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art by Tim Stewart

Waiting In The Corners

Brian Dolton lives in a house with many, many corners. So far, nothing has jumped out of them, except for the occasional cat.

There isn't room for us any more.

We used to be there all the time. In the background, but there, in the dark corners. We'd come out at night, or when you were alone. When there were strange sounds in the jungles of Cambodia, or on the wild Scottish cliffs. Then you'd remember us, and look around, and be afraid.
Because we were the monsters.
You made us what we were. You wanted to make us. You wanted something to be afraid of, something to whisper about, something you could use to thrill your children, or scare them into obedience.
But there are too many other things to be scared about, now. Too many other things to occupy you. You're clever, but even so, there's only so many things you can juggle at once. Only so many strands you can weave into your lives. You're scared of terrorists. You're scared of the economy. You're scared of the way the world changes so fast. It never used to change, not when we were your fears. We were the teeth in the darkness. We were temptation and terror. We were the rusalki and the loup-garou, the rakshasa and the ifrit.
There are some of us still around, of course. The yeti, the sasquatch. There are even new ones, like the chupacabra. Somehow, we cling on, nestling there alongside the grey, large-eyed aliens, or the men in dark suits, or the wild-eyed men with bombs wrapped around their bodies.
We didn't always make sense, perhaps, but there was a bond we all shared, once; a theme. It's gone, now; everything's fragmented and broken, nothing fits together. The world has grown too small to hold everything. There aren't enough dark corners left for us. Not even your children fear us the way they once did. Their terrors are the stranger waiting to abduct them, or the simple pressure of their peers, the need to conform.
We don't scare you. We don't scare them. And if we don't scare anyone, what are we for?
It's not as if we were ever real. Maybe we never wanted to be. Reality has too much weight for our simple, emblematic non-existence. If we were real, we would need to be studied, and analyzed, and catalogued, and filed. What are the metabolic pathways of a vampire? How do fossagrims breed? How is lycanthropy transmitted? What are the genetic markers of a selkie? These are the questions you would ask. It is as well, perhaps, that we aren't around any more. We stem from ignorance. We grow from the unknown; analysis is death to our kind, the sad, fading death of crushed belief.
Reflections of us hang on, here and there. But the reflections are distorted through years of reimagination. We are made fairytales, our darkness excised, our atavistic terrors bowdlerized. We do not terrify; we merely charm and amuse. We were not supposed to amuse. We were never meant to be toys.
But what little is left of us? It waits, and it watches. The world changes, and the changes are beyond anyone's control, now. We cling where we might, and wait, weary, for a time when fears once more grow simple, where sophistication and cynicism are torn away, where civilization crumbles to dust in the wind, where the primitive that still lives in every human soul can once more emerge into a world they do not understand.
And then?
Then we'll be back, and we'll play. And the terror we make will be joy in our imaginary hearts.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, February 28th, 2011

Author Comments

I don't write stories about vampires or werewolves. They have become so over-familiar that they don't scare anyone anymore--indeed, vampires are now SPARKLY, which is just so very very wrong. Perhaps one day they'll be terrifying again. We can but hope.

- Brian Dolton
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