Justification. That’s all this has been about, hasn’t it?

Two days ago I decided I needed to kill Michael Corelli. Allow me to explain myself.

I actually didn’t really know Michael that well, I just assumed he was another run of the mill classmate with no interesting qualities or motivations of his own (I’m a bit cynical in that regard). That’s not to say I didn’t engage him in conversation or feign interest in whatever mundane topic he wanted to discuss; in fact, I occasionally enjoyed his company. He had no filter, no sense of “crossing the line” so to speak. But good God, was he a degenerate (At least in my view, which is the view that matters right now, dammit). Some words off the top of my head to describe him would be racist, homophobe, stoner, academic failure, or “motherfucker that needed to die”. That last one is a bit more recent I think. It’s funny; a week ago, that last one wouldn’t have been on the list, but things have changed since then.

Bam. There’s your overview. That’s all you need to know about that jackass. I don’t like him (Could have summed it up with just that, honestly). The real story starts with a young woman, a dame, a girl, my damsel in distress, whatever you want to call her (For my purposes, I quite like that last one). Violet Lupa. Queer name, but that’s beside the point. You see, like Michael, I didn’t really know Violet for most of the school year, not well enough anyways. I knew she and Michael were romantically involved previously and that they had broken apart long ago; they didn’t seem to let this come between them. Not on the outside anyways.

At this point I feel the need to admit that I’m not the most sociable person. Where someone else may speak, I hide back and listen. Observe. Form my own judgements. I judge books by their covers, but I make sure my judgements are grounded in objective facts.

Getting off topic. We didn’t come here to read about me did we? Well, in all honesty, we probably did. Sorry to disappoint, but I want to tell a story here damn it!

Anyways, instead of speaking to Violet, I viewed Violet for most of the school year. I realize how creepy that sounds; know that my attention wasn’t always fixated on her. I viewed everybody; she just demanded everyone’s attention when it was her turn to speak. And she made it her turn to speak quite often. I couldn’t stand it; her cries for attention grated on me. Implied cutting, bitching about love, boasting how “angry” and “dark” she was; that used to bother the shit out of me. My ignorant thoughts went along the lines of, “Oh she thinks she has problems, I bet she couldn’t even deal with my problem!” (We aren’t going to get into my problem because it isn’t that important right now). I can’t explain why she bothered me, she just did. She shouldn’t have. I should have seen her cries for help as actual cries for help and acted. But I didn’t. I waited. And waited. And remained willfully ignorant.

Of course, I couldn’t live in ignorance forever. Fate demanded I atone for my all my sins, past and future. So one day, as fate had directed, I received a text message.

Hi Sam this is Violet! You got a minute? I’d like to talk :)

Confession time. People rarely decided to text me (And I’m not counting my mother because that’s just sad). At the time she sent the message, I was staring at my computer screen trying to forget my creeping boredom. So despite my unfounded aversion to Violet, the looming loneliness and desire for human interaction overcame me and I decided to respond.

Hey! I’m kinda busy, but what’s up? After my near instantaneous reply, I thought for a moment and added, Also, how’d you get my number? Just curious.

A few minutes later, she responded with something along the lines of, Oh you’re busy? We can talk later then!

No, no, no! Let’s talk now. What’s up?

Our conversation began modestly enough, discussing school (Bleh), our peers (Bleh), writing projects (Going quite well honestly), and making other meaningless small talk of the like. She wasn’t the most interesting person to talk to, and we didn’t have much to say, but she was easy to talk with. That’s probably what led to our next topic. Shit, that night is still a blur, and I wish I could tell you how our conversation actually transitioned, but after what happened, I have little recollection.

Somehow, we ended up talking about the thing I thought I hated most: her problems. And Jesus sweet Christ, I immediately regretted judging her and anyone else. Verbal abuse from strict, Catholic parents, a feeling of abandonment from said parents, repeated self harm and cutting (With images good God, as if I didn’t believe her), sexual preference confusion, and to top it all off, an attempted suicide a few weeks prior. Fuck me, was she in deeper shit than I had ever been in.

But with the amount of time I spent talking about Michael Corelli earlier, you didn’t think we’d be focusing on those little things, did you?

