Just Smile More

Just Smile More

A Story by Alira

A well-intentioned monster’s answer to “Gray.” A nosy reptilian creature tries to help a young Autist out of her negative space; this may or may not be working very well for him.

I have also published this piece on Joara under the username AC2066 (Alira Cohen)

Just Smile More
Alira Cohen
“Monsters aren’t real,” the hulking purple abomination sitting cross-legged on the edge of my bed spoke coolly from his jagged jaws. “Not many people know this...that’s why they’re so afraid of the dark.”
In silent awe, I kept my gaze on Albert’s hunched, twisted silhouette. His presence seemed to take up so much space in my miniscule room, casting a shadow all the way over to my cluttered desk behind the bed. It had been a week or so since he’d started emerging from my closet to give me advice. His bones creaked as he shifted his crooked body to get more comfortable. Convinced I was listening, he continued to speak.
“It’s an unfortunate reality, but if more people practiced meditation, it wouldn’t be such a common phenomenon. We often forget how important it is to put our minds at ease.”
His toenails were tearing into my sheets as he sat upon the end of my bed, but I kept the terror of possibly getting cut by them at bay. Since this was far from my first cryptid encounter, I was quite practiced when it came to concealing my fear.
“You’re not much of a talker, are you?” he remarked, a cold look in his eyes.
“Well, once I was,” I replied. My skin felt tight and frigid and my mind was tingling as though numb. “Not so much now. It just changes with age, ya know, some things change with age.”
He lowered his bumpy reptilian face. “I can tell. You’ve wasted a number of decent conversations.”
“Humans aren’t big on talking,” I insisted, chuckling nervously as embarrassment flowed through me. “I think I’m pretty normal.”
He was silent for a moment. Then he said, “I am a human.”
Albert stood up and loomed over me, stepping off of the bed before he could break it under his weight. His eyes illuminated him in the darkness; large and bright, they cast a blue light before him. I could tell he was attempting a smile, but his mouth looked almost rotten. My walls began to change with the contortion of his lips--they were shifting and flowing, now made of water. The ceiling above me began to drip black sludge. I’d never seen a beast with such an ability before. In Albert’s large clawed hands, he held a pen and a pad of paper. I couldn’t tell you for the life of me where those came from.
“When was the last time you willingly spoke to someone?”
I felt my cheeks flush. Of course, I didn’t want to respond. He was interrogating me yet again, and for what? I never answered the way he wanted me to. “I told you to stop being nosy.”
“You weren’t very happy today. Tell me, why did you choose to live alone?”
I wanted to speak, but my words were caught in my throat. In an attempt to conceal myself, I sank down under the covers.
“Hm,” he said, “that’s very interesting.” He started writing something.
I continued to hide from him to the best of my ability, but it wasn’t really helping. There was nowhere for me to go. All the same, I tried to avoid letting him get even deeper under my skin. I peeked out from beneath the covers and saw a face forming in the wall beside my head. I could hardly make out what it was supposed to be, though its mournful eyes were clear as day. Was that supposed to be human? Was that supposed to be my face? It was so poorly conceived, the lines were squiggly like a child’s drawing, and that annoyed me.
“Well,” Albert said, “I’m not sure we’re making much progress…..”
Moonlight shone through the window, which was open just a crack, and reflected silver on Albert’s purple hide. His grotesque, inhuman form was something to behold before the dark blue of the wall. For just a moment, my pain subsided as I acknowledged the fascinating being that stood before me. Never before had I seen a cryptid with such intelligence, such focus, such concern, and such an insistence that he was not a beast. He got a bit closer to me, looked me up and down, then started to write again.
I decided to raise my voice. “Of all the cryptids I’ve met in my nearly twenty years of living--death angels, shape shifters, and night stalkers alike--Albert, you will certainly take the title of Most Insufferable,” I spat. But then my tone lightened. I told him, “Still, I want to understand you. In truth, I’ve never seen anything like you before, and maybe if I gave you some information about myself, you could in turn explain to me--”
