Greener On the Other Side

Submitted into Contest #208 in response to: Write a story about someone living vicariously through someone else.... view prompt


Horror Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

Sensitive content warning: Self-harm/suicide, abuse, mental illness.

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Bea. Bea was rather a horrid girl, and all through middle school and high school, she and her friends picked on a very nice girl named Katie. Katie and Bea were as different as different could be. Where Bea was self-centered and vain, Katie was generous and humble - and Bea teased her for it. Where Bea was loud and fashionable, Katie was meek and wore outdated clothes - and Bea teased her for that, too. Bea dated all of the popular boys; Katie dated nobody, because Bea spread terrible rumors about her. Bea made Katie’s life miserable, and Katie bore it for all of those years in school together, never snitching or complaining, but becoming smaller and smaller in her own skin, taking up less and less of the space she was allotted in the world.

After graduation, the girls went their separate directions. Life happened and they got older inside of it. Bea dated a man who couldn’t stand her cattiness and left her. Katie got married. Bea got a job at a bank. Katie became a minor influencer. One of Bea’s old friends reached out with a link to Katie’s social media. Did you see this?? Bea ignored the itch for one day. The next day, she was following Katie on all of her platforms. Katie’s photos were gorgeous. She was married to a very handsome man. Bea thought he looked like a prince who had forgotten he was supposed to marry a princess. What was so wrong with her that her boyfriend had left instead of marrying her? She was the one who deserved a prince, not that skank. Katie was always dressed beautifully, her skin and hair flawless, her makeup on point. Bea thought she looked like an escort…but she still followed her makeup tutorials. And soon her coworkers started complimenting her. She started getting asked on dates.  

But none of the guys stuck around. After awhile, her coworkers got used to her new looks and stopped mentioning them. Bea spent more and more time scrolling through Katie’s Instagram, more and more energy feeling frustrated and angry and bitter and itchier and itchier. She lived all alone in an apartment she never had the time or energy to decorate, in a body that was getting older and uglier every day, while Katie lived in a gorgeous home with a gorgeous husband and a body that looked younger and prettier in every photo. One day, Bea scoured the internet until she found Katie’s address - she hadn’t moved far from their hometown, and Bea drove slowly past the house. It was as lovely on the outside as it looked in photos from the inside. Bea contemplated setting it on fire with Katie inside. She was a nothing; she didn’t deserve this life. Bea had done everything and had nothing.  

She made herself drive away.  

The itch turned into a burn.

A few weeks later, Katie announced that she would be at a local convention for influencers and artists. Bea bought a ticket. That weekend, she checked into a hotel for the convention. On Saturday, she wandered dozens of booths in the expo hall, but didn’t see Katie anywhere. On Sunday, she returned to look again.  

There was a show starting on one of the demonstration stages, and Bea was caught by the words, will change your life! She slowed as she came up to the stage area. A dark-haired, spritely woman was skipping around on the stage, waving bottles of something in the air. These aren’t just essential oils! These oils are essential! Put one drop in your drink, breathe in a few drops from your favorite diffuser, and watch your life transform! 

After the show, Bea jostled into the line forming to buy these essential oils, shoving past other people and outright shoving other people to be closest to the front. When she finally reached the table, leading a wake of shouts and complaints, the dark-haired woman smiled at her. There was a gleam in her deep green eyes, a glint to her perfectly white teeth. You need a new life? It can be yours! Bea nodded frantically. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she caught a flash of honey hair, a tinkling laugh that lived rent-free in her head after months of obsessively scrolling Katie’s TikToks. The dark-haired woman turned to follow Bea’s gaze. Her? Oh, honey, she’s a nobody who thinks she’s somebody. You deserve everything she has and more. I can help you get it. She put the bottle of oil into a bag with her business card. When you’re ready to go after what you’re owed, let me know.