Of course not. What really struck me (Even more than the attempted suicide for some goddamn reason) was the part about Michael. To put it bluntly, he was verbally and sexually abusing her. This might not seem like a huge deal to some, but holy shit was I thrown for a loop. I didn’t believe it at first. He was such a laid back guy, so similar to myself in some aspects! How could he be manipulating poor Violet? Especially when they seemed so calm and fine around each other at school? My hardwired brain couldn’t understand it. Didn’t want to. Then she showed me snippets of their conversations.

Michael: God you are such a slut! Fuck anyone that asks huh? Hey, if you’re going to cut into your arms, why don’t you use them to keep a tally of all the men you’ve been sleeping with? This wasn’t from the same guy I sat next to everyday for at least an hour. Couldn’t be.

Michael: Fucking talk to me! Dammit woman! Sack up and stop being such a fucking pushover! I’m being as blunt as I can be here, that’s what I’m doing, have you ever considered that maybe you just suck at relating and talking to people? Maybe that’s why your writing is such shit, you can’t write any good characters.

As a writer myself, I understood what a low blow that was. She agreed that that was the one thing he said that hurt most. That said enough about her damaged self esteem in itself. I didn’t say anything. I barely knew what to say and found myself repeating, “I don’t know” quite a bit.

Michael: … I’ve been killing myself through the years and you know that.

Violet: *eye roll* Michael: Oh my god, you’re so crazy lol this is making me actually laugh out loud

Violet: What do you think I’ve doing for the last hour?

Michael: Cutting yourself over how you’ll never compare to lance armstrong?

I sort of wish I knew the context of that last one.

Those weren’t the worst things he had said or done. Violet told me how he encouraged her to cut, phrasing it as encouraging her addiction (He had turned these little punishments or justifications into an addiction), invited her over for sex (Rape. It was rape. I knew it was), and utterly destroyed any remaining self worth as a person. I knew he was using her. Using her to boost his own ego, using her for sex, using her for control. I told her this. I told her all of my concerns, how if she let this behavior continue, it would haunt and destroy her for the rest of her life. And God fucking damn it, did she give me the worst, nonsensical, soul crushing response I didn’t even know was possible.

I know.

Admittedly, at this point, I was getting a bit worked up.

You know?! Then why the fuck are you putting up with this? You’re stronger than him! You don’t need to deal with this! Fuck! I don’t understand.

I put up with it because I know he’s been through worse.

I’m sorry. But who gives a shit? That doesn’t excuse any of that. He’s still fucking scum. You don’t deserve that. No one does.

But I do. He has to deal with bipolar depression. And his dad. If letting him say and do those things keeps him okay, then it’s worth it. And he’s not always like that. He has a cycle.

“A cycle?! A fucking cycle? He’s abusing you! Just because he’s not always like that doesn’t excuse the times when he is. And you’re using his mental illness as a justification for it?! Are you fucking serious? Most others that contend with that shit don’t let it interfere with their daily lives! Most people have self control! And basic fucking decency!” This is what I wanted to say. But I didn’t.

No, instead, something strange happened. The walls of my bedroom around me began to peel away, the paint chipping and falling to the floor as the natural color of the world began to fade. My wallpaper and posters tore themselves off the wall in a swift and violent motion, falling into the floor and fading from sight. I could hear the wood of my shelves and dresser crack and eventually splinter, collapsing into a broken mess around me. The glow of my phone, my only connection with the outside world, faded away just as the color had finally escaped my vision. I looked up and to my initial horror, found that I was no longer in my bedroom, instead sitting in an empty, dull, brightly lit, blank white room.

I stood up, my mind dazed and already accepting this new reality, and walked to the open doorway in front of me. I found myself at the end of a long and colorless hallway. Lining said hallway were various doors, each with a small window for observing the interior. Seemingly having no other option, I started down this hallway and peered into the various rooms as I passed. Each housed a person or group of people inside. I didn’t recognize any of these people and there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about them; they wore normal clothes and blank expressions. Each was performing some mundane task as I passed by: walking in circles, twiddling something between their fingers, lightly tapping their head against a wall, muttering gibberish to themselves as they sat and stared at the ground, stuff like that. Somewhat more unnervingly, a few glared at me as I trudged past, pressing their faces against the window, their grins stretching up the sides of their heads.

