I

I knew it was you again when I saw the glitter coming out of my mouth flecked with blood and spit.

I knew it was you who broke my face in the mirror, and stretched my hips into the shape of a Gothic castle. Told me I was the kind of ugly that killed butterflies, that I better make myself useful, enslave myself to the void, because if I didn’t I’d end up as a filling for potholes, the ugliest stone in the cemetery, wouldn’t even make the footnotes. You told me I had sins to answer for that were bound into my genetic code, and my only chance of salvation was a life of servitude to crushing agony.

You told me I was at my best when I was at my worst.

Hi there. It’s been a while since we really talked. You rarely like to sit down and eat dinner with me, no matter how good my fettuccine alfredo is. You prefer to come down from your room in the walls and straddle me in the dark, mouth open so that your saliva drips like a spider’s silk line into my eyes.

It’s difficult to have a conversation like that.

Come here. Come down from the wall where you stick swinging with your dark hair. Look me in the eye so I can see the magma at the bottom of your soul.

I’d like to say that you’re ruining my life, that this is all your fault, that you’re the reason we’ve lost everything that we’ve ever loved, but my nerves only touch your mouth when I let them.

You were designed to destroy everything I love, and from infancy you were with me, rocking me in the cradle with your clawed feet wrapped around my tiny waist.

I’ll pour you some tea. Let’s start from the beginning

II

If we were to go back to the real beginning, it’d just be me and you, bound in the coagulating stardust that became a zygote. We’d go back to the moment fire struck from flint and watch the demons dance in the circle beyond the light.

But let’s go a little further than that.

For a long time, I didn’t understand your name and your shape. At first, I called it “going insane” and then I called them “meltdowns.” I knew that I was excruciatingly awful, that at times I thought I could punch the planet. Everything seemed to go black and I was nothing but a fissure of need and anger. I ceased to be human in those moments, or so I thought. I became uncontrollable. I was hate bound to skin. And it seemed no matter how hard I tried, I could not control what I did during that time when you took over. I’d scream, sob, say horrible things, throw things, run away like I was about to become a werewolf, froth dripping from a chin like I was convinced I’d never come down.

I went from childhood to adulthood without you revealing yourself to me.

For years I couldn’t sleep because I imagined demons standing at the foot of my bed, visible only when I closed my eyes. I prayed every day but I knew that I was a devil’s child, because I could feel the tongue in my ear, red-hot claws splintering my eyes. It was a devil who taught me to read, made my hands fire against the keyboard, chose the way I should scream. I didn’t know at the time I was doing an internship in hell, but I knew that I was surrounded by evil. It was evil that rocked me and nurtured me and told me one day I’d grow up to destroy my own life

I didn’t know that all of those voices were you.

And the voice that was at first a dim noise, like a rumble of an earthquake on another planet, became louder and clearer every night. Until one night I finally heard the words you had been speaking, as I lay on the floor.

You said:

You’re at your best when you’re at your worst.

Your voice was like a soft breeze, a rustle of curtains, bringing a ray of light into my dark room.

You said exactly what I wanted to hear.

III

Do you remember when I tried to get rid of you?

I’d do everything I could to try to get rid of you in those moments, to try to come back to reality; Punch myself in the stomach, scratch my legs and my face, stick my hands in ice, throw up. For a while, you’d actually go away when I vomited. The flood of endorphins seemed to flush you out of my body.

For a while. You always came back.

And when I first saw you, really saw you, and saw your face, and realized who you were, you revealed yourself to me with a smile pierced with claws, I saw how much you were ruining my life.

You were keeping me unhappy because you thought it was the only way we could be safe.

And the day I stopped believing in family curses and destinies laid out, I spoke to you.

I said, “It’s okay, you can die now.”

That night I almost vomited, your panic-teeth rubbing at my amygdala. You screamed so loud that my brain rattled. You would’ve taken me to a cliff and thrown me off it if you could. I realized that night that you wouldn’t die, ever. You’d always be a part of me with your anger and your heat. It wasn’t a possession, and you hadn’t wormed your way into a body that didn’t belong to you.

