It’s a familiar horror scene. The heroine staggers, hand to her belly. Something’s been growing inside her, sucking away her life force, and now it’s ready to burst out and consume the rest of her life. Could be an alien parasite. Could be a baby. In the end, the power of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood cuts to the deepest and most basic fears as fast and hard as any terrors about being infected with something monstrous. Let’s face it. Motherhood is terrifying.
After all, what could be more horrendous than knowing that after you’ve incubated an entire other being inside your body, you’re expected to eject in a spectacularly messy fashion? Only then to be responsible for it for…wait for it…the rest of its life. Talk about something to keep you up at night.
Mothers are supposed to love their children. To care for them. To put their own lives aside to provide and protect their offspring. Love is supposed to be automatic – but what happens when it’s not? Worse, what happens when you do love and adore your child beyond anything else, and you fail to protect it?
Perhaps that’s why the trope of creepy kids is popular – it speaks to the hearts of us as mothers (and fathers, too.) Children are literally created from our own physical bodies. If our child is a monster, what does that make us?
In my upcoming novel Black Wings from Flame Tree Press, I grappled with the idea of loving but not liking your child, the meaning of unconditional love, and the horror of discovering the baby you cherished is growing into a stranger you fear and maybe even hate. In the book, Briella Blake is a genius ten-year-old bent on discovering the existence of souls and how to copy them, perhaps into other people, perhaps into things. Told through her mother Marian’s point of view, we only get to see bits and pieces of what goes on inside Briella’s brilliant mind, but all of it (at least I intended it to be,) is horrifying.
I’d been toying with the idea of a really smart animal used in experiments for some time, and while originally I’d gone with the commonly used chimp, I ended up choosing a raven. The birds are intelligent enough to use tools, remember faces and even learn to speak. They’re also beautiful and strange and creepy and really cool – exactly the way I wanted Marian to feel about her kid.
To me, the most terrifying part of the book is not whether or not Briella actually manages to recreate the human soul and shove it inside a bird. Instead, it’s the slowly growing tension and discomfort as her mother begins to suspect she’s given birth to a person capable of horrific acts and seemingly no remorse. Against the backdrop of scientific experiments and paranormal sleight-of-hand, the real story is about love, loss, grief and what we do when we are afraid.
My kids are grown up and out of the house now, so the days of holding their hands to cross the street is long gone. The world has them now. Fortunately for me (and them) nothing ever happened with us even remotely close to what goes on in Black Wings, but I’d be a dishonest mother if I didn’t say I can still recall the days when it became clear there was a point when I could no longer control them or what they did. I used a lot of that in Black Wings. I hope the book scares you, even if you don’t have kids.
Megan Hart writes books. Some of them use bad words, but most of the other words are okay. She’s published more than forty novels and novellas and writes a little bit of everything from horror to romance. Once, she was on the NYT Times Bestseller list for a few weeks. That was fun. She’s a recent transplant to Ohio, and still doesn’t know how to get anywhere without using the GPS. Learn more at meganhart.com, twitter.com/megan_hart or facebook.com/readinbed.
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