My mouth was dry, my stomach gurgling, uncomfortable; I wanted out of this strange place as soon as possible. Thankfully, my wish was soon granted. I reached the end of the colorless hallway where a lone door lay. This door was different than the others, it had no window, was darker in color, and I felt compelled to open it. I did just that, swinging it open and getting a view inside. It was a room like all the others: blank, meaningless, unoriginal. In the middle of it sat another person, his back to me, hunched over and silent. As I approached, he lazily got up and whirled around to face me and I found myself staring at my doppelganger. A perfect, grinning replica of myself stood across from me.

“Who are you? Where the hell am I?” I asked him.

“Who am I? Ha! Isn’t it obvious? No? Does it matter?” He ran over and placed an arm around my shoulder. “Maybe I’m your subconscious and this is all a dream! Maybe I’m a figment of your fractured mind and you’ve finally lost it! Maybe I’m an omen, sent to warn you of the coming days! Maybe I’m God and- actually, I quite like that one. From henceforth, you shall refer to me as God.” He had guided me outside his room and back into the hallway, hungrily glaring at the caged people we passed. I felt rather uneasy in his company, but found myself unable to escape.

“You took the right step, letting me out, you know,” he continued, “And now our work together can officially begin. You’ve finally found your purpose. We both know that Michael Corelli needs to die. But not now. No, we’re not quite ready for that phase…” He stopped walking and stood in front of a room where a young woman was smacking the side of her head into the wall. Blood flowed from the contact point and dripped onto the floor beneath her. She didn’t seem to notice.

Suddenly, “God” whipped around to me. “There’s still something holding you back!” he snapped at me.

“What in the actual fuck are you even talking about?” I stammered at him, feeling myself cower to his presence.

He stopped, held up his hands and smiled, “Apologies. Sometimes we lose ourselves. I’ll work on removing that, eh, 'bit' that’s holding us back; you work on watching Corelli. Find out what’s really going on beneath his skin. I’m sure we’ll be meeting again soon enough.”

I can’t quite remember what happened after that. All I know is that the next time I was conscious, I found myself in reality, staring at the messages my phone had received while I was “away”. Sam? Are you there? You stopped texting… Okay, see you tomorrow. All from Violet. I immediately sent her my apologies and tried to get however much sleep I could squeeze from the rest of the night.

The next day at school was a bit of a strange one. I met Violet before school and we talked about what had happened last night. Somewhat humorously, she asked if I was alright. I told her of course I was alright, that she was the one that we needed to focus on. She asked why I had stopped responding to her texts and I dodged the question by telling her I simply fell asleep. We didn’t bring up exactly what we had been talking about; neither of us could do that while looking the other in the face. Then the bell rang and we parted our separate ways for class, knowing we’d meet up again in writing class. Where Michael would be. I cherished and abhorred the possibility.

When writing class did come around, I found myself to be the first one in the door, taking my seat, and waiting for the others to arrive. As they began to gradually pour into the class, Violet caught my gaze as she shuffled in and took her place at the other end of the room. I didn’t look at her, my mind still unable to fully comprehend what had occurred prior to the strange dream the previous night. She looked so… upbeat, unhurt, uncaring. I knew the shit she was going through, and she didn’t give off any hint that she was suffering (Other than the occasional self-criticizing remark). And then Michael walked in and took his spot next to me.

I felt my blood boil as I watched his dopey face meet mine and utter a greeting. I returned his salutation absentmindedly; I was running on autopilot as the cogs of my brain grinded and turned, trying to picture this man as an abusive degenerate. I couldn’t do it; I could not see him as possibly saying or doing the things to Violet. I put my head down in disgust of myself. How could I still be so naive! I had seen his words, I had heard of his actions; why couldn’t I accept the fact that he was a terrible person? That his outward appearance was simply an act put on to fool the masses while he chipped away at Violet?

