For Horror Writers, Who Have Tried to Birth the Happy Things
By Exodus Brownlow
There are many of you in my purse, and many in my waste basket, and so many of you on my floor.
In bed, I sit up sometimes staring at your crumbled bodies, sometimes reaching for one of you because, I think, I want to see you from an un-crumbled place, my children. I want to see your talons, your blood, and your teeth. And maybe you are better now. Maybe, you are the right kind of beautiful.
I tell only to myself—Just let them breathe, girl. Just let them feed from your breast a little. You have two of them, and you have not let them even nestle at your nipple once, nor have you let them sleep in the crook of your neck. Let them almost-whisper their first words before you crumble their bodies back up, at least.
I think only to myself—But I’ve seen what you could be when you grow up, and you are only tiny-terrible now, and not so beastly-bad. People might say that you are cute when I point to you in the crowd, when I proudly claim that you are mine.
I know only to myself—But, oh, if I let you live, the terror you would bring! And what would the neighbors say? And my folks? To know that I can birth such things? To know that this is the kind of mother I have set out to be?
Where is your softness, they demand? Where are the delicate curls amongst your mangy mess? Where is the god in you? All that they can see is the devil in you, and they feel that there is enough of that in the world already. They complain—your children have such foul mouths when they speak! It makes our ears bleed. It makes our mouths so salty. They cry too much, and too often, for our liking so please numb their teething a little by rubbing rum on their gums, so that we can all sleep more soundly at night. Shape your babies’ heads while they’re still soft enough to be molded, and tape a quarter to their belly buttons. Shave them bald so that their hair may grow out right next time.
Why is it that my body can’t produce the princesses? Why is it that only trolls come from out of me? I have tried, but the princesses never come out right. They are all scaly, and misshapen, and sickly-looking. They crave poison under their pillows and not peas. It is better for you to be what you are, and ugly, than to be something that was meant to be pretty, and not so at all. There is nothing more terrible than to be something that is grotesque that was meant to, and expected to, be beautiful.
If I put you in the bathtub, would you swim, my darlings, or would you eat up all the soap and drown? Would you die, and come back as bad-er ghosts to torment the ones that I love, too? If I place a pillow over you, instead of under, would your wails echo loud enough to hoist it away?
I am asking you all the questions, as if you will have the answers, but aren’t I the older one here? And shouldn’t I already know? But I am hoping that since you have taken all of my innocence, and in being new, you can see in a new way, too. Some knowledge that is lost to me.
I have thought of all the ways to kill you, and each one only brings you back worse. I have thought of all the ways to live you, and...
For, I know how you began, and where you were meant to start, and wouldn’t they all be surprised to know that before you were the villain, you had been born good? Would they love you as much as I do, then? Would they understand that a little bit of tiny-terrible exists within us all? Would they see themselves inside of you, and in the same way that I do? Ice and fire all set against the brown in your eyes.
Oh, my monsters. Your tongues are as sharp as your teeth. I have set out to live with you, and only you, at night, in this room, and it is fine that it is only us, but could you please be a little gentler when I nurse you next time?
I want to kick your fathers in their teeth—Peele, Rice, Stevenson—for leaving me pregnant with the idea of you, to birth you on my own. My body is stretched out from the weight of carrying you, and my eyes have grown dark from the late nights of caring for you, but they say, they always say, that there will be moments that will make it all worth it, and really, you will miss them when you grow old, and forgetful, when they were this small, and precious.
When I was drunk, and overly-confident, and willing to take a risk, a few of you found your way out of the crumbled pile. Found your way into someone’s home who had mistaken you for sweet orphans for them to adopt. You had gone inside, all smiles and charm, and wiggled your way into their hearts, and wormed your way into their beds, and weaponized their love. You burned their houses down with them still inside, and they became your companions. Your forever ghost friends. It makes me happy, that you will have someone to take care of you when I cannot, who will remember what your favorite foods were, and feed them to you with their own hands.
In bed, when I am able to rest, when the lot of you have held your screams for me to tend to tomorrow, deep cuts rest on my fingers from where they have served as your pacifiers.