The night I met Evelyn was the happiest of my life. Sometimes I like to close my eyes and relive every glorious detail of that life-altering moment—her bright eyes sparkling when she smiled at me, how soft her silky skin felt against my own calloused palms as we shook hands, the breathtaking sound of my name on her red lips when she spoke it for the first time. One date led to a second, followed by a third and a fourth and a fifth; before long, Evelyn was beginning to spend more time at my apartment than her own. I'd never previously thought I was much of a romantic, yet I suddenly found myself coming home with bouquets of her favorite flowers and daydreaming of a future together. I was unquestionably, utterly in love with my girlfriend, and she professed to love me just as deeply. The early months of our relationship were nothing short of blissful.
So it came as a terrible, crushing surprise when I awoke one morning to find Evelyn missing, along with all of her belongings that she'd kept at my place. I sent her text after text, but she didn't answer a single one; my countless phone calls were equally ignored. I dressed quickly and raced to her apartment building, only to discover from Evelyn's rather irritated landlord that she'd abruptly moved out without paying the month's rent. Her employer and coworkers shared my confusion—Evelyn's sudden departure took them by surprise, and their attempts to contact her were as fruitless as mine. Nobody I spoke to had even the slightest inkling of where Evelyn had gone.
I became heinously depressed. Food nauseated me and slumber grew increasingly elusive. I lost all interest in life, for the world felt pointlessly dull and unbearably gray without Evelyn at my side. As lonely days bled into lonely weeks, I was tormented by persistent, gnawing questions that no amount of alcohol or sleeping pills could silence. Where was Evelyn now? Was she safe? Why did she leave? Had I unknowingly made a colossal, unforgivable mistake so monstrous that it'd driven Evelyn to abandon everything, just to get away from me?
Though Evelyn's reasons were my life's greatest mystery, there was one thing I believed to be undeniably true: the more time dragged on, the less likely it was that I would ever see her again.
I was gazing numbly into the television screen and attempting to drown my sorrows in a bottle of wine when I heard a knock at my apartment door.
It was Evelyn. Her tired, somber face bore the signs of sleepless nights and a relentless despair that matched my own.
“May I come in?”
I stared at her in shock, too dumbfounded to speak. There was so much I wanted to say and so many questions I wanted to ask, but in that moment words failed me completely; instead I mutely stepped aside to let Evelyn into the apartment. My hands shook as I closed the door behind me and sat beside her on the couch. An uncomfortable silence passed before I at last spoke.
“Why did you leave?” I asked dejectedly. “I thought we were happy.”
“I had no choice,” Evelyn replied sorrowfully, her voice cracking with emotion as she wiped away the tears glistening on her cheeks. “I couldn't be here anymore. There's something horribly wrong with me, Charles, and the thought of you witnessing it destroys me. No amount of love or devotion could ever outweigh the revulsion you'd feel.”
I frowned. “That's not true.”
A rueful smile flickered on Evelyn's lips. “I'm sure you believe that. But I promise you this—if I had stayed, you'd have eventually seen what I've tried so hard to hide from you. All of your affection for me would have died that very instant. Charles, you'd have become afraid of me.”
My frown deepened. “What's that supposed to mean?”
Evelyn took a trembling breath. “I'm truly sorry for hurting you. There hasn't been a single moment since I left where I haven't felt regret. I was just so scared of your love withering into disgust and fear that I fled before it could inevitably happen. I should never have deluded myself into thinking that our time together would've lasted much longer.”
I stared at her in amazement.
“I don't understand you, Evelyn. First you vanish without so much as a farewell, then you reappear just as suddenly and offer up a cryptic explanation that explains nothing at all. Do you have any earthly idea how worried I've been? Do you even comprehend how profoundly you devastated me?”
Evelyn leaned towards me to gaze intently into my eyes, as if she was searching my soul for any indication of insincerity. I held my breath when she gently placed a hand on my chest; despite my outrage, I wished that she could somehow feel my love for her coursing through the beating remnants of my wounded heart. Perhaps then she would stay and we could resume the bliss we had once shared, at last freeing me from the agonizing void my existence had spiraled into over the past few loathsome weeks.
“Do you want me to show you, Charles?” Evelyn asked softly. “Do you want to know my secret, even if it means never looking at me the same way again?”
Evelyn reached into her coat pocket and retrieved a mirror the size of her palm. She brought it to her mouth, looked me in the eye once more, and promptly sank her teeth into the reflective glass without hesitation.
The resulting crunch turned my stomach. “What are you doing?” I cried. “Evelyn, stop it! You'll hurt yourself!”
Transfixed with horror, I watched as Evelyn started to chew. I realized then that she wasn't merely biting the mirror—she was consuming it. A nauseating tide of shock churned madly inside my stomach as I heard the sound of glass being crushed between her jaws. When shards fell into her lap like crumbs, she picked each one up and popped them into her mouth as if they were morsels.
When the mirror was completely devoured, I stared at Evelyn with wide eyes and felt another surge of terrifying surprise upon noting that her mouth was entirely unscathed. Her lips were as smooth and free of cuts as they'd been before she began the frightening meal; her tongue and inner cheeks were equally unharmed. Her teeth were intact and unremarkable, with no sign of fractures or even a single drop of blood.
“How is that possible?” I whispered in unnerved awe, mightily shaken by the alarming surrealistic scene I had just witnessed. Evelyn noticed my expression and cast her eyes to the floor.
“I'm sorry,” she murmured hushedly as she started to rise from the couch. “This was a mistake.”
“Wait!” My hand darted forward to grip her wrist. “How...how did you do that?”
Evelyn sighed wearily.