I found myself sneaking glances at him throughout the period, trying to find a crack in the armor, waiting for him to slip up and reveal his true nature; to my dismay, I found none. Corelli was clean. Violet must have been mistaken. This guy was harmless and clueless. An abuser? No, of course not. Couldn’t possibly be.

My phone buzzed, I pulled it out, reading the message from Violet. You okay? You seem to be out of it. And twitching a bit. I glanced up and saw her eyeing me from the other side of the room, her face one of concern.

It’s a tic. Nothing to be worried about. I just can’t sit next to Michael. He can’t be the same person you described. I hit send and waited. Violet looked at her phone and nodded at me before putting it away and resuming her work. A moment later, I received another text from her. Look again. I glanced up at Violet, but she was working away as if nothing had happened. Perplexed, I turned to look at Michael.

Something was off about him. His eyes never moved in my direction but I felt like he was still watching me nonetheless. I looked at his arm as it lay on his desk; the skin rippled , as if something was crawling beneath it. Something was in there, beneath his skin. The longer I stared, the more apparent it became. As he arched his hand to stretch, I saw the outline of another hand, beneath his skin, doing the same, stretching the skin of his arm to an unnatural length. He lay his hand back down, and I could see the hand beneath his skin resting a bit uneasily, not quite matching up with the skin. I looked up at his face, and I swear I remember seeing a second set of teeth beneath his as he yawned. He scratched his face, pulling at the mask of skin he wore, exposing the outlines of the face beneath.

This wasn’t Michael. Something wore his skin. But it was not he.

I quickly glanced back at my work, sweating profusely as my heart rate increased. Carefully, I scanned the room, seeing if anyone else was as horrified as I was. They were not; they all simply stared down at their work, living in blissful ignorance of the creature among them. The dream I had the night before had been correct; there was something beneath his skin. This had to be it, the creature dictating his actions and pulling the strings. I understood what I needed to do: observe. Find out more. Something I could easily accomplish.

Class eventually ended; I pretended to work for the rest of the period. School was over; I hung back, feigning finishing my work while the rest of the class exited the room. I kept my eye on Michael as he slithered over to Violet and struck up a conversation about some meaningless topic. I followed them casually; no one would think I was specifically following them. My suspicions were confirmed in the next few moments. Michael reached to put his arm around Violet and I saw a smaller, and thinner arm burst through his skin and complete the embrace. The skin previously covering said arm hung limply beside it, dripping blood and fluids onto the ground behind them. Violet seemed a bit uncomfortable, but did not shy away from Michael’s embrace.

I quickly looked around, trying to keep my anxiety in check, seeing if anyone else noticed the surreal sight before me. They didn’t. It was at that point I realized that I was alone in this situation, that my dream the night before had awakened me to Michael’s true nature. I stumbled forward, trying to get a better look at the arm protruding from Michael’s skin. It was, as mentioned, much thinner and lacked any skin of its own, instead covered in strange, dark, crusty patches of dried blood. The hand consisted solely of three bony fingers, digging themselves into Violet’s shoulder. Michael glanced behind Violet and him, looking at me. To cover, I quickly walked around them, grinning cluelessly, wishing them a nice day. My mind wished other things upon them. I was now in front of them, and slowed my pace as to not get too ahead, and shuffled uneasily towards the parking lot.

I reached my car and quickly searched the area for Michael and Violet. I saw them near Violet’s car, talking in secret; I could see that his arm had since retracted itself back under the skin, concealing his true form from her. The nature of their conversation, I could not tell. They did appear to be arguing of something, by the way they moved their hands and their faces contorted to match their frustration. I wanted to walk over and intervene, but something (I’m not sure what) held me back. My mission was to simply observe, nothing more; I was powerless to stop him. Near the end of their conversation, Michael leaned down to kiss Violet, his hidden arms stretching beneath the skin towards her body. Violet did not resist and returned his affection. At that point, I looked away in disgust and got in my car and drove home.

The next few days went by far too quickly for my taste. I watched Michael constantly and cautiously, lest “he” (Whatever “he” was, there was something wearing his skin; it wasn’t the same person I had previously known) realize I knew his secret. I saw little missteps in his routine constantly: a finger moving underneath the skin, a leg walking not quite in sync with the exterior leg, an eye moving on its own accord, small things like that. And throughout it all, I played dumb, giving off the same friendly exterior he gave me. I needed a way to expose him, so I could prove to Violet the danger she was in.

