@Copyright E. Charles Tucker, all rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without the expressed written consent of the author.

The Thing

It grows.

I feel it, even now, pulling at me. It longs for release, for the cataclysmic anger that would rend its prison asunder; it feeds on my pain, my negativity, my doubts, all the bad thoughts I strain to repress.

And it waits.

It's biding its time, this beast. It thinks me weak, defenseless; it feels the limits of my strength and pushes, knowing its freedom lies near.

It escaped, last night; not free completely, but still it broke its bonds. I saw it, then; the blackness within me, an oil substance with form and function and slick in body as quicksilver.

I was helpless, then, in my sleep; I could only watch, horrified, an observer in my own mind as the beast tore free from the pits of my stomach and took shape. Long and thin it stretched, rising high above my prone form; wings unfolded, wide and insubstantial as the nothingness that spawned it. Wings of night, with feathers born of terror and fear. It looked at me, then.

I saw no eyes, no color, no sockets where eyes should be, only an inky blackness that seemed to have no depth. A beak, long and thin, sharp; a crown of feathers, spread like a fan upon its head. Nothing more; featureless, colorless, this thing was - and yet, I knew it watched me. It regarded me, this manifestation of my own fears, and knew my weakness, my helplessness.

It laughed, silently, without motion; it turned, then, and off it flew.

Seeing this, the gods seemed to have decreed, was not the end of my fate. My lesson in humility, apparently, had only just begun. The Thing flew off, true, but still its tail of blackness poured from within my breast. I was the well, the beast the water, my heart the spigot. Through this link I could see it, its surroundings, follow it; I could see its path, and in seeing I suffered. I knew where it headed, what it sought.

Reaching its goal was a passing of thought; time no longer restrained me, not within this dreaming, this Thing that pulled me along its course. It slipped in, easily, pouring not around or under but through the very substance of the door. It was dark inside; I knew this, as I could see no natural light brightened this room. Sill, the Thing's very blackness was such that ordinary night was lit as bright as day; nothing was hidden from my sight, from this Thing's view. Then it began.

Round and round it flew, a vortex growing within the swirling darkness. Thunder boomed, not within the range of normal hearing but within the minds ear, a thunder of warning, of danger. It lashed out as it spun, striking wall and desk, chair and table, destroying indiscriminately in the wake of this evil maelstrom. Satisfied it moved, leaving the tempest to its own devices. It lurked, now, quietly seeking, searching, inching its way into the next room, all the while laughing its silent laugh. Then I saw, and I knew, and my fear knew no end.

There she lay, innocent, asleep. I saw her, there, curled next to him; she lay to his right, his hand draped oh-so-casually over her naked breast, her face drawn tight in restless reverie. I saw him, and her, and for the briefest of seconds, for the smallest moment within my dreaming, I let rage fill my heart.

The Thing smiled. This Thing that even now sat tethered to my heart, this Thing born of me, within me - it looked within, at me, and smiled a smile without form. It leapt, and I knew exactly what dark purpose it sought. I knew, and it reveled in the knowledge that I knew and was helpless to stop it.

Or so it believed; so I believed. I would have, too, been helpless; had this Thing simply shown me its goal and denied me, cutting me off from its cursed vision and left me to wonder, to thrash impotently in my dream state - perhaps then I would have lied helpless, unable to act.

Instead it gave me vision, lent its sight to me, and in its unholy eyes I saw her, lying helpless, unknowing. And in seeing, I knew why I kept this Thing caged, why I fought day in and day out to destroy the Thing in spite of the fears and insecurities that breathed life into it.

I knew my love for this woman for what it was. And I raged.

I raged, not at him, and not at her - but at this Thing. In that rage lay the strength of my own love for her, an endless well of power that no darkness, no evil, could hope to stand against. In that rage lay the power of belief, of the love I knew this woman held for me, in spite of what scene lay before me. In that rage lay the purity of faith, in a vision of love that held two people together regardless of distance, of time, of circumstance.

And with that rage the Thing was no more, bound once more within its cage, trapped once more within the depths of my psyche.

I awoke, afraid; not for me, but for her. Id seen her discomfort, Id felt the weight that lay across her, and I despaired - knowing how this Thing yearned to tap her doubts, her anger, her pain, and give itself a life in spite of my vigilance.

But it will not. It will stay caged; it may find ways to slip between the bars, to take momentary respite in those moments of weakness that I, as Man, will be prone to. But it will lose, in the end.

Lose - because I love, and am loved in return.

-fin-