— Nenia Campbell, Fearscape.
I’ve written about evil before. Maybe I’ve always been writing about it, thinking about it, reflecting about it, obsessing over it. Maybe that’s what the horror thing is, I don’t know. Psychiatrists can probably explain it better than me. Then again, I’ve long suspected that many of them are full of shit. Most people sure as hell are. Are they exempt?
I recently completed a story called The Fifth Event. It’s about a small town that is ultimately destroyed by an evil force. It’s a metaphor. It’s really about the drug problem that has effectively crippled and nearly destroyed my hometown. Horror is good for metaphor. Say what you want to say with a monster. You can hide a lot behind a loud BOO!
Ah, but real life evil — no monster can substitute.
In the service you are taught the old cowboy movie view of evil — there are good guys and bad guys. If you manage to trudge through a war zone without this viewpoint being challenged then you will probably emerge on the other side relatively emotionally healthy and unscathed. It’s denial, of course, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If it gets the ditch dug, so be it. When you’re a cop you learn a more complex definition of evil. You either accept it and get on with the day, or it drags you down. You can also ignore it, or excuse it by simply stating over and over again that people are just idiots. That gets the ditch dug too, I suppose.
Actually facing evil down, calling a spade a spade to the spade, is a trickier thing. It’s the confrontation with evil, as old as humanity itself. Sooner or later, we all have one. I have had several. Some of these I will say that I handled rather well, as well as the circumstances would allow. Other times I haven’t done so good. On a couple of times I realized that I had actually gotten in bed with it.
I’d met her before, yet our first real conversation took place on a sidewalk. It was a throwaway sort of deal, talking about nothing, flirting mostly. She was a beautiful woman and it had been a while since I had gotten that sort of attention. Things escalated, one thing led to another. Birds do it, bees do it, we all do it. Everybody needs somebody. Apply your favorite cliché. Rinse, repeat.
It can’t be said enough that love can turn you into a complete idiot. It can make you stupid in a variety of ways. For myself, stupidity came from blindness. There was something, hell, plenty not right with this girl. I’d known her before the sidewalk, before the blindness, before everything else and I knew there were things not right with this girl. It’s one thing when someone fools you, it’s another thing when you allow somebody to do it.
Later on, when I was in this person’s grip, and gripped I most certainly was, I came to understand a horrible truth — that maybe I was attracted to her because she was a human train wreck. That maybe some perverse part of me enjoyed the fact that she was what she was. What does that say about me? It’s that attraction to darkness, maybe. Or maybe I felt like I deserved to be punished for some of that guilty baggage I’d been carrying. I don’t know. Ask the shrinks. Flip a coin and maybe you’ll get one not full of shit.
Yet that might be the essence of any kind of abuse — you think you deserve it, that they know what buttons to push to make you think you deserve it. Physical abuse is horrible enough, but mental and emotional abuse has nothing to do with whether or not you’re a gal or a guy. It doesn’t give two good flips about your age, your experience, or your weight class. That sort of thing cuts us all down to size, makes us all equal. I can fight my way out of hairy situations, have before … hells bells, I’ve done it with the Rocky theme blasting in my head. Yet I too have those mental switches. Crafty folks can toggle them on and off.
And she was certainly crafty.
I look on her now as a great actress. She was someone who was excellent at make believe. Certainly, she was a tireless liar … still is, for all I know. What was she pretending to be? Human. Behind those lovely eyes, that cute crooked smile, there wasn’t really anything. A void, darkness, the abyss. Thomas Harris could have written a book about it.
When it finally came crashing down, it ended on a sidewalk. The mask cracked and I saw what was really there… all that nothing. Nothing that was somehow something that had reduced my life to chaos, shredded my bank account, broke something inside of me that was decent and good and pure. I don’t have many of those decent, good, and pure things left for ‘em to get all busted up, I tell you. I have to be stingy with that good shit.
Evil is not Hannibal Lecter. It’s not even Count Dracula. It’s just the cruel things people do to other people. Human cruelty needs no devil to make it work, it just is. We’re hardwired for it. Still, I remain optimistic. People are also capable of good things. I’ve met some wonderfully good people just through the act of writing this very blog. You see it in their writing — they are fine folks.
Yet optimistic doesn’t mean stupid. That’s why I still write my horror stories.
In response to The Daily Prompt “Sidewalk”