April 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM

I’ve always been a night person.

Even as a small child, I can still remember my stepmother affectionately referring to me as ‘her little night owl’ when she’d wake up to use the bathroom and find light pouring out from beneath my doorframe. This natural tendency towards the nocturnal wasn’t particularly enjoyable during the school year, especially as I entered high school and was expected to reach my bus stop by 6AM sharp. For somebody who got their second wind at around 11PM, it was incredibly hard to convince my brain to wind down and go to sleep rather than stay up all night going on my favorite internet forums, working on my old-school Geocities-hosted blog, or chatting the night away with internet friends I’d made on the other side of the globe. Many nights, I’d end up netting only one or two hours of sleep – if at all. High school was little more than a blur of drowsy days and nerdy nights, yet somehow I still managed to successfully graduate on time.

After I moved on to college, my devotion to the night became easier. Online courses had just become commonplace, so I managed to take almost my entire courseload via the web. I got a job stocking a nearby grocery store overnight, and daylight became less and less of a familiar sight for me.

When you live your entire life in the dark, it ceases to frighten you. My friends would ask me how I could manage to walk my dog at 4am without any fear, or if I didn’t get a little spooked by how quiet my dorms and apartment buildings always were as I went about my daily business. For me, the answer was always the same: I wasn’t scared at all. This might sound odd, but the best allegory that I can think of is that warm, cozy, yet closed off feeling one gets during a snowstorm. You’re inside, safe and warm, though admittedly cut off from the world. Living almost entirely at night is similar; I find it so familiar and easy, but I’m still aware that my city is almost entirely asleep when I’m awake. I’m somewhat isolated, yes, but it’s a comfortable solitude, not a painful loneliness.

I’m explaining this to you so that you understand just how serious what I’m about to tell you is. I’m not the kind of person who hears bumps in the night or sees monsters in shadows. The nighttime is my natural habitat, and I have always felt secure. So when I tell you that tonight, the darkness has managed to make me experience fear like no other, you should realize how unnatural that is.


It started like any normal day – er, night – for me. I woke up around 10PM and got my coffee perking. Seemingly fitting with my preference for night over day, I also favor incredibly dark coffee. The blend I made today was called Eclipse; both appropriate for its color as well as seeming like a strange portent to what would come later.

As I was frying up some bacon and eggs to go with my coffee, a loud crash from my living room rang through my apartment. It was followed by a strange crunching sound, and then a long, drawn-out creak. I almost dropped the pepper mill that I’d been holding, before coming to my senses and peeking around the corner into the living room.

It was, of course, completely empty. I live alone (well, except for my dog, who was currently perched on his dog bed in the kitchen and cocking his head back and forth at the noise) and keep my doors and windows locked at all times, and furthermore my apartment is what is called “shotgun” style – the front door and back door directly face each other, with the kitchen as the link between them. If anyone had come inside, they would have had to march right past my breakfast preparations. I can be spacey sometimes, sure, but even I would have noticed that!

As I peered around the room, attempting to figure out what could have fallen and broken and caused the mysterious noise, I felt the strangest sensation. It was as if someone had just brushed past me. I’m sure that sounds incredibly by-rote ghost story league, but it wasn’t the cold and clammy touch that most people claim to feel. This was… pleasantly warm, and the touch felt as if someone was gently rubbing the most luxurious, plush velvet across my cheek. It was a strange conflict in emotions; the logical side of my brain was terrified by the combination of inexplicable noises and now a seemingly ghostly presence, yet something about the touch felt so wonderful and safe – it was somehow nostalgic, actually. Like all the good times I’d had staying up way too late and having fun during high school, the pleasure of a nighttime stroll with only my dog and my thoughts as company, the perversely satisfied feeling of seeing my neighbors having to scrape nighttime frost off their cars in the morning while I was winding down my day and only had to worry about which book to curl up with in bed – somehow, this one touch embodied all those emotions at once. I was struck momentarily dumb as my brain tried to work out exactly how to feel, but before I’d fully decided one way or the other, I found myself turning around.

