Monsters Walk Among Us
The cotton fibers of my shirt had become tacked to my skin by the warmth of the late summer heat. I shifted, the backs of my thighs searching for a cool spot on the torn, green bus cushion. Afternoon air poured in from the open windows in damp, heavy waves but offered little comfort as the gusts painted my skin and tousled my unruly curls, leaving me gritty and sweaty in a way only the Midwest in late August could.
Alone in the back seat, my body absorbed the bumps from the road, and the seats in front of me clanked and rattled as we maneuvered along the route. He sat a few seats ahead with one leg splayed into the aisle. He was flicking the cap to his silver lighter open and shut, click, click, click. I didn’t know much about him, but I knew he was dangerous. I knew it the same way I knew the corn was ripe for harvest. I could look at it, and I knew.
He leaned into the aisle and angled his head in my direction, so I pressed myself into the corner of the bus and hugged my backpack. I hoped to become invisible, but when I lifted my gaze, he was looming over me like a dank, sweaty cloud. He lowered himself down, slowly at first, and then, like a brick into a puddle, his body dropped onto the cushion. The seat gasped beneath us, and the rippling transfer of weight forced my shoulder against a bolt beneath the window. I winced and shifted my body lower, losing my grip on my backpack, and it dropped with a thud to the floor.
His scent of dirt and hot flesh stung my nostrils, and his glossy, stringy hair strands fell around his cheeks and clung to the beads of sweat on the nape of his neck. He pressed his warm, sticky knee to mine. His eyes were dark, like tar.
“I been thinkin’,” he said, combing his hands through his hair and pausing to breathe me in. “I been thinkin’ ‘bout how I’d kill you.”
He studied me. His mouth was steady, and his eyes drilled into mine as my heart slowed and my lungs emptied. I couldn’t breathe. My throat turned dry, and my voice scratched against its constricted cavern as I forced out a shallow, “what?”
“Yeah. Been thinkin’ ‘bout it for some time now, and I think I fine’ly have it right. See, first I’d cut ya. Slice through the skin’n make sure the blade went real deep, carvin’ through the fleshy bits and gettin’ all the way down to the bone. You’d bleed out. Primed just right. And then I’d break you up, arm from body, foot from leg, and piece by piece, I’d rip ya down until I can dump ya like a heap in the tub.”
He ran his fingernail across my forearm to create a white trail on my skin while sweat from my palms soaked into my jean shorts. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move. And he knew it.
Grinning with excitement, he continued, “See, I’d have to break ya down like that, cut ya into pieces. Because then, when I pour the acid, it’d get into every little bit. All the cuts. All the bone. It’d eat you away until ya disappeared down that drain. No one would find ya. Not ever. It’d be like you never existed.”
He smiled a wicked smile and curled his fingers around the back of his neck in a satisfying stretch. He licked his lips like the taste of the words lingered on them.
The bus rolled to a stop in front of my house, and he pressed his arm against mine, kneading my bicep with his bony elbow. When he released me, he stood and plopped into the seat across the aisle, pulling a damp strand of hair into his mouth. I shook the soreness from my arm before walking to the door, pausing to glance back at him. He winked, and I turned and stepped off, counting my footsteps as though I were in a procession.
I didn’t want him to see me run.
I was thirteen when I first met evil, and I was thirteen when I realized the children’s books had lied to me. Monsters weren’t green. They didn’t have red eyes that burned through the night or fingers that summoned fire. They weren’t faceless apparitions.
Monsters walk among us, stepping onto buses and roads, planning, watching.
Sarah DiSilvestro is a dancer. She’s not good at it but does it anyway. Sarah is a singer. She’s not good at that, either, but she does it anyway. Sarah is a writer. She has no statement of value in this endeavor and has a love-hate relationship with her Google docs, but she does it anyway, and admittedly cannot stop. You can read her raw essays on cancer at www.nothingisfine.com.
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