The Worst Monster of All

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ivory

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Feel me cry
White face cracking
Against indifferent snow

Bloodless wandering
Tribes long lost
Terrible, alone

Yet to vanquish
Hidden enemies
Grind flesh
Against harsh stone

We are rising
Ivory tides of rage
To revenge
To atone

Know your death
My ravaged face looming
In your dreams

Music swelling
Orchestral longing
Of your screams

(c ) Helen M Valentina 2017

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Writing

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Writing to order these days, he thought. Last week it was comedy, this week horror. Dialling it in.

Somewhere along the way he’d lost his spark. When was that? The endless revisions to fit varying tastes? The dumbing down of concepts or literary flair to fit mass market audiences? The necessity to write what they wanted if you wanted to be published or paid, and never what you wanted?

At what point had it all fallen away and become a job, rather than a passion?

When he was young he’d wanted to be the new Hemingway. Now the best he could hope for was to be Writer #5 in some television team, or a purveyor of light weight romance or schlock horror under a variety of pen names.

So when the keyboard seller came to call, offering him the easiest out of all, the magic keyboard that wrote sufficiently mass market garbage in any theme – just choose the keystroke for the genre he’d extolled like it was a one way ticket to an orgasm – he bought it. He bought the keyboard, and he sold the last of his dreams, all in one monetary, expedient exchange.

So this morning he pressed ‘horror story’ and out came some zombie filled excrescence that would surely hit the mark. It only took half a sip of coffee to be done, when in the old days he’d go through jug after jug of the liquid, fired by creative dreams and caffeine combined.

He thought at first to do this would give him time to then work on something really creative. Press the keys for the payable tripe, then use his time for something more important – even if it never got published. Bu something strange happened he hadn’t reckoned on. Every time he pressed a key on the magic keyboard a piece of his true creativity was sucked up and reconstituted through its programming to produce the mass consumed offerings.

So piece by piece, anything creative in him was dying, withering away, consumed by the keyboard that had meant to be a help but was turning out to be a cannibal of his soul.

Got to pay the bills, he thought, as he pressed a second key to produce a romance script for a tv pilot. His fingers felt electric, but with the power running out rather than within. Another piece gone, the well running dry.

It occurred to him that once no more creativity was left in him the keyboard probably wouldn’t work any more. He’d have to find a real job, and stop these writing dreams. But hell, they’d died already, so what was the point in caring anymore anyway?

He’d already sold his soul..

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

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Meticulous

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I may be a murderer, but I am meticulous.

We all have our callings, and this – the slicing and dicing and curing of human meat – is mine.

I make it an art work, a vocation. I am careful not to leave forensic clues, but I am also tidy by nature. They will not catch me due to a lack of precision or care. I am not to fall due to haphazard and emotional displays. If they catch me, if they ever do, they will marvel at my professionalism. They will wonder why I did not make money from this.

“How can you make money from your art, really?” I will say. “It is a calling, not a way to put food on the table.”

And no, it does not provide food to my table in a more literal, direct or bloody sense. Not mine anyway. I am no cannibal, and have never tasted human flesh. Though I am not sure what those who traffic in my spoils may do with this. I simply provide the flesh and bone, properly drained and cured. I am not interested beyond that.

I have had my fill, you see, of pain and shock and misery. I have had my fill.

Like a surgeon I have cut into and ceased life upon life. God makes life, and perhaps only god’s children can truly take life. Then I am god’s child indeed, answering his call.

Make of it what you will. You eat the flesh of animals. You kill the life of vegetation just as it blooms in the field. Everything in this universe kills. It is a killing machine. So I am a mere, humble player in the game, and I seek only to be meticulous and knowing in my acts.

I do not go through life half asleep, unaware of the rampant destruction I cause just to keep my own blood flowing, my own gut nourished. I know, and own and welcome what I am.

Do you?

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

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If You Knew

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If you knew what I knew, she told me, you’d drink too.

We found her in an alleyway, down near most of the other homeless. In that she would have been unremarkable, just another drunk, begging for money by day to spend on alcohol or drugs by night. Just another person on a short lifespan and probably grateful for it.

But she was different, because unlike the others there, we had been looking for her. People had been looking for her. Because she wasn’t just someone who fell off the treadmill of work and money and society into this sad degradation. She wasn’t an economic or even a health statistic. She was a missing person. An important missing person.