The room behind me – where the presence had seemingly been heading – seemed empty upon first glance, but something was definitely off. It took me a moment of staring to realize it, but when I did, a sharp spike of terror pierced all my previously confused feelings.

My window was open, and the curtains were fluttering gently in the night breeze. This would be unusual in and of itself, but that wasn’t the part that had shocked me.

Not only were my normally robin’s egg blue curtains suddenly some new shade that seemed somehow darker than black, but when I looked past them out the window – the moon was gone.

The sky was a complete and impenetrable inky black. No moonlight, streetlights, or even the light from within my apartment seemed to be reaching the world outside. The hazy moon that had been present when I’d awoken had either somehow disappeared or been completely eclipsed; the security light that tends to go off if you even so much as look in the direction of the apartment building opposite mine wasn’t activating even when I rushed to the window and tried to squint through the darkness. It was so completely black that I couldn’t even make out anything beyond my window.

For the first time in my life, I experienced true terror. What was going on? How could this possibly be explained? Was the world ending? Was this some strange new war weapon, a black fog of chemicals that dulled the senses? I was coming up with mountains of strange scenarios, each just as improbable as the next, yet none managed to be stranger than what I was actually seeing.

That’s when I saw it. The slightest flutter of movement – a ripple in the obsidian blackness outside. If I could see, it would have been right next to the gardens that surround the mailboxes. Those gardens are a bit of a labor of love for the apartment complex’s groundskeeper; not a day goes by that he isn’t out there doing some mulching, pruning, or planting. When he met me and learned about my nocturnal lifestyle, he took it upon himself to add some night-blooming jasmine to the gardens so that I would have something lovely to see when checking my mail in the middle of the night. Actually, now that I was thinking about it, the shimmer of movement was right around the jasmine!

Before I could even understand why, I was out my front door and gliding down the stairs to the ground floor. I felt consumed by a desire – no, a need – to understand what was going on, and I suspected that the disturbance in the force – so to speak – was my quickest avenue to getting answers.

Just as I approached the area where the jasmine should be, I suddenly realized just how foolhardy I’d been, rushing out into the black. I considered turning back, but then decided that as the entity had been in my apartment already, I probably was just as safe out here as I was inside. I heard a faint woof, and looked back to see my dog trotting up to me, tail wagging. That was a comfort, I decided. He was usually quite vigilant; if he was acting normal and unfazed, perhaps there truly wasn’t any danger.

I crouched down, feeling around, trying to find the jasmine. I can’t explain why, but for some reason I just knew that I needed one of the blossoms. After a few failed attempts (and some thorn pricks from a nearby rose bush), my hand came upon one of the in-bloom flowers. I snapped it off its stem and held it up to my face, inhaling the scent.

That’s when it happened.

Starting from the bloom that I was holding in my hand, what I can only describe as a dark light began to glow. Imagine a paper lantern, but with all the paper completely black; or perhaps a black light in an already pitch dark room. The light – for lack of a better term, I’ll just call it a light – engulfed the area, and I could faintly see the outlines and shapes of my surroundings. Gardens, mailboxes, unlit streetlamps –

– and the form of a woman, only a few feet in front of me.

I’d love to be able to describe her in detail to you, you know, “she was incredibly beautiful and had lips like luscious fruit and eyes that glowed like precious gems” or whatever, but… I couldn’t see any features. It was more as if she was simply darkness taking the form of a woman; I could see the faint outline of an evening gown, heels, and long hair in some sort of updo, but that was was it. There seemed to be a slight, hazy, purple-black mist radiating off of her as well – leaving absolutely no question that whatever this woman was, she could not possibly be human.

I didn’t know what to do. I stood, frozen, gaping at this mysterious entity, desperately trying to think of how to react. My stupor came to a quick end as my dog decided to take action before I did – he moved in an instant and bounded over to the smokey shape before I could hold him back. All the horror movies and stories that I’d absorbed over my lifetime flashed through my mind, and I reached out to try and protect my faithful companion from the doom that he had almost certainly earned. While the woman-thing wasn’t displaying any open aggression at the moment, this couldn’t end well.