The burn ignited into an inferno. Bea went home from the convention and lost hours to Katie’s social media, hours to the mirror, dressing and undressing herself, putting on and taking off makeup, refusing to eat, then purging it all when she ate too much, hours to running her fingers over the chiseled face of her prince, her man, her life. She took one drop of oil in her iced coffee every morning, waiting for her life to transform. Her boss offered her a promotion, and she rolled her eyes; she deserved it, but she had deserved it for years where he had ignored her or told her she wasn’t good enough, and, anyway, she had a whole life out there that had been stolen from her by this little nobody, and when she got that life, she would be at the top of the food chain. When one of her former dates asked for a repeat, she shot him down hard; didn’t he know he didn’t deserve a woman like her? She was made for a prince, and he was just a boy. 

There was no transformation. There was just more of the same, every day, and she was sick of waiting. She called the number on the business card.

Not enough for you? asked the dark-haired woman when she answered the phone. You want the life you see in the photos and the videos, that she struts all over the internet? You want to be her? I can make that happen. It will take a sacrifice. Are you ready to make a sacrifice for everything you deserve?

Bea babbled. Yes, yes, she would sacrifice everything. This life wasn’t enough, it wasn’t worth living this way, she had nothing and nobody and Katie had the entire world. Bea hadn’t bullied her for nothing back in school. Katie was worthless and somehow she made the world think she was valuable enough to follow, to mimic. Bea wasn’t going to mimic her. She was going to be her. The house, the limelight, the prince would all be hers.

Good, said the dark-haired woman. Because your life is what you will have to sacrifice in order to trade for hers. She explained what Bea would have to do. It will not be pretty, and it may not be pleasant, but it will get you everything you are owed after the life you have lived.

That night, Bea swallowed one bottle of pills and chased it with the remainder of the bottle of oil. She fell asleep and dreamed of falling and screaming and pain. She woke up in a hospital bed. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t speak. There was a tube down her throat and she couldn’t feel her arms or legs.  Terror gripped her chest. Had she failed? Had she been discovered?  

A man’s face hovered into view and relief filled her. It was her prince! She must have done it - she must have taken over Katie’s body. But his face didn’t look quite like it did in the photos. His eyes were hard, his jaw set.

“You’ll never be able to leave me now, will you, Katie-bear? You’ll never be able to walk again, and you’ll never even be able to tell anyone it was me who threw you down the stairs. You’re mine, forever.”

Bea’s eyes widened and she tried to shake her head, but she couldn’t move a muscle. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen! She was supposed to get Katie’s charmed life - the dark-haired woman’s voice echoed in her head, everything you are owed…the life you deserve. A tear slipped down Bea’s cheek. She had thought Katie’s life was charmed. She had made Katie’s life hell in school. She had let go of a promotion, of a man who wanted to date her again, for this. For this nightmare. She stared up into the eyes of the prince who had become her villain.

In Bea’s house, on Bea’s bed, Katie blinked Bea’s eyes open. She felt a little groggy, but after a moment, she quickly shook out her arms and legs, wiggled her fingers and toes. She was intact. She sat up and looked around. It was quiet. Nobody was throwing things. Nobody was threatening her. She had taken a huge risk letting Miles see the suitcase in her car, letting him grab her and throw her down the stairs in his rage that she would try to leave him. Years and years of tip-toeing around, using her tutorials to cover up bruises and puffy eyes from crying, hiding her peril and monetizing the perfect life she was busy selling to everyone outside of her husband. Moira, who had launched her as an influencer and cheered her on and told her about Bea’s jealousy and bitterness; her only friend, who made oils that changed people’s lives and led them to the fates they deserved if they didn’t take accountability for their own part in changing their lives - she had been right that she could help Katie. And now Katie was safe. She was free. And Bea would rot.

Katie smiled, took Bea’s phone out of her pocket, and deleted all of her social media apps. And then she stood up and went to live the life she deserved.

July 28, 2023 23:35

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14:59 Aug 03, 2023

Zyn, The writing is buttery smooth. The narrative reads like a modern-day fairy tale. Your strengths as a writer are the clarity of your prose and your insight into human behavior. Good luck in the contest! -H.M.Pierce


Zyn Marlin
03:50 Aug 12, 2023

Thank you so much for your lovely review! Apologies that I'm only just getting back to you now. I appreciate that you took the time to comment.


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J. D. Lair
18:49 Jul 29, 2023

Careful what you wish for!


Zyn Marlin
03:51 Aug 12, 2023

Indeed! 😈


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