Contest #208 shortlist ⭐️

The Final Petition of the Beast

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

15 comments

Fiction High School Horror

I trust that your patience and historically-proven aptitude for distilling the truth of events from the muddled fog of contentious viewpoints will inhibit you from leaping to a firm and resolute condemnation of my actions until you hear me out to the full. Let us see if I cannot, in time, convince you of my benevolence by offering another perspective on the events which preceded my downfall and which led me to assume this sorrowful state in which you now observe me, a perspective which, I hasten to warn you, runs contrary on many points to those you have no doubt already encountered. In exchange for your borrowed time, I promise to inform you of what really happened regarding a topic we can agree truly matters, the well-being of none other than my human host.

            The rumors you have heard are true. I am soldered, by mechanisms far beyond the understanding of the human sciences, in an intimate manner to the psychological tendencies of the human mind. I must again plead with you to discard your prescribed opinions regarding this arrangement of living. Any beast or person misunderstood will stand by me—and perhaps you also will join us?—in testifying that the misunderstood are always critiqued with unwarranted harshness. I have borne the most hideous names hurled at me by those who fear and misunderstand of my role. I have gone by many disparaging titles throughout history, and am only too aware of the multitude of unsavory images attached to the notion of a parasitic relationship. May I suggest as a substitute for this baseless hatred the fondness of a pet for its owner? After all, I do more than leech. Like your beloved animal companions, I am also capable of altering the mood of my host, as you shall soon see.

            My host was a young boy when I transferred myself from his parents’ minds to his. His psychological foundations had been set years before, and I arrived to find a habitat much to my liking. Between the folds of his thoughts, I made myself a home. I had left a part of me behind, of course, in the minds of the parents. Their family had served me for generations, and it was a light task for one as skilled as I in the art of suggestion and in possession of such intimate knowledge of their inner workings to fan the mother’s insecurities just so so that, while remaining completely imperceptible to their untrained eye, my little whispers achieved nothing short of the legal separation of the boy’s parents. I then secured my spot in the boy’s mind by magnifying his sense of responsibility for his parents’ misery. Thenceforward, the slightest reminder that he was unlovable had him wriggling deliciously in my grasp. It was thus, with my claws sunk deep into his skull, that I ushered him into high school.

            His emotional trajectory was the most promising of all his dear family members yet. Not a single friend he made the first month of school. The very weight of me crumpled his posture as he wandered, friendless, through the halls. I steered his mood between the Scylla of an overly morose disposition, certain to be noticed by peers and trigger the arrival of help in the form of a school counselor or therapist, and the Charybdis of an optimism that would grant him the strength to shrug me off. I would have achieved this ideal flawlessly were it not for that damned girl, who transferred to his school and was placed, catastrophically, in the seat across from my host. Were she my charge, I would have doubled down on her insecurities at the first sign of that cheerful, infectious laugh and blasphemously pristine, consistent mood, if not out of a sense of duty to myself then out of respect for my colleagues who work so hard to keep precisely her sort of energy away from the vicinity of our hosts. Before the week was out, the boy was going home smiling to himself at the memory of their last conversation. Thankfully, I had conditioned him in preparation for such catastrophes—the reminder of the tension that awaited him at home when he stepped off the bus was enough to lull his mind back to its usual state of a miserable hibernation—yet I knew this girl was no patch of sun or tasty treat. She was here to stay. It frightened me how deftly she slipped under my nose. After generations of thankless, uphill labor, I was faced with the prospect of relinquishing all in submission to her smile. The memory of the warm undertones that bubbled up from deep within the boy at the memory of her smile causes me still to shutter.

