There’s something living under my skin.

The first time it spoke to me, I was five. Its voice was soft, one of gentle guidance.

You can climb that tree it said. There are treats waiting for you beyond your comprehension. You can climb that tree like a ladder to the stars; more, you can touch your mother’s face again.

But when I climbed the tree, I found only rotting wood. I found a colony of life besieged by death, the scattered corpses of insect life a thousand strong littering every nook and cranny.

Lingering in the heart of my eighth Summer, just a few days outside the anniversary of my mother’s death, I heard it speak again; this time, it was louder.
        That river isn’t too deep. Its surfaces bubbles, but so do you. Go, enjoy its cool release. Find yourself the smoothest stone and bless its world with a nip at your feet.
         I awoke to lights flashing red and blue; worried faces shrouded in white cotton and that of my father flitting close behind. Twisted, enraged, inconsolable. My lungs were an ocean’s depth, my skin a shade of blue purer than a rich desert sky.
The voice grew stronger in my teenage years; not louder, but more defined. Resounding off of the angst bred from the commonplace, the slightest of unpleasantries. It fostered guilt in the miniscule, the most gentle grievances, and led passive lambs to slaughter. The voice became one of vociferous support in the realm of self-destruction.
         Every twist and turn, you go too far. You can’t see ahead and you fear what’s behind. Your skeletons are burying themselves in graves you can’t even dig yourself. You’re living on borrowed time. Make some room; cut out a little piece of yourself and prepare your path for regrowth.
        I did, carving small lines that’ve become blurred over time, references to memories I couldn’t recall if they even actually existed in the first place. I sought revelation in capsules and found the word of god in powders of brown and white. I breathed ash, smoked dust, and purged my body of all things right.
When I found my first love in a mess of soft curves, midnight locks, and scarlet lips, the supple flesh of my own kind’s touch, the voice turned sour and jealous. Its needs became stronger and lascivious.
        You are finding comfort in abomination. You happily bask in the devil’s hands and you allow sin to lick greedily from the putrescent kiln of human abstraction. Turn away from her. Turn away from confusion and return your body to the light. Tell her she repulses you. Tell her this was a mistake, that you would never endeavor to commit such atrocious acts against nature. Tell her.
        So I did. I broke her heart and mine, the pieces never able to complement and comfort each other. She couldn’t take the hurt, couldn’t face the faux reality I’d created to satiate my phantom’s lust. Thus, she took the only thing she could.
For years, the voice grew. It seeped into every notion of safety and presented itself to every unfounded decision as the ultimate absolution. Its demands turned from the outside world to within. As it rose and pulsed and came to a head, I grew weaker. Smaller. Transparent.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been able to hear it speaking to me in languages I don’t understand. Menace drips from its once dulcet tones, even if I don’t understand a word. Tentative licks come, buried beneath the flesh, poking and prodding at tensed muscles; testing. Searching for signs of entry, the precipice for ovulation. I know what it’s doing; what it’s looking for.
My voice is attempting birth.
I haven’t actively thought for a single moment about what I’m bound to do, but I know it needs to be done. The voice needs to be silenced. It is louder than my own internal thought process. It is screaming. It knows something is wrong.
As I lower the blade into my flesh, right above my elbow, and press until it hits bone with an unexpected clink, the voice doubles, triples in volume. It no longer speaks words, even in foreign tongues. I can feel it pushing against me from the inside, worming fingers between my ribs and begging release. And I will give it just that; release.
The meat of my forearm came off easier than expected. As I start on my bicep, a spatter of blood blessing my face with a kiss, the voice reaches a pitch and volume that is unfounded in the natural realm. All I know is that its screams have become unfurnished. Shallow. Inhuman.
I’ve returned to it the gift that it first gave to me. Now, the voice is drowning.