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Monophobia

“I confess I did what I should not have done. I said what I did not mean. I acted as I never would have, but does that mean I must pay for my mistakes? For the sins that burn so how that they scorch my skin, but also freeze my soul. It seemed like a good thing at the time, when it began, when we met. I never dreamed that it would begin this way, nor end quite this way either. All that I really know is that it was great, it was fantastic, but I had no idea it had to hurt so badly.”

“I can make your dreams come true.” The man in the red cloak said. “The price is not much.” He grinned, a sinister grin. He discussed the terms calmly with eagerness in his weathered voice. It was obvious he had made many deals in his life. He knew what to say to make the deal sound absolutely perfect. It was, in fact, so perfect that Maggie could not say no. She reached out a trembling hand to the man. His own oddly golden, shriveled, fragile looking hand closed sternly over hers. With a swift up and down movement they shook, and before Maggie’s eyes the elderly man’s hand filled with the muscles of youth. The hand became smooth to the touch, and healthily plump, but it kept the same golden tint. Meanwhile Maggie witnessed, for a brief second, her own hand shrivel and prune. She pulled back with a scream, taking her once more youthful hand in her other hand. She felt it, confused, and sighed in relief.

As Maggie fussed over her hand the man in a red cloak pulled, with his youthful hand, a small utensil from the inner pocket of his robe. With an open hand he presented the normal looking red pen to her. “Here you are.” He said, waiting for Maggie to take the nib from his hand. “Do not lose this, you only get one,” the man in red warned.

Maggie reached out more hesitantly to take the pen from his hand. Once she had it she pulled it close to her body, and holding it before her, she began to examine it. She opened her mouth to comment, but when she looked up she saw that the man was gone. Maggie looked all around for the man. She even ran to the end of the long alleyway where she had been. Maggie was forced to shield her eyes from the bright light of the outside world. She peered through the light in all directions, but the man was nowhere to be seen. Just then Maggie thought she could feel the pen in her hand pulse. She looked down at her hand where the stick laid, clinched in her fist. It pulsed again, eager to be used. The thing was alive.

With the eyes of a keen thief Maggie ran out of the alley and down the road. She was eager to get home and try it out.

Minutes later she was inserting her own small, metal key into the lock. Hearing the clicks she threw open the door, turned around and locked it again. She then rushed up to the security of her room, all the while the pen in her hand pulsed.

Maggie tossed her back pack to the floor, and with more care she placed the pen on her desk. She spun around and rushed to her mirror which sat atop her dresser. Here Maggie placed her cold, pale hands on her face and took in every detail of her familiar self. Cool, blue eyes stared back at her. Maggie’s heart shaped lips parted slightly as she breathed through her mouth. Shoulder length brown hair framed her pale face, and accented her eyes. Everything seemed to be in order. Her hands were their normal color, and as always had their normal, youthful appearance.

Sighing, Maggie walked around her room before she plopped down in her seat at her desk. The pen still sat where she had left it. She looked at it nervously, as if she did not know what to do. Then, very suddenly she reached out to take it. She panted slightly at the effort, and sighed once more.

Forcing herself to breathe slower Maggie pulled a yellow spiral notebook out of her bag, and opened it up to a blank page. She took the cap off the red pen and poised it over the lined paper. Maggie ran the fingers of her free hand through her hair. She lowered her pen again to the paper and raised it just before it made a mark. She could not bring herself to write. She feared the mark it would make on the pure white paper. What if she did something wrong? To make it all worse the pen was pulsing again now harder than it had before.

Carefully, she placed the pen off to the side of her desk and ripped out the piece of paper. She placed this beside the pen. Maggie then continued to pull out another black pen and a large text book from her bag. She decided she would return to her prior task once her homework was done.

Hours later, after a satisfying dinner Maggie returned to the small desk. She once again eyed the pen as it seemed to eye her back. Yes, it. It was alive, Maggie was sure of it. She pulled the lined paper back towards her.

