A deep breath.

“I know why you keep me around. It’s so you have someone to hate. Because if you didn’t have me, you’d start hating yourself. You already do. You loathe who you are. You’ve been so busy building up a fortress of arrogance and venom and spite that when you look down from the rampart, sneering at everyone below, you forget you aren’t a king. You’re a prisoner inside your own walls. Inside your own skin. And you’re too afraid to see what you would look like if you peeled it all back and broke free. You’d be small. You’d be so small… why, you wouldn’t even recognize yourself! And when you’re finally reduced to the level of insignificance that you’ve made everyone in your entire life around you feel for as long as you’ve known them, you’ll break. Not because it happened to you, but because you never thought you would do such a terrible thing to the ones you love and, even worse, the ones who love you. That’s when you’ll break. When you know how you made them feel because you finally feel it yourself.”

Another deep breath.

“That was good,” said Dr. Kazan from behind her. He unclasped his hands and wrote on his pad. “Now I want you to do it again, but with the wedding ring on.”

She took a deep, shuddering breath.

Andrew Punzo lives near Newark, New Jersey. His short fiction has appeared online in Theme of Absence and The Sirens Call, and in the anthologies Mindscapes Unimagined (2018) and Crypt Gnats: Horror You’ve Been Itching to Read (forthcoming). Andrew is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys reading a wide variety of fiction.

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