I stand in my dark room, in front of my old, black dresser. On the dresser is a mirror, framing a motionless black silhouette… Me.
I stare into the mirror, looking blindly back at myself. But it is not myself who I am paying attention to. Memories flash in and out of my head, dizzying and confusing. I don’t understand. What’s going on…?
I fall inside myself, into a dark pool. Feelings, regrets. Despair, anguish. Rage, spite. Searing pain, fiery agony. As I sink deeper and deeper, a liquid fire surrounds me, licking, burning me, with a caustic consistency. I writhe and kick around, reminding myself that it was I who put myself here. I am the one who has made this venom inside me. Finally, when I can stand the molten grasp of this hellish ocean no longer, I climb out onto a ledge, and stare down at the drips of this Devil’s spit slipping off my withering skin. Looking up, I stare into the void, begging for it all the just go away.
I look back down at myself. No… That isn’t me. Not with all those burns and blisters. That’s a monster, not a human. Where did I go? How did this happen? Have I trapped myself in here? Have I damned myself? What have I done? These questions slowly clog my being, mixing with the memories, saturating me with their newly created poisons. I choke and start to vomit. My entire body burns, as I begin purging my being, screaming with despair and agony that do me no good. I have become this pain. These feelings have become my identity, one with that terrifying ocean. And as I slowly pull myself apart from the inside, I begin to find answers… the answers I had dreaded.
“You. Are. Alone.”
“There is nobody here to save you, you pathetic excuse for a human.”
“You cannot beg for help.”
“You can’t end it all, you selfish bastard.”
“You shall suffer for everything you’ve done.”
“This is your Man. Made. Hell.”
“Let yourself drown in that sickening fire.”
“Become the pain and the agony, you naive fool.”
I snap my eyes open, trying to throw away the hell I’ve gathered. The mirror’s familiar dark figure greets me, familiar, and yet distant… And I wonder… If I were to turn on the lights, what would I see? That horrific demon that I have become?
I feel my face, brushing against its fiery heat, the pain raging across my burning features.
I can’t go on like this… This is too much.
Yes… a mask. Can I hide this craziness that has become me? Can I hide it away to never be found again?
“But the mask isn’t you…”
Neither is this.
It hurts. The burning sensation only gets worse, as what remains of my skin fuses onto the mask, the heat welding my new self together. After pressing the mask down with a final painful force, sealing my creation, I look up. I see no difference in that dark silhouette… Maybe now I can face the world. I have chosen to make and put on this mask. Neither I nor anybody else would have wanted to see the hideous thing I once was. But now… There is no mask. There are no layers.
This– I have put myself here.
This– I am responsible for creating this.
This– I chose to make this identity.
This is the new me.
— The Strawberry Spirit