Guest Post: Embracing the Uncomfortable

by Maeva Wunn

A big hug, a warm turtleneck, a hot cup of coffee…

Do those things make you smile or cringe? Is a hug just a hug or is it something else? Does the tight circle of fabric around your neck give you comfort or panic? Is that cup of coffee hot enough to burn or strong enough to wake you for a fight?

Free Association

Why does a kitchen towel 
become a gag
a guitar string
a garrote
a cracked glass
a thousand knives
a quilt
a shroud
a curtain
to drown out the noise
a lightswitch
to hide the crime
a doorknob
another way in
a lock
meant for picking
a house
a home

Perception is unique to every individual, and all our relationships with reality are different. As a fan of horror, I find myself drawn to things that make my skin crawl or my stomach clench. I know that my eyes see the world through a distorting lens that would fit right into a giallo film. For me, creating and consuming horror brings the rest of the world more in line with what I experience and helps me to process things in a healthier way.

Picture Making

I wield the scissors,
cutting images of fake memory
to comfort me,
snipping life details,
trimming landscapes to reveal
the shadows in a snowy field,
the darkness in a waterfall,
shaping things to fit the frames
I’ve made over the years,
filling them one by one
with safe things
that only hint
at the life and times behind them.

As you waste away, 
joints failing, 
muscle and bone losing cohesion,
let your memory lose mortar and glue,
let the blocks fall into a more pleasing pile,
and I’ll rebuild your little home
with stories that would make you proud—
never mind my name
or that you forgot your own,
the year, the city, the president
are trivial—
with a snap of my fingers you’ll awake—
a new you made in my image.

I know most people don’t share that experience. A dark window is just a window, a hammer is a carpentry tool, a stranger on the street is just someone in the middle of their own story. So, what’s the benefit of consuming this media if you’re not inclined to the darker things in life? The answer is growth. Empathy is in short supply, and always has been really, so taking a look through someone else’s eyes can give you understanding that your personal experiences can’t. Reading a poem or watching a film that makes you question things can open up new lines of thought, make you question long held beliefs, maybe even change the way you live your life.

Sacrifice in the Big City

Folded alone into the corner curve
of the couch, television spraying
colored light on the ceiling and walls
in the evening gloom, in the background
ghost voices drift in from next door
and feet padding on carpet up above
remind me of the sounds I miss,
the space next to me an empty ache
reserved for the ideal, not the real.

The wicker man is free tonight,
capering through the darkened streets,
legs creaking as they jig, arms
right angles open toward the sky,
as the steel downtown twists
into the form of a burning man,
broken and crumbling in a mad rush
toward disintegration, carrying
blood sacrifices to meet their gods
while their screams feed the people
left alive, bringing the city back
to life and staving off ruin
for another year or two
until the blood runs out
and the horror is washed away
and we sink back into the pit
of apathy.

The face is right but the eyes are wrong,
the deep electrical puzzle
falling into place in a new pattern,
erasing the memories
and the looks that used to fit
on that face,
failing me for the last time
before I give up
and walk away.

Most humans gravitate toward things that make them feel safe. Comfort zones are just that – metaphorical places we can let down our guard and rest. They’re vital for our wellbeing. But it’s also vital to leave them now and again. Use the muscles before they atrophy. Let the discomfort lead to strength.

About the Author

Maeva Wunn is a bisexual, non-binary, neurodivergent poet, crafter, history buff, and music enthusiast living with chronic illnesses. They have been writing poetry since childhood. They spent most of their life in Atlanta, Georgia and moved to the Midwest after meeting their spouse. They currently reside in Iowa with their spouse and cats.

Find them and their work on Chill Subs, in the anthology Reel Dark, in All My Relations, Vol. 5, and publications by Lupercalia Press, the winnow, Trouble Maker Fire Starter, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, The Hellebore, en*gendered, Masque and Spectacle, and others. They were nominated for Best of the Net 2022 by Spoonie Press for their poem “Digging.”

They can be found on social media at:

Kofi: maevawunn

Instagram: maevawunn

Twitter: MaevaWunn

By Andrew

L. Andrew Cooper specializes in the provocative, scary, and strange. His current project, The Middle Reaches, is a serialized epic of weird horror and dark fantasy on Amazon Kindle Vella. His latest release, Records of the Hightower Massacre, an LGBTQ+ horror novella co-authored with Maeva Wunn, imagines a near-future dystopia where anti-queer hate runs a program to "correct" deviants. Stains of Atrocity, his newest collection of stories, goes to uncomfortable psychological and visceral extremes. His latest novel, Crazy Time, combines literary horror and dark fantasy in a contemporary quest to undo what may be a divine curse. Other published works include novels Burning the Middle Ground and Descending Lines; short story collections Leaping at Thorns and Peritoneum; poetry collection The Great Sonnet Plot of Anton Tick; non-fiction Gothic Realities and Dario Argento; co-edited fiction anthologies Imagination Reimagined and Reel Dark; and the co-edited textbook Monsters. He has also written more than 30 award-winning screenplays. After studying literature and film at Harvard and Princeton, he used his Ph.D. to teach about favorite topics from coast to coast in the United States. He now focuses on writing and lives in North Hollywood, California.

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