The Overthinking Monster

Monster parent: Teh Zhi Wen (@zhixwen)

Marisol wound her long black hair around the fingers of her left hand until they were covered in darkness. She twisted and twisted until she could twist no more.

It took work to extricate her fingers, but as soon as she freed them, she immediately began imprisoning them again. It was a habit that left the hair on one side of her head perpetually frizzy and tangled.

Her right hand did not escape the fretting. Each fingertip took turns between her teeth, nails worried down to nubbly nothings.

Marisol bit her lip, frowning at a pair of pill bottles perched next to her laptop. Anti-anxiety medication and an antidepressant prescribed by her psychiatrist, Dr. Ivy.

She’d promised Dr. Ivy she wouldn’t read about the medications on the internet. She could call his cell phone any time, day or night, if she experienced disturbing side effects. The internet could only do harm here.

She’d managed to take the Ativan without breaking her promise. She’d taken it, even though she worried it would make her too sleepy to study for her test tomorrow. (Dr. Ivy had told her she’d studied more than enough for her test already, and a nap would probably do her good.)

Marisol was very proud of herself for keeping her word about the Ativan. But the medication wasn’t making her sleepy after all. And it definitely wasn’t making her less anxious.

If anything, it seemed like the little white pill she’d swallowed was chumming the waters of her mind, driving every shark of thought into a feeding frenzy.

She stared at the unopened bottle of antidepressants. Who hadn’t heard horror stories about antidepressants? It seemed like there was always a classmate or an acquaintance complaining about a happy pill making their life a living hell.

Marisol glanced over her shoulder, as if Dr. Ivy might be standing behind her, watching disapprovingly. She typed the name of the antidepressant into Google.

For thirty increasingly disturbing minutes, she slogged through lists of potential side effects and horrifying patient experiences on increasingly sketchy websites. Dry mouth. Insomnia. Nightmares. Weight gain. Depression. Anxiety. Extra depression and anxiety because of weight gain. Suicidal thoughts. Itching. Hair loss.

God, what if her hair fell out? She twisted hers around her fingers even harder, and a strand snapped with a loud twang. She couldn’t stop chewing on the nails of her other hand, which were now more red meat than actual nail.

What if she couldn’t sleep at night? What if she flunked out of school? School was the one bright spot in her life. What if the medication ruined that for her? What if she didn’t take the medication, and she continued to become more anxious, and that ruined school for her?

She’d always been an Type A personality. A micro-manager. OCD. Obsessed with details. As a little girl, nothing had made her happier than a nice planner. She never felt at ease unless she was in command of all the necessary information in any potential situation.

That had morphed into something poisonous after the car accident.

What if she had told Dad to drive carefully before he left to run errands that day? Would he have been more cautious on the road?

What if Dad had taken her to go grocery shopping with him instead of her sister Clara? Dad had always complained that Marisol was a backseat driver, but everyone drove better when she was there to nag them.

Dad’s car had skidded on wet pavement, rear-ending a semi-truck, which must have been like smacking into a mountain made of steel. The SUV behind him had finished the job. His car had crumpled as easily as tissue.

According to the coroner’s report, Clara had died immediately from the double-impact, but Dad, Daddy had suffered.

Why had Dad taken Clara to run errands, instead of her? Clara had been the family space cadet. Fun, like a puppy, but useless when it came to completing tasks of any kind. Marisol would have attacked that grocery shopping trip with a list organized by aisle.

Had Dad always liked Clara better? Marisol was so high strung. Clara, easy-going and playful. Marisol and her fretting put Dad on edge. Had he loved Clara more?

What if Marisol had been less irritating? Would her father and sister still be alive today?

Marisol’s arms were growing itchy. Unbearably itchy. She held them out before her, and in the dim light of her room, she could have sworn the skin looked raw, almost lumpy. Had she been scratching them without realizing it?

The thought made her nervously yank and tug and twine her hair around her hand some more. What if she scratched her arms bloody and Dr. Ivy thought she was self-harming?

In an effort to ignore the itchiness, she crammed a fingertip into her mouth and began chewing on its raw end, which was openly weeping blood now, grieving over its lack of a nail.

Yes, her arms definitely looked lumpy. Was she having an allergic reaction? What if she needed to go to the emergency room? How would she and her mom afford that, even with their insurance?

A shadow fell across her and she looked up.

There was something on the ceiling, and it couldn’t possibly be real

Oh fuck, the Ativan was making her hallucinate. She should have read about the side effects! She should have known this could happen!

A pulsing pink carpet of brain matter clung above her head. It gripped the plaster with dozens of hands, whose fingernails were chewed down to bloody nothings. Locks of hair, black and tangled, grew between the squiggles of meat like moss, and some of the hands twisted and tugged at them nervously.

Marisol looked away. She was going to rub her eyes, but when she tried, she realized her own arms had turned into pulpy masses of brain matter too. Strands of black hair oozed out from between the wriggles of pink-gray meat.

She shoved her chair backwards, trying to stand, but collapsed. Her whole body was transforming. Her legs fused together. Her pants and shirt melted into a pulsing maze of brain matter. Hands with bleeding fingertips thrust out of her torso, her knees, her elbows, her throat.

The creature on the ceiling released its grip and fell upon her.

Even as she was being absorbed, Marisol’s thoughts were still a raging river of what ifs.

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