A Story of Monsters
Poem by Em Dehaney
Em Dehaney is a mother of two, a writer of fantasy and a drinker of tea. Born in Gravesend, England, her writing is inspired by the dark and decadent history of her home town. She is made of tea, cake, blood and magic. By night she is editor and whip-cracker at Burdizzo Books. By day you can always find her on her website or lurking about on Facebook posting pictures of witches.
I’m going to tell you a story of the old times, child. Come in here, close by the flames. I will tell you of when the moon shone her ivory gaze down upon us, back when the sky was not sick.
The moon was lady, Gramma?
They used to talk of the man in the moon, my little one. But no man could have glowed so gentle and kind. The sun surely must be a man, for he burns all he touches.
Tell me about the old times, Gramma. Tell me about when the monsters came.
Oh, you want to know about monsters, do you? I think you might be too young.
I’m not, Gramma. I’ve seen ten snows.
Child, what do you know of snow? In the old times, the snow was white. White as the moon, white as the clouds.
Don’t be silly, Gramma, everyone knows clouds are grey like rivers, or yellow like teeth, or purple like blood or black like the sea. But never white.
Have you ever heard of rainbows, child?
Rain? Like the kind that burns?
No, rainbows, little one. See here, in this puddle. The oil shining on the surface, making colours.
Shimmers. Well, we used to have shimmers in the sky, called rainbows. Before the monsters.
Why did they come, Gramma?
I’ll tell you a story from when I was not much older than you are now. I was playing in the garden…
What’s a gar-den, Gramma?
A place where things grow.
Nothing grows now, does it Gramma?
Only you child, only you.
What happened to you in the gar-den?
I heard a sound. A sound I had never heard before. I looked up into the sky, shielding my eyes from the brightness.
What did you hear, Gramma? Was it monsters?
It was a humming, whirring, purring sound. It got louder and louder until it hurt my head, and I lay on the grass and closed my eyes tight.
Were you scared, Gramma?
No, child. There was a voice. It told me not to be afraid. It was a voice like mothers, like hot chocolate and blankets. And I was not afraid.
But the monsters, Gramma. Did you see them, did you see them?
Oh I saw them in the end, child. Hundreds, thousands of swarming monsters.
What did they look like?
Now, you’re getting ahead of yourself. I didn’t see anything at first. No-one did. We just heard the voices telling us not to be afraid, that they were coming soon and not to hide.
But Gramma, what did you do? You have to hide from the monsters, everyone knows that. Even little five snows like Annie know that.
Ssh, don’t wake her, she’s had a long day. We all have.
But I’m right aren’t I Gramma? We must hide from the monsters. That’s what Mommy always told us. Before she went away.
Yes, and Mommy was right, child. We must hide from the monsters. But we didn’t know that back then.
What was it like, when they came?
There was a lot of smoke, and fire in the sky. Your eyes burned and you itched all over and your throat was full of blood and grit.
What did the monsters want, Gramma?
To hurt. To kill. Nothing more, nothing less. Same as now.
What was that, Gramma? I heard a noise, out there. Monsters!
Hush now, it’s just the wind.
Illustration by Paulina Malowaniec
But Gramma, look at the fire. There’s no wind. It’s monsters, I know it.
Then I had better finish my story quickly. You asked about the monsters? I will tell you about the monsters. After The Final War, when the few of us that were left came out of our bunkers and caves, we started to see them. Their bodies, broken and impaled on trees. Lying in the road, mangled and burned. They were covered in what we guessed was blood, but other things too. Things that were growing from inside them, bursting out like spring blooms reaching for the light. Their faces, those that were not destroyed, were so much like our own but so different. Peaceful somehow, in death. Their eyes, open for eternity, were blue. Blue like that last sky the day when I played in my garden.
No, child. They were no more monsters that you or Annie. No, the monsters were already here. They…wait. Ssh. Quick, stamp out the fire. Don’t make a sound.
Gramma…what is it?