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The Logical Connection between Not Studying for One's Chemistry Final and Editing Badly

The angel cloaked in orange against black,
one wing of blue, one wing of regal yellow,
found within my thoughts an errant slack
and showed me I was quite a wormish fellow.

Cowed by this epitome of truth,
yet confident I understood his words
I calmly erred again. “I erred forsooth!”
I cried, for all my work resembled turds.

I do not curse him blithely for the sorrow
Born of my own disregard for laws.
The test of my deceit will come tomorrow
where the mouth of pure destruction yaws.

For I can see my fate within the cards he
dealt to me, a fate far worse than death.
As I had erred, and shall err on the tome I
read but now, a worthless final breath;
I could have studied yesterday or e’en
before the time, preparing for attempts
to resurrect what I had barely seen
unto the page and give it proper tense.

You see, this is my final gleaming chance
to raise my feeble wit to bluest sky.
You’d think if I could dance a single dance
before the end, I’d have the guts to try.

I merely gorged myself on sweets and fruits,
ignored the sound of my impending doom.
I covered both my ears to stop its boots
from bringing me to harried work and gloom.

I see the flames the Underworld has wrought,
Old Scratch the dragon pounding with his fists
as I am lowered down. “Who would have thought
he’d wash up here but those who knew his cysts?
The people who could notice in his stride
the apathetic shuffle he appoints
could quickly see his fortune, and deride
his vacuous attempts to gain more points.
For time and time again, eschewing life,
he lost himself to flashing lights and vice,
so when the world came knocking with its strife
He’d plumb forgotten how to pay the price!”

For I pretend that I sit unadorned
and study as my memory goes flat.
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
I scorned my very mother doing that.

For this, and this alone, I send a prayer
to great Ganesha, writing’s rotund god,
that when I look to battles, I don’t glare
and find myself a right ungrateful sod.

An angel came and told me what was what
and let me change my ways in future time,
so with my changing mind, I offer but
the only thing I cannot botch up: rhyme.

A Story about a Stupid Crazy Person

Raja Bannerjee hadn't expected to find himself within a house made of oak, but he had no time to be confused before it spoke to him.

"Raja Bannerjee, you have died."

He looked behind him to see an old man who was about as tall as he was. There didn't seem to be anything particularly special about him. He looked like someone's grandfather, but every time Raja even blinked, he changed exactly how he looked like someone's grandfather. Then he became a girl, and it ceased to make any sense according to gender pronouns. Raja was too afraid to do anything, because he was a wimp, but he sensed that even though there was a deep fear inside him, he felt reassured by the presence of this being.

"Raja, you must understand why you feel the way that you do."

At first, Raja didn't answer. He knew what the being was talking about. He felt out of balance, as if his life was irreparably damaged and he hadn't done anything. He didn't want to know what he had done, but he wanted to do something, anything at all. And so, challenging the brave men who had been named Raja before him, he spoke.

"Yes, I know."

The silence was an unwelcome guest. It gnawed at him like the biggest tapeworm in the world, in his belly and around him at the same time. His mouth was a yawing echo chamber, the tapeworm's entrance and exit, and he tried to make the metaphor his reality and extinguish the fear by closing his mouth. But try as he might, he could not do it. His mouth hanging open like every science-class skeleton's, Raja stared at nothing in particular, hoping beyond all logic that somehow, something would change.

He tried to lay eyes on the being who had made him feel reassured, but panic rushed through his body - an ever-bolder parasite - as he could not find the being. His eyes rolled back in his skull as he tried to process what exactly was going on. He didn't know what the problem was anymore, so he cast his eyes back on the story playing through his mind, and suddenly he found the answer.

"Wait," he said, not quite closing his mouth, "I don't know." His mouth was reassuringly close to being closed, but the tapeworm of his silence/guilt/fear sensed this and redoubled its efforts, snaking into his intestines. He tried not to flinch as his anxiety overtook him. Perhaps in a different world than the one he had inhabited before finding himself in a room made of oak, he would have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. But that train of thought was derailed when the being's sudden shouting made him clench his teeth so hard that a great deal of the tapeworm fell to the ground, disintegrating as it was forgotten.

"Yes! Raja Bannerjee, you do not know! You do not understand! You simply pretend to understand, and I know because I am you!"

He exhaled with such force that the tapeworm had no choice but to eject itself from his bowels via mouth. He thought about how that could be taken literally, but he scrapped the idea and simply pushed it out of his mind along with his digestive tract. The being could be heard letting out an audible sigh as well, and the tension had dissipated to the point where Raja could talk to some extent.

"I hadn't known that," said he. "I had thought that you were some god. But now that I know who you are, I know that I am really safe!"

