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The Manifestation

Heed what you Desire

By Equilla BPublished 2 months ago 17 min read

A smile is a pitiful sticker affixed to one’s face to hide the frown underneath and the sadness deeper within. Renn was well aware of this fact as he had become an expert at putting on his smile every day while the darkness swirled inside of him. Even as he took the first sip of his drink, the smile did not waver; he had done an excellent job today. His smile was perfect, and no one would be able to tell otherwise.

But he would know. He always knew that his smile was a fake, a learned behavior while his body screamed from the depths to be heard. He smothered that voice with a gulp of stinging alcohol and hoped that it drowned, but it didn’t—like always. The pain in his stomach only screamed louder, and he took another gulp.

Tonight was different from the others. He sat at the bar counter with his first drink, now half empty, and his eyes wandered around the room. The place was packed with many random, smiling faces that made a caricature of his own. Usually, he would have left in the midst of this chaos, but some morbid curiosity kept his anxiety in check, and he watched them as they lived.

One entertaining scene stood out to him. It was a group of friends huddled in the corner by a pool table. There were five of them, an unstable number. Surely one of them felt outcasted, like they didn’t belong, and Renn looked for that poor soul from afar. Because he told himself there’s always one.

And he thought he had found him. Out of the five options, one man in particular stood out to him. He had messy blonde hair and a colorful, polka dotted shirt. He was active in the conversation, but that stiff arm at his side was a dead giveaway. He was at the edge of the group, leaning away from them. And most importantly, though he smiled, Renn could see his lip quiver ever so slightly when he spoke.

He’s just like me. Renn looked down at his own arms, and they were tight, clutching onto his drink tightly like he was scared it would leave him. He noticed his breathing. It was heavy and unnaturally fast. He hadn’t talked to anyone today, but the mere presence of people around him made him overly anxious, and his body reacted accordingly. As for his smile, it twitched every couple of seconds.

Renn held his stomach and looked back at the man. He couldn’t bear looking at himself anymore, but looking at the blond fellow across the room didn’t do him much better.

The blonde man had taken the pool cue and was now lining up his shot. He was shaking, but his friends cheered him on. Renn was waiting for him to fail, begging for it even, but it would not come. The man struck the cue ball and sunk the opposite ball all in one swift motion. His jaw dropped, and unconsciously, so did Renn’s.

“Way to go!” One of his friends yelled, patting him on the back. The blonde man jumped from the sudden jolt of human contact, but his surprise turned to… genuine happiness. He cheered with the rest of them, laughing. And his smile quivered not one bit.

How can he be cheering with them?! he asked himself. They’re not real. They will just poke fun at him again once this moment is over. They always do… Renn paused his thoughts and looked down at his drink. The dark orange hue reflected his own dark face, and he could see the scowl that had formed. They always do…right?

His stomach roared from beneath his shirt, and Renn squeezed it tightly with his arms. “Ack! What the hell is wrong with him tonight?” Renn questioned aloud. He tried to play it off, but some were staring at him, one even shaking his head.

“You still got a chord, huh?” said a new voice. Renn looked up and saw the bartender standing in front of him. He was a grizzled man in his fifties, wearing an apron covered in grease stains. He had always known this place had a kitchen, but he never stayed long enough to try the food. Too much human contact.

“Yeah…guess I don’t do too good of a job of hiding it.”

“Well, it’s hard to hide something literally attached to your body.” The bartender pointed to Renn’s stomach, and he automatically lifted his shirt to reveal…a veiny protrusion extending from his navel and trailing across the floor. And there were more. At least a dozen or so trails crisscrossed the floor, and Renn had hoped his would get lost in the mess, but his stomach pains made it too obvious that he was one of these poor souls who still had an umbilical cord.

“So, where’s the little bugger, anyway?” the bartender continued. “You don’t seem like the type to let your Desire smoke outside like the others.”

“He’s… at home.” The two fell silent, and Renn turned back to his drink, staring at his reflection once more.

The bartender didn’t say anything for a moment. He was studying Renn—his messed up, curly hair, his brown skin with splotches of dirt and imperfections from poor self-care. This man was a mess, and you didn’t have to be a therapist to see that. No, he was just an old bartender who had been through it all.

The bartender leaned on the counter and matched his eye level with Renn’s. “I know you young folks don’t like to be told anything, but I think what I have to say may just save your life.”

Renn looked back at the bartender and said nothing. His expression was cold—not quite angry but not quite emotionless either. He was listening, though he was also a split-second from tuning everything out again and going back to his thoughts.

