The skeletons that tormented me as a child were very real, but most of my other monstrous fears were rooted in nothing but my overactive imagination. I had a knack for throwing myself into a fear-frenzy, imagining all sorts of spine-tingling situations and allowing them to escalate to the point where every cell in my body vibrated with nervous energy. It could happen anywhere: in my room after bedtime, in the darkened hallway that separated me from my parents, in the harsh light of the bathroom that I hoped would set me at ease. In the worst situations, I would fall into a sort of paralysis, too frightened to move but terrified to remain where I was–I could only gather every last ounce of my courage to make a sudden leap forward and bolt towards my ultimate destination. It was a near-nightly occurrence for about five years. My poor parents tried everything, arming me with dream catchers, rosaries, “magic” blankets, watchdog plushes, even cable TV to protect or distract me from whatever the Fear du Jour happened to be. While their creativity is commendable, I still found ways to scare myself.
And then, it suddenly stopped. It wasn’t the protective talismans, the magic dolls, the enchanted items–it stopped the same way it began: with my imagination. In a remarkable gesture of childhood logic, I realized that my imagination was far more terrifying than anything that could possibly exist in the real world. That meant that I was far more terrifying than anything I could encounter in my hallway, or my bathroom, or my bed. I was suddenly empowered. Even as I grew up, reading about serial murderers and cult killers and plenty of very real things that could do me harm, it remained a sort of mantra. Descending the basement steps to do my laundry at night it less unnerving when I remind myself that any monsters lurking beneath couldn’t be half as terrifying as the things that live in my own head.
As May Monster Madness draws to a close, I wanted to share with you some of my own work. I wrote these snippets several years ago, as a tie-in to a novel I was working on at the time. It was about a girl devoted to a horrific, ancient god and the man who sought knowledge of it, but the pieces below are about their daughter. They’re over-written and need a lot of work, but since they didn’t really belong to anything, I didn’t worry much about them as they sat in my scrapbook. Perhaps someday, Melissa and the monsters inside her head will deserve their own story.
Blue eyes stared upwards, studying the moulded plaster ceiling as if its bouquets ribbons held news of her fate. They hid no ghouls, she reasoned, but they bore no angels, either. Melissa sat up slowly, her watery eyes rippling with disturbances: every night, the terrors gripped her. The moment she turned out her lamp, they came, brandishing their talons like swords and licking their knife-like fangs. When she was little, she could close her eyes and will them away, but no longer–their eyes had taken on a deadly phosphorescence, piercing the darkness to find her. Now they turned her inside-out, her eyes stinging with the smoke of Hell’s fires as her lids fluttered against the back of her skull. They danced for her to the primal beat of their drums, terrible instruments crudely fashioned of parts she dare not speculate the origins of. …and each morning, as the sun rose, they would clamber towards her, claws outstretched, mouths and tongues shaping words of love and devotion. On the light of the Great Star they would disappear, uttering vows of their return…and finally, exhausted, Melissa would sleep.
From the foot of her bed, the mirror glinted, beckoning. She raised a hand to touch her face: long, pianist’s fingers brushed across the smooth, alabaster surface–so different she looked with living flesh. Certainly, she was more accustomed to seeing herself as a collection of gleaming red muscle and pearly pink bone, reflected in the eyes of her monstrous bedfellows and in the muculent trails borne by the floors where they walked.
Convinced as she was of their existence, Melissa crept cautiously to the foor of her bed, avoiding any swift or heavy movements that might rouse the beasts beneath. She was fixated, still, on her eyes, heavily fringed in white and gold–she remembered a time when these lashes gave her a sleepy, tranquil appearance. Now, it was rare that she didn’t look frightened, like a rabbit that has come to feel the hot, hungry breath of the fox on his neck.
“Yes, poor dear!–blessed as you are with those big blue eyes and golden curls!” The boisterous presence of the old housekeeper caused Melissa to jump, nearly tumbling off the bed–a mistake which, to her, could prove fatal. “Sorry to frighten you, but your father is holding breakfast…”
The warmth of life stirred beneath her, a welcome albeit alien sensation. Eyelids fought anxiously to open, wishing desperately to throw off the cover of sleep. …But for the first time in her life, Melissa resisted. Never before had she awoken at her leisure, undisturbed by her ghoulish consorts and their nightmarish mummery. Rather, she recalled nothing but bliss. Through the dusky veils of intoxication, she witnessed scenes of passion, played out as tenderly as she had never imagined love could be; with a script of foreign and endearing words; a choreography of writhing flourishes. The very thought brought a smile to her rosepetal lips and she playfully flicked a fingertip over her lover’s tool, touching it to her lips and tongue searching for the now-familiar bitterness. …this taste, too, was familiar, but not the same pungent salt of last night. This was too familiar, too customary…like sacramental wine to a priest, her tongue was trained to receive…
Blood. Sticky, hot…her spine quivered as the coppery spice hit her nerves. She wanted to be repulsed, both by the taste and by herself–for she knew no monster of her nightmare world could have committed these heinous tasks, created this grotesque work of deadly art. None of her horrid consorts would have torn his flesh to reveal the pearly bone and tendon within, sucking him dry of fluid and stripping him of tender meat. No…this was the stuff of her own dark fantasy. This was her own doing.
Looking over at the husk beside her, the bag of tattered skin and bones, her blue eyes glazed, water trickling down with a heat from the back of her skull…
Brought to you as part of the May Monster Madness Blog Hop —