Have you ever thought that one moment, one action could send you spiraling out of control? Like a fragile mask slipping off and shattering, slipping into insanity, your true form exposed.

I’ve had for a long time this feeling bubbling up inside, feeling at times it would burst through to the surface. I always struggled to keep maintained, push it deep down below, but it was constantly lingering like a thought in the back of your mind. I have this thing I call my “switch” that I turn on when I’m in a public or social place, say work for example, it’s like a duplicate personality that’s confident, bubbly, happy and sociable; unlike me. Activating this switch is exhausting, by the time I’m home I am completely drained. I think everyone has a switch, whether they admit it or not.

One night I was walking home from work, it was sprinkling rain, I can close my eyes and remember the smell of the air and the feeling of the tiny cold drops splattering against my skin. I took a turn from the main road onto the street that led to my house, it was only about a mile walk from here. I was pulling out my phone to change the song I was listening to when I felt goosebumps, the kind that make your hair on the back of your neck and arms stand up. I began the feel increasingly uneasy as I looked around, eyes darting from streetlight to streetlight searching for the cause of my uneasiness. My shoes make a light smacking sound on the wet pavement, the cicadas were growing louder, thumping in my head as their chirping song became similar to the sound of a heartbeat. Even though I was cold and wet from the rain, I began to sweat. I felt like someone was watching me. My instincts told me to run, and I should’ve listened.

I heard a crunch behind me and dared a glance back, but there was nothing. I began to quicken my pace but I didn’t want to be seen running at night in case anyone was around to call the cops on me, at least that’s what my irrational brain thought at the time. I looked behind me again, but nothing. When I turned to face forward I noticed a figure looming in the darkness ahead, the nearest streetlight casting an eerie glare that made the figure look distorted like it was a shadow being smudged. My breathe caught in my throat and I tried to swallow but struggled. My mind was racing with thoughts of how I could avoid this figure, and my thoughts grew darker of what danger might ensue if I approached. “It’s probably nothing, or in my head” I tried to convince myself, again ignoring my instincts to run.

I crossed the street so I didn’t pass the figure, looking down at my shoes as if not looking at it would make it go away. I glanced up after what seemed like hours of me walking, surely I was past it by now. The same shadowy figure was ahead of me, but it had crossed to my side of the street and seemed to hover just out of the light making it impossible to make out who or what it was.

“Fuck this” I thought, finally trusting my gut to run I began jogging towards the glow of my house in the distance. “It’s not far, just keep up a pace and don’t glance at it” I tried to encourage myself. There are several occasions on which I “see” things similar to this shadowy figure, I always attribute it to being in my head. I began to run as the fear crept up my spine
making the sprinkling rain feel like tiny ice daggers on my exposed skin. The light reflected in an almost whimsical way off the pavement because of the rain, and it calmed me slightly. “This is my street” I thought “nothing is fucking with me on MY street” continuing to pump myself up. Getting closer to my house I looked behind me one last time, and the figure was gone. I let out a deep sigh of relief as I turned to make my last stretch home but I halted abruptly. The figure was there again, but closer. So close I could tell it was a man, so close I saw his hot breathe escaping from a black mask he was wearing. I opened my mouth to scream just out of shock, how the hell did he get so close with no sound? I didn’t understand.

He quickly closed the distance and slammed his hand over my mouth before I could scream. He wrapped his arms around my neck and began dragging me to the wooded area between houses, panicking
I frantically slammed his arms with mine to no avail, he was too strong. I racked my brain for ways to get away, then I remembered the box cutter I accidentally left in my pocket from opening boxes at work. I slipped my hand into my pocket and felt slight relief when my hand made contact with it, I pushed the button to retract the blade and pulled it out of my pocket as swiftly and discreetly as I could. Without hesitation I slashed
his arm with as much strength as I could muster, he released his grip on me and let out a cry of agony. I took that moment he was off guard to spin around and slash his exposed throat. I saw in his blue eyes shock, pain, and confusion all at once. I watched in silence as he fell to the ground gurgling on his own blood, I never took my eyes off him as he lay there twitching and gagging. He struggled to lift his head looking at me “P-P-please” he managed to choke out as his head fell back into the wet grass. “fuck you” I said with poison on my tongue. I crouched down to watch as his final chocking breathes ceased and the life left his eyes.

I sat there for a while, taking in what I had done. But it was self-defense, wasn’t it? I began to laugh, uncontrollable laughter as I sat next to the body of the man I killed. My vision began to blur and my hands were shaking. I reached over and touched the grass where it was soaked with blood, I raised my hand up to my face to examine it. So dark, so warm, so intriguing. Without thinking I smeared the blood onto my face, dragging my hands across my eyes and cheeks, it trickled down past my nose and onto my mouth. I gently licked my lips and tasted the salty bitterness. I began to laugh again as I got up and continued my walk home. I left my mask where I left the man.

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