“That…cord of yours is not some symbol of pride. We’re taught from a young age to suck it up, to learn how to hold back our emotions so that we’ll be strong, respected, and ready to take on anything that comes our way, but it’s all a damned lie. We all give in one day to those emotions that have been bottled up inside us for years. It may take longer for some, but it’ll happen one day or another. And you know what happens when that day comes.

“Now, before you ask me how I know…” The bartender sat up and lifted his shirt. Renn’s eyes dilated as he saw the massive scar over his navel. What was left of his umbilical cord had been wrapped into a tiny bow. “I’ve been here before.”

“But…” Renn finally said. “How’d you do it? Didn’t you feel any regret? Any second thoughts?”

The bartender’s expression didn’t change a bit. He was just as serious as before, which made Renn pause in his own thoughts.

“I wake up every day wondering if I should just hold my feelings in again and let a new Desire form. It’s not easy; it never is, but after so much time, I see now why I continue moving forward. I had spent my whole life living according to what other people had told me to do and to think, but I didn’t even know why I was doing any of it. It sure as hell wasn’t for me! I didn’t need the stress, the loneliness. I didn’t want to lose so many people because they couldn’t understand me or how I was feeling. And I definitely didn’t want some fucking parasite attached to me, reminding me of every mistake I’ve ever made!”

He slammed his fist on the counter, and it made Renn jump in his seat. The bartender was sweating, breathing heavily. Renn stayed silent, listening to how similar his own breathing was to the bartender’s.

After a short pause, Renn spoke slowly and quietly. “When did you get rid of it?”

“Five years ago,” he replied, slowly standing straight again and composing himself. “Five long years of constant regret and worrying. I hate it, but it’s okay. Every day, I work on making my happiness louder than those depressing thoughts, and it doesn’t always work out. But when I do have a day where I wake up and don’t feel like shit, where I’m actually able to live my life, I remember that all of this effort is worth it.”

The door opened suddenly behind Renn, and he turned around to see the blonde guy and his friends leaving the bar. They were still laughing and joking like before, and the blonde guy still had the same anxious body language, but his smile was genuine. Somehow, his happiness was shining brighter than any worry inside of him. He did it.

Renn stood up from the bar counter without a single thought, scooped up his cord, and swiftly made way for the door.

“What are you doing, boy?!” The bartender said, his expression turned dire.

“I’m going to go do something before I have a chance to talk myself out of it.”

The bartender opened his mouth to speak, but Renn had already slammed the door behind him. “Be careful...”


Renn stepped outside and shuddered once he saw the hideous sight of the Desires. Most people’s umbilical cords, if they still have them, were not that long. The average length was forty feet—not enough to leave your Desire home while you went out shopping, but enough for them to stand outside of a small shop. And that’s where they were.

All of the Desires from the bargoers were corralled outside the door like a mob of crackhead teenagers. Some loitered about, looking around idly, while others vigorously fucked in a slimy orgy on top of a heap of garbage, and the remainer smoked together in a group and chatted. Their sickly, grayish skin and bald heads made them appear like aliens. In reality, they were the epitome of their host’s emotions—whether it be lust, depression, anger, or otherwise. Hence, they were called “Desires.”

Renn kept walking and tried not to stare at them. Desires not only took on the emotions of their hosts but also their personalities, and pissing off the Desire of a surely mentally ill person would only spark trouble. Besides, his mind was on the goal he had set for himself, and he was on his way to completing it.

He continually picked up his cord as he walked, but eventually, it became too much to carry. That was the point where he had to drag the thing behind him. His cord had grown so long that he risked being arrested for it. The cord can’t be broken except by the owner, so they are basically indestructible, but that means any who crosses the path of a cord are liable to being cut in half or wrecking their vehicle if in either case the cord is suddenly pulled taut. That’s why Renn had to be careful everywhere he went.

He couldn’t drive anymore, only walk. And even if he walked somewhere, he had to make an effort to avoid as many streets as possible. Everything he did, he had to consider how his cord would affect it.

It took fifteen minutes before he was able to trace the abnormally long path of his cord back to his home. By then, it was a giant pile nearly up to his knees. He took a moment to stare at it before walking inside. He had never seen it all neatly collected like that. It just made his disgust and exhaustion even stronger. To pull that weight every day, to make excuses for not cutting it sooner, was just criminal. Yet he did it, somehow. Only now did he see the ignorance of his decision. However, it was not the time for regret. It was the time for change.

He dragged the pile inside, one large pull at a time, until his shame was safely stored in his kitchen. Now was the time to move on to the next step. But before he could act, a pained wailing came from deep inside the house.

