Friday, June 7, 2019

Guest Post: The Intimacy of Monsters by Hailey Piper

The Intimacy of Monsters

By Hailey Piper

I adore cosmic horror, but it isn’t what Iusually write.  Don’t get me wrong, I’vepenned a couple, but I’m happier leaving that scale of world-ending dread toP.L. McMillan and Caitlin Kiernan.  Idon’t connect the entropic, inevitable death of all things in a fearfulway.  Cosmic horror delights me.

Personal horror gets under my skin.  The little, everyday injustices and horrorsthat are easy to miss.  They could behappening right next door.  And throughthose come the intimate monsters.

Personal ones.

When an intimate monster creeps into yourlife, sometimes you aren’t even aware of what you’ve met.  They might have been there all along.  And if they get you, the world keepsturning.  An intimate monster can shattera life and if you’re lucky, at best someone might stop and look for a momentbefore carrying on with theirs.

Those are the monsters I write, becausethey reflect my experiences. 

I remember reading an article, I don’tknow how long ago or where I found it, that talked about brainstorming monstersby mashing together human and animal parts, different aspects and sizes.  It reminded me of playing with the CreatureCreator in the 2007 PC game Spore.

Staring in confusion at my computerscreen, I said aloud, “What about the people who scare you?”

What about the boy at high school whotried to set my hair on fire?

What about the man who cornered me nearthe campus restrooms, his words praising me, his eyes and body language sayingother, scarier things?

What about my mother?  When she finished shouting at me and mysiblings once, she said that wasn’t her who’d been shouting, but another womanwho looked like her, a woman who would come into our house.  In the daylight, I rolled myeyes—excuses.  But at night, I worriedwhat would happen if that false mother came into our house while I slept.

The worst thing about intimate monsters iswhen no one takes them seriously.  Whenwe’re little, the monster under the bed is dismissed as imagination.  “You’re just tired.”  When we’re older, scary people are dismissedjust as easily.  The person you’re tryingto tell might smile, make a distracting joke, but press the point and they’llturn away.  They don’t want to know.  I think every horror fan identifies with theteenagers who try to warn parents or police about the Blob and Freddy Krueger,but if it goes beyond identifying, blossoms into outrage?  Then you’ve probably been there.

And if you insist, thencongratulations.  Now you’re theghost.  No one wants to see you if youonly want to tell them that polite, friendly person they know is actually amonster.  It reminds them that there ishorror happening everywhere.  Someone youlook to as background characters in your life could be the monster of someoneelse’s.

I don’t find the unstoppable force thatthreatens our species a touchable monster. Their carnage is too big.  I’veseen weak monsters with ugly hearts, the ones that find someone vulnerable andmake their life miserable.  Intimatemonsters; the ones I’ve met.

With Pride Month, I’m reminded howlistening and togetherness are the stakes and garlic and silver bullets againstintimate monsters.  They can do what theydo because they do it in secret and often to one isolated person.  When we’re open to each other, standtogether, intimate monsters have nothing.

For a while, I wasn’t sure anyone wantedto hear about my intimate monsters.  Ithought they would be seen as bothersome, the way bringing them up in real lifecan be seen.  I believed I was supposedto streamline what I wrote, and because I didn’t know how to do that, I spentyears not writing.

“Write what you know.”  I’ve seen this misconstrued as, “Only writeyour areas of expertise” when really it means, “Write who you are.”  There is no one else to tell thosestories.  I took a long time tounderstand that our every moment is a story, each memory a haunted house to beexplored.

It’s our personal horror that bringsauthenticity to the stories we tell.  Thebox must be opened.  I let out myintimate monsters, the ones who aren’t in my life anymore, the ones who changedinto better people, the ones who are fusions of various predators I’vemet.  There’s significance to baring yourheart on the page.  It’s been said thatno one else can write your weird; it’s all you.

I say the same of the intimate monsters.  If there is a monster who has only been a monster to one person, that is the person in the world who knows that story.  It’s one thing to face the dread that awaits us all, but it’s another to be personally haunted.  All the people in the world, but they spent their horror on you.  What could be more intimate than that?

About Hailey Piper

New York born and raised, now based in Maryland, Hailey Piper is a long-time writer and editor with a Bachelor’s in Literature and over a decade of experience as a professional proofreader and copy editor.  On this site, you can find information on Hailey’s latest projects as they become available.

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