Then the unthinkable – or rather, the completely unpredictable – happened. The darkness reached out an elegant hand and simply placed it on my dog’s head, just as I would to acknowledge him when he was sitting quietly by as we watched television or something. The form and canine both stayed still for a moment, as if somehow communing, and then my dog gave a happy yip and took off into the darkness. I was stunned but relieved, and this strange event managed to break me out of my shock enough to speak – even if it was nothing more than a strangled “eh?” sound.

The shadow laughed, a deep, throaty chuckle that gave me the same odd feeling of being caressed by velvet as the presence in my apartment. It dawned on me that this woman-shade, then, must have been the one who had passed by me earlier. Was this all just a ruse to get me out here? The noises in my empty apartment, the brief touch, the sheer strangeness outside – it suddenly all seemed very calculated. Rather than being put at ease by the laugh and the seemingly friendly treatment of my dog, I felt myself become even more anxious. What was going on? What was this thing, and what did she – it? – want from me?

I gathered up all my courage and decided to ask, as I was getting the distinct impression that this entity was waiting on me for some reason. If I didn’t say something soon, my heart might give out before we stopped staring at each other. But for all my resolve, I could only manage to stutter out one single word:


The darkness moved like liquid mercury, slipping immediately to my side. Those elegant shadow-hands once again reached out, this time to gently cup my face. When the answer came, I heard it both out loud and deep within my brain, as if the shade was speaking to all of my senses at once. It was an incredibly unsettling feeling, but not more so than the answer I received.

“You don’t understand yet? Small one, we have lived as close as lovers for your entire life. Your companion knew me from the moment I arrived, and greeted me as such. Do you truly not recognize me?”

At that moment, I once again felt that rush of nighttime nostalgia – the constant awareness and acceptance of my solitude, the joy of utter freedom borne of having the night to myself, the warmth and comfort of normal nightly habits, the rush of fondness I felt as I talked to far-flung friends by the glow of a monitor, the quiet companionship as I walked under the stars with my dog… it was just like before. This time, I understood what the velvety touch was trying to convey. I looked at the mist-woman and saw the relationship that I’d been cultivating my entire life; because what did I love more than the night itself?

“Ah. You see now,” the voice echoed. “You are correct. I am night itself; I am the one who you have dedicated your entire life to serving. I have come, dear one, to collect what is mine by right.”

Wait a minute, I found myself thinking at the voice. I don’t understand what you mean by that. Collect what is yours? Serve you? You’re making it sound like I’m some sort of sacrifice in an ancient cult to Nyx or something – I cut myself off and tried to think through the increasingly foggy, sleepy feeling that was encroaching upon my brain. Whether it was from her touch or from that increasingly heavy, sweet smell in the air, I was starting to feel a bit drugged. Everything’s trying to make me feel at ease and safe, but I can’t shake this deep, cold fear at the bottom of my stomach. Something isn’t right, but all I can sense is the thick floral scent and I’m starting to feel that pleasantly drowsy sensation you get from too many antihistamines and when did I get on my bed? But I’m in my pajamas and my dog is curled up next to me and the heater is on and it’s so warm and cozy and I’m just so sleepy and maybe just a nice nap in these dark velvet blankets will help me remember… because I’m trying to remember something… and that jasmine incense sure is nice and everything is so




as I snuggled into the covers, I felt something fall from my outstretched hand.


And suddenly, here I am. I’m wide awake and aware that I’m outside, almost completely enveloped in shadow. The jasmine-lantern is on the ground at my feet, and it seems that dropping it has broken the spell. I scramble backwards, kicking pointlessly at the wisps of black smoke that are still curling around my legs.

“Tch, such a rebellious child,” I hear Nyx’s voice, but this time it’s not in my head, she’s speaking out loud. “I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting you to resist; after all, you worship me with every facet of your life. It’s only natural that you return to me. Why do you fight?”

I sense true puzzlement in her question, not malice.I shake my head.

