He has a monster inside. It hungers for more, always for more. He strokes his hand across its scales to calm it, to soothe it, but it demands reconciliation. He paints it in cheap brass lacquer, but it’s never shiny enough, despite the hours he spends polishing it. He builds temples to worship it, to memorialize himself and his good name, undeniable proof of his success, but they never rise to the height of the monster’s greed.

The monster deepens the cavity, rumbling deep in his belly. Starving. Craving.

He dresses in the same black suit, showing his poise, his ability to cloak himself in prestige. But it is a shell that holds the deadly truth inside. The fear multiplies and he must drown it. He finds an audience. Of one. Of many. He promises vengeance to defectors and kickbacks to the loyal. Like a sacrificial lamb, he zeroes in on someone weak of constitution, preys on them, feeds them to the monster who spits out the bones when it’s satiated.

It doesn’t last long. The monster is a glutton, never full. He seeks beauty, a pristine form, someone he doesn’t deserve. He stands too close, gets too cozy, and never says the right words. In his mind, he’s flawless, poetic, but he knows nothing about love and cares little to understand it. Love is only what he can get in return. He places his hands where they don’t belong and lets her know she’s beneath him, always second, always his shadow. The ones who fall into his clutches say yes, blinded by his power and his cash flow, and they don’t refuse him. If they do, he will drain them of all their dignity until their wells run dry. They should consider themselves lucky just to be near him.

The monster calls for more. He sweats into his socks as he tries to stay one step ahead of it. They can never know the truth of the darkness he hides. He’s a master of illusion, pulling a rabbit from his hat, watching them scramble to explain how he’d done it as he silently steals their watches. By the time they realize their naked wrists, he’s on to his next trick, and the gaggle follows like obedient dogs. They coo and they analyze and they wring their hands. The monster is never far behind, demanding attention, commanding that his name is on their lips in awe and adulation.

He is blameless. There is no need for apologies. The monster is allergic to them. Like a preacher, he climbs onto every podium and postulates the condition of the world from his vantage point. The monster whispers lies into his ear. It shows him those who deserve less, where he can cast blame and hurl his anger. Any consideration he has to look within is deflected as the monster preens and admires itself in the mirror. He feels the monster’s hot breath as it reminds him of its perfection.

When those who doubt get too close to his core, when they can see the slippery scales of the monster, rage overtakes him. He lashes out into any microphone that will pick up his voice. He blames and he blisters and his tongue twists lies until he believes them. He writes a new story, and though they raise a brow or two, they can’t refute it. There is no option. Truth is what he makes it. A world of his creation.

The monster becomes unflattering. He is teased mercilessly, picked apart like crows to roadkill, and he must restore his monster’s crown. He makes a joke. Everyone laughs. Their smiles and applause quench the monster’s unyielding appetite. They love him. They need him. Where would they be, if not for him? How would they go on if he hadn’t made such sacrifices? He seeks their approval and they pour themselves back into him. And for a moment, the monster is quiet.

It doesn’t take long before it stirs again, waking from slumber, more ravenous than ever. What it seeks will consume him. He’s growing weary. He feels uncertain. But the monster says move, and like a soldier, he marches on. He puts on his mask, powders his ruddy cheeks, tousles his hair, glowing for the cameras and the audience. He chooses the words that will draw the biggest reaction, cawing for attention, demanding reciprocity.

Look at me.

Please look at me.

Love me.

Please love me.

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