“Three years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with a blinding pain in my stomach. I tried to climb out of bed and collapsed onto the floor, certain that I was dying. Then I realized I wasn't just in agony—I was hungry. I was inhumanly famished, as if my stomach was being shredded apart by the claws of starvation. I crawled to the kitchen and began to eat any food within my weakened reach. But no matter how much I consumed, the excruciating hunger never lessened—it just grew more and more furious, until the ravenous growling inside of me escalated into a deafening roar. I tried to pour myself a glass of water, but my hands were shaking so badly that I dropped it. I gazed down into the broken pieces scattered across the floor tiles and felt a strange instinctive urge take hold of me. Before I could stop myself, I began cramming shard after shard into my mouth. The sharp edges stabbed at my tongue and and rattled down my esophagus, but I felt no pain. Instead I chewed and devoured at a gluttonous speed that frightened me even as I continued to feed, until all that remained was a small puddle of water.”
I swallowed the lump rising in my throat as I struggled to process Evelyn's incredible admission. “But why?” I uttered clumsily.
Evelyn shrugged and shook her head sadly. “I've long since given up on trying to figure that out. I suppose part of me no longer wishes to know. I can't explain why I crave glass or what allows me to consume it without injury. All I've been able to ascertain is that once the terrible hunger strikes, eating glass is the only way to subdue it. In the beginning I was always miserable, tearing through my apartment and grotesquely wolfing down every glass object I could find before going out to buy more. The years have taught me self control; I've learned how to conceal it by keeping others at a distance and conjuring excuses to inconspicuously slip away to feed. But the more you and I became intertwined and our lives joined together, the more likely it was that you'd eventually discover my hidden appetite. That's why I broke us apart.”
“Have you ever tried to find someone...someone who could maybe...”
“Who could help?” Evelyn laughed faintly and without humor. “And who would that be? A uniquely-specialized doctor, perhaps, or a priest trained in exorcisms? No, I don't think there's anyone out there capable of helping me. You're the only person I've ever trusted enough to share this hideous facet of myself with—and judging by the look on your face, I should never have come back. I'm sorry, Charles. This wasn't fair to you.”
I sank into the couch cushions, my mind racing wildly with conflicting emotions and more questions.
“Do you want me to leave?” Evelyn asked quietly.
I thought of the renewed desolation I felt each day when I came home to a cold, joyless apartment and fell asleep alone. I thought of the torturous, smothering loneliness that haunted me without mercy. I thought of the empty wine bottles piling up in my unkempt kitchen and of my futile attempts to numb a pain that never ceased. I thought of how much I loved my girlfriend and of how grievously I had missed her, and could not help but wonder if spending the rest of my days without Evelyn would be a life worth living at all.
“No,” I answered firmly. “I want you to stay.”
Evelyn moved in permanently the following day. She quickly found a new job she loved, and our paradise soon returned to its previous state of happiness. Life continued as it had before—we ate meals together, slept together, and agreed to never discuss her affliction. She fed it only behind closed doors, and I in turn did my best to pretend it simply didn't exist even as the tell-tale sounds of breaking glass drifted down the hallway. I forced myself not to linger on red flags and the alarm bells ringing furiously throughout my brain; though privately I found Evelyn's appetite every bit as frightening as she'd warned me I would, I chose to bury all my numerous questions and concerns beneath memories of joyful moments and my resolve to create more. I decided that suffocating my feelings of disquietude were a price I would gladly pay if it meant never losing Evelyn again.
Today was our first anniversary. I left work early to prepare my gift for Evelyn; after surprising her with a candlelit dinner, I planned to slide a diamond engagement ring onto her finger. I turned on the television for background noise while I set about my tasks in the kitchen and imagined Evelyn's delighted reaction upon arriving home.
I was alternating between stirring sauce and chopping vegetables when a local news anchor's grave voice interrupted my cheerful thoughts.
“Police say five-year-old Amy Turner was last seen at the Quarry Park playground yesterday afternoon.”
I glanced at the TV and saw a young girl's smile beaming at me from the screen, her rosy cheeks peppered with a light smattering of freckles and her curly red hair fashioned into a long ponytail tied neatly with a blush pink ribbon.
“The child's babysitter told law enforcement that she permitted Amy to continue playing while she took Amy's younger brother to the park's restroom facilities. When she returned, the babysitter discovered Amy missing from the playground. According to a statement—“
I hissed in pain and looked down to see blood droplets raining from my sliced fingertip before landing on the cutting board and blossoming across its wooden surface. I wrapped a dishcloth around my finger and headed to the bathroom in search of bandages; after finding none, I decided to check Evelyn's bedside nightstand on the off chance she had a pack stowed away in one of its drawers. I picked up a small toiletries bag decorated with a bright floral pattern, unzipped it, and felt as I'd slammed violently into a brick wall when I saw what it held.
Nestled inside the bag was a pink ribbon, its delicate color tarnished by crimson bloodstains. A few strands of red hair clung to it.
“I had no choice, Charles.”
I spun around to see Evelyn standing in the doorway.
“I didn't want to do it, but the hunger demanded something else this time.” Shame clouded her eyes. “Do you know what the worst part is? I've never tasted anything so exquisite.”
She crossed the room and gently wrapped her arms around me in a loving embrace. My heart pounded so violently that I feared it would burst through my rib cage and reduce my bones to splinters.
“This doesn't have to change anything,” Evelyn muttered. “Not really. Our lives are about to become even more wonderful.”
She brought her lips to my ear. I heard her stomach growl as Evelyn whispered two words that would have once given me immeasurable joy but now fill me with an earth-shattering sense of ominous doom. My dread continues to grow even as I presently lie awake next to her in our bed, fearful of what the future will bring.
Written by CertainShadows