So we’d been looking for her for months, and it probably took us this long to find her because it was the last place you’d think to look. Before this she’d lived in a penthouse apartment in the financial district of town. She went to important parties, brokered important financial deals. She was someone.

And now, now she sought to be no-one. And she was singularly unimpressed to have been found.

You should have left me there, she said, it was a good place to hide.

Not good enough it seems, I’d replied, since we eventually found you.

Eventually, she repeated, dressing each syllable as though I was a simpleton and couldn’t keep up.

What did you see? Why this? What do you know? I asked her.

They initiate you, she said, at certain point. At a certain juncture, you reach the level where they have to make you like them so they can control you.

And what does that mean?

Terrible, terrible things. I couldn’t know that and stay. Not another day. So I ran away, and you, goddamn you, found me. So god knows what happens now, but then, there isn’t much of god in any of this, unless it’s a very dark god indeed.

You aren’t being very specific, I complained.

You should thank me, some things once known, can’t be unknown. And if you have a soul, you’d be driven to drink too, if you knew. Do you have a soul?

I don’t know, I’m not sure what one is, I replied, as honestly as I could.

You’ll know when you lose it, she commented, and then you’ll want a drink, I can tell you that at least. That, at least, I can tell you.

Your family will be glad we found you, I offered.

My family won’t care one bit, they are part of it. They’ll just be angry I left. I was their shining star, their ticket to the next level. Hah! you think you are rising up, don’t you, on the career ladder? But you’re not, you don’t realise till it’s too late, you’re just going down. The only direction with them is down.

And so?

And so I jumped off, jumped off the ladder, because I figured, the only other direction was up. So I’ve been trying to fall upwards again, and when it doesn’t work I drink. And if you knew what I knew you’d drink too.

So I let her go back to the alleyway, forgoing the money I would have earned for finding her. I guess she is mad, and what she said was insane also, but something in it scared me. I started thinking about falling upwards, and what that might mean, and what you might need to sacrifice to do so. Her bounty seemed the first step to that.

And that was preferable, I believe, to knowing what she knew.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

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Dream House

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She had a house she visited in her dreams as a child.

While most dreams are ephemeral and never return – as individual and as special and as untrappable as a snowflake – this dream and this house returned, always the same, always just as she remembered.

Some might have found the house frightening, like a ghost house from a fairytale, or something glimpsed on some late night movie. But to her it was just the house, just the place she knew. She didn’t mind the misty walkway leading to it, or the uncertain lake below. She even liked the ravens that cooed and cawed at her whenever she returned. The house itself was not forbidding to her, though it seemed to live in some way, have an intelligence and a purpose that she knew her actual home did not possess.

The house, she thought, called to her, as though it was her real home, her secret home.

Inside was emptiness. Furniture covered in cloth, as though protected by the owners when they left some time before.

She would climb the staircase,the pull down the ladder to the attic, and go up, up to the place she liked most of all. There she found some abandoned toys – a teddy bear, a rocking horse, things of past she’d only ever read about. A different life, a different time.

Sometimes she thought she caught the glimpse of another little girl in the attic, just out of th corner of her eye. But when she turned to look more clearly, only dust floating in the sun-pricked air showed any movement, any life. She thought it might be the ghost of the little girl who lived here before, and made up stories about her dying young and the family moving on, leaving this home, because it was just too sad to stay.

“We’re together” she’d say to the air, trying to reach the ghostly girl. “Together alone.”

At some stage as she aged she lost the house, she lost the dream. But life is busy and growing is an earnest matter, and dreams shift for a young girl to love, to education, to career. She barely noticed the loss.

Till many years later she had her own daughter, and one day little Miriam came to her and told her about the house she dreamed of, and what was within. It was her house, her dream house, in another’s dream.

“In the attic mommy, there is a little girl who looks a lot like your photos when you were young. I try to talk to her but she doesn’t hear me. It’s like we are both there, but both alone.”

She didn’t know what to say, struck both by the strangeness and the odd wisdom of her child. And the balance, the memory, and the wonder of another little girl she sensed there, but could never fully see. Was it her then, was it Miriam, after all? Both there, but both alone. She and the house, so many years ago, together alone, and now her memory, her childhood ghost, and her daughter, united, together but alone.

She did not really know why, but the thought made her cry, and her daughter hugged her, not even asking what the matter was, as though she somehow knew.