“FEED ME!” the voice yelled. “FEED ME!” Over and over, the labored voice cried. Renn knew what it was, and he groaned.

No more, he said to himself. No more of his voice. No more of his chain holding me down.

Renn walked to the nearby kitchen cabinet and pulled out a pair of scissors. His anger was bubbling within him, and he could feel his Desire pulling on the other end of the chord. Everything he felt, “he” would feel as well. So, he took a deep breath and tried to relax. Only then did the tugging cease.

“FEED ME!” the voice started up again. “WHY WON’T YOU FEED ME?!”

Renn held in his anger and slid the scissors into his back pocket. He had to end this now or he may never have the willpower to try again. He grabbed onto his end of the cord and walked to the door of the basement. It was locked by two pad locks and a reinforced, steel handle. The only weakness in the door was a small hole carved into the bottom to make room for the umbilical cord.

“I’m coming!” he finally said and unlocked the door. He felt his hand shaking as he turned the handle. Too many emotions, all flooding to him at once—the anger, the hatred, the fear, the worry. It was all too much, but he persisted onward. It had to be done.

Renn made his way down the stairs, one slow step at a time. He could hear the Desire rustling in the darkness. Does he know? Is that why he’s so anxious? There was no telling until he confronted the monster directly, and once he did, there was no turning back.

He made it to the bottom of the stairwell and reached around in the darkness to find the light. And he couldn’t find it. He became desperate, swatting in the air as the Desire quickly scurried about. Renn could hear its strained breaths as it moved around. It was a disgusting vermin, but even an animal can upend a human—especially when one can’t see where the killing blow will come from.

Eventually, Renn finally found the light and tugged on its small string. The light flashed on, and the two locked eyes. The Desire was two feet in front of Renn. It had massive, bulging eyes almost as pale as its skin. It was skinny except for a beer belly that was likely caused by its host’s alcoholic nature. Upon its head were a few strands of black, curly hair. It looked like a decrepit version of Renn, except both were equally deplorable.

“You finally came!” it said with glee. “You came! You came! I have been waiting! I am starving.”

“I heard you before. You should know I’m at the bar at this time of night.”

Renn blinked, realizing the mistake of his words. The Desire stared at him, perplexed.

“Why are you here then?”

“To feed you, obviously,” he lied. “I could sense that you were annoyed so I… made my way home to check up on you.”

The Desire paused for a moment but ultimately said nothing. It scurried to a corner of the room and sat down. There, it had a small, piss-stained cot with a water bowl. It had no place to shit as it wore a diaper. There had been too many accidents when it was allowed to defecate on its own.

“What do you want to eat?”

“Sadness,” it replied. Its face was blank, like an infant staring up at its parents and waiting for some reaction. “And alcohol.”

“I had enough alcohol tonight. Maybe I can get you something else?”

“No.” The creature’s gaze tightened. “Alcohol, like every night.”

Renn was a bit speechless. He could tell the Desire was onto him, but he was also unsure of what to do in this case. He would not be let close to the being unless it trusted him, and currently, it was judging every movement and word he said.

“Fine, I’ll drink some alcohol for you.”

“YAY!” it cheered, jumping into the air. “Cognac, please. I like the burning.”

“Sure, buddy. Anything for you.”

He turned around to go back up the stairs, and then it hit him. He had made a huge mistake. The lack of alibi could have been excused, but the pair of scissors stashed in his back pocket now staring at the Desire was unmistakable. He felt the sudden rush of anger through the umbilical cord.

Renn turned back around and saw the Desire standing straight up. His animalistic posture had been replaced by that of a coldhearted murderer staring at their next target. Renn could see it in his eyes. He knew everything; he had just been waiting for that last piece of evidence.

“You think I didn’t know?” it said with a clarity that shocked Renn. It enunciated every syllable, speaking slowly so as to be understood without a doubt and to be respected. “What fool attached to another’s thoughts, emotions, and body wouldn’t know?”

“It’s time, damn it!” Renn yelled. “I can’t keep living like this.”

The Desire slowly started walking toward Renn. It pointed a finger at its chest. “And I deserve to stop living?”

“Yes,” he said with no hesitation. “You’re nothing but the self-hatred and fear I’ve lived with my entire life, and I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t…”

“Shhh…” it placed a finger to its lips before continuing to speak. “We’re a team, aren’t we? Bound together forever.”

Renn said nothing.

“I know we are, and that’s why we have to work together. So why don’t we help each other, okay? You feed me, and I let you live. A symbiotic relationship. We can do that, can’t we?”