Speaking of Violet, our talks increased during those days. We hit on every personal subject available: family relations, views of peers, past relationships, what we thought of each other, sexual preferences, and even sexual fetishes. However, we never touched on my issues for too long, instead, the conversation was always shifted to her issues. I didn’t know what to think; this girl seemed perfect for me, and I began to develop an attraction to her, one I did not keep secret, as she did the exact same to me. Shit, I shouldn’t have left my guard down, I should have seen her reaching out to me for what it really was: an offshoot of her damaged psyche from her abusive relationship. She needed someone else to cling to, and that was me. But no, I played off of it and forgot about my “quest” when I was talking with her, unless the topic of Michael was specifically brought up.

But then on the fourth day since our first conversation, I was reminded of it.

Michael wasn’t at school that day; to me, that was fine, as I had grown weary of his presence. During class, Violet audibly and inwardly groaned as she showed me a message from Michael.

It read: Hey! Want to come over after school today? I’ve got a really good story to tell you. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, it’ll make you feel something.

I scoffed and told her that she wasn’t going to see him. She was visibly perturbed by my remark, saying that it wasn’t my place to tell her how to live her life. But she agreed that she would ignore it and move on (At this point, we were toying with the idea of a relationship).

Later that day however, I sent her a text, and received an answer an hour later. I asked what had taken so long, and she told me she was simply “Being stupid”. I instantly knew that she had defied herself and me, choosing to go to Michael’s home and “listen to his story”. I was… more than upset. I screamed in unfounded anger and threw my phone at the wall cursing at Violet for how stupid she was actually being. This creature was using her for its own benefit; what that benefit was, I was unsure. How could she be so careless? How could she keep going back to that thing? And was I to do about it?

I received an answer. As my phone hit the wall, it sent an unusually large crack running down the wall, ripping all color from the world once again. In just a few moments, I found myself in the blank room again. I yelled again in frustration and stormed into the hallway, walking briskly to meet the man at the other end. As I passed the rooms, I could immediately tell that the inhabitants had changed. Their skin sagged and wrinkled, occasionally fluctuating unnaturally. Some laughed as I sped past, their mouths stretching wide and nearly hanging past their necks. I could see their faces were much more deformed: eye sockets lay unevenly, sometimes sideways, noses were inverted or placed much too far to the side, and their mouths either much too large for the face or missing altogether. Some were missing fingers, others were missing entire limbs. All were performing the same mundane activities as before, this time much more vigorously. Women bashed their heads against the wall until their skulls cracked, children bounced around the rooms screaming and leaving splotches of red where they had impacted, and men picked at their fingernails, ripping them out and screaming in agony. I picked up my pace and ran towards the other end of the hall.

I reached the other end and flung open the familiar door; a familiar face (My own to be precise) greeted me on the other side.

“Greetings Sam. I told you we’d be meeting again. If you have nothing to say, let us get down to business. We have so little time.”

“I-I still don’t know where we are. Or who you are.”

“Who am I? I am God, remember?” He grinned, “Or maybe I’m the Devil. That is for you to determine on your own. As for where we are, it does not matter. By now, you have seen the true nature of Michael Corelli. You have caught glimpses, you see how he manipulates those around him, especially your poor Violet. You don’t like how he treats her, do you?”

“No. No and I don’t like how she lets him do that.”

“Exactly. We’re here to rectify that. You see, Corelli is an ancient, mythological creature, long forgotten to time. You might call him a Skinwalker, but that would only be half correct. No, he is a Skin-burrower. An ancient creature that burrows beneath the skin and feeds off of those around it. How he managed to surface in this day and age, I have no idea. But it is your-our destiny to destroy him.”

“So that’s not really Michael? That’s something wearing his skin?”

“Exactly! The real Michael died long ago, and his skin serves as a shell for this parasitic creature.”

“But what is this Skin-burrower? How do I defeat it?”