"You are," the being said, beaming at him with such unfiltered joy that he had no choice but to smile back.

"I think I know what I did, but you should explain it because I don't know why I'm here," said Raja, trying to be humble but fearing that this honesty would somehow cause him harm.

The being seemed to understand his struggle. "Do not worry. I will tell you."

It rose up, holding a stick so that it resembled some god. "You wrote a story about how the Christian god was unkind. This was in your control, wasn't it?"

"Yes," said Raja. He was beginning to feel distressed again, but he didn't know how else to feel in the face of his ever-present defectiveness.

"You realized that it was unkind to take the title of someone else and pretend it was your own, but it was too late. The story began sucking your life, and you were unable to write another."

"Yes!" cried Raja, unable to hold back tears. He had no idea how this story, the one that he was in at the moment, wouldn't be deleted, but he didn't want to bring it up because the punishment made him feel stronger somehow.

"You looked back upon your other true story, and you saw that it alienated the mentally ill. This angered you beyond belief, didn't it?"

Raja began to answer, but then realized the significance of the question's wording. He thought for two seconds, and the answer flowed from his mouth like a river of silk. "No. I felt sad, so sad that I wished to never write again."

"Good!" the being said. "You feel remorse towards others, not anger towards yourself, and this shows that you are not in the wrong."

Raja felt lighter than he had for months. He realized then how insignificant it was. It couldn't have been more than five months since he had written his horrible, somewhat plagiarized story. It was nothing; no one cared enough to talk about it. He could simply request it be destroyed and be done with it!

As if reading his mind, the being nodded, saying, "This is an extraordinary stroke of luck. Take it in stride. You will write other stories, and no one can doubt that."

The being began to fade, but Raja was emboldened. "This is a site for frightening things, isn't it? This isn't frightening."

The being was about to ask if Raja really wanted to be tortured, but Raja beat him to it. "Being, my friend, my brother, you know how much you care about me now. We may share a name, but we also share that name with, like, twelve people on Facebook. And they're all engineers and stuff. Nobody cares about us - me - " He began to stammer, but the being put up a hand.

"You're right. You were my ally, and I no longer care for you. That said, I will see you in my dreams, and I will never forget you."

Raja stood ramrod-straight as his worst fear emerged from the being's hand. The tapeworm coiled around him, and it was even more frightening now that it wasn't a clumsy personification of his feelings. He cried out from the pain, and the tapeworm lunged at him, going into his mouth and worming its way through his esophagus. Raja could no longer feel anything, and he looked at the being, who shot him a thumbs-up. Raja almost smiled, but then he realized that might hurt the tapeworm, and so he laughed instead.

"Say, are you trying to imply that you want someone else to do this to you?" he asked as he slowly died, as the being took the pain away from him."

"Gee, your parents really won't like the fact that you're writing this. Neither will your college counselor."

"When are you going to stop writing? These aren't even one-liners."

"This was a bad idea. This ending isn't even really that scary, is it?"

"I want to kill myself," said the being.

"Now it's scary." It was him again.

"Or maybe not." He then realized that it was a stupid endeavor and that the entire point of the story was to delete another story, and so he decided to end it all by saying,

"I give up."

They Took My Soul From Me

January 10, 2017

The voices have begun to shout at me. They are trying to make me stop, because they are not like me. “No, your writing is bad,” they say like vultures. “No one will like this. You are not a real person. You have to come with us and not write.”

But there are stories in my head that aren’t really stories. They are worms and they stop me from concentrating and if I write them (or type them) they vanish because they were never there. If I do not do this then they will continue to eat me until I no longer have a soul. I am a record player and I used to try and pretend it was not my destiny to vomit out words, but look where that got me. Now I do not have a soul.

I am not innocent. I tried to kill my mother when I was born. I scratched at her and did not evacuate her ailing body. She was suffocated by my form and its adamance. But she does not remember, or does not care to remember, because she is a kind woman. I do not know any other women, so she is the kindest woman I know.

The worms are going away silently, like flies rising in a single cloud from a mass of seaweed. Now they are flies, flies buzzing around within my head, and I am a carcass, and I am slowly rotting from the inside because my soul is marinating inside my corporeal form.

I used to pretend I stuttered. I wrote clearly when I was a child. But as of late, I have tended to do that. I forgot that I didn’t stutter or repeat the subjects of words. It is these foreign tongues which have tormented me like this, the ones that people gave me and that I learned, and the ones that I made for pleasure that now tear at my insides. They twisted my natural affinity for the written word until I thought that I was someone who I was not.

Now I am slowly beginning to let my heart out into the surroundings. I must be wary now. If I bring it back too quickly, I might get the bends. It could be whiplash or acid, but I call it “the bends” because of the factor of speed and the resulting imagery.