“I… it’s true that I’ve enjoyed living with you, but that’s just it: I’ve enjoyed living. I don’t understand, why are you trying to take me? What prompted this? I… I don’t want to die!” I shout the last part, trembling as I realize just how truthful my plea just now was. Oh, God, please let me survive this.

Nyx examines my face and, somehow, I get the feeling that she is frowning at me.

“But it’s impossible, dear one. You belong to me. I’ve left too much of a mark on you; can you even remember the last time that you saw daylight?”

I shake my head. It’s true; it’s probably been years since I’ve seen the sunshine and I never found it particularly troubling. That’s what Vitamin D supplements are for, right?

“It has been precisely three years that you’ve lived in complete darkness. Three years that you’ve dedicated yourself completely to me, forsaking Hemera in every way. You’ve reveled in my presence these past three years; I have felt your adoration calling to me. You’ve even presented me with flowers from my own domain as an offering,” she stated as she paused to pluck one of the jasmine blossoms.  I watched her raise the flower up to her face and smiled as she inhaled its heady, thick floral scent. After a moment, she lowered the petals and continued:

“Tonight is the night that I am allowed to officially claim you as my child and take you home. You’re saying that you did not intentionally follow this rite? I’m sorry to say, but it cannot be reversed now. As I’ve said, you are mine, and I have come to collect what belongs to me.”

I’m so focused on her words, that I don’t even realize at first that Nyx has, once again, begun to envelop me in her shadows. I let out a small gasp and turn to run, only to have my arm gripped by a wreath of black mist.

“You still do not understand, child. It’s not a matter of some malevolent desire on my part; I simply cannot allow you to remain on this plane for fear of what will become of you. You are mine, and this means that you will cease to exist if you allow Hemera’s Day to catch you. If you want to be saved, you must allow me to take you. There is no alternative.”

I am chilled to the bone by her words. If she’s saying what I think she’s saying… I am in an impossible situation. It’s either allow her to “collect” me – and seemingly let my individual consciousness slip away, if what happened before was any indication – or cease to exist entirely once dawn’s light hits.

“In my embrace, it’s true that you will cease to be an individual entity. You will become the night itself. Is this truly so bad? Is it really worse than the decay that will meet you when Hemera awakens?”

It’s hard to accept. Part of what I loved about being alone at night was the sheer freedom I often felt; total self-reliance and the lack of normal societal demands left me feeling more alive than I can properly explain. And now my choices are to either completely lose my self and become… well, part of Nyx’s shadows, I assume… or to cease existing entirely. Is there even any difference between the two? At least if I die by day, I’ll still be myself at the end… if I let Nyx take me, will I even know if I die? It’s just so unknown, and that scares me.

Nyx speaks her next words softly. “Small one, as a boon for your years of love, I will offer you the choice. Come to me of your own free will, or allow the day to be your end. This is my mercy to you. I warn you, though: Hemera approaches. You have but a few minutes to decide.”

As she says this, I see the faintest glimmer of light on the horizon. Nyx speaks the truth. Dawn is coming, and I have only a few moments left.

I feel the tears begin to fall, and a wisp of satiny smoke whisks them away, then quickly recedes, as if Nyx is a mother trying to decide between consoling her weeping child or letting them handle their sorrow as an adult.

In some form or another, I am about to die.

I raise my eyes and attempt a determined nod. I will face this with all the strength that a human can muster.

My decision has been made. I know that I don’t have to bother vocalizing it. I’m dealing with goddesses, after all. I’m sure they can sense the resolve in my heart.

Nyx smiles, and I reach my end.

Credit To: Emilie Magnus

Queen Mab

September 27, 2012 at 4:00 PM

I’m sure that it must happen to everybody.

If you’re lucky, it only occurs in dreams; that moment where some part of your brain decides that whatever horrible thing that’s currently happening is just too awful, that things will never be the same and that this cannot actually be real – and of course, it isn’t, so you wake up with a rush of relief.

That overwhelming feeling of – would you call it dissonance? I’m not sure if I actually know the word, if there is one, to convey a feeling that combines a sort of incredulous and removed sudden acknowledgement that whatever you’re experiencing is terrible and life-changing as well as an utter disbelief that it’s actually real simply because it is so horrible and shocking.

