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Don't Be Shy

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You sit alone, swaddled in your sheets as if you were a caterpillar in its cocoon. Moonlight filters through the blinds of the windows and bathes you in serene blue. The scent of the hospital—cleaning products and cigarette smoke—make you gag and sputter.

It was day twelve of your ordeal. Memories clung to you like tumors. They're so beautiful. I want them, so... You look down at your bruised body and shiver at the thought. A poison had been coursing through you for almost two weeks, corrupting your mind with relentless hallucinations and noises as well as weakening your body. They rang through your ears and reverberated through your brain. The layers of pillows under your head now beckoned for you to sleep, to end the paranoia now.

As your eyelids flutter, sinking like twin anvils, you gasp. In a flash you sit bolt upright, snatch your cup of water off your bedside table and splash your face with its cooling goodness. Your skin feels like ice and tingles feverishly, like your nerves are crawling. It staved off the weariness for now. You sigh, throw your covers off yourself and swing your legs over the side of the bed. They are decorated with a variety of slices that were oddly straight and created a purple bruised hue around them; they were stripes, almost, that wrapped around your flesh and ached like hell. The shiny tile was cold and alien under the soles of your feet. You lean against the wall for leverage as you amble towards the bathroom, just a few steps away. The doors swings open and you turn on the light, casting an orange-yellow hue over your scarred frame.

Cobwebs gathered in the corners. You avoid them with ease. The mirror is smudged and has a jagged crack running down the middle. Your reflection is that of a pale brunette boy with a rigid jawline, sunken cheeks and eyes of silvery blue. The child examines himself like he was a foreign test subject from some unknown planet. You grimace and inch towards the toilet, grunting as you hear a sickening pop.

You scream and clutch your hip. The slash there oozed an icky black substance and pulsed like a second heart. It was another one of your episodes. You reach for a button on the wall to call the nurse and hiss when your other wounds begin to burn. Pain infects your body and you shut your eyes. Your legs cave and you crumple to the ground, panting like a dog in heat. Icy death wraps around your skin and you struggle to stand up with your limbs feeling like jelly.

You look up to see that you somehow managed to right yourself and now standing directly in front of the mirror. Your body's paralyzed, stiff as a board. Your eyes are fixed on the crack in the mirror. Strangely, you can't see any reflection in it. The surface began to shimmer and move like water. It morphs for a few seconds before a faint chorus of moans come from it. The voices become louder and you can distinguish words. "Help." "Run." "Don't look."

An arm slides from the mirror and clutches the rim of the sink. Up its wrist and to the shoulder, the skin was ivory white with black stripes running up its muscular bulk. The hand's fingers are long and bony with sharp claws topping them. Knowing what's coming next, you shut your eyes tight and squint as hard as possible. A nearly human face rises from the depths and scans you with beady amber eyes. They occupy sunken eye sockets and glow an eerie yellow. The creature had no hair but striped tendrils like dreadlocks that sprouted from its scalp and wriggled furiously.

The bridge of its nose (or lack thereof) swoops down and stands static. It had no lips. A giant mouth full of dozens of needle-point teeth was large enough to bite off your head; it made no growls—nothing to indicate emotion. Spit dribbled off its pointed chin. The monster salivates hungrily and it's other arm reaches out. It's fingers clutch your head and it tries to pull you into the mirror. Screaming, you writhe in its grip. It needed to give you one more stripe. You open your eyes slightly but lock them to the ground. The dusty tile is now covered in blood that drips from an unknown source and the chanting of lost children was now deafening.

Come to the paradise, come to the world of innocents, the voices sing harmoniously as the beast tugs you closer. You're now leaning partially over the sink, fighting the urge to look into the creature's hypnotic gaze. You throw yourself back and for just a second make eye contact; a flash of white makes your head burn like it was doused with acid. The creature's tentacles stretch and wrap around your throat, depriving you of air. Images flash through your mind; children in rows, as still and lifeless as mannequins.

Their clothing and appearances are so different that you theorize that they're from different time periods. Their eyes are golden bronze and beady like the monster's. Claw marks covered their skin just like his. The world was a menagerie of white, choppy landscaping, and black masses that dominated the sky. Stop fighting. It wants to help you. It was shy. It was unsure at first, and it didn't want to encroach. They moan. The beast made an unearthly shriek, so shrill and dry that it practically makes your ears bleed. In an instant you let go of all struggle. You're being sucked towards the creature, into the broken land.

Then you see one more kid added to the stretching row of children. His silvery eyes are now small and glow brown. He grins innocently and says, brushing his cinnamon locks from his new eyes, Welcome to paradise.

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