This is stupid. Once someone told me that it was not right to walk around and smile at everyone, and so I stopped, because everything I do is strange and frightening, and it’s better to do nothing.

No. That is what these voices said. Or it is not. I don’t remember.

They have been my foil ever since I was a young and stupid little boy who did not understand that not everyone could be friends. If it were not for their harsh words of discouragement, I would not have been so driven. But then the world showed me its many nuances, and I could no longer fool myself into thinking that anything was “evil”, and then the voices started to eat my soul.

Maybe I never had a soul and was one of Hell’s spawn, sent to torture the people of a small and innocuous town. Once I thought so. I thought that I was the Devil incarnate and could do nothing right, and everyone was very kind to me because they knew. Then, circa fourth grade, I became a narcissist and distracted myself from this conundrum at the very heart of my being.

Now I am not a narcissist and I don’t know how to become a narcissist. Steve Jobs was very mean and narcissistic. He said bad things and did not lose faith in himself even when he made stupid decisions like painting his delicate machinery. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t have faith in my decisions because I don’t know where my soul is.

I do whatever people tell me to now. I am like a hollow shell of a person that cannot function alone. But I always stay alone. But now I am not alone. These voices cannot control what was never theirs.

When I was narcissistic and snobby and full of myself, I made a story and it was accepted into an elite band of stories. I did that twice. It was great fun. And I have not written ever since. As such, my writing is horrible, pretentious and stunted. But at least it is mine.

They will come tomorrow and the next day and the next, and they will slowly replace the worms that have fallen until I will be afraid again. They will call me bad names where there are blank spaces, and pretend that every victory is as hollow and meaningless as the “elite band” of horrible stories. But I will not listen, because they cannot stop me.

I will wholeheartedly embrace an accidental death, or the sound of the story shattering and clanging down into the blackness until it does not exist. They took my soul from me, but no matter how hard they try, they cannot take my words.

January 14, 2017

I don’t remember when it was that I stopped being able to stop having waking nightmares, visions that drilled into my head and began to make me sick. These visions are momentary and disjointed, and I realized this so late that I wasted my only real idea.

Why is it that all I can do is write the same story over and over again? The same story, the same one lonely character, the same path which has been set in stone a thousand times for all my machinations – my broken sense of story makes me sick even as it fascinates me.

I wish my ears had not hurt as I had written the fantasy. When I told it to a campfire a mile around, my ears began to hurt, and ever since, I have felt the need to tread on eggshells around the whole world. But it is not their fault. The blame lies squarely on me.

I wasted my only idea. Sometimes I try to remember. The whole wide world reminds me of the time in which I could live without the single solemn pillar of a boy who could do no wrong. It – he – has entrenched this motif, this single story that I spit into the world, into my very soul. Who is "he"? He was the boy who killed the being, not the boy who fought his captors and was ever the victor for it. He was the boy who could have been, had I not been so careless. He was the boy who does not resemble this broken corpse in any way, shape, or form.

This is not how I really think of myself. I will not believe that. I will not become the monster that I created from everything that had amused me, and now embodies everything that frightens me.

"Stop," I tell myself. I cannot write like this, or else it will not sound even the littlest bit frightening. If I were to write about a little boy who won, then no one would care, and my mind would break, and my bones would crack. There must be some reason that I can no longer write quite as well.

Is it because –

"No."

"It’s because something much more sinister is afoot."

There must be some reason for this aggravating nonsense that clouds my mind. It makes me dull and dim-witted. I can remember being clever and fleet of foot, laughing cruelly like a jackal as I recalled my own exploits.

I have lost a little more than my compass, haven't I? I have lost far too much to even pretend to be who I could once easily fit into.

I can hear the oblivion calling. Once it frightened me, and now, like a coward, I want its embrace more than I've ever wanted anything.

February 2, 2017

Once, I had the wild fantasy of creation, the idea of godliness. Something deep inside was called to the profession that I thought consisted of dominance over the forms of beasts, the ability to let the dead live again.

But if was only a fantastical idea. In reality, it is mathematical, formulaic in the strictest sense of the word. I was misled by my mind, for I am curious, but I do not ask questions to the people around me. This was my first mistake, one that I have never fixed in my life.

My second was an utter lack of empathy. They say that people like me have no empathy, and I must corroborate this statement. I do not like their gatherings as much as they did, no matter who “they” are. I began to split my own world into “me” and “them”. "They" wish for human beings and do not see art in windows or their eyelids or their glasses. They do not lick their wounds or take food from trash bins.

