“Scared, weren’t you?” Saif teased as he walked away.

I heard the click of heels and Salama sat down on the steps close to me. The kept a proper space between us.

“Are you okay?” She asked me softly “Do you want me to go with you to the nurse?”

I almost laughed at her innocence. As if a nurse could cure what I carried inside me, but I didn’t want her to leave.

“I’m feeling a little dizzy. Can we just sit? I said

She nodded but as her gaze met mine, she drew back suddenly standing up.

“Salama” I croaked but the voice that escaped me was not mine.

She looked at me one last time, her face was stark with fear, and she walked off into the daylight. “I have to go, the driver is calling” She called

I heard her heels fading. The sun was high in the sky. The girl of my dreams was walking away and inwardly I heard unearthly laughter. I was haunted in broad daylight and I doubted Salama would ever speak to me again.

Author: Shahd Thani

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