Beauty is only skin deep.
We all know the popular proverb. We were told when we were young by our parents, who in turn were told by their parents, and so on the cycle goes.
You've heard it. I've heard it. Society copes with this dilemma, making its children feel good about themselves, in different ways. But after a while, it's said often enough, cursorily enough, that somehow it means less––until it becomes empty, following words like "I'm sorry"—culturally accepted phrases to serve political correctness.
I learned the truth of those words, but by the time I learned, it was too late. I write this in the hope that, somehow, some way, people will find it. And maybe, just maybe, someone will listen, and, heeding my mistakes, escape. Just one.
If I change the fate of one person, my mind is at peace.
So listen close, children. For this is the true meaning of those simple sayings. This is the truth, unmangled from its stifling correction.
The thunder strikes with a boom that makes my very bones quiver in subconscious awe. Rain pounds down on the shingled roof, a knock, knock, knock, calling me out to play.
I have my headphones on.
So how do I know all this? That is the very reason the headphones are on. The rain whispers my name, pounding at me from the sky above. I don't want to play. So I block it out as well as I can, striking out the world with Mumford and Sons' haunting lyrics.
"And the ghosts that we knew," I whisper at it, letting each drop know I'm not listening.
"Will flicker from view. And we'll live…"
Thump. Thump. Th-Thump.
I dial up the volume.
Suddenly there's a different knock, one made with an actual, human, flesh-and-blood, fist. I sigh, because the repeated beckoning isn't to be ignored, even over the music. The front camera reveals a figure, tall and handsome, rain-soaked.
"Help me!" he calls, and I can see a red cloud mingle with the water pooled at his feet.
"Oh," I murmur, surprised and a bit scared. Why is he out there at all, in this weather, nonetheless bleeding?
"Help me," he calls again, a bit quieter this time, more defeated. His eyes fall, his face drifting as he begins to lose help.
I approach the door, press a button for the intercom. His eyes light up at the click. His face is one I can trust, one that feels like that of a confidant and a best friend, a warm light in the dark.
"Are you okay, sir?" Of course he isn't, I scold myself. He's standing in the rain, calling for help, and seems to be bleeding. Why would he be okay?
"Please," he calls. "I need help. Food. And bandages. Please." His words are frantic, forgetting his wound in hysteria, but somehow his voice and face feel perfectly calm to me.
I swing the door open, letting the strange man inside. He's bleeding, he's stranded out in the rain, and worst, he's hungry. I point to the open bathroom door. "Gauze and rubbing alcohol is in the right cabinet. I'll get some food and be right back."
I didn't have a terribly strong stomach, and figured that my regurgitated lunch probably would not help an open wound or empty stomach.
A couple pieces of ham, cheese, and a bit of mayonnaise, and done—sandwiches.
"Here you go," I call, making my way to the bathroom with two for him—he had seemed like he needed it, and the bread was due to grow mold soon anyway.
He turns to face me as I appear in the doorway. "Thank you," he murmurs, but his voice doesn't sound like it had before. It's hoarse now and far, far deeper. I hand him the sandwiches uncertainly.
"Are you sure you're o—,"
He glares at me, frantically tries to shove me away, distract me. But I've already noticed—his reflection isn't in the mirror, save for two empty black holes where the eyes would be. The image reveals merely the back wall of my wallpapered bathroom, marred by sockets deep enough to give me vertigo where I stand.
They suck me in, hypnotizing, foreboding, ominous pits that I'll fall into if I can't look away. I strain and fight their effect, tugging, pulling, dragging my heels against their dangerous presence.
I rip my eyes away with a final, exhausting effort. But what stands in front of me is no longer the tall, handsome stranger I'd seen earlier. The glistening blue eyes only found in fairytales are gone. What remains is a beast so hideous my knees tremble enough to make me stumble.
White, glistening claws, dripping with something with the consistency of saliva or mucus.
A body slimier than a fish, with scales somehow detached from the liquefied main form.
Hands like the dry, gnarled knots of a tree, dripping with the same substance.
A creature twice my height, crouched over me so that it just scrapes the roof, dripping horrid slime onto my petrified, trapped form.
And the face––the eyes, hollow black sockets, scarred and deformed and slowly filling with the mucus-like fluid—the teeth, blackened spokes dripping with it. The mouth forms a twisted, skull-sized grin, hanging open at angles only possible in gruesome death. A few scarce patches of hair fall greasily down to the floor, the last remains of what once claimed to be a beautiful creature.
I scream. The beast feels even larger as I fall to the tile. I could have run, could have hidden, could have gotten help, could have done something, anything…nothing. Instead, I merely feel the impact of my knees on hard stone. Nothing can save me now. I trusted in what was merely a figment of my hopeful imagination. I trusted society's subtle message that anything pretty, anything that looks comforting or good or helpful or trustworthy, is truly comforting or good or helpful or trustworthy.
I trusted a pretty lie.
That was the end of me. That day, when I was so naïve and believing of the world, was my last. I was nothing but a sheep being led to the sacrificial slaughter for the rich and famous.
No hero to save me, because that isn't how life works.
No anticlimactic monster-turned-good ending.
I was met only by cold, hard, empty death, absolutely inconsequent to most anyone at all.
I wish I could warn them—all of them. I wish I could tell them what the world was, underneath its skin—one pretty lie, all cruel danger underneath. I wish I could keep others from coming to my same fate. I wish…
I wish wisdom had come earlier. I wish I'd been able to see through the masked armor of the world. I wish I hadn't been fooled.
No matter. What's done is done. I believed what the world told me. I believed appearance was a suitable judgment. I believed all the beautiful lies, bought into them—ribbon and all.
But now I'm warning you.
Beauty is deceiving.
Free it from its overuse, free it from its cursory, trivial connotations. Set it free. Say it earnestly, and believe it.
The world has come to a dark place, feeding lies to the wildfire media, watching them spread and burn the little people with them. It's a dark age full of trickery, deception, death, destruction. Think for yourself––about everything, regardless how trivial. Listen to the old proverbs, no matter how constantly they are drilled into your mind amongst all the baggage and lies. Listen to the world, but think about what you believe. Think about how you live your life.
Be mindful, and one day, we might finally be able to ward off the monsters.