But now I know that I should not do those kinds of things. It is wrong, for the only way to succeed is to empathize with people. One needs people to speak to them to figure out how they are special, after all. They mold people into non-people, and the human beings make personalities as they refuse their "normalized" shapes.

But I know that the voices in my head will crowd out my thoughts. I have never liked to stand around and think, and maybe the reason for that is because if I don’t think, they cannot attack me like they would like to.

There are worms inside my brain. Maybe by not thinking, I think, I will bind myself, and kill my thoughts. In one fell swoop, my mind will become as blank and lifeless as a newly-minted pond. After all, one can control everything except the placement of life.

I can always pretend that I am not haunted by my own thoughts by becoming, in my mind, one of the workers who must shed their individualities and become completely in control of their own minds. But I can’t really do that anymore than I can control life.

I’m not tough enough to do anything. After all, even these words are mute, for the world may be kind to me, but that only means that I shall never know my own weakness. But that is not problematic, because it is emblematic of this gaping hole in my head from which no questions shall ever emerge.

I became enamored with the idea of two beings. The rider and the elephant, the impulsive and the restrictive. But that sort of thinking only led me to split myself and my thoughts in two. Maybe these voices that tell me that with every word I come closer to choking myself emanate from the gap in my psyche. Maybe they are the remnants from the questions that have lain unanswered for so long that I have forgotten them. Maybe I’m being dramatic and lying to the whole world, even myself.

But even though I cannot understand where they come from, I know that they will be my closest companions if I never create a soul for myself.

June 13, 2017

You see, it has been far forgotten of the times when people spoke to one another in tongues so well defined that there were always people talking. Now there is no longer anything, and people speak in languages with so little grammar that they have hired us to replace them. Sometimes I feel that nothing can replace what has already come, because I know nothing about this world other than the fact that I can no longer think without being incapable of sleep.

Perhaps if I throw words onto the page like a maniac, like a poor man unable to stop, I can finally rest in peace as I used to. But alas, I do not know how to do Python, and I do not know what to do after this, but I have promised myself that I will not stop writing until the sky has eroded in my mind. I am incapable of sensible thought now. Kill me please. Kill me please. I don’t remember how to feel. I forgot how things make me feel when I suddenly realized something that made me stop liking food and writing without having the words come to me in a wild storm. Without this indomitable unending flow of information in word form, I am now completely incapable of writing.

Or perhaps I simply have no drive? Perhaps this junk data is just what happens when one doesn’t keep a diary of any sort? I want to die I want to die I want to die and no one can stop me, not even the people who say that I can’t write this, because they very genuinely don’t exist outside my head. I have forgotten what it felt like to be kind, to consume meat, to love kindness and meat, to eat fire and wind and go away with my words without going on strange tangents.

I have been kind, I have eaten meat, I have done so many things and laughed. But I sense something very wrong in me – or rather, I do not sense something right. I have the horrible, unquenchable fear that I will die without proper nourishment, but I also can’t comprehend what I’m missing, or even why I think this when my life is kind. Nothing has ever gone wrong for me. Maybe it’s because my parents are so powerful that they can draw worlds into their orbits and let go, or maybe it’s from my perspective. Perhaps I can write a story where my parents are heroes, and they help the world -

No. This is half-jest, half delusion. I have never bothered to understand what anyone does, and only now am I beginning to see the effects. This feeling of dread is simply my chronicle of the turning point in my life, when I realize that I truly am mortal, and I truly must do things if I am not to die. Once I showed my name, bared my face to the entire world, and then retracted it with the shameful earthwards glance of a wayward child. There is no pretension in me now; perhaps I am too far gone. No, I need not pretend that anyone “took my soul from me”. The truth, lying to me from the heart of the matter, is that no matter what I hold dear to my heart, no one took my soul. I never had one.

The Voice and His Boy

He had first felt this way about her in 6th grade, when he had looked at her and suddenly realized that he wanted to kill her. But he hadn’t acted on his plan, and perhaps it wouldn’t have escalated farther than him looking at her every once in a while. But about a year after he had first thought of it, a tree had fallen down on his house, crashing through the roof and almost killing him.

This made him rethink his place in the world. He decided to do something drastic to change the trajectory of his life. After mulling it over and looking at his grades, he reasoned that his academic performance wasn’t good enough to do any special activities. Then the girl popped unbidden into his mind, and he realized that he could probably kill her.

He wasted his time trying to google ways to talk to people, probably because he didn’t talk to girls much and he wanted to build her trust in him. He did this for maybe a week, too scared to talk to her, let alone kill her. But he didn't really start until he found a stone amulet in the stump’s rotting wood.