“Ahhh. Now that’s the real question, isn’t it!” He laughed and spun towards me, “Skin-burrowers infect a host and then use that host to lure more potential hosts to it through a variety of ways. Sex, drugs, hatred, mind control spores; the possibilities are endless. Once it has a viable host, it begins to prepare said host for transfer. It grows stronger with each new burrowing; the previous host is left a brainless shell of its former self and the Burrower gains a new body to wreak havoc in. Gee, who do you think its next victim is to be?”

“Good lord, it’s going to take Violet! We can’t let that happen! She does not belong to him!”

“And we’re not to let that happen, are we?”

“How do we kill it?”

“Shoot it in the face? Stab its throat? Slip it some cyanide? It’s not a smart nor resilient creature. Destroy the host and you destroy the burrower.”

“I… don’t know if I can do that. I couldn’t kill Michael. I couldn’t kill anyone.”

“Ah! Something’s still holding you back I see! No matter! I’ll get that sorted out soon enough. You just find out where the Burrower resides, okay?”

“I’ll try.”

Without a word, he pushed me back out into the hallway, as the hallway began to elongate and stretch before me, its inhabitants all screaming in unison. Moments later, I found myself back in my room, my phone lying at the foot of the bed, where it had landed after being thrown. I scrambled for it and sent a text to Violet. I told her everything I had just learned. We had always been very vocal with each other, this time was no different. She would think I was crazy! I thought I was crazy. But it had to be done. I couldn’t let her near that filthy creature. I expected her to laugh me off, ask if I was feeling alright, but she didn’t. God, I wish she did.

I know. That was her response. I blinked at that for a few moments.

Then why do you let that creature near you? The only response I could manage.

I told you, he’s not always bad. He has a cycle. We’re on good terms right now. That made no sense. No sense at all. It was if she had forgotten that this creature was using her.

But you know that’s not Michael! That thing is not Michael! It’s using you!

I know he’s using me. *Shrug* It’s not as bad as you think.

I can’t let that thing use you. I can’t let it control you. That was sent mostly for my own sanity, reminding myself that I had a mission.

That “thing” cares about me in its own way. I know he does. And who are you to tell me how I should live my life?

I’d be devastated if something happened to you Violet. I care about you, even if you don’t care about yourself. I feel like I need to protect you, as no one else knows what’s really going on. I couldn’t deal with never seeing you again, never hearing your voice, never listening to your stories, never getting a chance to consummate our love. I knew as soon as I hit send that something was wrong with that message. Something had slipped out from the deeper recesses of my mind. Something got through. In my angst and frustration, I didn’t catch it; I lost control for a brief moment.

That’s all this has been about, huh? She noticed. And forgot everything prior.

No. No it has not. I didn’t mean to say that last part.

It’s not like you can take it back. You typed it out and hit send. You are just like every other person that views me nothing more than a piece of ass. You disgust me.

You know that’s not what I meant! You know this is about more than that!

She didn’t respond for quite some time. Then she replied with, Big or small?

I didn’t know what she was asking. I didn’t think about it. Big. What are we talking about? I need to explain myself, Violet, please, give me a chance.

Blade reference.

She sent me a picture of a fresh bleeding wound. I punched a dent into my wall and screamed. As I recoiled back, I saw my skin ripple a bit; something was down there. It had gotten to me. It was using Violet to get to me. Turning me against myself. My vision was right. “God” was right. That thing needed to die before it could get to me or Violet or whoever the hell it was targeting. It was that moment I decided Michael Corelli needed to die. While I was still in control of my actions.

I didn’t talk to Violet the next day at school. She tried to apologize before school, saying she was stressed and waiting for something to set her off. Blaming the victim. Blaming herself. I brushed her off and waited for writing class.

The Burrower was barely hiding that day. I could visibly see it beneath Michael’s skin, breathing, rippling, looking at Violet and me. I felt my own skin ripple as the lumps on Michael’s did. Then I noticed something strange. Violet too, was covered in occasionally appearing and disappearing lumps that shifted as I watched them. The Burrower was gaining more control. I could see its knowing grin beneath Michael’s; I knew I had to take action soon. It did not have control over me, no siree.