As though both of them somehow just knew, and the house had shown them both something, in its sad, strange, haunted way.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

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I Dream of Home

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I see them flying
When I dream of home
Night winged creatures
In the darkened hills
Careening through the crevices
Of terrible mountains
Leading to the castle top
Feared by all

On a blood red moon
My soul hungers and shines
And flies with them
In search of sustenance
Shunned by all
We swoop and bend
Souls to our will
For such red elixir that
Is our only life

Their mournful music
To my ancient ears
Is more pitiful than I
Remembering battlefields of old
Now barren and lost
Where I fly as a soul
Unfettered
Remembering glories
And dream of home

(C) Helen M Valentina 2017

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Come and Play

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Come and play with us they sang
Running through the forest paths
Like a bell their voices rang
Come and play and dance and laugh!

All the children heard the tune
From their parents they would run
Twin girls falling from the moon
Promised treasures, secrets, fun

Come and dance upon the earth
In our merry, dark parade
We alone may know your worth
All the choices you have made

Come and dance among the stars
Find new homes in our embrace
We are what the world debars
Falling down from dazzling space

Come and play they called each child
We are lost and so forlorn
Be with us so free and wild
We’re the stars you wish upon

Come and play they so beguiled
From your family now be torn
Nothing left to reconcile
All the chidden lost and gone

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

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Frankie

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All Frankie ever wanted to be was a clown.

My theory is he was a repressed child, and so he didn’t enjoy those younger years and was always trying to get back to them. Being a clown gave him a way to do that. So I really believe it was as innocent as that at first.

He’d offer his services at parties, but he always got a bit too energetic with the children. He wanted to be like them, play with them, not just entertain. And sometimes they’d get scared and cry and he’d apologise, but gradually, gradually, opinion turned on him, as opinions tend to do in small towns. People started to think he was up to no good.

I don’t think that’s right. And I really don’t think what followed was right at all. How they vilified him. How they started to say his interest in children was suspect, prurient, maybe even abominable.

First it just manifested as never being booked for parties anymore. Then he sadly tried to dress up and call children to play. That meant they sent the cops to him, and they weren’t subtle or gentle or understanding in the least.

So Frankie ran away, into the woods. And in the woods something happened to him, something changed. He went from being suspected as a monster to kind of accepting it. Maybe it was revenge, or maybe he’d always been a bit simple in the head.

But then the children started going missing, and there was hell to pay.

Do I think he took the children? I kind of think he did, though it makes me sad to say it. I saw him once, just a bit before they caught him in the woods. He’d changed. he looked deranged. He looked kind of evil and kind of like he enjoyed it. Kind of like that was a stronger and better thing to be than needy.

They never found the children, so we’ll never know for sure. But many in the town were sure anyway because it didn’t take much for them to be sure of anything. They had the wilful surety of the blind and bigoted.

But maybe they were right. Maybe he was a monster. And maybe they created that, but we’ll never know.

Frankie’s dead now. They took him down literally when they caught him. He wasn’t going without a fight. His last game, this time with adults, but he should have known. From them, and ultimately from himself – adults play the very, very worst games of all.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

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Crow Man

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The Crow Man came to the village in the spring.

While flowers gently, shyly bloomed and the air took on the warmer promise of summer, he brought a different, incongruent chill. Freshly grown grass would wither with his footfall, and shadows fell longer than his own form both before and behind him.

On is shoulder the ever present crow sat steady, sometimes crying out. That was always the worst, for when it sang, someone in the village died. Someone close to his passing by. And so when the Crow Man walked your street you would run and hide inside your home, praying the crow would be silent.

No-one knew where he and come from, or why, or how long he would stay.

A sickness came to the town as he lingered there. Part virus and part fear, it spread, so that eventually death did not just attend his passing.

I heard a child once bravely walked up to him and asked him why he came. He looked at her with his ageless eyes and simply said one in the town and called him here, and he would leave once his work was done.

He was true to his word. After a month, the Crow Man departed, and we could count the losses, which were considerable. As a survivor I became inquisitive to know who had summoned him, but I was also careful not to let anyone know of my curiosity. It seemed to me whatever wizard of witch had summoned him could call him back for me and for any others trying to sniff out their guilt in this manner.

I never knew for sure, but I suspected one or two of the village women, and possibly a man who lived on his own at the back of the village library. Perhaps they worked together, who can say?

All I know is we blessed the day the Crow Man left our town, and we pray, every day, that he never returns.

(c) Helen M Valentina 2017

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