Sunday, June 20, 2004

About Monsters

This is a short story. It might not be good to read for anyone who has suffered from childhood abuse. Come to think of it, it might not be that great a read for anybody (it's pretty horrible), but this is my blog and I want to publish it.

Pollyanna is a monster. She doesn't know it yet; she thinks that she is a little girl, but her father is a monster and her mother too weak to offset him. So Pollyanna is a monster, or at least will be one when she grows up. It is in her blood. It is written.

Right now she is playing, pretending. She pretends that she is Jesus. She stands on a rock, gauging the distance to the ground (it isn't very much), wondering if jumping down would kill her, wondering if anyone would miss her. This makes her pleased in a sickly sweet way, like finding the hidden places in her body which she is not to touch or she'll get beaten. These are the slender roots of monsterhood tentatively exploring Pollyanna. It isn't too late to uproot them yet, but it will be.

She will have a choice, of course. She could avoid completed monsterhood by becoming a mother of monsters instead; an empty receptacle. Most people would prefer that she choose this; most people are uncomfortable with fully fledged female monsters. Monsterhood seems to belong to men. But Pollyanna will choose differently; she will walk the path less trodden and perfect her own monsterhood.

She is quite a pretty little girl and very intelligent. She knows that her father is disappointed in her. But she is too young to understand that he would be disappointed in anything , that disappointment is what monsters feel, except when they inflict pain. Pollyanna searches herself for blame and finds plenty to work with. The pain will come later. Now it is enough that she has learned to strangle her doll, that she has learned to identify with the evil queen rather than with Snow White. Things are moving according to plan.


Her father is restless. The monster inside him is hungry and wants to tear at something. Its eyes fall on Pollyanna, playing quietly on the floor. Her father thinks of things that might hurt her. He is not a smart or well-read man and his imagination is feeble. All he notes is her sex, but that is sufficient for the monster's needs. Pollyanna's father calls Pollyanna a whore, a whore's pup, a bitch. She doesn't know what most of these words mean but she knows about puppies. They are nice. So why is daddy so angry?

He tells her that she is useless, a burden, that all women are useless burdens. He kicks her. When she cries, he yells at her for being a shivering heap of jelly. Pollyanna doesn't know what to do, how to behave. She hides in a dark closet; her insides all locking up like so many dark closets, each containing a word or two, an expression of hatred on a man's face, saliva shooting from an angry mouth. She hides, waiting, growing thick shells everywhere. She thinks of something else: how the spider feeds herself, how the wind blows through her web. She hides like a small animal, waiting patiently for the predator to leave.

The predator doesn't leave, of course. The predator in this case owns the prey, it even owns the prey's love. Pollyanna's father is not a bad man, truly, only obsessed by his own monster. He even feels slightly nauseous after his outburst, but comforts himself by thinking how much he had benefited from a harsh upbringing. One day, he thinks, she'll thank me for this.


None of this is credible. Monsters can't be explained, can't be made credible. They are human. Maybe it matters that Pollyanna's father was sent to wage war at sixteen, that a grenade falling next to him turned his best and only friend into spaghetti sauce all over him, that he couldn't wash it off for hours. Maybe it matters that his mother had a child every year and rejected this one in her exhaustion, that his father was also a monster. Then again, maybe none of this matters. All this is human.


Pollyanna dreams that night. She dreams of killing her father with an axe; splitting him into two identical halves. She dreams that each of these halves splits again and again until the world is full of monster fathers. She wakes up and vomits. She knows about murderers going to hell and about the necessity to love the father. She now knows that she is wholly evil. The baby monster inside her sighs contentedly, sucking its thumb. A potentially perilous moment has been successfully turned into another step on the road to full monsterhood.


Creating monsters takes delicate handling. It is important not to go too far too soon; this kills the victim. It is important to give her lulls from torture, time to gather hope and other interests, because these, at the right moment, are the substance from which the next layer of the monster will be built through careful destruction. One opens the door to the victim's cage, one turns away, whistling with apparent unconcern, one waits. When the victim finally believes her eyes and gathers enough courage to try to step outside, one slams the door on some fragile bone in her body. Simple.

But Pollyanna's father is not inhabited by a great strategist. Sometimes they forget about her for weeks, even months, while enjoying other escapades. This means that her monster is growing slowly; it might end up a puny puff of evil air. And her mother, weak as she is, still offers some resistance to the plan. So do her few friends, her books, and, later, some teachers. There is cause for some discomfort.

Still, most people won't stand in the way of the father's rights to his daughter. What helps even more is the nature of the barbs Pollyanna's father and his monster are inserting in her center: they are dipped in misogyny and Pollyanna doesn't have enough closets or shells for all of them. They will fester nicely, and once she is beyond her father's control there will be enough others who take over the task of feeding her monster. It will, after all, grow up healthy and powerful.


What will they become, Pollyanna and her monster, when they are grown up? The possibilities are fascinating. Sometimes the shells the victim has built are so strong that the monster can't get out. It will then corrode the victim from the inside, slowly eating her up, tidbit by tidbit, until all that remains is an empty husk, like the ones bumblebees leave in the fall. These husks act quite normally, and have many good uses. But they are not perfected monsters, and we know that Pollyanna will reach perfection.

She could become a walking weapon, with breasts like hand grenades, a toothed vagina, a forked tongue. She could lure men into her bed and their deaths, or into madness, castration, womanliness. This would be too easy. Pollyanna's talents and promise are far greater.

Perhaps she'll take her poisoned barbs and use them against other little girls. Perhaps she'll wear austere, expensive suits and give measured speeches defending the sanctity of family, the primacy of parental rights. Perhaps she'll do research that proves little girls everywhere to be temptresses, seductresses, sirens; that proves they lack human worth. She'll tell us, in a bracing voice, that misogyny is but part of a healthy sexual instinct. She and her monster will take CEOs and politicians to their cold bed, choked in platinum chains, and orgasm, together, when the pain is almost unbearable.

She might reach even higher, for the stars. Think of our little Pollyanna leading her own army, her own country, with weapons we can only imagine today. Think of queen Pollyanna, with lips the color of dried blood, with long, raking nails, with garlands of human bones around her brow. Think of this. Why not? Many monsters end up on top. Pollyanna is smart and she will be well trained. Her father might, one day, indeed look at her with pride, hardly believing that he helped to create this exquisite creature.


All this is still in the future. Right now Pollyanna is under her bed, not breathing very much, not moving at all, sucking the ear of her worn-out stuffed rabbit. She strains her ears to listen for his steps, falling heavily in the room, to listen for his breath getting angrier and angrier. She tries to be elsewhere, by the brook, watching yellow leaves floating on the water's surface, seeing them as boats with white sails, sailing somewhere far away. She tries, but it is so hard. Will he find her? Are the footsteps getting closer? She hurts all over, the doors of her inner closets bang open and shut in the wind, the boats sink, each in a little whirlpool. Are the footsteps getting closer?

They are.