Writing Dark Fiction

Writing dark fiction is no more difficult than writing any other form of fiction. But it requires a willingness to think outside your personal moral and ethical code and to enter a place of dark choices. Just because you can imagine abnormal behaviors doesn't make you guilty of possessing them.

Release your inhibitions and turn off the internal editors who would quell your imagination. Get the story on the page. Then you can decide what you want to do with the finished product. You might surprise yourself. You may have written a fascinating, unusual story that you want to share.

The following story grew from the following prompted words:

clock, expect, leaves, shazam,
discern, meander,art, hurry, song

Fly Away Home

by Kathy Coogan

Today Benji is dressed like a superhero of his own design. He’s wearing blue PJ bottoms with feet in them, slightly faded and stretched so that the waist band slips below the top of his pull-ups. His Superman tee shirt is a favorite, but a size 3, so small that it rides above his belly as he runs.

His cape is a red apron, emblazoned with the AA triangle, a door-prize from an Eatin’ Meetin’ that Benji’s mom attended early in her sobriety before Benji was born, thank heavens. The symbol makes a good superhero’s monogram.

Benji waves his pretend sword, a Swiffer handle that I wrapped in aluminum foil. He yells, “Shazam. Boo-bam,” exclamations that he’s picked up on Nickolodeon, I guess. He fences with a sapling, knocking off a few leaves that have turned an artistic, dappled brownish- orange and would have fallen off soon, anyway, so I don’t tell him to stop.

We are on a path that meanders through the sparse woods behind my apartment complex. Benji’s mom Carol drops him off to me every morning on her way to the Council on Aging where she works as an alcoholism counselor. Evidently, it’s a problem for old folks more than ever, these days.

Carol is expecting her second baby in three months and I have agreed to babysit Carl/Carla upon arrival, too. Carol tells me how grateful she is to have me.

Carol and I met in AA and have been friends since. She heard my fifth step, all but one part, which I never admitted to anyone. She wouldn’t be grateful to me anymore if she knew. It’s too awful a secret and selfish and it scares me with its dangerous possibilities. I envy her, almost hate, yes, hate her for how her life has come together since she got sober. Two babies, two to my none.

Benji starts singing a song about “three little fishies and a mommy fishie too” and my heart just aches. It doesn’t take much, what with my biological clock ticking and ticking and ticking like that crocodile that follows Captain Hook around. Benji giggles when he sings, “and dey swam and dey swam right ober de dam!”

He yells the “dam” and looks at me to see if I will warn him about the bad word, the undiscerned homonym he’s heard his mommy and daddy use. When I don’t correct him, he sings it again, staring me down, this time changing the lyrics to include other favorite bad words, “three little poopies and a mommy poopy too.”

I distract him with the Name Song: Ben ben bo ben banana fanana fo fen me my mo men Ben. He begs, “Do it again.” So I do, as I pick him up and swing him around until we are both breathless and I fall with him gently to the ground.

Since we’re sitting on the ground now anyway, I hand Benji a stick and tell him to draw me a picture in the dirt. He begins scratching away, talking to himself about the car he is creating, “dis is da wheels dat go round and round.” I help him draw a stick-man to occupy the car when he hands me the stick and says, “You do it.”

Carol met Dan in the program and lucky for her, they got married and had Benji. Dan fixes cars and they do okay. They take turns going to meetings and staying home with Benji or even taking him sometimes, so they both stay involved, sponsoring and chairing meetings. I’ve only met the losers, who never last with me or the program.

I feel like my ovaries are ticking time bombs, almost forty, getting ready to fizzle if I don’t hurry up and get pregnant soon. Another thing I never told Carol or anyone was those two abortions I had when I was using. If I could ever take something back it would be those. The first time I was fifteen and just started getting high and was so scared that I just wanted it gone.

The second time, it was an annoyance and an inconvenience to my lifestyle, which was a joke, and truthfully I worried about birth defects with all the stuff I was putting in my body so it’s probably for the best. But I think of those two babies now –I call them Timothy and Angela in my head, though I never knew what they were – and I am heartsick.

Benji climbs into my lap and puts his face right up against mine. He says, “Why you cry?”

I rub noses with him and say, “I’m not crying, Silly. I got a bug in my eye and my magic tears washed him away.”

“Where he go?” Benji asks.

“He flew away home. And that’s what we need to do. Go home and have lunch. Ready?”

“Not home. We go your house. Mommy not home yet.”

Out of the mouths of babes - a summary of my life. I will take this beautiful boy, not my son, to my house, not his home because I am not his mommy. Or anyone else’s. And when Carl/Carla arrives I will care for that baby, too.

And tonight I will go to a meeting. I will do a fifth step. I will tell myself, my Higher Power and anyone else who will listen, the exact nature of my scary, growing secret.

I will tell that other human being how I am beginning to believe that I deserve one baby, one of Carol’s babies, or anyone’s babies. When I tell it I’ll be okay. That’s the way it works. That’s the way it works. Let that be the way it works.

Now Read Rosemary's Story

Read more about writing from the Dark Side

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