John Becker and Edward Bianchi (The Half Paper Moon)
“The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own,” I whispered to Edward later that dusky early midnight hour.
The mirror always felt like a tool that could help me. It could show me what I wanted. I could be the man I needed to be. That I was meant to be.
Cracking like that skipping CD with the repeating track, I feel my heart pounding in my chest as I hear the song playing in the background of the restaurant and I know Edward is concerned.
“Don’t Speak, I know what you’re thinking…”
We are in a crappy midnight diner that serves food 24/7.
I ran to the bathroom, sinking myself into a fading, rejected reflection.
I felt myself wanting to throw up, but I tried to hold onto my turned over stomach. I take in a deep breath, hacking a bit into a small coughing fit, before I turn on the water—and I hear a screeching sound that makes me fall over and when I look up—I see my own insides tumbling out of my mouth—-and a shadow behind me.
The shadow feels heavy like a mold, a cocoon, a dark cover.
I can’t breathe and it’s a glowing red spiral—he grips onto me and whispers, “Tonight.” The grip gets heavier and I feel faint. “Tonight. You.”
I can’t remember how, but I jolt out of the tremor and I find myself walking back to our table.
When I sit down next to my boyfriend, Edward tried to joke, “It’s all that Alaska pie, huh, baby?”
I nodded and smiled a bit. “Maybe.”
He nodded to the waitress and waved her to come over to pay for the bill.
As soon as we get to the car, he held my hand tight.
“John, what’s really wrong? You look like you saw a ghost ever since that earlier dream. Was it that song?”
He’s gripping the wheel as tightly as he did when he helped me escaped prison, his wide and tired eyes barely lit by the nearby fluorescent diner overhead sign. The moon is hidden by a clouded sky, and the stars are murky like a child’s finger painting, smashed together and sloshed. I know I keep having these horrible nightmares where I’m still awake but cannot move and sometimes even when I’m awake with Edward these dreams still spill over. Haunting late night diners in our cold new Alaskan town seems to be Edward and I’s new definition of date night, moreover—it’s a way to keep my anxiety in check.
I nodded. “I’m sorry, Edward. I’ve been keeping you up these past few weeks… I don’t think that the melatonin works very well…” I chuckled nervously, rubbing the back of my neck and back roughly. Edward bites his lip and sighs softly.
“I know it’s nerve-racking. Moving from place to place and not knowing if we’re in the clear.. I wish I could just know if we were safe. I can barely sleep myself. I think that doctor is good for you, we just gotta find the right mix to help your anxiety at night…” Edward rambled and gripped my hand tighter.
I leaned in and brushed my cheek against his. I heard his sigh softly, and I whispered, “Ah, I’m so happy to be with you—you are the most caring guy ever.”
Edward leaned into my touch and I feel him shiver, kissing my cheek.
“Anything for you…” Edward cooed as our lips drew closer, and we kissed for a brief moment, the fog hitting our window shield and windows as the heat climbed heavy from the air conditioner.
“Let’s go home, I’ll keep you safe as we sleep…” Edward whispered, turning the dials to change the temperature of the air conditioner to clear the windows.
The wind whipped my hand as I let it free out the window as Edward drove us to our tiny home. We were renting a room out of a large boarding house near downtown Whittier, Alaska.
It was a smart move. Small population, less than three hundred. Cold and reclusive. I love the cold.
Edward doesn’t. He always looks miserable in this weather. I give him my coat, I hold him closer to me at night when he’s asleep, thinking of him shivering and all I want to do is keep him warm.
He did this for me.
All of this was for me.
He tells me that it’s for us. But I feel so utterly guilty. He gave up everything for me. His job, his girlfriend, his security.
Once we’re home, we head into bed and within a few minutes, Edward is out like a log and snoring too.
He’s holding me tight and rubbing my back even as he’s sleeping, just at a slow and uneven pace.
I don’t want to fall asleep.
I go over the last few nights. I go over how terrified it feels to be stuck lying there, in almost a zombie like state, unable to move or scream.
The cocoon of a red virus that shadows my brain, it clouds my judgement. I don’t know what’s real and not.
The nightmare that shook me awake, and finally allowed me to get up and move normally cracked my very soul—-I was being choked by something or someone.
It felt like my dad. My dad had choked me once and it felt like his angry, vicious claw like hands.
But, it wasn’t.
When I’d get up finally, a cold sweat on my face; I’d run to the bathroom, ready to vomit.
Edward would try to console me. With his soothing baritone tones, his warm embraces, late night car rides and going to diners and looking at sunrises all while being utterly exhausted. I knew he loved me more than I ever imagined someone could love me, and I truly loved him. I didn’t think I could make him feel as warm and toasty and perfectly melted like a roasted marshmallow in between Graham crackers and chocolate as he did for me, but I was going to give it my all.
It was hard to place why I felt like I was going to be ripped apart every time these nightmares came to it’s climax—but then the overwhelming feeling of hiraeth(our landlord was talking about this word one day to our neighbor and it hit me that I felt this way often) came rushing through, and Edward realized it was born from a malaise of missing a home I never truly had.
Edward was now in a deep sleep.
I heard the rustling of the thunder smoky snow outside, and I felt like I could have a bit of shut eye finally——
The timbers of my mind are tingling.
I cannot move again.
The waves of the water hit the beach.
I hear her screaming. Her brown ringlet curls all dampened in the murky, sandy, watery edge.
Oh no. No, no, no.
I feel myself unable to swallow as my muscles tighten.
I see my murky reflection on the waters paved, whipped face. That isn’t me. That isn’t my mirror.
Lurking up, it isn’t her.
I see her floating down, down, down.
