The Monster in Me by Joshua Flores

This entry comes from the Yallwest young writers competition. The goal of the contest was to write a short story or poem that began with: "What you have to understand is that not all villains are evil." The winners were chosen by the #1 New York Times Bestselling author Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent Trilogy, and were announced at the Tiger Beat Smackdown during Yallwest.

What you have to understand is that not all villains are evil. I never meant to actually kill my father, but it was something that needed to be done. My mother screamed at me for weeks, telling me how I was a monster and how she couldn’t even bare to look at me any longer. The next day she left, leaving me to pick up the shards of my shattered existence. I don’t blame her; I haven’t looked in the mirror since she left. I am only able to keep my sanity by not seeing the monster I have become.

I lay awake at night, staring at my bedroom ceiling, seeing his cold eyes grow dark as the bullet launched into his chest, leaving a red spray of blood on the family room wall. His face still feels so clear in my head, the way he looked into my soul, as if he had already known what I was becoming. I guess he already knew what kind of monster I was, am.

Not only did my mother think I was insane, but so did the rest of the town. The population of Louisville, Kentucky, may only consist of 4,500 people, but word spreads like wildfire in the fields of our country town; not a sin can go by unnoticed. The day after I shot Dad, the neighbors stood in front of the house, huddled in a whisper that was anything but secretive. I told them all to go to hell, but they only seemed to be more interested, probably wanted to see if I was as crazy as everybody said. I took out the gardening hose and shot glistening bullets of water at them, until they wailed with anguish and disappeared into the bales of wheat in the field, like mice scurrying away from a large, hungry cat. Something about their anger made me thrilled, which was scarier than when I pulled the trigger.

I stopped caring about what people thought of me, long before my father’s death. Being raised by an abusive alcoholic doesn’t go unnoticed in a town like Louisville. People stare at you when you walk home from school, they snicker when they see the bruises blossoming on your forearms, and they whisper in the pews at church. I hate Louisville for this very reason.

Whenever I think about this place for too long, my chest starts to ache and I feel like my heart is going to give up on me. I’ve been through so much for being sixteen and all, but as my mother used to say, “Life has no guarantees, you have to make your own destiny.” Having been through so much has helped me to grow a tough outer layer of skin, but now I have no idea how to deal with the pain I feel eating away at my organs and my soul. How do I move on with my father’s red blood dripping from my hands? How can I forgive myself for ruining any chance at happiness for myself? The answer is simple: I can’t.

My thoughts dissipate as I see a woman in the fields, waving at me from a distance; I think it is my mother. She has a warm smile on her face and she runs towards me, arms stretched out as if for an embrace. I stretch mine out too. When we finally connect, she holds me so close to her chest that my lungs burn from lack of oxygen. She pulls back my long brown hair and whispers into my ear, “You’re no monster, Jennifer. You don’t have a wicked bone in your body. You’re not insane, Jennifer. You would never do such a horrible thing.” I wanted to scream out and say that I did, I killed him. I wanted him to stop hitting her, to stop ruining any chance of happiness and hope in my life. I looked up to her face, and her eyes were streaked with tears and black mascara. I went to kiss her, but she pushed me back and rummaged through her purse. Then I saw the reflection of the gun and held my hands over my face, even though there was nothing I could have done to stop her.

“I need to put an end to your craziness, honey. You’ve got to understand. You won’t be able to handle the burden of what you have done. Let me end it all. Close your eyes and say a prayer. But remember the reason that this needs to be done. You may not be as evil as everyone says, Jennifer, but you are certainly a monster.”

My eyes filled with horror as the gun was placed on my forehead. I begged her to stop, I promised that I would never do anything so horrid ever again, but she was determined to end me. When the bang of the gun rang out, an animal cry erupted from my lips and the birds in a nearby tree fluttered away in fear.

The moment after the bang, I realized the gun was in my own hands; my mother was nowhere to be seen. My mind continued to race, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. I could hear the whispers of the rest of the town, their judgment and resentment falling from their lips. “Did you hear about the wicked little beast who shot her father in cold blood? Did you see the little girl who carried a gun into the kitchen of her own home and shot her poor daddy while he was eating a sandwich? Did you smell the blood that was dripping off of her small guilty hands?”

I laid in the pool of red that surrounded my entire body and laughed to myself. The funny thing is, I was able to finally accept that I was never evil to begin with, but simply a victim of circumstance. The monster I see in the mirror is nothing more than my father’s reflection, not mine. I try to get up, but I am too far-gone for saving. I stay still and smile, because I no longer have to hide the truth, the truth that killing my father was a necessity. I still cannot get past the fact that I enjoyed when death took hold of his horrid face. I think back to the moment when my fingers held the small metal trigger, and then my heart stopped with the scent of my father’s blood in the air.

Joshua Flores currently lives in Tustin, CA, and attends Arnold O. Beckman High School. When he is not busy doing homework or cramming for math tests, he can be found dreaming up ideas for his book, obsessing over YA fiction, attending book signings, or discovering new and exciting places in LA. He is currently an editor for the Entertainment section of The Beckman Chronicle and a contributing editor for the blog Food, Fitness and Fiction. Follow him on Instagram and on the blog Food, Fitness and Fiction to hear more about anything book related.

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