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I couldn't sleep again. I curled my arms around a pillow, legs dangling, exposed out of the sheets. It wasn't hot, but I felt sticky like my skin wasn't really my skin. I kicked everything off and lay there in white cotton underwear pretending that nothing was touching me. I closed my eyes and floated in water, without sensation, without sounds. I wanted oblivion to take me, but the evil cog ratcheting around in my head was stronger than my will. It hooked its teeth in my lower back and dragged me out of bed.

I stumbled to the mirror and turned the light on. The harsh glare told me what I already knew. I've looked better. I put my hand over my heart and though I could feel traces of bone and my breasts had shrunk significantly, I felt encouraged. The beat was strong and my eyes were clear. I could see that my arms looked thin. The lie in my frame gave me an advantage. No one could guess my real strength. Ever since the day my husband last walked out of this house and I became something more than human.

It didn't happen all at once. The strength came first, but I thought it was just some weird, emotional hormonal thing. Then there was the day that traffic was so bad it took me two hours to get home and I was so overwrought and exhausted I gave Ron's abandoned BMW a swift kick on the grill just for the hell of it. The car landed in our sycamore so I knew something strange was going on. Then I started hearing voices and I believed I was going insane until I realized that I was just picking up sounds that I shouldn't be able to hear. Whispering from across a room was coming in loud and clear and I felt like I might as well go mad because I couldn't stand all the chatter, but I learned to tune it out. The changes in my eyes came last and meant the most. I could see people for the first time. Really see them. It was sad and frightening at first, seeing into people's souls. There is so much confusion and lonliness and frustrated longing that it hurt my eyes to look at it for a while, but in time I adjusted. I became innured to the hurt because it all looked the same and I started to suspect that it was all just apathy anyway. My attitude changed when I met Linda.

Linda was the new admin in HR and she was perfect and the way she did everything was perfect and she made sure everybody knew that. She poked and prodded and strongly encouraged that you do everything the way she did so you, too, could be perfect like her and it was so maddening, but no one would gainsay her, even though it was clear no one liked her. For reasons that no one but me could understand, people are just a little afraid of her. They couldn't see what I see. I came to know that there is a reason that people like her seem soulless, living their frenzied lives of ridiculous tedium, feeding off the negative energy they create and slowly sucking the life-force out of every intelligent, creative person around them. What lived inside her 5'9" 115 pound frame was nothing like the squishy, ingenious, pulsing machine that keeps our bodies going. The stuff this woman and those like her are made of was belched straight out of hell and nothing can stop such a creature except expunging the black, putrid heart from its shell.

I sighed. A shower was badly needed, but there was no time. I remembered the detail that seemed insignificant earlier so I pulled on some clothes and headed to the office.

I parked at a biscuit kitchen across the street. In the rearview there was the briefest flash of light. I turned and saw the front door to the office closing, the glass casting a reflection from the street lamps. Walking out was a tall woman with black hair pulled back tight from her forehead. It was Linda! What was she doing here? Anybody out here this time of night couldn't be up to any good. I could see something in her hand, but couldn't make it out. I crouched and slunk out of the car, tiptoeing to the hedges at the edge of the street. I watched her walk to her car and pause next to the door. Then I could see she had a purse in her hand and she was reaching in for something. There was another flash of light. Was she...? My god, she was lighting a cigarette. That fucking hypocrite! I heard her harp on more than one occasion on how filthy smoking was and how she would not even share a phone with a smoker because that is a disgusting thing to put in your mouth. Such a person would put god only knows what else in their mouth and she didn't want those germs on her. There she was sucking on one right in front of me. The normal contempt I felt for her swelled in my chest and outmuscled any sense of caution. Suddenly I felt ashamed for all the undefended lives I'd allowed her to destroy, knowing I could have stopped her.

I leaped over the hedge and ran headlong to the employee's lot. Using a minivan for cover, I circled around her and crept up behind. My footsteps gave me away and she turned, eyes wide. I didn't give her time to cry out. Dropping to one knee, I swept my leg out and spun, slicing across her ankles. She hit the ground hard and I jumped on her. Grabbing her by the hair, I gave one solid wrench and it was done. Her neck snapped and I let her head fall back to the ground. I stared for a minute. That seemed way too easy, I thought. There was one more thing to do, just to be sure, I told myself. Perhaps I really just had a morbid fascination with facing horror. Either way, I had to see the evil that lived inside this dead husk. I dug my fingers under her rib cage and heaved. Her chest cavity opened in a spray of blood. I stared into the wet, gelatinous mess inside her. Her insides looked like jello with the big hunks of fruit worked in. It was all wrong.

There was a heart where her breast used to be. It was red and healthy looking. I lightly touched it. It twitched once and was still. I pulled it out to take a closer look. Blood poured out of the ventricles. I took a closer look at her face and saw my mistake. This one was short and blonde and her frame was slight, not broad-shouldered like Linda. How could I have been so mistaken?

I stood and let the heart fall from my hand. It made a wet smacking noise on the pavement. I walked away, a little dazed. I couldn't understand how she fooled me. None of it made sense, but I would have to show up here tomorrow, both of us knowing, but pretending everything was normal. We'd continue our pathetic dance, both of us waiting for the other to gain an advantage. I promised myself to be more watchful, to put a stop to her mayhem before any more innocents were hurt.

I felt better as I walked back to the biscuit kitchen. They were just opening so I decided to stop in. Better get some nourishment and keep my strength up. Maybe I would get another chance at her tomorrow night.

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