Maggie looked out of the window at the street light as it grew brighter and brighter as the night darkened. She tried to imagine the perfect person, the perfect guy, her dream guy. Maggie was nineteen, and a dreamer. She had never dated before, she had never had a boyfriend, and at this point in her life she was beginning to worry she might never have one. It was her despair and sadness that had called the red figure to her. He promised her this, and all she had to do was write it, and it would come to life. He would make it so. Whatever she wrote he would give it to her. There was a price, of course, but it really did not seem like much.

Maggie reached once more to lift the pen into her hand. She adjusted the paper before her and began to write.

“A soft cap of brown hair sits on top of his perfect head. His bangs fall down messily, obscuring his fixed eye brows, and his ears. His eyes, a perfect, most beautiful blue, are constantly laughing. His cheeks hold a soft blush over mild freckles, quite adorable when he smiles. His lips are placed perfectly on his face, and his chin rounds smoothly around his face.”

Maggie continued on to describe his muscular body. She did not make him a twig, but a man with a slight bit of pudginess about him. She ended on a more fantastical thought.

“Maggie Swift was the apple of his eye, the center of his affection. He loved her from the moment his eyes fell on her. He promised himself that he would cherish this angel who seemed to walk so innocently into his world. She would, of course, love him too.”

Holding up the paper Maggie looked it over and smiled. In her hand the pen began to purr happily she smiled now, and she began to wait.

Fifteen minutes passed by, and in that time the red pen seemed to regress into silence and stillness, until it appeared to be nothing but an ordinary pen. As she waited, though, nothing happened. Maggie wondered how long it might take for her writing to spring to life. She thought it would have happened right away, before her eyes. She had used the pen from the man in a red cloak. From her understanding of his instructions that was all she need to do.

Thirty minutes later Maggie’s head was hanging. Her eyes were sagging. She sighed and got to her feet. She folded the paper and inserted it into a notebook. She moved tiredly around the room, and into the bathroom where she prepared herself for bed.

Maggie could not help but feel a little cheated. What was that man up to? What was with that strange pen that wrote in such a beautiful blood red color? Maggie closed her eyes with a couple very unhappy mutters in respect to the man. He had lied, she was sure of it. Regardless her last thought was of the boy she had so carefully written about. She had described everything, anything about him she could think of. A smile spread across her face. Slowly Maggie gave into the darkness of night. She embraced it with a warm, open heart, and she fell asleep.

Maggie found herself, suddenly, sitting at a table with a clear wooden finish. The constant chatter of voices created a dull roar in the background of her conscious. The morning had just blown away. There was a steaming cup of coffee sitting on the table before her. Her head rested peacefully in her arms, and she began to drift. Maggie wondered how she could be so tired. She never remembered ever being quite so tired in all of her life. “Hey there Megs!” called the overly cheerful voice of her college friend.

“Hey there Janice.” Maggie mumbled just loud enough for her friend to hear her.

“Wow,” Janice whistled. “You look… like you haven’t slept in a week! What happened?” She demanded, shocked by the dark circles under her friend’s eyes.

“I have no idea.” Maggie confessed. “I was up kind of late last night, but no later than usual.” She was so wrapped up in her tiredness, and talking to Janice, that she did not notice the new student walk into the class.

This new student, however, did notice Maggie. He was happy to see the seat beside her was empty, and so he stepped up to take it.

Janice noticed the new student though. She watched as the stranger moved closer to her and her tired friend. “M-Maggie,” she said in a quiet, but very, very high tone. “You might want to look around.”

Maggie opened an eye and looked at her friend who seemed to be wired to an electric current; her hair was nearly standing on end. Maggie did follow her friend’s gaze to the boy. Her jaw dropped, and she too stared. She recognized the hair, the smile, the body build, the eyes. Each characteristic of the boy was exactly how she had imagined them. This man was the exact image she had had in mind as she wrote last night. Somehow the pulsing pen had found its way into her hand, as if to remind her of how this boy now walked towards her. Those perfect blue eyes watched her with the utmost satisfaction. He now stood beside her, looking down at her. “M-May I sit here?” He asked softly, and there was that perfect smile and blushing cheeks. He was even more perfect than she had imagined.

“S-sure,” She stuttered back, and became aware of her own burning, blushing face. “I mean, please do!”

