“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
Fiction. Based on a True Remembering.
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional
Once upon a time, in a far, far away kingdom a peasant girl grew up in two homes. One ruled by her mother, and the other by her father. This girl loved her father. She loved her father’s no rules, over-gifting, and the fact an old witch lived in the back of his house. She loved her mother, too, but not as much. Or maybe she loved her mother differently.
At her mother’s house she dealt with nothing but rules. She cleaned and cooked. Was only permitted to read religious text, so she would sneak fairy tales under the covers by candle light. Her mother was often sick. So the little girl would mortar and pestle medicine. She’d administer it when necessary. The tiny, young little girl would even clean her mother’s wounds. More often than not her mother was being tended to by some doctor. They cut her up and took parts out. The little girl has never known a complete version of her mother.
Her father was no spring chicken, either. He had a hole in his heart. From the day he was born the hole appeared and never closed up. It wouldn’t be until the little girl grew up that she would realize that literal hole was also a figurative one.
This little peasant girl grew up for a long time with a mother and a father in separate homes. Finally her father found her another family. She was excited to finally have siblings. Right up until the wedding ceremony the girl was so happy for her father. He sat her atop their carriage and told her no matter who he wed or what children he adopted she would always be his princess, and she believed him. After the days of celebration ended, the new mother showed her true self to the girl. She was The Wicked Stepmother. During the days the girl had to visit her father’s home she would be left alone with the Stepmother and her children. While her father was away on business the Stepmother would lock the girl outside.
A clanky chain locked around the girl’s ankle, stuck to a chain link leash. She would wait for hours until her father returned. The girl knew when he was returning because she could hear the horse hooves trollop on the path. When the hooves neared, Stepmother would run outside and release the girl, brush her hair and wipe off her face. For months, the girl’s father was none-the-wiser. When finally her father found out, the girl hid in the carriage because the sounds of Stepmother’s screams scared her so fiercely.
All the while, the girl’s mother never knew. She’d never find out until the girl’s father passed away years later. By then the girl was a woman recounting stories of a childhood her mother never saw. Her mother sobbed and sobbed and demanded the young woman explain why she’d never told. The young woman simply said she hadn’t wanted to lose her father yet. The mother continued to sob into her cloaks, years of unknowing weighing heavily on her shoulders. The young woman tried to console her, but nothing can absolve a mother’s guilt she didn’t know she needed to have.
Eventually the young woman became a mother herself. While pregnant she spent her days reading old volumes of family history. Leafed through her ancestories. When she found a portrait of her parents, together, during her own mother’s pregnancy, the young woman wept for that unborn child. She wept for her own unborn child. Tracing the bump on the portrait mother’s belly, that young woman said to her own belly bump,
“Will you, my child, be bestowed with my history as I am a vessel for my mother’s? She was so young and raised a daughter alone. Here I stand alone, about to raise you, my daughter, alone. Are we not repeating a history? A family tradition of sorts?”
The young woman held onto her belly and prayed to a God that maybe this child would choose not to come here after all. She prayed this baby would return to heaven instead of living on Earth where families pass down more than eye color. She looked at the portrait once more. This time focusing on the father’s eyes. Her eyes. Potentially her daughter’s eyes. Weeping she looked into those eyes and remembered the Stepmother. Remembered the Stepmother’s hatred towards her, and how it grew after her father found out. Hatred and violence beget more hatred and violence. It courses through the blood. She looked at those eyes and wondered if her daughter would have that tainted blood.
The young woman, with the portrait of her parents in tow, continued to remember. She forced herself to remember as far as possible. In that place, her mind brought back memories of a monster she’d known growing up.
This monster had fierce, long fangs. He had long, long sharp claws that he’d use to pin the girl down if and when he caught her. Upon remembering, the young woman lifted the hem of her gown and saw old scars lining her legs. Scars long faded, and even longer forgotten. She forced herself to remember more. The monster often tricked her into playing games with him. He’d lure her with gifts. The monster lived behind her father’s house. In the woods. When her father went away on business, before the Stepmother, he’d leave her home alone. Once alone, she’d play outside, near the boundary of home and forest. At the forest entrance, the monster would leave gifts. Enticing the girl to venture further and further. Once deep enough, the monster would come out of hiding and force the girl into the chase. Eventually catching her and ripping her up. The young woman opened her eyes to leave the remembering. When she did she saw her scars had a funny, faded, purple outline. The monsters claws and fangs were dipped in a poison to make her forget. To make her come back again and again with the promise of gifts.
Tears stung her eyes. The young woman wiped them away and held fast to her rounded belly. She vowed to protect her baby from the monsters. But more importantly, she vowed to see more widely than her own mother. Her young, naive and inexperienced mother never knew what signs to seek on her daughter’s body.
But this young woman knew. She bore the scars to help her see more clearly. The young woman placed the portrait back in its trunk. Before she locked it away for good, the young woman took a last look at her father’s eyes. What she saw there struck her.
Her father and that monster from so many decades prior, shared the same eyes. Her eyes. Their eyes.