When she was a young girl, her grandmother told Mercy a horror story.
“Come my child,” she said, wrapping her in the warmth of a blanket, as they sat near the greater warmth of the fire. “Let me tell you a story. And you must remember this story as you grow, promise me this. For it is important. I will tell you the story about the worst monster of all.”
Mercy shuddered slightly, but she adored her grandmother, and knew her stories were always the best. She would be safe, of course, to just hear the story. For surely the worst monster of all only existed in the realm of fiction.
“There is a monster that is invisible my child. Yet it is real and it is powerful, and it seeps within a human host with icy, gouging tentacles and burrows sudden and quiet. It is unseen, but always felt. Never known for what it is, always mistaken, like a thief in the night.
No-one knows where it came from or how it exists. It is fully formed at its birth and un-withered as it dies. It fills a lacuna you did not know existed in you, but its force is terrible, and its design demonic. It consumes you, piece by piece, like a witch in a gingerbread house, but silent all the while. And you let it do so, willingly, every bite.
You do not know its time. For some it is quick and fleeting, for others slow and deliberate. It will have its season, and as it is free to burn within, you will be focussed, singularly focussed, in ways you never were before. Every experience will be heightened, every pain deepened. You will wish yourself free of it but the more you struggle, the more it embraces you, for that is its way.
It will endure as long as it will, stubborn and unyielding. but when it leaves it will be merciless, just gone, just an ache of a different kind. One you may heal from, or perhaps not. Mostly it will leave a little seed of darkness and take with it its surfeit of innocence and hope, but it will then be a thing apart which you may, in time, struggle even to recall.
The monster is the most real thing in your life when it is there, and but a wisp when it is gone.”
“It sounds terrible grandma!” Mercy cried, burrowing deeper in her arms as though that might elude the grasp of such horror in the night.
“It is terrible child.”
“Is it an alien?”
“No, but it may feel that way.”
“Is it the devil?”
“No, but it may feel like his kiss.”
“Is it a ghost?”
“That’s probably the closest,” said her grandmother. “Though it never really lived.”
“Then what is the monster?” the little girl cried, dismayed.
Her grandmother looked down to her wide open, tear-filled eyes. She thought, for a second, the future washed before her, with other tears, destined to come.
“Oh my little girl,” she said. “It’s so simple. The monster is falling in love.”
(c) Helen M Valentina 2017