WARNING: this story contains blood, violence, and derealization. Please read with caution.
I twist the brass knob, tired after a long day in the dim grey office, taking phone calls for people who could care less if I have feelings. I place the keys on the hook and walk into the kitchen, greeted by the smell of cookies baking in the oven.
"Natalie!" shouts my sister, pulling off her pink frilly oven mitts. "I just put the last batch in the oven. How was work?"
"Work was fine," I reply, giving Leah a quick peck on the top of her head. "Chocolate chip?"
"Yup!" she exclaims. "To celebrate you finally quitting that musty job of yours! You did quit, right?"
"Mmm-hmm," I lie. The office job may be boring and low-paying, but it's the most normal job there is. And the more normal, the better. I don't want to get noticed any more than I already am.
"Good!" says Leah. "By the way, Peter called. Said something about staying again tonight?"
My blood ran cold at the mention of Peter, my only stability in my out-of-control life. His green eyes were unforgettable, gazing into mine as I spilled out all of my secrets, ones I never dared to confine with anyone else- not even Leah.
When I told him of my "nightly troubles", he offered to stay with me during the night. It's a sweet gesture, really, but extremely dangerous for him. I only ever accept the offer during bad nights, nights where I am extremely tired and self control is not an option.
"Natalie? Hello?" Leah waves in oven mitt across my face, snapping me back into reality. "So? Is he coming over tonight?"
"No," I say. I do feel tired, but not any more than I usually do. Besides, it's not his job to protect me during the night, to ensure that I do not leave the room when the voice comes, commanding innocent blood for its never-ending hunger. "I'll call him to let him know."
"Ok!" replies Leah. "I'm gonna head up and brush my hair." She gestures to the brown matted mess on top of her head, speckled with flour. She flies up the stairs and into her room, humming the tune to a song only she can hear.
I bend down and check on the cookies, frowning as I saw the little blobs of dough refusing to flatten out. I would have to hunt for a better recipe, or perhaps have Leah tweak it. It's not her first time adjusting a faulty recipe, after all. I calmly march up the stairs and into my room, only pausing to glance at the pastel door that contained my sister, most likely preening her hair in front of her white vanity.
I shut the door behind me and changed into my nightly outfit: A black shirt with black leggings and black skintight socks. Leah tried to adjust my wardrobe in the past, but the reason for my dark wardrobe is to hide the blood stains that accumulate in the night, not because I'm trying to seem intimidating like Leah thinks. I place a black beanie over my slick brown hair and sit on my bed, waiting for the voice to take command, for the indifference to overwhelm my mind.
You see, each night, I am commanded to feed this invisible creature with the blood of innocent people. Each night, my sleep is replaced with chilly nights of blood and screams and begging. Once I complete the task, the voice allows me to sleep, replaying their horrid deaths in my dream.
But it's always from their point of view.
At first, I tried to fight it. I silently begged to spare the lives of these innocent people, but it continued to demand their blood. Eventually, I gave up, accepting my fate and the fate of others. The voice usually gives me the overwhelming sense of indifference to avoid hesitation on my part. But in the morning, when I wake in my bed, the feelings and emotions come crashing through, leaving me crying out the names of the lives I have taken.
I have come to terms with it. It is better than trying to fight it.
I sit on my bed, awaiting for the voice to take over my body and mind, suddenly wishing I had accepted Peter's offer.
A small feeling of dread fills my body as the voice whispers the name of my next victim in my mind.
"No," I whisper. It can't be. I can't do it. The voice has gone too far, trying to claim blood that I cannot take. I press my hands to my head, trying to rid of the indifference threatening to take over, the very indifference that will allow me to slit this person's throat without a care. But I can't do it. I won't.
You must, it whispers, its shapeless voice echoing in my mind. You cannot resist. You are at my mercy, and there is nothing you can do about it.
My hands are trembling as I stare at myself in the mirror across from me, horrified by the creature I have become.
"I will never forgive myself for this," I whisper as my feelings of dread and fear disperse, leaving me alone with the voice.
Yes, it whispers. Feed me the blood I crave. It's innocence matches no other, and you do not have your little helper to keep you from doing so. You starved me last night, using Peter to refuse the blood I need to survive. Now, you will pay by giving me the blood you always begged for me to leave alone. Not anymore.
I rise from my bed and grab my knife, almost hearing the screams at which this weapon has silenced.
I walk out of my bedroom door, knowing this night will be quick, because my next victim is carefully preening her hair behind the pastel door that will soon be splattered with her blood...