I laid on my barren mattress, naked, scrunched into a fetal position, trying to make myself as small as I could. I don’t even remember how long it’s been since the daemon took control. He’s grown so much now, while I’ve turned frail. Everything’s turned into a chore with him around. Even the simple act of eating reminds me of him. He’s always there, even when I can’t see him, whispering into my ear, telling him what to do.
“You don’t even know why you’re still fighting back, are you?” he asked me. “You’re just a kid, struggling mindlessly to resist what’s good for him. Just give in already, and you’ll be all better afterwards. Shut up, stick out your arm, take the medicine.”
“…People would know, wouldn’t they?” I asked weakly. “Other people would know I was dead.”
“That’s part of the beauty, isn’t it?” the daemon replied. “People would know. The very same people who have stepped on you your whole life. You’d show to them what happens when you push a man like that. They’ll go to your grave and realize they were the ones who put you there. In death, you’d tell them the error of their ways. A martyr to the noble cause of treating each other better.”
“There are other people, aren’t there? People who care about me. People who’d really miss me. I think there are people like that. Probably.”
“They’d get over it,” the daemon dismissed with a wave of his hand. “They’d probably even understand. If you’re in pain, you do what you need to make the pain stop. Who are they to let you keep suffering?” I turned my face away from the daemon and grimaced, using what remained of my strength to fight back the tears.
“…I don’t want to die.”
“If you didn’t want to die, you wouldn’t have created me.”
“No, I mean…a part of me wants that, sure, but it’s not what I really want, is it? All I want is a better life.”
“You tried that already, remember? You worked your ass off for a better life, and you still couldn’t get past the million shitheads that didn’t want you to have one. I’m afraid you’ll just have to settle for the next best thing.”
“I could work harder. I could, fuck, I don’t know, talk to a therapist or something. There’s got to be another option.”
“You want to go out into the world and let yourself get hurt again? Fine, go for it.” The daemon rested in a nearby chair, putting his arms behind his head. “I already know how it’s going to turn out. You’re going to step out there, wide-eyed and hopeful, ready to make things right. You’re going to start your big plan to fix your life, and something will get fucked up. Maybe the job you did wasn’t as good as you thought. Maybe some asshole you needed to give you a chance decided he didn’t want to. Either way, you’re going to be back here telling me I was right.” The daemon rose from his seat. I could hear his footsteps making his way towards the bed. He placed a hand on his shoulder.
“The world rejected you, so reject it back. It’s that easy. Sit up.” I hold my breath, laying as still as a corpse. Maybe he’s just like a big animal, I tell myself. Maybe if I stay still, he’ll go away.
“Sit up!” he screamed. “I’ve got a present for you.” With uneasy anticipation, I turn towards the daemon, doing as he commanded. He pulled his left hand behind his back, revealing the pistol he was holding.
“Brand-new, fully loaded, just for you,” the daemon said warmly. “When was the last time someone gave you a gift, huh? Go on, take it.” He opened his palm, placing it in front of my face. Almost involuntarily, I slowly lift my own arm and grab the gun. I feel the solid grip of the handle in my hand. I was secretly hoping all this shit was still in my imagination, but the daemon’s as real as the gun in my hand.
“Put the barrel in your mouth and point upwards,” suggested the daemon. “It’ll go right through the brain stem. Any other way and you’re likely to misfire.”
“…You really want me to do it,” I said to him. “You want me to do it now.”
“How many times do I have to tell you this, you stupid fucker? I’m you. Everything about me comes from you. Everything I say, you’re the one who thought it. You want to do it now. And I’m letting you do it. Put it in your mouth and pull the trigger.” I look down at the gun again. I’ve never held one before. There’s something scary about it, but at the same time, holding a weapon like this in my hands makes me feel powerful.
“Think about the ones who have hurt you,” said the daemon. “Think about what they said. You’ve wanted to hurt them back for a long time. I know you have. They’d have to spend the rest of their lives with the guilt of what they did. Maybe they’d even kill themselves too. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? You can stop all the pain right now. All you have to do is pull the trigger.”
I look down at the gun again. I think long and hard about the life I’ve wanted to leave behind. My family, my old classmates, my lovers, my enemies. Decades are coursing through my brain. A lot’s happened in this journey the daemon’s telling me to put an end to. I close my eyes, locking all those memories away for the last time, and take a deep breath. I look at the daemon again.
“All right,” I tell him. “I’ll pull the trigger.” I point the gun at his face and fire. The daemon falls to the ground, a pool of blood growing around him. I can still see his body moving. I fire again. I empty the whole goddamn clip into him just to make sure. I’m panting very rapidly now. My eyes are wide and unblinking. I open the drawer to my nightstand, and put the horrible weapon away. I look again at the corpse. The daemon used to be so powerful, and now I’m so far above him.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen to me,” I say aloud, just in case he’s still around. “But if I was willing to end my life, how hard could it be to change it? Now where are my goddamn clothes?”
I get dressed for the first time in what feels like ages. As I clothe myself once again, I feel like a new man. Like I’ve been reborn. Maybe I will fail again. Hell, maybe things will get so bad the daemon will come back. But if he ever tries to drag me as low as he did again, this time I’ll be ready.
I make my way towards the door of my apartment and step outside.