I feel myself sobbing, and I scream as loudly as I can but nothing comes out.
What have you done?!!
The voice pulls at every fiber of my body.
I’m Sinking into an abyss. The abyss I created.
And the red painted spiral climbs at me.
“I can’t climb. I can’t leap. I must fall,” my thoughts are distressed and pained as I feel a crushed breath get knocked out of my lungs. It stings and burns and feels like a twisting knife. I see eyes that flash like my own. I sense the shadow that haunts my heart is a demon pretending to become me. My doppelgänger. My old self. Me, but not me.
“Momma. Momma. Please, mom. Please, please. I need you.”
The crackly song from the speakers of the late night diner hit me. Momma played that song over and over when she got high.
Which was all the time. Used needles and loud speakers, “Don’t Speak,” and louder overplayed VHS of my favorite movie (our only movie)Ever After—-and being choked by my dad.
Because I wanted to be just like Danielle one day. Free and beautiful, glowing and with those big crystal wings.
And I stupidly said it out loud to my mom, knowing she couldn’t hear me. But, my dad certainly did.
I pushed through the pain, melting the red spiral—and now I see clearly. This shadow—-lurking is a melding of…
“Oh God! Momma?” I cried, running over to what looked like her shadow. Was it her, really her? This whole time?
“My little prince,” her voice crackled.
I run to her. I keep running, but it seems I keep getting further away. Her arms outstretched, eating away at my sanity.
The landscape flips and guts me, and I see my old childhood living room. Trash and plates and the TV put on loud.
I get flipped again and I see the bathroom mirror of our home.
The mirror isn’t cracked.
I see my shadow, he is me. But I am no longer him. I did something I regretted and that I wish I could take back.
I feel tears running endlessly from my face. The sobs hit every inch of my body.
I realize I am awake and Edward is sleepily near me. He runs his hands over my cheeks, wiping my tears.
“Baby, what happened?” He whispered, “Did that sleep paralysis thing happen again?”
“Yeah. I dreamt of momma. And…” I swallow. “Barbara.”
Edward seemed to instantly wake up and opened his eyes widely, and I felt like an old nightmare had sprung up in his mind just at the mention of her. That was a topic for another day.
“The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own,” I whispered to Edward.
“What was it?” He asked, leaning into my shoulder.
“My old self. I thought it was my dad. Trying to get me. But.. it was me.”
“I think that it’s good to know that old shadow is gone, don’t you think, John?” He placed his face near my shoulder and neck, his breath softly heaving, as he lined a few kisses on my skin.
I see a shiny gray spiral near us.
It’s careening. It’s melting. It falls and cascades into my very soul as I watch our reflection in the mirror.
Is it me?
I feel the washing of homesickness like a sickly sea-wave tide over my body. My heart feels protected now.
Momma is here, I feel it, too. Like a haunted place inside, and now I feel the energy of it is all used up.
I’m coming home, momma, don’t worry.
Edward holds me as we carry our shadowy stuff back into bed, whispers of fortune and sickness cured.
Author note: to read more about Edward and John please check out this page.
Also an episode based Kindle Vella Sequel Atonement is in the works (with this chapter newly added, with extra content!) click here.
About the Creator
I write short stories and poetry. I hope you find yourself in between the spaces of my words.
You can purchase my books here.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Oh wow. Poor thing. This story definitely evokes some strong emotions. Such vivid imagery! Well done and congrats!
Congratulations! Sad in parts and well told, with some great lines throughout it. My favourite: "I didn’t think I could make him feel as warm and toasty and perfectly melted like a roasted marshmallow in between Graham crackers and chocolate as he did for me, but I was going to give it my all."
Congratulations on TopStory 🎉😊❤️I love that song 👍
I like this! Very entertaining!
I love No Doubt and still have the album "Tragic Kingdom." Unfortunately I've played it so much most of the songs skip. The lyrics to the song definitely add in those spaces of unspoken words and feelings. Congratulations on Top Story!
Oh, I was paralyzed right along with him. This piece was so emotional and the scenes were so jarring and raw. Really great work on this one. Congratulations on Top Story!!
Congrats on being a Top Story! Scary and heavy.
Edgy and psychological... fascinating. ❤
its good https://vocal.media/education/what-i-do-when-i-fail
This is excellent story-telling. Loved it. I could feel the emotion in every line. Very well written.
Excellent work congratulations for Top Story
Absolutely brilliant- it gives me chills and lingers in my psyche - really a masterpiece, you rock star you! 🥰
Great job Melissa!!! Congratulations on your Top Story!!!
My comment didn’t save!! Ahh But anyhow, I LOVE how horrifying some parts are without like the gore. Like the mystery, and the swapping of reality in a way, beautiful. You had some lines in there too that were so damn poetic. I love that you’re using more of that in your scene descriptions
This is really good...
What a chilling and desperately hopeful whirlwind of a piece. I was held helpless throughout the reading. Well done Melissa and congratulations in your Top Story! 😄
Well done, Melissa! This is dark, evocative, and feels so deeply personal. You've clearly poured a lot of love into this piece and it shows! Congrats on your Top Story.
Congratulations on your Top Story Sis ♥️
This is great, so much emotion and detail in the dreams/nightmares. Very well done. Congrats on the Top Story.
Such a great story...AGAIN..congrats on the top story
This story was quite deep!!!
Loved the setting and the evocative imagery! Great work!
The story is intense.💝💖💗
This was so emotional, poor John! On a happier note, so glad to read about John and Edward. Loved how you used the challenge prompt for this story!
This was good I was so captivated by the emotions of Johns struggles. Amazing I love how you weaved so much into this.