I’m still feeling like I’m totally sucking at explaining this, so here’s an example. A few months ago, I was woken from a dead, deep sleep by some seriously booming and cracking chain lightning – I had the window open, to air out some of the cigarette smoke that constantly seeped through the walls from our upstairs neighbor, and that made the noise even more intense, of course. The sound was so unlike any other lightning storm that I’d ever heard that, when combined with my sleep-addled state, my brain somehow parsed it as “holy shit we are being bombed” – even if it’s not exactly likely that our mysterious enemy would start their offensive against the USA in central Ohio, of all places. But in that moment, I felt sheer, absolute terror – then a feeling of complete helplessness (because really, if we were being bombed, what exactly could I do?) and an absolute sense of total surrealism and denial. The fact that, of course, it was actually not happening is irrelevant – that particular chain of emotions was so intense, so severe, that it branded itself into my brain to the point that I can still recall the feeling as vividly as if it had been last night, not upwards of three months ago!

Yet, if I’m being completely honest with myself, there’s something almost pleasurable about such experiences. The moment after you realize that you were just dreaming, or that the bombs were just lightning – there’s almost a bit of disappointment and yearning wrapped up along with the more sensible feeling of relief. Now why on earth would that be?

My theory is that it’s because most of us live incredibly mundane lives, and those few minutes of sheer uncertainty are the most thrilling moments we’ve ever experienced. I mentioned before that feeling of “things will never be the same” – and deep down, that is secretly appealing. Those moments of emotional freefall give us both the terror of losing everything we know as well as the hope that our future will finally be as interesting as our dreams. If I had to choose one word to describe it, it’d be “potential”. We experience in those times a vision of our life’s potential, both good and bad, and for a generation as used to living in comfort and ease as mine, that is deeply exciting. Why else would so many people yearn so desperately for something as terrible as a Zombie Apocalypse or The Robot Uprising and countless other terrible-yet-interesting scenarios?

It’s because we, as a generation, are all so mind-numbingly bored. Even if we’d all most likely die if the dead actually started to walk – knockoff anime swords and internet trolling techniques aren’t quite as effective on zombies as one might think, surprise! – there’s still that portion of our brains that still wants it to happen, just to break up the monotony.

Now, moving on. Have you ever heard of Queen Mab?

If you paid attention in English classes, you may be aware that she’s somehow related to Shakespeare and fairies. Mercutio makes a speech about her in Romeo and Juliet, and since then she’s become a figure that most people have heard of only in passing and vaguely associate with dreams.

Putting aside the part of her mythology that says she climbs into your brain through your nose (what) on a tiny carriage (no really, what), what’s most interesting is this: she apparently takes her nightly nasal voyages in order to give you dreams of your deepest, most secret desires – and then help the dreamer to ‘birth their dreams into reality’. The midwife of wish-fulfillment, basically. Doesn’t she sound lovely?

Now here’s the part where my ramblings will start to come together. If you’re at all familiar with the Fae, you should know that they tend to be more than a little mischievous. Things are not always what they seem when you’re dealing with fairies, and one of the most-repeated and probably cardinal rules of dealing with the Fae is this:

Do not accept their gifts, because there are always strings attached. Even the sweetest fairy present will have a bitter aftertaste.

So what happens when we combine a generation who secretly dreams of tragedy to free them from their boredom with a being who makes it her business to turn dreams into reality?

I think that the perverse, trickster side of our little fairy queen would be quite tickled by the idea of passing over such simple wishes like true love or superpowers or a money tree in favor of the more complicated, darker desires that we all possess. Fairies love their double-edged deals; delivering us to our collective dooms while still being able to honestly say they were just granting our deepest wishes is just so perfectly Fae it almost hurts.

It’s funny, isn’t it? Growing up, so many of us have been told to follow our dreams.

With Queen Mab’s help, we may end up following them right to humanity’s end.

