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Mayukha Ajeesh Ramsha Nath, Union County Vocational-Technical School       

          Sometimes, when Anton looked into the mirror, someone else looked back. 

          Sure, it looked like him: those were his eyes, his mouth, and his right ear with the long faded scar running down it. Yet, when the feeling was particularly bad, the reflection seemed to change somehow, an ominous glint in his eye and a sharp edge to his smile. 

          Sometimes he felt an inexplicable hunger, nearly consuming him from the inside out. He would wander out of his bed in the middle of the night and find himself roaming the hallways. His senses were constantly on high alert and he was searching, always searching. 

          But Anton was no one’s idea of an ominous person. Those around him often described him as more likely to be attacked by such a creature on his way home after a long, boring day at the bank. He lived his life in segments and carefully structured to-do lists, things to be done measured by the hours of the clock. 

          The day started like any other. When Anton woke up, he made himself a simple breakfast of toast (buttered generously) and coffee (so full of milk it was nearly white), before getting ready for work. By 9:00 a.m., he had arrived, saying a quick hello to the security guard outside the building before stepping in. At 5:00 p.m., Anton came home from the bank. He cooked his dinner, which he ate by himself at approximately 7:45. At 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night, he was just getting ready to call it a day and curl into bed when the feeling came back. 

         This night, the feeling was particularly bad. It tugged at his gut, making his stomach sink to the floor. He nearly fell to his knees at the intensity of the hunger he felt. Suddenly, the air had shifted colors. The fluorescent lights of his room seemed luminous in the light, and the walls were closing down on him. Through the pain, all that Anton could think was one constant refrain, repeating over and over in his head. 

          I have to get out. I have to get out. I have to…

          Clutching his stomach and shrugging on his coat, he made a hasty exit, eager for an escape. Out in the night air, the pain went away, although the hunger lingered. He walked aimlessly down the street, allowing his feet to carry him wherever they wanted. Finally, he came to a stop in front of the local bar. In his haste, he registered far too late that he had forgotten to put on his shoes.

          As Anton walked in and sat, he looked around. His usual table, from the rare times that his friends convinced him to leave his apartment, was occupied. This didn’t matter to Anton. To him, the steady thrum of people was comforting, and enough to satisfy him. Anton could blend in with the crowd, with their vibrancy and their life, could escape from the feeling for a little while. On the stage in front of the bar, a young couple sang a duet together, the young woman’s voice blending in perfectly with her beau’s. 

          Anton couldn’t stop staring at them. They just seemed so animated. So full of life. His stomach throbbed. 

          Why was his mouth watering?

          Horrified, Anton pushed his chair back and ran out again, into the cool night air. He ran, and he ran, and he ran, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the people that he had left back at the bar. At what he had wanted to do to them. 

          “Excuse me, young man,” he heard a voice out of the darkness. It was an old man, curled up on the side of the road. “You wouldn’t happen to have an extra twenty, would you? I’m a bit short for the train fare, and I have family waiting for me to get home.”

          Anton stared at him blankly. It would be so easy, so simple, to end his hunger with this man. All he would have to do was inch a bit closer, just a bit…

          “No, sorry,” he found himself saying, shaking himself out of his reverie. He walked away before the man could say another word. 

          He went back to the apartment, where he knew it would be safe: not for him, but at least for everyone around him. He didn’t care about the pain anymore, but at least now, he would be able to stop the urge to bite, to kill, to devour. 

          Slamming the door shut, Anton walked to the mirror in his bathroom. He stared at his reflection, and felt an overwhelming anger take over at the disheveled looking man he saw. 

          “Stop it!” he shouted. “Stop it, stop it, stop it!”

          His reflection simply smiled back. “Poor, simple Anton,” said the cruel voice, dripping with fake sympathy. “So hungry. It would be much easier to just consume them, wouldn’t it?”

          Anton just sobbed. “I can’t! Why is this happening?”

          “You know why,” the voice replied. 

          And he did. Not completely, but enough. He remembered taking a different route on his way back from work, the figure in the dark alley, of being unable to fight back. He remembered two razor sharp pincers piercing into his neck and consuming his blood. He remembered the pain, the fear, the hunger that came after it. 

          “I won’t do it,” he said to the voice, gathering up all his strength to do so. “I won’t hurt them.”

          “Everything has a price.”

          “Well, I refuse to pay for this one!” Anton turned on his heel and began to storm out. Before he could take a step though, he heard the voice once again saying, “Poor Anton. Let me help end your hunger,” before he felt cool long fingers sliding around his neck.

          The next thing he knew, his reflection had pulled him into the mirror. 

          Horrified, he turned around now to look at where he had just come from. In the mirror, instead of his reflection, Anton now saw nothing at all. 

          He felt a blissful emptiness: from hunger, from pain, from the blinding lights of the bathroom mirror.

          Then, the world went dark.

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