I’m not proud of what I did next. I admit I’ve followed some people in the past, but never stalked them to their homes. But on that day, I watched Michael and Violet get in her car and drive off, with me not too far behind. They were oblivious to my following, and turned off the main road into what I assumed to be Violet’s home. I drove past, trying to remain inconspicuous, and pulled to the side of the road not far from her home. She lived on about ten acres of property, I’d have to make the trek to her house on foot to avoid detection. I grabbed the knife I had stashed in my glove department earlier that day and set off towards her house.

I watched them head into her house; they had to be alone, her parents would never stand for their affair. They also wouldn’t be expecting me, so I relaxed a little, but nonetheless stealthily made my way to her home. Along the way, I felt something eating at me, pulling me back, urging me to go home. I repressed this thought, knowing it to be one of the Burrower’s tricks, a last ditch effort to drive me away from my goal. About halfway there, the feeling died off completely, replaced with a feeling of anxiety and urgency; I had to do this. Corelli needed to die. Now. He would die now. I had tracked him this far and had the justification to end his life.

I stopped. Something seemed wrong with that last thought, but I shook my head and approached the house.

The front door was unlocked. I could hear them chatting loudly upstairs, so I let myself in. The details of her house are irrelevant. I savored the moment, breathing in the smell of accomplishment, and ascended the stairs. I was in a hallway; the sounds of foreplay could be heard at the end of the hall, a room on my right. I quietly approached the door and peeked inside, savoring the moment. I’d get to burst in and save her, while ending that pathetic creature’s life. I would be the hero. And then she’d fuck me right there. Those were the thoughts that raced through my head.

As I peeked inside, I was met with a horrific sight. Violet lay partially nude on the bed, while Corelli began to remove his clothing. But he did not stop. He began to peel away his skin, ripping it off in chunks and throwing it to the floor with a wet splotch as Violet looked on, unconcerned. I could see the Burrower pulling itself out, gripping Michael’s face with its three fingers, and tearing it in half, revealing it’s own deformed face beneath. It was bald, covered in viscera, bits of bone exposed, it’s eyes hiding farther back in its eye sockets, its mouth a twisted grin full of rotten teeth. I could see no nose, no ears, nothing, but the dark red, meaty figure in front of me. As Michael’s bloodied face fell to the ground, the Burrower leapt out of his body which slumped to the ground in a bloody mess of flesh. The Burrower stood at maybe three feet tall, resembling a humanoid covered in skinless splotches of flowing veins and flesh resembling rotted meat. It kept its face fixated on Violet as it approached her, though its eyes flitted back and forth, eventually resting on me in the doorway.

I let out a gasp (And then cursed myself for being so stupid) and instantly ducked behind the door. It had seen me; it knew I was there. I heard Violet scream and the door was flung open, Corelli standing in the doorway. The speed at which the Burrower had receded back into Michael’s skin was astonishing. As he stood in the doorway, I skulked in the corner, clutching my knife against my chest. He hadn’t seen me. But he would in seconds. This was my only chance to use the element of surprise. I swung my knife over my head and slashed at him.

And then I wasn’t in the hallway of Violet’s house; I found myself in the familiar colorless hallway. The inhabitants were silent, and I was fairly unnerved by the quietness of the scene. I heard commotion at the end of the hallway and ran down to find the source. As I ran, I discovered why it was so silent. Each room housed a disfigured corpse of the former inhabitant, their mouths wide open and oozing blood onto the floor beneath them. A breeze blew through the hall, and I could hear the hollow whistling of the corpses echoing down the hall. I didn’t care; I needed guidance. I needed God’s guidance. I was here for a reason. He was always that reason.

I reached the end of the hallway and found myself, Michael, and Violet at the other end. Michael and Violet stood limply and silently as “God” walked among them. He grinned at my presence and greeted me warmly, the glint of a knife in his hand.

“So nice to see you my friend! Let’s finish what we started, eh?” He turned to Michael and raised his knife.

Michael didn’t flinch; he laughed, “Go ahead. You created a monster just to justify killing it. I hope you are satisfied.”

“Oh boy am I!” my double shouted and swung his blade.

“Stop!” I shouted, and ran to catch his arm. Before the blade could strike Michael, I caught my double’s arm.