Credit: Emilie Magnus


August 16, 2012 at 12:00 AM

Some time ago, I lost somebody that I loved deeply. We don’t need to go into the specifics, since it’s not ultimately relevant to what I have to tell you. But there was a loss, and I felt it down to the bone.

After a few days of crying in bed and self-pity, I decided that I wanted to read other people’s stories of grief. I would find strength, I thought, in the fact that these strangers had felt just as low as I did and had managed to get through it.

It was very simple: all I had to do was fire up Tumblr and type in “grief” as my search tag. My dashboard was immediately full of people with broken hearts, dreams, lives – all wondering how they’d gotten there and if it would ever get better.

Happily, if you read a particularly moving entry and clicked over to the rest of their journal, the people always eventually overcame their sadness. It seemed that it was always quite sudden, too – they just woke up one day, free of the monster on their backs that had been plaguing them. I began to expect and look forward to the day that I would experience my surprising relief, as well.

Except… it never happened. Each day that I woke up, I seemed to feel her absence even more. Everything reminded me of our lives that had been so thoroughly entwined: grabbing my favorite latte from Starbucks reminded me of the little cafe that we went to after school to do our homework and giggle at our fellow students, terrible pop-rap songs transported me to our silly fake-name dedications to each other on the local radio station, hearing about politics on the daily news reminded me of the summer we spent canvassing door-to-door for her favorite politician – she was everywhere. Even new things started to bear her face when a popular animation company released a trailer for their next animated film – and the heroine, with her unique looks, was a dead ringer for the girl that I’d lost.

I couldn’t escape my grief anywhere except for when I was submerging myself in the sorrows of these others – the faceless Tumblr people became my salvation. I stopped going out for coffee with friends, I stopped watching the news, I stopped listening to music – I hoped that by completely excluding myself from everything with her fingerprints on it in the real world, that I would give myself time to heal. I began to exist solely in my perfect bubble of absorbing and finding hope in the end of other people’s grief.

“I just woke up one day, and it was gone” – that’s the sentiment that I kept reading. I started to wonder why my day refused to come, why each day I woke up feeling like my burdens had multiplied rather than unloaded. I would sit in bed, motionless, lightless beyond the laptop screen’s glare as I found more and more people who were experiencing pain. Eventually, I’d fall asleep – never having left the bed, except perhaps to use the restroom or eat some stale cereal – and the cycle would repeat when I awoke.

One night, something interrupted my pattern. I woke up around 1 AM with such a vivid, visceral cocktail of anger, fright, and loss that for a moment I couldn’t even breathe, and then I remembered my dream: I had been a little boy who, upon seeing his elderly grandmother being mauled by his beloved dog, had taken up a brick and smashed the puppy’s head in. It was so real… I could still hear my mournful wails as I realized that I’d been too late, and had lost both my grandmother and my faithful collie and was now alone with all that blood.

I flipped open my laptop like a maniac, desparate to read about someone’s cheating boyfriend or lost job to distract me from my dream. It worked, for a time, until I stumbled onto a post from a few hours earlier – a post from a young mother, saying that she’d come home from work to find her 11-year-old son, brick in hand, crying over the bodies of his grandma and pet dog. She went on to detail my dream, exactly. I felt a chill to my very core, but no matter how many times I refreshed the dashboard, the post remained. How was this possibly reality?

I must have sat there in shock for an hour, at least. I finally worked up the nerve to click on the young mother’s main page, and found that she’d created a response post to all of her son’s sympathizers. Her son, she said, was having the strangest reaction. He’d been bawling uncontrollably, as one would expect, until he suddenly… stopped. She said that near 1AM, he had gone quiet, then looked up at her and said quite clearly, “Mama, it’s gone. I don’t feel bad anymore. I know that both Mawmaw and Porky are in heaven with Pawpaw now, and I’m not going to cry about this again.”