            I irked him, I belittled him, I downright scolded him in my best imitation of his father’s voice for his cheek. You can imagine, then, my shock when he steeled his nerve and neglected to drink from the sweet stream of self-pity I offered him. He told me himself that this girl was worth the pain, a revelation that gave me a most unpleasant shock. For centuries, my strategy had been to capitalize on the self-pity of my hosts by maintaining their focus entirely and crushingly on themselves. The bitterness this tactic unfailingly produces kept his parents under my thumb until their separation. I expected the same trap would ensnare their child also, but my suggestions fell suddenly on deaf ears. He had a drive to know this girl, and his deep-set belief that he was, essentially, unloved and unlovable did nothing to curb his momentum. In all my carefully executed precautions, I had not foreseen his sexual drive would rear its head in this manner. I chastise myself for the mistake. Had I studied more carefully the behavioral patterns of his father, molded my contraptions to better accommodate the boy’s hereditary quirks, I might have prevented this disaster from transpiring. As it stands, the animal drive to reproduce is, like me, powerful and resilient and cannot be permanently subdued, only temporarily diminished.

            He surprised even himself, I think, at his boldness and forwardness looking back on what he did next. During a break in class came the briefest of silences, pregnant with the potential for shadow-shattering community, and then he spoke; and at that moment I perceived within myself a distinct and piercing horror that stemmed from the sudden realization that my source of life had suddenly begun to slip away, like sand, no, like water between my sharpened claws. The boy and the girl talked on stools in the back of the classroom, opposite the wide windows, with the morning sun on their faces. His willingness to reveal his most intimate thoughts, including those I had pointedly enforced on him to be the cause of his unlovableness, to this girl—a near total stranger to him, unknown less than a week ago!—it frightened me. So I bit him, hard, on the tip of his ear. It was too risky, you see, to allow a conversation of that nature to continue. They might have begun to discuss me, the boy’s negative self-talk, and he might have let the cat out of the bag and deprived me of the strength that secrecy affords. He was still grimacing from the pinch of the memory of some past embarrassment when the teacher resumed class. But the girl looked worryingly at him, and I at her, for I knew the fight was far from won.

            Before I continue, I feel compelled to address my apparent neglect of the rules. You must understand, taking into account the urgency of my case, why it was necessary for me to inflict more than merely psychological torment on my host. Consider the goal I had to achieve. If the result of my admittedly brash action was the immediate embarrassment, the later regret, and the plummeted social confidence of my host, three dimensions firmly underneath my jurisdiction, can the rules really be said to have been abandoned? Even so, I trust you to keep the details of my misstep within the sphere of your knowledge and mine only.

            That afternoon, the boy flopped onto bed and I robotically conjured his usual evening diet of social comparison and self-loathing that bites so poignantly on the teenage psyche. I had just settled in for a mellow evening of brooding and isolation when the boy received a friend request from the girl. Soon they were volleying messages happily like two ducks in a pond. I spewed my most horrid concoction of degrading insults in his ear, but the boy took even my most clever and piercing threats and—and told them to her, verbatim, as I had whispered them to him! The stupid boy believed my work to be a product of his own imagination, but the untruth of his utterances was instantly checked by the girl, and the secret of my existence was out. I felt the shame and secrecy drain from his mind like the contents of a filthy toilet all at once unclogged. You would have screamed too if you had been there, your life’s work transformed in an instant to shining acceptance and relief.

            She urged him to speak with the school counselor on Monday, and walked him down to the counseling office herself when I attempted to undermine the urgency of his plight. I found us face to face with my old host, whose emotions I could not comprehend nearly as well from this side of his face. The counselor did not return my fiery gaze, although he noticed me the moment we stepped into his office, but gave the boy a long, sad look.

            “I see what’s happening here.”

            “Do I need anti-depressants, sir?” asked my host.

            “Oh, no. Just a daily dose of self-acceptance.”


*


            If I have revealed too much of myself and my motivations, so that you look down upon me as the villain of this tale, believe me now when I tell you I have done so for a special purpose. For do not, also, possess those same heroic traits, of determination, bravery, creativity in my methods, and consistency in my effort, all in service to the biological imperative to survive and reproduce, for which you applaud and congratulate the boy? What does it matter, really, if my methods are unconventional, my form perhaps shocking to you, my feeding style “abnormal”? I would caution you against delivering judgments colored so heavily by dislike for the unfamiliar and the unknown. What is the difference between me, who seek to preserve my existence by any means, even the grossest, and him, who takes the opinion of his friend into account before making a decision to the same end and purpose? I assure you, it is a difference not in type but in degree only. He fought harder, more ruthlessly than I, and so he has won. I, who held the boy’s leash, now cower, packed away and forgotten, in a dark and lonely corner of his mind. He does not visit or feed me, except occasionally and by accident. My strength is waned, my spirit is dehydrated, my form considerably shrunken. With the addition of communal support—that loathsome girl had friends, and introduced them to him—I doubt I shall ever drink from the boy’s vitality again.