The boy chuckled, “Thank you.” He pulled back the chair and sighed. “Wow, this is a nice college.” He said and tilted his head back just enough for a couple prefect strands of hair to slide back to the side. “By the way, my name is Kyle, well Katurian, but I prefer Kyle.” He winked at Maggie who bore hearts in her dancing eyes.

“K-Kyle.” She said dumbly, “It is wonderful to meet you! I am Maggie, Meg, or Megs. Whichever you prefer!” She exclaimed and giggled. “Oh, and this is Janice.” Maggie said after she received a hard poke to her arm from her friend. Kyle did not even turn to Janice; his eyes remained intently upon Maggie. In fact he did not even acknowledge her! He was completely fascinated with Maggie.

“Megs, I like it. It’s cute, like you.” He chuckled, a ringing laugh, like bells.

“Do you?” She asked in an oddly high voice. “I’m glad. So, um, you’re new here?” She asked quietly.

“Yeah, I suppose you could say that. I’ve actually lived here for a few years now, but I just got all of my registration done, so I have just started attending classes.” He grinned, “And this is my first one!”

Maggie had completely forgotten about Janice, who was still trying to gain some attention. “Biology as your first class, hm? What other classes do you have? What is your degree?”

In a low, slow, lulling voice Kyle answered all of her questions. Maggie was alarmed, but pleased to find he was in every one of her classes! Could it have turned out any more perfect? He was even studying for the same degree as she was. It was almost creepy.

As one would guess the two became a couple, and for three weeks life was perfect. Kyle, the man she had created, was perfect, he was flawless, the ideal boyfriend. He paid for every dinner, for every date. He knew what to say, and when to say it. He was very caring, a great listener, and very supportive of her. He loved to hug her, and snuggle, and kiss, but he never pressured her for more. He was the perfect boyfriend, and it almost hurt Maggie to realize it. He was too perfect!

She still loved this creation of her, but she soon realized that there was such a thing as too much perfection. She hadn’t seen her friends in days. She spent every waking minute with Kyle. Her perfect grades were slipping. Maggie had sunk into some alternate reality. Her parents would yell at her for her failing grades, and she would run back to Kyle.

One night Maggie realized she could not take it anymore. She could not take another perfect day, and so she took out her red pen and wrote.

“The loving couple lived together each and every day in perfect bliss, but it was all about to end. Life was becoming too monotonous. Someone would come between them and shake up their humdrum lives. He would spoil the loving routine they had fallen into.”

Maggie sat back to admire what she had written. In her hand the pen pulsed, happy to be used again. “There,” Maggie said to herself, “That should do the trick.” Maggie did not want anything too terrible to happen, so she had left it fairly open ended. Tomorrow was Saturday, and she and Kyle were going to the park in the afternoon, and then if everything went well, as it always did, to dinner and a movie.

Jumping into bed Maggie quickly fell asleep; her dreams explored the possibilities of what might happen tomorrow afternoon.

The impeccable date began smoothly. Kyle came to pick up Maggie, and together they walked to the park. It was a cool day, but the sun was happily shining down on them, blessing them. Maggie’s eyes darted all around the park. She pointed out interesting things, but never let it out that she was looking for this thing she had written about. She had not done another thing to that paper. It lay in a drawer of her desk. She could almost recall every word that she had written. Now where was this disturbance?

The two were walking down a long, cobble street path. Maggie hardly noticed that rain clouds were moving in. She only really became aware when she heard the distant rumble of thunder. Then, like a bird in flight, a sheet of rain quickly approached. She lifted her bag up over her head, and Kyle moved closer to her as if he could keep her safe. “Just there.” He said pointing forward. Conveniently there was a dome shaped tunnel that passed over the road. Together they raced forward, trying to escape the pelting rain. The day had grown very dark, very suddenly. However this sudden darkness did not cause the lights along the path to come on. They remained dark and menacing, lifeless in the sudden gloom. So as they raced under a nearby bridge the lighting around them remained dim and dreary.

They were both panting as they entered their sacred sanctuary, and just as Maggie lay back against the rough brick of the building she sensed something. From the darkness a man appeared. In his hand he wielded a long baseball bat. There was a vicious grin on his face as he approached Kyle. Maggie screamed just as the man swung. It was not nearly enough time for him to react. With a hollow clunk the bat swung around and hit Kyle on the back of the head. Maggie’s perfect boyfriend fell to the ground. He was out cold.