You were not a devil. You were me.

You belonged here in this body as much as I did.

Torn skin, black teeth. My fingers on your hips, your mouth on my throat. We’re the beginning and the end, an eternal circle of bad girl tears.

V

Sometimes I get so fucking tired of how special people tell me I am.

I don’t belong on your “Best of” lists, your glowing reviews, your wrist tattoos, your heart, your soul.

I belong in the dark woods, the kind of howling monster that Virgil took Dante away from. I am the dragon that eats heroes, and the witch that leads them astray. I’m the oldest kind of villain, and I’ve got potions that Circe’s never heard of. When I breathe the air flows through my body like its a ghost rattling locks deep inside a hallway.

I was designed to be the sparkling path that leads you’d to hell. I’ve got highways in my thighs that are well-worn to self-sabotage, mutually assured destruction inside my eyes, a whiskey and cigarette demise, constructed from all the ways that we laugh about how we’re going to die.

You’re supposed to love the ways in which I destroy you.

Whenever someone says that I changed your life, that they drug me down into the worst parts of them and illuminated them.

I’m surprised they can’t see the poison thread from here to there, from every word tied to a string down into my throat.

If another man drags me in front of the mirror and croons, “Look at how beautiful you are,” I may fucking stab him.

Because we always end up here, in the end, don’t we?

You and me alone. You and me, together, sitting across from each other, spiders for breakfast and dust for dinner and a triumphant, agonizing loneliness. Your smile only comes out when my heart is broken.

“I told you,” you said. “They’d find out who you are. They all do in the end.”

V

But that too, is just another lie you’ve told me.

Isn’t it?

Please tell me that’s a lie.

That there’s something good at the center of me too.

VI

It’s been years since you’ve come into the light like this. No matter how far you’ve embedded yourself in the substrate of me, I am in control of these limbs. And you shouldn’t forget that.

I decide when we move and what we speak.

So stop telling me that I am nothing, that I am worthless, when all this time I have been the vehicle of our movement. And for all the times that you told me we needed to destroy ourselves, I ran away from my torment, I got up from the floor. I pulled the knife back. I threw the pills into the street. I gripped so tightly to the glowing seed of hope because I saw a way out of the nightmare that had been carefully constructed around me. You don’t own me, you see. We own each other.

So tell me something.

No, put the fork down. Look at me in the eyes. Look at me so that I can see the veins bulging underneath sleepless eyes. Look at me so that I can see myself inside you, and you inside me.

Tell me, do you really want us to be miserable?

Because if you do, then tonight we’ll die.

VII

The volcano fades from her eyes, and the dark veins recede back into her skin.

Her dark hair, squirming like snakes, settles down. And the mold breaks from her body. She emerges from her old skin like larvae, wet and gasping. She has to wriggle out of the last bit of dried skin. I can see then how small she is underneath the enormous amount of viscera and shadow that she’s used to camouflaging herself. She’s weak, her thin and pale arms shake as she tries to pull herself up.

In front of me is not a monster, but a child. And she looks up at me from the wreckage of her old demonic body and her eyes are blue just like mine.

I lift her up from the old body, blood peeling on her back, her hair no longer dark but pale underneath the mucus and musk.

I fed her on the husks and scraps of misery, without realizing it meant she’d never grow up. I hold her there, together on the floor, and when I rock her she begins to cry.

From zygote to grave, you’re never going away, and I’ll never let you go. Infused in pain.

I know you’re just an abstract concept inside of me, a thing I built out of prehistoric thoughts and coping mechanisms.

So I will feed you and bring you up in a new world.

You and me forever.

VIII

You’re not going to save me, I’m going to save you.

I’m going to bring you into the light, out of the dark forest, and show you that we can both live in a world that isn’t made of funhouse mirrors and grotesque.

How does it feel?

Awful?

I think that’s normal at first.

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