Renn shook his head vigorously, backing toward the stairs. “No… no we can’t”

“I don’t think you’re listening to me, Renn.” He froze when he heard his own name. “And I’m trying my hardest to be as fair as possible. If you won’t listen to me…I’ll have to make you.”

The Desire slowly reached behind it and loosened the straps of its diaper. Renn tried to move, but it held up a hand. “Don’t come any closer. This is your only warning.” The diaper then fell to the ground.

It was filled with a vile concoction that made Renn gag from the stench. He didn’t want to think about what it would do with that excrement. He just wanted this nightmare to end.

“Okay, man, I’ll listen. I’ll get some Cognac for you…”

“No!” it yelled. “I can sense your fear, you idiot. You do not mean what you say, and I will not let you leave this room unpunished.” It then knelt down, keeping its eyes on Renn and scooped up a handful of its shit.

“Wait! Don’t!” Renn pleaded, but it was too late. The monster plopped the moist, dark matter into its mouth and chewed. Renn immediately felt the residual pieces of shit flowing into his body through the umbilical cord, and he vomited all over himself. The monster continued.

“I warned you. We are no longer partners if you are this untrustworthy. I will be the leader, and you shall be my puppet. That is the only way.”

Renn continued to vomit, but it was in this moment of complete despair that any last feelings of fear left him. It was life or death. He could either submit to the monster he created or fight for a new life. Like the old man said, that happiness after overcoming his struggles was worth all the effort. Nothing else mattered.

He hesitated no longer. Renn charged the Desire and tackled it. Except, he missed. It had completely slipped past him and was now behind him. It casually grabbed the scissors out of his back pocket and stabbed him in the back of the knee.

Renn cried out but was silenced by the hand suddenly squeezing his throat. Despite its small frame, the Desire was immensely strong. Renn flailed about, frantically slapping and punching the creature, but it was completely unphased.

“So, you are this weak…? Impressive. I should have become the host a long time ago.”

He tossed Renn aside while simultaneously taking the scissors out of his leg. Renn gasped for breath and immediately cried as he felt the pain in his leg surge throughout his body. But he couldn’t stop. He got back up and limped toward the Desire. It moved right before his eyes and disappeared—only reappearing once it stopped to cut the back of his other leg.

Renn collapsed to the ground and landed face first on his teeth. Bits of tooth and blood collected in a pool beneath his mouth, and he wailed again from the pain. Another failure. Whatever adrenaline had been flowing through his body failed to mask the growing disappointment and failure that he felt. It could only lessen the pain, but it was failing at that too.

“You should have stayed at the bar. I do not know what fervor overcame you to attempt this aberration, but it was foolhardy.”

Renn writhed upon the ground, and the Desire looked down at him with no emotions in its eyes.

“I will let you live only because I need you. However, you will still suffer until the brink of death for even attempting to harm me.”

It then started walking toward Renn. Its pace was casual as Renn could not move, but its guard was still up. It couldn’t tell what he was thinking as Renn was intentionally trying to encode his thoughts, but the Desire knew something was wrong. There was still some fight in him.

“Move and I will rip you apart and leave you more crippled than you already are.”

He didn’t listen. Renn sat up and looked into the Desire’s eyes…and smiled. For the first time that entire night, the Desire was caught off guard. Renn was smiling, chuckling to himself even—despite bleeding out onto the floor and being moments away from gruesome torture.

“What is so funny?” it questioned, but he only continued to laugh. “I know you’re pathetic, but I never took you for a masochist.”

“Oh, it’s not masochism,” he finally said. “I just realized something.”

“And that is?”

Renn just continued to laugh. “If I think it, you’ll know, so I’ll just have to show you.”

He then grabbed hold of the umbilical cord and yanked it tightly. The Desire watched as the tangle of cords around him was pulled taut. In the midst of their short battle, the umbilical cord had been strewn about, and the Desire was now standing in the middle of it. Standing, but only for a moment, as in the next, it was cut apart into pieces. What was left of the monster crumbled to the floor in a bloody, gooey pile.

After its death, the umbilical cord immediately began to wither. The mile’s worth of veins and tubing disintegrated into ash, leaving only a bloodied and half-conscious Renn alone in the basement. Alone, except for his smile.

Is this what it feels like to be happy?

With that last question, Renn’s being slowly left his body. He couldn’t hear it anymore: the thoughts of sadness and regret. They faded now along with him. Soon, all that was left of him was his soulless body and that genuine smile.


About the Creator

Equilla B

Hello! I'm a 22-year-old horror and fantasy writer looking to gain experience on this wonderful platform! I'll write the occasional short story about existential topics.

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