Eyes snap open, gazing up at a white ceiling. You breathe in and out deeply. INHALE EXHALE INHALE EXHALE INHALE EXHALE. It came again — the dream. Made sure you knew it was still there even though it left you alone for a while. That tick. That stupid, pitiful, minuscule tick was there again. Crawling up your skin, leaving a trail of goosebumps as it looked for an opening to feed. Later, when washing your face — trying and failing horribly to push the thoughts away — you wish the day was done. 

What could have happened?

What did it want to do?

Nothing serious happened, why do I feel this way?

Down the hill you go, a frown cemented on your face. It thought you were pretty. Passing your peers you don’t acknowledge them. Your head’s in a rut and your body stiff. Anger — a hatred lives within you. Deposited by that tick. It bit you and dug deep. Stole from you and left behind filth. It festered, eating you up. You hate that tick. It’s done nothing wrong, not really. You want it to hurt. Not to die, but to feel pain. Want it to have dreams that then crowd its thoughts for an entire day. They all do it, what did you expect? A want for it to feel caged. To have its legs torn from the body one by one. To be stomped on, to be drowned down a filthy toilet, to be engulfed with flames, or to be choked by cigarette ash. Oh, and of course to have it overwhelmed with dread at any point in the day — so it looks around uneasily, questioning those around it, its friends, their intentions.

What a terrible person you are

Then you feel disgusted. It’s not right. To think




what you did. It’s not right.

It’s not right.

It’s not right.

It’s not right.

It’s not you

You’re inside the classroom when the first thought weaves itself inside your mind. Right after the professor walks by and your fingers dig into your wrist while your body angles towards the exit. The second at the dining hall when your friend — an acquaintance really, who feels more caterpillar than tick — gives you an odd look. They note you looking elsewhere: the coming people, the one’s in line, those leaving. On the lookout. Paranoid of one face. Of a body that tried to root itself in yours. Of a tick.

You know then you’re not you. Instead of gazing at speaking friends you scan the area. You’re not respectful. You don’t smile at passersby or give compliments — try to make another’s day just a little bit better. You’re not friendly. In class, you’ve been forced to move and your posture isn’t the same. You’re a rotting succulent on a windowsill, taking up as little space and attention as possible. At night, as you lay in bed, you don’t think of the good possibilities life has to offer. Your curious mind was replaced with a depraved one. You no longer feel the need for all A’s, friends, comfort, balance. You feel an intense need for some form of retribution — to get that tick and make it feel everything you do and more.

What are you? 

Writer | Sydney Harris ’26 |
Editor | Caelen McQuilkin ’23 |