Monsters, Part II by Steve Berman

Many of you may remember Steve Berman’s post last March which he called Monsters Anonymous. In case you didn’t see it here is a link. In it he talked about why he hated certain types of monsters and wanted to stake them. 🙂 Well Steve is back today with another scary post  –


So, after several months of penance, community service, and paying a small fee, Wave has graciously allowed me to return and blog about monsters again.

Why do we adore monsters so much? I think it is for two reasons:  We like being scared because the sensation of adrenaline and blood rushing through our veins says We are alive!; and the monster is an outsider—so for those of us who aren’t the norms, the average Joes and Janes, we understand being different.

As a writer, I know what scares me. Loneliness. I am a single gay man in his 40s. I worry that I will never find love, that I will always be alone.  That one day, I will have no one to call on the phone, no one to spend dinner with. As I write this very blog entry, I am at World Fantasy, a massive spec fic writers’ conference and in my hotel room as others are out to dinner, socializing, laughing, flirting.

What monster can I make of loneliness? Quite a few. I have done ghosts who haunt the highway (Vintage) and farm boys who never can keep a lover except as heads in a well (“Well Wishing”). Or this from my latest story:

Seventh period was gym class. After forty minutes of lacrosse attempts in October brittle weather, Conrad rushed to change back to his regular clothes. He felt vulnerable in sweats.
Half the boys didn’t bother showering off the sweat and dirt. A gangly, tall boy with only a towel around his waist walked past where Conrad sat untying his sneakers. He had double-knotted them to prevent himself from tripping.

Conrad envied that the kid could walk around, nearly naked, without care. And though he knew he shouldn’t stare, Conrad could stop himself from fixating on the beads of water running down in shiny trails the boy’s bare chest, along grooves of muscle and ribcage. He wondered what touching such a boy would be like. His fingertips tingled while his mind imagined them moving over the boy’s torso as if it were a geometrical problem he could somehow solve. Solve and understand why his own body seemed so different. Circumferences of skin and angles of—

“What are you lookin’ at?”
Conrad glanced up at the boy’s face, cheeks and high forehead ruddy from hot water, or, he realized with dread, embarrassment and anger.
“Nuthin,” he muttered as he looked back down at his feet.

What scares you?
Go on, tell me.

And I’m an outsider. Not just because I’m gay. You can be heterosexual and an outsider. I’m a geek. I like Godzilla movies. I collect plush monsters. I read fantasy novels. So I also write stories about cowboys facing pterodactyls (Secrets of the Gwangi).

Maybe your husband doesn’t understand your fascination with unicorns. Yes, I think a unicorn counts as a monster. I know, even as you read these words your mind is filling with thoughts of Unicorn = Virgin. Horn = Phallus. Unicorn + Gay Man = Kinky story I must read/write/hire Steve to author with big fat check so he can rent boy to mop his sweaty brow as he types away.

Perhaps the worst monster isn’t under the bed (I hope such beasts are either deaf or voyeurs) or running the Republican party but are ourselves. Which is why we like to turn ourselves into vampires or werewolves or well-endowed sex fiends (I said “fiend” so that’s sorta like a creature, right?).

Okay, now, since it’s Halloween, let’s play a game. Sort of like the one where you sit in a dark basement and pass stuff around and say it’s some fellah’s innards (notice they might hand you pasta and say it’s his “guts” but they never give you a banana and… well, you know where I’m going…)

I’m going to start a story… and I want you all to tell me who is the real monster and what happens next:

Smoke. The man on the bed blows out a steady stream of bluish-gray smoke from between his fingers, from his chapped lips clutching a cigarette. The body beside him on the bed shifts, maybe trembles because the room is cold.

Under one  pillow is a gun. The smoking man isn’t sure if it is under the pillow beneath his sweaty head. Maybe the guy besides him is already stretching long fingers with black nails under his pillow to grip the handle.

The smoke rising to the ceiling—which has so many water stains it looks like a giraffe’s ass—is swirling. The smoking man smirks when he can discern a mouth in the vaporous mass. A wide mouth.

He nudges the naked man beside him. “Look,” he begins…


  • (notice they might hand you pasta and say it’s his “guts” but they never give you a banana and… well, you know where I’m going…)

    No, I’m fairly sure that did happen one time… and we got *very sternly* interrupted by the guide captain before the sentence was finished, and told that it was a finger! (Yes, guide captain as in Girl Guides [Girl Scouts over the pond?])

  • I thought of something different and darker…

    The sleeping nude is a hit man. Smoker hired him to kill himself, but Nudie doesn’t know it was Smoker who hired him. Nudie posed as a hooker to get to Smoker. Since he’s also a little crappy as hit mans go, Nudie fell asleep after sex with the gun under his pillow.
    What Smoker says – when Nudie is still too sleep-addled to get his full meaning – is this:

    “Look, Sweetheart, this sure was nice for a starter, but I paid for the whole menue, so you better get to the main course now.”

    The monster? Is the cancer which is eating Smorker’s innards slowly, inevitably and painfully…

  • It’s amazing what pops into one’s head when offered a prompt like this. Here’s the darkness that dwells within my imagination:

    “He nudges the naked man beside him. “Look,” he begins…”

    The body on the bed shakes harder. Does the innocent victim know what’s coming? Smoking man pulls the cover back, revealing the nude form of a handsome man who’s slowly waking from a drugged slumber. “Come and get it,” he says to the demon emerging from the shadows. Reaching beneath the pillow to grab the gun, he prays Richard won’t hold too big a grudge against him for being used as bait — again.

    • Bait!

      Very cool. It makes me think of this pair of lovers as some sort of twisted con-man & naive youth pair of demon slayers. I like!

  • TJ

    You always surprise me. In your story we have two James Bond types fighting and the next thing they’re rutting on the ground. You sly dog you. 🙂

    I agree, it is scary to imagine growing old alone ………. all we can do is make the most of it with the people that we meet and connect with along our journey

    Some of us find the guy of our dreams when we’re very young, marry them, but find out years later that only one of us grew up. So we ditch the toad b/c we’re not afraid of going through life on our own since we like ourselves and also because we could end up with another frog. LOL

  • The smoking man smirks when he can discern a mouth in the vaporous mass. A wide mouth.

    He nudges the naked man beside him. “Look,” he begins…

    “…I told you I could summon a demon who could suck us both off at once!”

    Sorry. 😉

  • Hey Steve,
    So I see this as a sort of gay James Bond story. When the smoking man surprises his quarry outside a bar, they struggle, but the struggle turns into something else. And like James Bond, our SM beds down the enemy to force him to cooperate! So who’s the real monster here? For me it would be life’s circumstances that made these 2 guys so attracted to each other, but also enemies.

    I agree, it is scary to imagine growing old alone, but although not everyone finds the guy or girl of their dreams when they want them, all we can do is make the most of it with the people that we meet and connect with along our journey.

    Great post, thanks Steve!

    • TJ,

      Wow, that’s a very imaginative and damn cool idea you have behind the scene.

      ::bows to a stroke of genius::



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I live in Canada and I love big dogs, music, movies, reading and sports - especially baseball
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