The mother, of course, was torn between admiration for her son’s resolve and ability to cope with the loss, and concern that this was not a normal reaction to what had just happened. I couldn’t read anymore, because I was too fixated on the weird feeling creeping up my neck – had she just said 1AM? That he’d suddenly felt better at the same time that I was having my terrible dream about his tragedy was unbelievably creepy – yet also nothing more than a coincidence, I told myself. Because there’s nothing else that it could be, I reassured myself as I grabbed some Benadryl pills. You’re still just so spooked that you’re misremembering the dream, filling in what you’ve forgotten with what happened to the boy, I said to myself as I drifted off into my drug-induced sleep haze.

Things went back to normal – and by normal, I mean the vicious circle of wake up, read, sleep that I’ve already described – and I eventually managed to push the weird dream about the boy out of my head.

The next time it happened, I was in the kitchen, realizing that I’d probably have to venture outside and go to the grocery soon if I wanted to keep living. And since for some reason, even with my sadness, I did, I was making a shopping list. I was thinking to myself how nice and normal this development was, that maybe it was a sign that I was getting better and moving on from my constant state of missing her, when I was smacked upside the head with a baseball bat.

Well, not me, exactly… I wasn’t even in my kitchen. I was in a high school locker room, faced with a very angry teenage girl. It was hard to understand what she was saying – something about knowing that I was the slut who’d been messing around with her boyfriend, that he had tried to leave her and she’d “taken care of him” the same way she was now going to “take care of” me. I saw the bloody bat, and suddenly was seized with the certainty that she meant to kill me, just as she had killed her boyfriend – and I saw his face, and felt the deep feeling of loss. I had indeed been “messing around” with him; I thought that I had loved him, and I knew that he was dead. Just as I started sobbing at the realization, an adult – some coach or teacher, I assume – burst into the room and grabbed my assailant, and I was suddenly right back in my kitchen, with my shopping list, no longer feeling particularly secure in my “progress” of moving on.

I couldn’t ignore the suspicion eating at me, and switched on the television for the first time in weeks. On the news, I saw exactly what I had feared, but also expected – the scene that I’d just experienced had happened yesterday in a rural Oklahoma town. The female victim, saved by that timely teacher, had survived, but my – her – fears had been proven true; the boyfriend had been killed, his head bashed in with that bloody baseball bat I’d seen in my vision.

The reporter was interviewing the victim live, and as I got over my shock and started to actually process what I was hearing, I realized that they were discussing the victim’s sudden change in demeanor over the last ten minutes.

“I just… feel so much better,” she was saying to the reporter, as the news team clearly scrambled to try and figure out what new piece of information they’d missed that was causing this sharp turn in mood in their interviewee. The girl continued, “It’s like God sent his angel to protect me in the form of that teacher, and now he’s taken away my sadness and grief – I feel like a weight was lifted off my shoulders!” I noticed then that she was rubbing the cross around her neck. “This is just more evidence of God’s goodness to those who believe!”

I hit the OFF button on my TV remote, and slid down onto the couch. This was… weird. I was starting to feel distinctly creepy, like I was on the verge of realizing something very odd, but doing so would be a point of no return. I clearly wasn’t prophetic; both of these visions had been seen by me well after the actual event I was seeing had taken place. No, what interested me more was the clear correspondance between the timing of my experiencing the person’s pain and their sudden absence of grief. Was I… somehow taking it away from them?

I shook myself out of my misguided reverie. I was not the angel the high school girl had been describing; I was just a sad, increasingly agoraphobic twentysomething girl who was having a delusional episode as a response to missing someone very dear to her. I was trying to replace my depression with super powers, and that was just ridiculous. I snapped to my feet, and grabbed my shopping list. I would do my errands and forget about this nonsense. That’s what a sane person would do, and I was on my way to being healthy again, I just had to focus!

And you know what? For a few days, my stern talking to myself seemed to pay off. I even went and got a Cinnamon Dolce Latte without breaking down in front of the barista!

It had been silly of me to expect this imaginary sudden release of all my grief, I told myself. This was how it happened: a gradual build back up to normalcy, and I was on my way! That thought kept me going for the rest of the day, and I even felt good enough to flip on my TV and watch some mindless entertainment tonight type of program.