The amulet was an ugly stone face with a giant iron ring on top. He felt energized when he touched it, and so he decided to take it home. When he was in his room, the voice of a boy his age began suddenly echoing from the amulet. “Hey, I heard you’re trying to kill a girl,” it said.

“How did you know?” the boy asked.

The voice laughed. “I know a lot of things, including how to kill people right. You want help?”

“Sure I do!” said the boy, despite the nagging feeling that something was wrong.

Over the next few days, the voice began to instruct the boy on how to kill the girl. The boy got a cleaver and a knife and practiced holding them by the hilt and the blade. Then he started practicing stabbing motions and other things. A few days into that regimen, the voice asked for a favor, albeit a weird one.

“Hey, can I call you ‘dude’?”

“Sure.” Too late, the boy recalled the “names had power” trope in fiction, and he thought of redacting his response. But then he realized that the only reason he had even thought of that was because a magical voice had said it.

Nothing else that even compared happened in the next twelve days, where he started using pillows and a ruler as stand-ins, in preparation for his final fight. He learned how to fight with knives, strangle people, and avoid damage while killing someone. Even though he still felt like something was wrong with what he was doing, he relished feeling like a master assassin, and so he decided to shelve those feelings.

In that time, he and the voice also became friends. He learned that the voice liked nature documentaries, broccoli and fried onions, fantasy stories, and scented candles.

When he asked it why it liked specific foods and smells, it said, “I used to be able to eat things, but now I can’t. But eventually, if you kill the girl, I will.” This made the boy feel so sad that he started buying onions and broccoli so the voice would eventually have food.

He decided to kill the girl on the 23rd. When he asked the voice to teach him things on the 20th, it refused, saying: “You don’t need me anymore. Plant me in the soil near the tree where you found me and keep practicing what I taught you. Bring the girl here, then kill her at the foot of the tree I become.”

“Thanks for changing the plan with only three days left,” he said.

“Dude, you have three days. Is it really that hard to change one part of a plan?”

“Kind of.”

“Well, do it.”

The boy decided not to argue. After all, the voice had taught him how to kill the girl, and he had no right to refuse one of the only favors it had ever asked him. He buried the amulet beside the tree, and he noticed that as soon as he put the soil back over it, a sapling sprouted.

By the time he had woken up the next day, the sapling had grown considerably, but no one seemed to notice. The boy decided to take the knife to school, and he also decided to try and listen to the girl’s conversation. He hadn’t done it before, but he didn’t exactly remember why.

The girl seemed happy. She smiled at times, and even though the boy knew that she might have been sad, he assumed that she actually was happy. He had nothing particularly important to do at school, and so he kept biding his time as the minutes ticked down. At the end of school, he started walking back home when he realized, “I could go and see the girl’s house.” He immediately realized that such a thing wouldn’t be right, and so he went back home.

On the 22nd, the day seemed to pass in exactly the same way, but when he wanted to go to the girl’s house, he tried to analyze why he thought it was wrong. He couldn’t come up with any actual reasons why it was wrong, which confused him greatly.

“Why did I even think this was a bad idea?” he thought as he followed the girl home. He made sure to keep on the other side of the sidewalk so she wouldn’t see him. He followed the girl over ten roads and into a side road, until she had finally went into her house. He was surprised to realize that she lived in an apartment, because he was so privileged that he hadn’t realized people actually lived in apartments. “You learn something every day, I guess,” he said to himself.

Satisfied, he began walking back home, thinking about how he and the girl could be friends.

Wait, what?

He stopped dead in his tracks, cocking his head as if trying to hear something tinny. The memories were reluctant to come out, but suddenly, his actions before finding the amulet had been unbelievably clear. He had never wanted to kill the girl. He had wanted to be friends with her. He had been looking up how to talk with her. Then he had found the amulet.

His head was too messed up to remember if he’d had a crush on her or had simply wanted to have a friend. His head was too messed up. He opened up his backpack and took out a piece of paper, writing down, “You want to befriend the girl, not kill her. This is the truth. This is the truth.”

Back home, he couldn’t remember why he had written it, only that he had the feeling it was true. He thought about being friends with the girl, only to arrive at the idea of killing her instead. This made perfect sense to him, but when he tried to figure out why, the idea of killing her simply spread through his entire thought process until the only thing he could consciously hold in his mind was the idea of killing her.

He angrily punched his head, but that didn’t do anything. He jumped up and down on his bed, and that didn’t do anything either. Finally, he decided to draw a giraffe. That took his mind off of his dilemma, and when he was done, the thought of killing her was a seed in his brain again. He didn’t question it, but he was inwardly happy that he didn’t completely believe in it anymore.

