Cheer Up, My Horror: Of Children and Monsters and Positive Outcomes

When I first read the open call for Dark Cheer: Cryptids Emerging, I was simultaneously inspired and utterly discouraged. Why? Because here was an anthology focused on cryptids, but with the unique caveat that the submitted tale be a “strange, spooky, alluring, sweet, and/or funny story of emerging…about rising, changing, growing.” Cue the total meltdown of my imagination. 

Cryptids? Yes, please. But how to go about writing a “generally-positive” story, when all of my experience as a horror author was urging me to select a terrifying cryptid, crank up the tension, and then chase my screaming characters through several pages before throwing a bucket of blood on the thing to call it done? It was a challenge, to say the least, one which required me to reconsider what kind of story I wanted to tell. Cryptids were the focus of my research, but I needed my story to have a human heart (preferably still beating inside the human by the story’s end), and so many of my initial ideas were rejected. What finally drew me to The Enfield Monster was reading through the documented sightings and wondering what it might have been like for those who were behind the scenes, outside the spotlight. There are those who step forward, eager to tell anyone and everyone about their experience. They want us to believe their stories, even if it means hunting down and shooting the unknown thing just to have something to show as proof. Evidence. 

But what about the others, the tight-lipped neighbors in the background? Are they averting their eyes because they’re embarrassed by the show-runner’s tabloidesque ravings? Are they shuffling their feet because they’re eager to move on, put this outlandish display behind them? Or are they hiding something? Perhaps the quiet ones are children, willing to swallow their fear to ask the important questions. Like what makes a monster terrifying? Is it the creature’s strange appearance that makes us fear it so? What might we learn if we offered it something besides bullets, if we gave that creature a taste of human kindness instead of hunting it down? How might we grow if we could put aside our prejudices to explore new relationships? Would we find strength within ourselves that we didn’t know existed? 

My story, “Skrunch,” is more than a tale about two siblings and a cryptid. For me, it’s proof that I was willing and able to open up to the frightening thing scratching at my door, to follow it into the trees, stepping outside of my comfort zone. And as it turns out, that scary positive story wasn’t the monster that I thought it was. 

You can find my human heart tucked away inside Volume Silver of Dark Cheer: Cryptids Emerging, to be released February 2022.  For more information and pre-orders, please visit ImprobablePress.com

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