“Are you talking about your delusions again?” he questioned me in a whisper.
Just like that, my hopes were shot down. My blood ran cold.
“Y-you know they aren’t delusions,” I stammered. “You know you’re not human. You know you’re one of them!”
He chuckled. His words were really beginning to get me--no, not just his words, but his every movement. I felt as though a thousand eyes were staring at me, tearing me down, forcing me to submit to him. Behind the confines of my locked room, I expected to be safe. I expected to be left alone. The outside was confusing, desolate, full of lost souls grasping at each other in desperation. I didn’t want to be the one that others turned to, I couldn’t be. Why couldn’t I just take my time? For the love of god, I needed more time. He had to stop asking these questions.
“Lee, I want to see you improve, that’s all,” he said.
“But sir, you’re misunderstanding,” I whimpered desperately. “I need to be here by myself. I’ll change soon, but I need--”
“Have you tried placing an ice pack on your head?” he questioned me, looking at his notes. “As a human, I can tell you that most of my social discomfort came from migraines that ruined my mood. Putting something cold on your head is a simple fix for this. You can also try meditation, which will help with your fear of the dark, as I said earlier.”
My lip trembled. “You aren’t listening to me. Why aren’t you listening to me? I need you to listen to me.”
“You aren’t saying anything,” the beast grumbled. “Turn. Look at the wall.”
Hesitantly, I did as he said. I could see my freckled reflection in the flowing water. The dark circles under my eyes nearly made me flinch; I looked like a ghoul, a lost soul wandering through purgatory.
He crouched down beside me. “What do you see?”
I frowned. “My face.”
“Isn’t it wonderful to have a face?”
“What do you mean, I’m not saying anything? What do you want me to say? I need to know what to say, because I’m trying to say something. I’m trying so hard.”
He squinted as he stared into the water. “Even when you aren’t looking at them, humans can see into your eyes,” he hissed.
I teared up but remained still. His jaws were hovering right beside my small, fragile human head.
“We can picture the anger swimming in them, the loneliness,” he carried on. “Tell me, why did you choose to live alone?”
I could feel a sort of heaviness invading my chest cavity, so I covered my face with my hands.
“My psychiatrist said I should.”
“Oh, how funny--I always wanted to be a psychiatrist.”
He placed his hand on my shoulder. His long nails brushed against my skin; they felt cold. “You’re a small human, and make no mistake, our kind can see that.”
My arm trembled but I quickly stopped it from moving. I wasn’t going to spazz out. F**k no, not this time. I assured myself that he hadn’t gotten to me. Tomorrow, I would leave this building--I’d walk to the cafe alone and I’d leave alone. I’d do so with a smile on my face, then I’d tell Albert all about it.

© 2022 Alira

Author's Note

This first note is not so much for reviewers, but this short story is connected to a longer piece I am working on, with the same main character, and it is in the same universe as “Gray.” Just thought I should mention that.
Now, for reviewers, as always, please be honest with your thoughts yet respectful if you decide to comment. Thank you.

My Review

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I like it. I have to read "Gray" now because I'm unsure of everything that's going on. I do like that there are many ways one could interpret it. Some of the wording, I think, could be redone more effectively. And maybe I'm just a child but Albert being purple and reptilian makes me think he's like a scary version of Barney.

Posted 7 Months Ago


7 Months Ago

Funnily enough, your idea of Albert is pretty spot-on, give or take some details. I thought it’d b.. read more

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Added on April 17, 2022
Last Updated on April 17, 2022
Tags: monster, Albert, Lee, autistic protagonist, social anxiety, fantasy, horror, humor



Hello, my name is Alira. I am a young writer who is majoring in creative writing at SUNY Purchase; I write anything from poems, to short stories, to scripts, to novel chapters (I’m currently wor.. more..