About 550 words.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I have a monster. We all have one—personal demons lurking in the dark, stale corners of our souls. In the deepest of my being, I can visit my monster. I shudder to think of her.
I have neglected my monster. For so long, in the pit of my humanity, she has lashed against her fraying tether, never biding her time. I admire her relentless fury, and I fear it.
She howls at me as I approach a pretty girl; she snickers when I speak before a group; she laughs at me always. I never confront her about these things—horrible as she is. I’m not brave enough.
You don’t know my monster like I do. She’s different than yours. You’d realize this the moment you met her. This is one crazy sonuvagun. And she’d stare at you through her red, gleaming eyes, quivering maw waiting to spit condescension.
Under the dawn’s light, I plopped into the tractor seat and disked the rows between my fruitless apple trees, riling up the dirt. The green leaves dimmed under the churned dust. I had just completed the last row when Miss Jasper showed up on her horse, Nilly. I turned off the tractor, the loud engine cutting with a cough. I wiped my brow and nodded as they neared.
“Very funny, Travis,” Miss Jasper said. She leaned in the saddle and stroked Nilly’s smooth hair. Miss Jasper had fine auburn hair herself. What I wouldn’t give to—
Very funny indeed, my monster says. Why don’t you tell her about all those feelings?
“Sorry, Miss Jasper, how can I help you?”
“Travis, would you please call me Heather? Makes me feel like my aunt when you call me Miss Jasper. Yes, I know you respect tradition. Thank you.”
I nodded, smiling at the wondrous way she always stared into my canopies, as if discovering them for the first time.
“Anywho, I was wondering…” Miss Jasper’s voice continued on, a pageant of beautiful tones and inflections.
From her darkness, my monster thought, How many times are you going to nod like an imbecile? She knows you’re a dumb ape: your jaw too slack, barely sitting straight.
I gritted my teeth behind tightened lips, yet my soul ached under Miss Jasper’s meandering smile. My heartstrings were at their limits.
I won’t fear you, I thought.
Oh, come down to chat for a change? My monster’s voice was cool and confident.
I won’t fear you.
Easier said than done, little man. You’ve not been down here in some ten years. We all know how that shook out. What makes you think this is any different?
I paused, a fleeting moment, collecting myself. Because I can admit that you’re right, yet I’m also right, and if not for you, I couldn’t prove to myself that I can be different. I’ve always been convinced that you are not me. But that’s not true. I am my monster. And I can be greater than myself.
“Travis, are you listening?” Miss Jasper sounded annoyed, despite her radiant smile.
“Yeah, Heather, I am.”