That… turned out to be a mistake. Remember that animated movie I mentioned before? The one with the protagonist who looked so creepily identical to the very source of all my awful feelings? It turns out they were doing an entire feature on the film. I tried to soldier through it, convince myself that watching it was “tough love” and would help me get over everything sooner – but within 5 minutes, those terrible emotions of loss and sadness overcame me like an avalanche. I grabbed my laptop and, with the speed of an alcoholic gulping down a glass of gin, I was back on Tumblr, immersing myself in the grief of others. My own strange medication; morbid but effective.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear what happened next: I had another of my strange… well, would you call them visions, or flashbacks? This time it was a young girl being dropped off to visit her older sister, only to find that she’d been dead in her home, rotting alone for who knows how long. The same pattern followed: I stumbled onto the story due to sympathy reblogs on Tumblr, and some digging revealed that the little girl had a marked change in her mood at almost exactly the same time of my “dream” of her discovery.

They say that the third time’s the charm, but in my case, all that I wanted to do was to close my eyes to what was becoming an increasingly clear, if insane and weird, correlation and cling to the idea that a rational person would brush all this off as coincidence… because it simply could not be anything more, right? Also, a rational person would go clean out the refrigerator, and maybe walk the dog, all the while very pointedly NOT thinking about my possible status as a real-life Grief Seed.

I mean, so let’s say for a minute that what I’m imagining is real – that I truly am somehow siphoning off other people’s despair by living their memories of their traumatic event. What exactly does one do with that sort of ability? It’s a pretty depressing superpower. Sookie Stackhouse can read minds and hangs out with vampires, the Invisible Woman can create forcefields and go into stealth mode – and all I can do is drain sadness. If I’m going to develop some weird ability, why can’t it be supersonic flight or something?

Really… what should I do?

Curled up in my computer chair, I compulsively clicked around on Tumblr all night, trying to answer that exact question. Though I suppose, looking back, it was obvious that I’d already made my decision. Otherwise, why else would I have been going straight back to the website where it all began? I think now that it was a subconscious desire to find someone else to… I guess the right word would be help, wouldn’t it? Anyhow, I spent hours indulging in what was by now my familiar habit – chasing down other people’s grief. After close to sixteen hours of reading – only interrupted for a few gulps of tea and a quick meal of microwaved ravioli – I had a thought.

I wondered… could I train myself to take somebody’s grief on command?

And even if I could – would I do it? It’d be the selfless thing to do, to live just to relieve others of their pain. My life would be a perpetual nightmare of all of the worst things the world had to offer. I’d see things so awful that I’d never have even been able to imagine them… things that most people would give almost anything to avoid ever experiencing.

And yet… it somehow sounded so right. I pretended to think about it, though I’m not sure why I was even trying – we can’t really fool ourselves, in the end. From the moment it had occured to me, I knew that I was going to… change.

It’s been quite some time since I chose this path, and I’m getting quite good at absorbing your pain. I don’t even have to eat or drink anymore – it’s as if I’m literally feeding on the world’s waking nightmares. The atrocities that humans inflict upon each other no longer bother me… in fact, the more I hear about all the terrible things that happen in this universe, the more satiated and stronger I become. I almost feel as if I’m ascending into some higher form of being, fueled by the pain and suffering of the masses.

I think of that young girl from Oklahoma, and her belief that I was an angel, come to deliver her from darkness, and it makes me smile.

I am no angel. I’ve become far more than that, as I think you’ve realized by now. You’ve probably remembered the moment that I came to you, haven’t you? The instant when suddenly you felt relief from your woes – that was my sacrifice for you, and now I ask merely that you repay me in kind.

Reader, will you take your rightful place as my supplicant? Will you go out and create more sadness, more evil, more for me to feed on?

I am your Goddess of Grief, and I require more offerings.


Credit: Emilie Magnus


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Submissions closed on February 21st, 2017. Please allow me time to work through the queue before I reopen submissions. PLEASE READ THE FAQ AND ANY RECENT ANNOUNCEMENTS BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO SUBMIT YOUR PASTA OR SENDING CONTACT REQUESTS.

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