The punk turned now on her. “Hey there pretty lady.” He mocked, obviously searching for something, something he was not afraid to take by force. Maggie wanted to hurry to Kyle’s side and see if he was okay. She could see a pool of crimson liquid pooling beneath his head. The same color stained the side of the bat the punk held. She could not, however, turn towards Kyle. She had her own problem coming right for her. After a few slow steps, which completely blocked Maggie from any escape, he suddenly moved very quickly. He rushed forward, holding Maggie’s throat with a tight, crushing hand. She began to gasp. His filthy hand slipped down to the belt of her jeans. He began to work the buckle, waiting until she fell into unconsciousness. Frantically she tried to fight back, push either hand away. She was surprised to find the pen suddenly in her hand. Her mind raced frantically, she was quickly fading. With a last bit of energy she pushed at him with all her might. The pen was uncapped, and as she pushed the fine end towards him she was almost surprised to feel his skin soon beneath her hand. Through half closed eyes she saw a flicker of crimson light as it splashed against her hand. The pressure left her neck.

Maggie staggered and panted as her own hands curled loosely around her throat. She gasped for breath as the man grabbed for his neck. Glancing up she could see a thin stream of blood trickling from the pen sized puncture on his neck. There was a dangerous flash in his eyes that scared Maggie. She took another step back, but he seemed ready for revenge. What would he do to her now?

Maggie tried to fumble around in her pockets, searching for something, anything she could use against him! Finally her hand closed around a piece of paper which crumpled in her hand. It was perfect; she could make him go away. Like the beat of a racing drum the pen pulsed in her sweaty hand.

For each step Maggie took back he took two towards her. The second he burst forward she would be done with. She had to risk it. She, as nonchalantly as she could, tried to flatten the old receipt over her palm. She took a deep breath before she lifted the pen to the paper and frantically began to scribble. Her attacker was confused at first, but his confusion was quickly replaced with a need to act. He raced forward with the intent to harm.

The small space in the tunnel lit up quite suddenly. There was a crashing, booming sound of deepening thunder all around them. It shook the ground with its ultrasonic waves. Maggie screamed, but the shrill shriek was easily drowned out.

She staggered backward, both in pain and shock. The bright flash of lightning died, and after a couple seconds of complete silence the beating of the heavy rain resumed its heavy drawl.

One sound stood out above the monotonous tone, however. Drip, drop. Pitter, patter. Like the slowly beating lub, dub of a dying heart; a cold, black, smoldering, dying heart. The evidence of the trembling man’s murder lay in a charred heap of blackened flesh on the cobblestone walk way. The nineteen-year-old girl held the pen, that monstrous pen, in her taunt fist. In her other hand, mixed with the seeping blood red ink was the words she had managed to write.

“Then he was gone!”

It was short, simple, something that she could write in the second or two till her attacker hit. It had been enough, however, to save her life. Maggie dropped both the pen and the paper to the ground. She fell to her trembling knees, forgetting the intense pain in her arm. After an attack of panic she recognized this pain she was feeling. It burned and seared her skin. Looking down at her arm Amber watched in horror as the words she had most recently scribed began to etch themselves there. “Then he was gone!” The crooked, horrid thing read. It was then that she realized where the ink that fueled the pen originated from. Droplets of blood began to drip down her arm, but oddly enough her message did not end where she had written it. Beneath her desperate cry for help another word began to emerge in the same twisted font. “Murderer.” It read.

Maggie’s eyes grew wide as fear grasped at her floppy heart. “N-No.” She gasped unbelieving. She looked up at the charred remains before her. She looked over at her perfect boyfriend whose head rested in a lake of crimson. The two things she had created both lay dead, and dying. “No, no, NO!” She shrieked and jumped to her feet. “NO!” She screamed again. “It can’t be. I didn’t, I DIDN’T DO THIS! I’M NOT A MURDERER!” Maggie took off running, leaving the two where they lay. She ran and ran, out into the rain, out of her cave of safety. She ran away from the bodies that were marked with her inky sin. Maggie had not seen it, but the words she had written to summon them were slowly becoming a part of them, etching themselves into their pallid skin, or ashy remains.

