As a lifelong horror fan, I’m used to seeing all kinds of horrors, be it monsters, violence, or otherworldly. Even psychological horrors run amuck (one of my personal favorites). I also find horror therapeutic. After watching a horror film or reading a horror book or story, I feel a sense of release. When I went into recovery for postpartum depression and anxiety, I looked for horror films and fiction that identified with that pain. There weren’t many to be found.
Sure, there’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” But that was written in the late 1800s. I couldn’t find anything more modern. There are lots of horror films that feature mothers in peril or evil babies, or evil/murderous mothers, but that wasn’t quite was I was looking for either. I wanted something that identified the horrors of a new mother’s own mind and showed her triumphant…
The Endless Hallway is a novella about a young mother’s struggles with postpartum depression and anxiety (PPDA). It is my story.
Well, a fictionalized version of my reality.
While in therapy to recover from PPDA, I spoke with my therapist about the story I was writing. I tend to start everything as a short story – that keeps the pressure off. I was dealing with so much internal pressure already; I didn’t want to add lofty ambitions like novella or novel. We brainstormed and troubleshot the ideas I had. I was stuck on the ending – or, rather, I didn’t know where the story should go. At the time, I wanted Molly to conquer the monster because I desperately needed to conquer my own mental illnesses.
“What would be the benefits of having this monster captive?” my therapist asked me.
The Endless Hallway features a creature that has haunted me since I was a teenager. This vile thing, with disgusting claws, rows of teeth, and black, void-like eyes, has featured in my writings for two decades. As the years go by, its appearance gets worse and worse: a monstrous evolution that personifies my mental illnesses.
My senior year of high school, I went with my parents to spend the weekend at my grandparents’ house. They lived in a small town about 75 minutes away from us. On the drive down, I listened to music, daydreaming as I watched miles of hills and highway pass by. Suddenly it appeared to me: an emaciated human-like creature, completely bald with shiny, slimy skin, no nose, two gaping voids for eyes, mangled claws, and vicious teeth. I imagined the creature standing in front of me, opening its mouth to inhuman levels, and swallowing my head. I didn’t know if this was my depression consuming me or setting me free.
This image stuck with me, and I immediately wrote about it in the composition notebook I always carried with me. Over the next several months I wrote a story featuring this creature, but more in link with a vampire – think of a play on Nosferatu. In this iteration, the monster’s main features were rows of fangs and knotted, gnarly hands with claws, along with the bald head and void-like eyes. Later, I wrote a short story featuring the creature that was a meditation on how depression shapes a person’s growth from adolescence to adulthood. In both stories, the ending was more finite: in the first, the monster is burned to death; in the latter, it swallows the protagonist.
A decade on, I got married and had my daughter. Postpartum depression and anxiety hit me hard. Again, I imagined the creature looming over me, ready to strike. This time it was more disgusting and vicious: now its teeth dripped black ooze and its mangled, jagged claws were ready to take everything from me. As I rocked my daughter to sleep, I vowed I would not let it.
Instead, I wrote it all down. I owned the monster and made it do my bidding. On the page, it couldn’t hurt me. The depression could threaten us, it could lurk around every corner of the life I always wanted, but it would never touch us.
Yet, as I finished The Endless Hallway, I found the ending was more ambiguous. Age had taught me that the depression never really goes away. Instead, we would live with it, like a haunting; deal with it whenever it decided to show its monstrous face. There’s a comfort in that, a comfort in knowing that while we can’t always defeat our demons, we can always overcome them.
Even if we still check the baby monitor for claws creeping through the bars of the crib, and double-check the corners of the baby’s room for dark figures.
Molly has it all – a good job, a handsome husband, a beautiful new baby, and a supportive family. Her life is everything she once prayed it would be. But something sinister is lurking within the walls of her tiny townhouse. A strange voice comes from the darkness as Molly rocks her infant to sleep. Lights that were left on are suddenly turned off. Molly has nightmares in which her husband’s throat is slit. In the middle of the night, a thin, pale arm reaches over the rails of the crib and lunges for the baby with fierce, jagged claws. The voice in the darkness soon seems to be coming from inside Molly’s head.
Are the visions Molly has been haunted by a subconscious warning or something more vicious?
Mary Parker is a horror author and journalist from Southern Illinois. She has worked for examiner.com and horrornews.net. A collection of short stories, Predilection, was published in 2009. Her work can also be found in the anthologies “Vampires Aren’t Pretty” and “Slaughter House: The Serial Killer Edition, Vol. 2.” Her story “Sweet Nightmares” placed in the Top 100 of Wattpad’s Horror Contest sponsored by TNT. She is a proud contributor to, supporter of, and past ambassador of Women in Horror Month.
The 58th issue of The Sirens Call comes in at whopping 239 pages containing 166 pieces of dark fiction and horror in the form of short stories, flash fiction, micro fiction, and dark poetry with an optional sub-theme of summer horror! This issue also features a new addition -Mike Lera’s Corridor of Horror- which will be an on-going column spotlighting those in the film industry.
Our features this month include artist Jeanette Andromeda who has shared 11 pieces of her artwork along with her beautifully crafted tale,Alice and the Toy Maker; a spotlight feature for the charity anthology,Dancing in the Shadows: A tribute to Anne Rice, which focuses on the team behind the project; we’ve also been given the opportunity to showcase Rebecca Rowland as our featured author who discussesThe Question of Gender in Horror, and also…