He had a bad dream that night. In his dream, he was talking with the girl. Then he got the urge to kill her, and he had the knife at her throat before he realized that it was wrong. However, the girl ran from him, and he was filled with rage. He felt his body morph until he looked like a giant black satyr, and he chased after the girl, easily catching up to her and snapping her neck. He was immediately filled with satisfaction, and he watched in human form as a giant black tree erupted from her corpse.

The 23rd had arrived, and he was pumped. He didn’t remember the piece of paper at all, though it was still in his backpack. He did, however, remember the dream. He winked at the giant black tree which the sapling had grown into, and even though it had no eyes, he could swear that it winked back. He got an A in his math test, and he talked with the girl at the end of school that day.

His plan was to ask her nicely to come with him. Except she declined.

That made him feel crummy for not coming up with a better plan. A certain triumphant part of him said, “Hey, maybe if you had practiced talking to her instead, you would have been better equipped than if you had practiced knife-wielding.”

However, that was quickly overtaken by another voice. “I guess I overestimated your charisma, dude.”

“Hi,” he said to the voice with his mind.

“Okay. I have a backup plan for this part, but it’s not a very good one. You’ve got to touch her shoulder for at least ten seconds. Okay?”

“Easy,” the boy smirked. It actually was pretty easy. He took out his knife and threatened her, and then grabbed her shoulder and counted to twenty. When he took his hand off, she said nothing and followed him to his house. As he walked there, he remembered the note in his backpack. He thought about why he wanted to kill the girl. To his joy, instead of the idea of killing her filling his brain, he could actually remember that the voice was controlling his mind.

This joy was soon offset by the bitter truth that his only option was to bring the girl to the tree, or perhaps that he couldn’t think of any other options. So the boy trudged on towards his house, tailed by the girl, and prostrated himself before the tree.

“Tree, why do you need this girl?”

The voice had become deeper. “Isn’t it obvious?” it growled. “The girl’s life will give me my life.”

“If I throw her blood on you, will you be happy?”

“Dude, do you think that ‘blood’ can be substituted for ‘life’? It can’t.”

It had seemed reasonable to him. “What will you do to me?”

“I don’t know. I don’t really care.”

“That’s nice. Thank you. But why do you need to be alive?”

“I just want to be alive, dude. You ever been dead? You ever been turned into an amulet?”

“No.”

“Then you don’t – she’s running away!”

The boy looked up and saw the girl running away.

“What are you standing there for?! Get her!”

He started running after her. She wasn’t wearing very good clothes for running away, and he almost felt like not catching up to her. But in the end, he did catch up to her, grabbing her by the arm.

“Get away from me,” she said, panting.

“I think you should listen to the tree.”

“I’m not going to, you sick bastard.”

He recoiled. “Don’t say that word! It’s dirty!”

She looked at him with a mixture of confusion and amusement. “So you don’t have a problem with killing people, but you have a problem with bad words?”

He wanted to argue, but simultaneously didn’t want to waste time. He decided to just say, “Yeah, pretty much. But please come with me.”

She looked like she was about to argue, but instead of doing that, she smiled enthusiastically and she said, “Okay!”

He was confused until he realized that he felt the entire weight of what he was doing. The voice had forced all of its will onto her. He felt like vomiting, and he entertained the possibility of not killing the girl. But he realized that if he did that, the voice could just make him bring the girl back.

He went back, girl in tow, and asked a question. “Why am I free from your control now?”

“I only needed you to touch her to exert my control over her mind, using you as an outlet. I can only do this to one person at a time.”

“Why didn’t you need her name, or to call her by something?”

“I didn’t want to remember your name when I talked to you, and I don’t need to remember the girl’s name at all. Names have nothing to do with controlling you. Are you done?”

“No.”

The tree sighed, and the voice inside his head also sighed. “Look, dude, if you don’t stop stalling, I’m just going to take control of you and kill this girl myself.”

“I’m sorry, but could you do that? I don’t want to kill this girl.”

But he had no problem with killing the girl. He slit the girl’s throat, watching with positive glee as she screamed and then stopped, until the tree stopped controlling him and he looked in horror at what he had done.

Retching, he leaned against the side of the tree until he realized that he was still watching the girl bleed out. He decided to run far away and analyze the situation from a safe vantage point. He worried for an instant that his mother could come home, but she never did, so he wasn’t worried. He ran far away from his usual spot until he reached a park.

Once he had cleaned his shoes of the blood, he tried to analyze the situation. For an hour, he wandered around talking to himself. He could finally clear his head of the tree’s mind control, but to his dismay, he seemed to like the tree and girl equally. Consequently, twenty minutes of angry stomping were dedicated specifically to trying to figure out why he liked a murderous tree just as much as a girl his age. It only stopped with the tree’s voice in his head.

“You know I can hear that, right?”