No matter where Maggie ran the evidence of her crimes could be found all around her. She turned one corner and saw Kyle; she raced away and nearly ran into the visage of her attacker. Even the rain that fell about her was her creation. She screamed again and ran down a dark alleyway. There was a brick wall, marking her dead end. Maggie stopped, and kneeled over to catch her breath. Seconds flew by before she noticed the soft sound of pulsing behind her. It started out softly, but steadily grew louder, and harder, and heavier. Maggie knew this was not her heart beating. She was afraid to turn around. She knew what was there, or what must be there. What else could it possibly be?

Slowly, like a door on a creaking hinge, Maggie turned around. Standing before her was a man: tall, red, and menacing. Clutched in his golden hand was the pen. She could visibly see the vibrating movements of the quill. Trembling, Maggie staggered backwards. She did not know why the man was here, or what he wanted, but she knew the result would not be good. She was hardly surprised when, from behind his back, the cloaked figure removed a tall, silver, shiny scythe. The blade curved seductively down to a very fine point. Even in the dull light of the pouring rain it seemed to give off a faint glow.

A voice from the pits of Hell itself began to speak, “Maggie, you called to me, you asked me for help. You looked to the night for the solution to your problems. Now here you stand with the murder of two on your hands. Your name has been written now.” The man said, and pointed the scythe at her trembling body. “You must now pay the price for what you have done.” He raised the long pole of the silver scythe above his head, and it began to glow with an eerie red aura. Taking the weapon he swung it around, once, twice, and a third time before finally it hit its intended target.

A gasp escaped from Maggie’s mouth. She screamed, loudly, more loudly than she had ever screamed before. It was then that reality hit her. Maggie’s eyes fluttered, and she paused a moment to look around the room in wonder. Her entire body was bathed in a chilly sweat. She could feel her poor heart racing to save its life. Her claw-like hands found her face and ran through her hair. After a moment of feeling around she began to laugh. Softly, and slowly at first, then faster and louder she began to laugh until her laughter became hysterical. “I-I’m not dead.” She gasped, surprised even as the words left her mouth. “I’m not dead!” She shouted in triumph.

There was a loud knock at the door, and without another warning her mother raced into the room. “Maggie! Oh my dear Maggie!” She raced forward and wrapped her arms tightly around her only daughter. “What is wrong, did you have a bad dream?” She asked tenderly. “Darling you’re burning up.” She began to stroke her daughter’s hair.

“Mom!” She exclaimed. “Oh God Mom, I am so happy to see you!” she hugged her mother tightly.

Maggie’s mother, who was very confused, sat back a little and looked sternly at her daughter. She reached up to her daughter’s forehead and placed a careful hand against it. “You’re not going to school tomorrow.” She said resolutely. “And that is final. I’m going to go grab you a wash cloth for your face.” Maggie’s mother left and returned a minute or so later. Tenderly she dabbed at her daughter’s face. “Now you lie down and rest up young miss. You need to sooth this fever of yours.”

“Yes mother.” Maggie said quietly, obediently. She accepted her mother’s kiss on her cheek before the woman got up and headed for the door.

“If you need anything Maggie, anything at all, please don’t hesitate to call me. O.K? ”

Maggie nodded, “Yes mom.” She said and blew the woman a kiss. She smiled at her daughter and left the room. Once Maggie was sure her mother was gone she slowly got up from bed. She felt a little dizzy as she wavered from side to side. Slowly, and carefully, however, she made it over to her mirror. She took in the image staring back at her. She lifted her arm to see that there was nothing written there. Sure enough there was nothing but pure, clear, youthful skin. Maggie sighed in relief. “Wow,” She sighed, “What a freaky dream!”

More assured now she turned around and headed back to bed. She lay down and pulled her thick, warm sheets over her tired body. Maggie was just about asleep when she heard it. The noise began softly, a gentle thumping, almost pulsing, sound. Maggie opened her eyes wide and pushed herself up off the bed. There, sitting on her bedside table, was a normal looking red pen with a removable lid. Maggie stared at the item, horrified. She thought, for one single second, that she had seen the thing pulse.

April 2011

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