“Ha! Can’t finish what you started? Are we having second thoughts?” my double spat at me. Michael did not move, nor did Violet, “Tell me, Sam, why do you think we’re here right now?”

“Is it to justify killing the beast?” Michael shouted at me, his skin rippling as the Burrower slithered beneath his skin.

“Is it to save the damsel in distress?” Violet shouted, “End the abusive relationship you couldn’t possibly understand?”

“Or is it a primal desire? To kill? And now that you have your justification, flimsy as it may be, you have your drive?” my double calmly said to me as he lowered his blade. “Do you even know?”

“I…” I started, but couldn’t find the words to finish or express what I thought I knew. I covered my face in my hands, but then held them in front of me in surprise. They had three fingers. I looked at the rest of my body; it was skinless.

“We’re the same, you and I,” Michael pointed at me, “both using Violet to further our own ego and control. Manipulating her. Hiding beneath a layer of skin,” He pointed at my double, who grinned slyly, “Look at what lies beneath, in the recesses of your mind. Do you see how flawed you are? How flawed your justification is? How can you possibly go through with this if you are that fucked up?”

I had no answer. Violet spoke in the silence that followed, “Who's to say who's manipulating whom? Who's the victim here? You hate what you don’t understand. You don’t understand our relationship. So you choose to end it in the only way you know how. With violence.”

My double looked at me, “Is this even real? Have you just lost it? Are you simply afraid to kill another?” He laughed, “Not that it matters. What you do next is the only important bit. What do you take away from this?” He offered me his knife. I took it and looked at Michael, at Violet, at him, at the beast I had become.

And then I took the blade and slashed Violet across the face.

“You brought me into this mess! You manipulated me! You used me to end your abusive relationship! You saw a psychotic kid with the power to end your suffering! Because you couldn’t do it yourself!” She cried out in initial pain and then recovered, smiling, despite the wound that spread across her face.

And then I stabbed it into Michael’s chest, “And you are an abusive prick! You deserve to die, scum!”

I turned to my double, “You led me here. You tried to get me to commit murder. You used me to satisfy your own needs. You fed me misinformation. The Burrower doesn’t exist, does it?”

“Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn’t. But don’t you get it? That doesn’t matter. I gave you a reason and you got here on your own accord. So what are you going to do next I wonder...”

I was spit back into reality seconds before I plunged the knife into Michael’s head. I pulled back, simply knicking the side of his face and leaving a bleeding scar. He screamed in surprise and ducked back into the Violet’s room. I heard Violet scream again while Michael uttered curses as I fled down the stairs and out the front door to my car. I ran and ran, throwing the bloodied knife away and clutching my head, trying to figure out what I needed to do next. I reached my car and sped home, an idea forming in my mind.

You see, God was right. My double was right. This whole thing has been about justification. Justifying my actions. And now I finally can. I’ve always wanted to kill myself. Write a nice little suicide note (Weave a fantastic story is more like it, and I think this qualifies) and go out in a blaze of unholy glory. And now I possess the justifiable reason to do so. I attacked a man out of… something. Whether he was an unholy creature or a figment of my mind trying to find hatred, I don’t know. I would have killed him too, if not for God’s intervention in the midst of it. I tried to use Violet for my own carnal desires. Maybe God was guiding me this whole time; maybe he wanted me to end my own life. Maybe he wanted me to kill Michael Corelli. But he was right in the end. Motivations don’t matter; what becomes of them does. This may seem abrupt, but I’m ready to be finished. Is this a stupid reason to die? Probably. But I’m done.

To God, the voice in my head, I don’t know what to say. Do I thank you for giving me the reason to end it all, or curse you for bringing me down this path, corrupting my desires and future?

To Violet, the girl of my dreams, I don’t know what to say either. Were you using me to end your abusive relationship? Did you reach out to me as a coping mechanism? Or did you actually care about me?

To Michael, the beast or the abuser: fuck you.

And to my parents, I’m sorry. That’s all I can say. I’m so, so sorry.

-Samuel Viscettis, The Hanger of Himself

Written by Whitix
Content is available under CC BY-SA