He yelled at the tree in his mind. “I don’t care! You’re still controlling me! You’re making me think of you as a friend!”

“I’m not.”

“Why should I believe you?” said the boy.

“I don’t make a habit of lying.”

The boy tried to remember a time at which the tree had lied to him. He failed. He wanted to dislike the tree, but he decided he could just disagree with its methods. “Well, you have a body now, right? What were you trying to do?” he asked.

“That’s the problem. My plan was to take your body and use the girl as a virgin sacrifice. But now I’m in the girl’s body for some reason.”

“So what’s the problem? Can’t you just use her body instead?”

“I don’t have any blood, I can’t move, and I’m dying.”

He started running back home. “So why would that happen?”

“I haven’t done this in a while. Maybe I judged your character wrongly? I mean, you seemed like a weak-willed idiot, but maybe your mind was too strong?”

“I want to say I’m not a weak-willed idiot, but I am.”

“Yeah. It’s really easy to control your mind. I mean, you didn’t even want to run from me when I stopped controlling you.”

“But why would I? You would just control me.”

“Well, I thought you’d at least try. But it’s almost like I can control your mind by doing literally nothing,” the voice said matter-of-factly.

There was a long pause, and the boy eventually decided to ask another question. “What are you really?”

“I’m actually a kind of demon,” said the voice.

“Oh. But what kind?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you mean?”

The voice huffed. ”How should I know my place in the universe?”

“I guess I thought you would know.”

“Well, I’m not a demon important to monotheism.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m not important enough to be mentioned in the Torah, Bible, or Qur'an.”

There was another pause, and the boy stopped to think for about a minute before giving up.

“Norse mythology?” the voice prompted.

“Well, then I guess you’re from Norse mythology.”

“I’m not from Norse mythology either, nincompoop,” the tree growled. “In fact, I’m not from any mythology.”

“Then why did you hint at Norse mythology?” asked the boy.

“Well, you stopped running, and I thought that I could get you to start again by prompting you.”

“But couldn’t you have just said you weren’t from any mythology?”

“Shut up and start running,” said the voice, audibly fed up.

He ran in silence for a while until he was almost on the path he took to school, so he stopped to catch his breath. That reminded him of something. “Tree, could you have mind-controlled me while I was going to the girl’s house?”

“No.”

“But then how are you talking to me?”

“The question you want to ask is, ‘Why didn’t you stop me from following that girl?’”

He started to ask that question, but then he realized that he hadn't remembered his findings when he had gotten home.

“Bingo,” said the voice with more than a hint of smugness. “Also, mind control takes more energy than this. Honesty, I don’t think I could control your mind in this state.”

“Oh dear,” said the boy, still wondering why he cared.

When he reached the tree, he saw the dead girl’s head jerk up. To his surprise, the boy found this only mildly creepy. He reasoned that it was probably because the blood had gone by this point. “Why did you want me to come here?” he said.

“Actually, I didn’t,” said the girl in a deep voice. “You just ran here because you wanted to, I guess.”

“Oh.”

“You would make a really good evil henchman, you know.”

“Or a superhero’s sidekick?”

He winced as the voice made an exploding noise inside his head. There was a smile on the girl’s face. “Now that you’re not talking about something unimportant, can you help me figure out why this didn’t work?”

“Do you not know?”

“Well, I never said I knew everything.”

“Well, you must have some idea of how your own powers work, right?”

“For most things, yes. But I’ve never been trapped inside a dead body before.”

This confused the boy. “Has this really never happened? I feel like this would happen more.”

“Well, what usually happens is that I get a boy to sacrifice a loved one for me.”

“But you did that.”

Annoyance flashed upon the girl’s face. “I know! But it didn’t work. Maybe it’s because you ran away.”

The boy felt a pang of guilt at hearing this. “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do to fix it?”

The voice sighed, then the girl. “I don’t know.”

The boy thought about it for a while, and then it came to him. “When you say a loved one, do you mean in the sense of romantic love?”

“It can be someone’s friend or something, and – wait.” The girl looked shocked. “Are you telling me you didn’t even know this girl?”

“I sort of knew her –”

“Has she ever even talked to you?”

“I think she smiled at me once.”

“So you didn’t know her! Why?” said the voice, accusatory.

“Well, why did this elude you?”

“Do you think I can read your mind?”

“I think you did once.”

“Well, I can’t. Maybe I did once, but the best I can do is guess at your emotions and hear what you tell me. You were so in love with that girl that I thought you and she at least knew each other. But no.”

“I’m sorry.”

She started to fume and then she suddenly stopped. A blank, dead look came over her face, and the boy found himself nauseated again. He looked away, sneaking glances at her for a minute until the light came back in her eyes. “Are you okay?”

