What are you afraid of? Death, poverty, debilitating illness, pain, creepy-crawly insects, being attacked on a dark stretch of sidewalk… When editor Mark Leslie issued his challenge for us to reach into ourselves, find our fears, and put them on the page, none of those came to mind. Instead, it was the fear of losing one’s sense of self to the darkness of emotional abuse – and then seeing the abuser turn their attention toward innocent children.
People aren’t always what they seem, and realizing that can often bring pain and heartache. And, at its darkest, emotional abuse can lead you to doubt yourself and shake your own grasp on reality.
Spousal abuse isn’t always visible in cuts, bruises and broken limbs. A deeper, sometimes more traumatic abuse than cuts, that bruises much deeper, is the way that a person can be undermined, can be made to believe that they are worthless, useless, and deserving of the way they are being mistreated.
I know too many people who have been down that dark path, who have lost themselves to it, and rejected that story idea as too dark, too personal, too painful to try to capture in a work of fiction. So I scoured the internet for other topics that would meet the anthology’s requirements, but every alternate idea I came up with seemed like a cop-out…
I admit it – the very thought of writing The Well tied my stomach up in knots. And once the idea had caught me, it wouldn’t let me go until I finally faced my own fears and simply wrote it. I’m glad I did. It was one of the most difficult stories I’ve ever written, and probably one of the most important.
In his introduction to the story, editor Mark Leslie says:
“…This story exudes both a disturbing darkness and a heart and passion against virtually unbeatable odds to escape the fear, the terror, the madness of the darkness the narrator is enveloped in….”
I wrote The Well for all those who have struggled as victims of emotional abuse. It is my deepest wish that you find way back from the fear and pain, whether through counseling, finding a new avocation, or just holding on to those who are precious to you, and that you are able to find the strength to climb up out of the well and into the light.
Finally, as Fiction River series editor, Kristine Kathryn Rusch says in her introduction to the anthology:
Turn on all the lights. Cover yourself with a nice warm blanket. Make sure you’re not alone in the house.
And, from the safety of your own reading chair, enjoy feeling the fear.