Stephen Wack

My Love is a Worthwhile Horror

She wishes to introduce me to her son who might be vicious.

“Might be?” I say.

“Yes,” she says.

“Vicious,” I say.

“Yes,” she says.

“When?”

“When what?”

“Might he be vicious?”

The moon on fire outside her window. The two-headed creature beneath her bed.

“Oh,” she says. “At times.”

“At times?”

“At times.”

“Your son might be vicious?”

“Mmmmhm.”

“But not now?”

“Not yet.”

The padlocked door hangs in quiet suspension — a pudgy, metallic cloud seconds before it snags on the mountain, drowning the world.

Suffice it be said, I’m a little unnerved. Her son? Vicious?

I’ve thought twice about it, then again, a third time, and I just can’t get my head around the “might be” part. It’s the total uncertainty of it.

If her son was “undoubtedly vicious,” as was her mother, I’d been forewarned, I’d know just how to face him. I would face him clad in full-body armor, wielding a big, sharp, durable stick, just as I’d done at last Christmas dinner. Or upon disarming her ex-husband — jutting out from each wrist, a deadly suffocating python — before shoving him back down inside his hole.

Vicious? Her son?

She says it’s any opposition to who he is, to what he’s truly capable of, that provokes him. And thus, I stand a much better chance of survival if I just submit to likely being destroyed.

She has witnessed it before, in Bluebeardian fashion, the arrogance of other men who throw open that forbidden door and barge in headstrong, self-assured to fight dirty for love, only to have their asses whipped out like a sandy beach towel.

Meeting her son is merely one of many trials to acquiring her heart. So far, through these endless escalating hurdles, I have passed with flying colors. Trials which have driven weaker, less dedicated lovers to abandon their spines and make a run for it.

Tests of navigating darkly volatile landscapes, the revisitations to past traumas endured — her father’s tail between eight legs, in full retreat; her uncle, a sentient pair of creeping hands — the late-night standoffs against friends flaunting teeth like sharks, won over with tosses of a few choice-cut meats.

Because my love is modest, to a charming degree, she admits there is no worthy prize for all that she puts me through. She holds out her sticky brown heart in one hand, her brain in the other, the rest in a gym bag at her feet, and says, “You want this?” incredulous, as though giving me an illness rather than the world.

All she has to offer me, she says, are horrors. I look around us, and it is confirmed: Her bathroom is a snake pit. Her closet, a bottomless void. Which is to say nothing of her credit score.

But none of this scares me. Aware of my own brought monstrosities, and all that she must come to face in due time, the nightmares she brings are comforting.

And as for her son?

I unlock the door and invite him outside. Vicious or not, he is a part of her, which is worth being destroyed for. Surrounded on all sides, in quiet windless calm, together we stand at the eye of our storm. 

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Stephen Wack is an Atlanta-based writer. He earned an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience from the University of Georgia, where he briefly interned at the college’s literary magazine, The Georgia Review. His work has previously appeared in Five:2:One Magazine, After Happy Hour Review, and is forthcoming in Rougarou, The Hunger, and Cleaver Magazine.