            What pains me most is the thought that his (and her?) children will be reared without the guiding influence of my whispers on their young minds. I will be hard pressed to imitate to his children the voice of their father when they have not been primed for years with the backdrop of his incessant complaints.

            The boy has abandoned me. I shiver, cold and alone. But you, you are still here, warm and receptive, believing in the truth of my whispers, attentive to my voice. You will let me in, won’t you?

July 28, 2023 20:59

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

15 comments

Story Time
20:13 Aug 10, 2023

I was excited to see this highlighted on the shortlist. I think it's got an amazing command of language and innovation. Wonderful job.

Reply

20:36 Aug 10, 2023

Thank you for the kind words! I look forward to reading your stories as well. -H.M.Pierce

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
17:50 Aug 05, 2023

This is amazing and vital. Personifying negative self talk and doubt and insecurity...all those things that put us down and keep us there. In truth I've been battling this demon myself and it does help to think of it as a 'thing' that I can keep locked away inside a cage in my mind. It's a slippery bugger with a silver tongue and it gets out from time to time. But I'm getting better at catching it and locking it back up Thank you for this HP

Reply

01:27 Aug 06, 2023

Thank you for the kind review, Derrick. I’m glad to hear my story was useful as well as entertaining. You might be interested to know that it was because of reading your short story “Speed Fate” that I decided to submit to Reedsy in the first place. Thank you for the inspiration and the positivity you give to this community! Cheers, -H.M.Pierce

Reply

08:18 Aug 06, 2023

Wow . That's amazing. Glad I inspired you to jump in! You are a very welcome addition! Looking forward to reading more of your work!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Pauline Julien
16:48 Aug 04, 2023

This was so good! It was a no-brainer for me to shortlist it 😊 well done and I look forward to reading other stories by you in the future!

Reply

18:23 Aug 04, 2023

Thank you Pauline for the kind review. You inspire me to continue to write! -H.M.Pierce

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Samuel Pardue
18:53 Sep 20, 2023

good story, would read again :D

Reply

Show 0 replies
Amanda Lieser
14:58 Sep 12, 2023

Hello! Oh my goodness, what an interesting idea! I thought that your narrator had such a stunning voice and the peace, while confusing in the beginning, ended up being a stunning work of art at the very end. I also thought that your choice to include the reader in that final portion of the story was brilliant, because we have all experienced those kinds of conversations with self doubt before. I’m so glad the story decided to have a happy ending and my final word is of congratulations!!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Philip Ebuluofor
07:06 Aug 07, 2023

Fine entry work here. Congrats.

Reply

14:48 Aug 07, 2023

Thank you!

Reply

Philip Ebuluofor
18:53 Aug 07, 2023

My pleasure.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Ben LeBlanc
03:40 Aug 05, 2023

Interesting story. I must say the start was a bit slow. There was a lot of dense language that could be paired down very easily while maintaining the conceit and intellect of the protagonist. Ex: I trust that your patience and historically-proven aptitude for distilling the truth of events from the muddled fog of contentious viewpoints will inhibit you from leaping to a firm and resolute condemnation of my actions until you hear me out to the full. This is word soup. My version: I trust that your species' patience and historical aptitud...

Reply

04:09 Aug 05, 2023

Ben, Your criticism is invaluable toward developing my skills as a writer. I agree with your points and will incorporate your suggestions into my next submission. Thank you for taking the time to write a review. Best, -H.M.Pierce

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
19:25 Aug 01, 2023

Please help me sharpen my style by commenting on my vocabulary and sentence structure choices. I’m also interested to know your emotional reaction to the story. Thank you for your time, -H. M. Pierce

Reply

Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.