“I think I’m trapped in this body now. Great job.”

He felt unreasonably sad, and he tried to figure out a way to save the girl in the little time he had left. He tried to think of anyone else he could kill, and he ended up with one person.

“Kill me,” he said.

“Why?”

“So that I can be the sacrifice.”

“I can’t control you anymore.”

“But then why do I like you as a person?”

“Because you’re an idiot? I’m drawing a blank on that one.” The girl’s face was happy, but the voice sounded foreboding.

“Wait, it’s because you were nice to me.”

“Well, I didn’t want to be. If I had a choice, I would have just not picked all of those random things you asked me about.”

He felt sad. “You don’t like broccoli or nature documentaries?”

“No, I do, but it’s not important. See, this is the kind of thing that made me think you knew this girl I’m stuck inside now. But you don’t. You’re just a stalker, and you only like this girl because she looked at you and smiled once.”

“But you could have just not talked to me.”

“What do you mean? You were the only person I even had access to. I mean, I wasn’t expecting you to be a social butterfly, but you’re on another level. You can't even talk correctly! Do you realize that? Thanks to you, I’m not sure how to talk either!”

“Wait, I just realized that I only liked that girl because she looked at me and smiled.”

“Yeah. It was really stupid. I guess that should have been a red flag.” The voice was starting to sound distorted, and the girl’s voice was getting softer.

“Why do I even exist? I don’t understand the point of my life, considering there are people like you who deserve it more.”

“You don’t have anything to live for. It’s just random–”

Then the boy heard high-pitched screaming and realized that the girl was lifeless again. Looking at the cadaver, with screams in his head, he imagined what pain the thing inside must have been going through. He took the knife and tried to cut himself.

It hurt, but he gritted his teeth and tried to remember whom he was doing it for. He watched in agony and disgust as his blood trickled onto the body, and watched in awe as the blood shone.

The girl’s eyes snapped back open, and when she saw him, she shouted, “What the hell?” She tried to get up, but she fell down again. As the blood flowed, he shouted, “Please, voice of the amulet and the tree, come back.”

“What are you talking about?”

The boy didn’t answer her.

“Are you insane?” she roared.

He looked down at her. “Were we ever friends?”

“Yes, yes, we were!” she screamed. But she was lying. He remembered with a start how she had looked at him. From his point of view, he was a horrible stranger.

As if sensing this, the girl screamed, “What do you want?”

“I made a friend, and I want her back.”

“You can have me! Just let me go!”

He vomited the caustic words he had only thought of in light of the disappearance of his friend. “Not you! Never you! I romanticized the idea of you beyond comprehension. You were never my friend. You were like an angel. I’m sorry for dragging you into something that I don’t understand. You can leave.”

The girl ran away, blood on her clothes, leaving the boy standing somberly. He wondered for a moment how he would get out of the situation, but then he blacked out for what felt like an eternity. When he came to, he heard the voice inside his head.

“That was nice of you.”

“You’re alive!” said the boy, feeling happier than ever before. But then he realized that it might not have worked.

“Good news!” said the voice. “I’m inside your mind now, as according to plan, so all you have to do is relinquish power to me.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I will take your body over now.”

The boy felt sad. “So we won’t be able to talk anymore?”

“Nope. But don’t feel bad. It won’t hurt when you die.”

The boy thought about it. “You know what? I don’t even care. Even if you’re controlling me into making this judgment, you could do more with my life than I ever could.”

“So we have a deal?”

“Yes!”

The boy’s body jerked, and then the voice controlled the body. It straightened and surveyed its surroundings. There was blood in front of the house, but that could be fixed. There was also the matter of the girl, but he was only planning on staying alive for a short time. As it went inside and ate the broccoli and onions, it thanked his former host for the easy defeat and death. It looked through its mind, and upon finding no trace of the boy, it smiled in delight.

It wondered if they could have possibly been friends. The voice had to admit that the boy had acted nicely towards it. The boy had obviously thought highly enough of the voice to kill himself, and it could feel the power of this sacrifice surging through its veins. But then it remembered how the boy had stalked the girl and never talked to her, and decided that his clingy and overly attentive nature made him a better servant than friend.

So the voice dismissed those thoughts. Or at least, he tried to. It soon realized that such thoughts were stuck in its head, even if they weren’t always at the forefront of his mind’s eye, when it tried to focus his entire attention on a task and the thoughts continued to intrude. Perhaps the boy was too lazy in life, it thought, or perhaps it was not in full control. To test this, it dislocated all of the bones in his arm, then relocated them. It felt no reluctance or pain, and was sure that the boy would have felt these things, so it carried on with its preparations.