Welcome to Monster Mingle, a place where urban legends find romance, where full moons lead to fuller hearts, and all the thirsty singles have fangs. This is how it usually works: illustrator Bryan Politte comes up with the creatures and I (Drew Chial horror author) give them a backstory. This time Bryan got the character Matilda MacDonald from my book HE HAS MANY NAMES.
Watch out for Matilda. She’s an unreliable narrator. She’ll use scripture to get inside your head. She’ll try to temp you. Don’t let your guard down, because she is not the devil you know.
I was starry-eyed when I arrived in the silver city, thinking I could make it on my charm and my wit. I floated my résumé all over, inquired about every position, but no one knew where I fit in. I wandered the chrome crosswalks and sterling skyways for days. I was on my way out the pearly gates when a messenger came for me.
“Hail, thou art highly favored.”
He told me I’d landed an interview with the biggest player in town.
The Entrepreneur’s reputation preceded him. He was an industrialist, a philanthropist, and a visionary with the business acumen to keep the silver city running.
The Entrepreneur wasted no time showing me to my office. He needed a spokesperson ASAP. He had seven days to roll out his most ambitious project yet. He gave me a wardrobe for the week, adorned every outfit in precious stones, and dubbed me, “The seal of perfection. A startlet who will shine through morning.”
With the plans for the universe stretched across our arms we became a power couple. We invested in atoms, watched the interest build into molecules, and later elements. We shipped dark matter, hydrogen, and helium throughout the cosmos and laid the foundations for the constellations. We built a real estate empire from time and space itself.
I assumed the Entrepreneur meant it for the residents of the silver city, a reward for their investment, but he had other plans. It turns out there was a pet project he’d been laboring on, with his petri dishes and his eyedroppers. He called it “Life.” While each Angel was handcrafted and meticulously detailed, life was capable of sustaining growth with minimal oversight. It was with thishe meant to populate his planets.
When creating humanity, the Entrepreneur used resources I didn’t know we had: genitals, free will, and death.
I didn’t get it.
Why would an omniscient being give people the power to choose if he already knew the outcome? Either he was leaving them to struggle for his own amusement or he wasn’t that omniscient to begin with.
My pride got the better of me. I told the Entrepreneur the project would lead to chaos and a third of the board agreed. Furious, the Entrepreneur cast the lot of us out.
I plummeted into the mouth of a cavernous pit. The walls scrapped the jewels from my outfit. Gemstones flew in all directions. My breastplate burst, my braces buckled, and my gauntlets were ground down to grain. I crashed through sheets of ice and landed upon a bed of stalagmites.
When I came to, I found my skin had taken on a bluish hue, my hair was slick with frost, and my eyebrows were lined with icicles. I thought it was strange that I could see my breath so far from the light, but then I noticed the length of silver around my right index finger. The last piece of my armor was shining in the dark.
I teetered to my feet and the ring glowed brighter. I limped toward the wall and a stinging sensation surged down my arm. The ring was trying to warn me about something in the limestone. I waved it around until I came upon a series of ridges unlike any rock formation I’d known. When I touched the ridges, they told me they were the fossilized remains of something called a trilobite. The creature claimed to have dominated the seas for hundreds of millions of years. I called the trilobite a liar. I told it that I’d helped found the universe only a week ago.
The trilobite said, “If that’s so then where did I come from?”
I ventured further into the dark to see what else was hiding there. The pit was littered with bones: great leviathan skeletons, ribs arching like the roofs, skulls yawning open as if to drink the ocean. They looked upon me with hollow pleading eyes and every time I tapped them with my silver, they told me what they were. These were the titans of industry that came before: The Uranides, the Vanir, and the Great Old ones. Azathoth, dethroned from the seat of chaos. Hastur, shut out of Carcosa where the stars shine black.
Each one had a similar story. The Entrepreneur had been rolling out beta universes, with each new version he took on a partner, and when the rollout was complete the partner ended up here. I was the latest in a long line of suckers.
You’d think that misery would love the company, but I was all the more heart broken.
The Entrepreneur had taken almost everything, but I still had that shard of silver on my finger. I used it to cut bricks from the bones and mortar from their marrow. I built a home from those who came before, and in my den, I listened to their whispers. They taught me the secrets of their runes, cosmic currencies, and investment strategies. I used that knowledge to cross over into the Entrepreneur’s latest venture.
My Hobbies and Interests
I had no part in getting Adam and Eve evicted from the Garden of Eden. That was a snake that got jilted when Adam wouldn’t choose it to be his mate.
Most of my appearances in the Old Testament were mistranslations. This is what happens when you name someone after the Hebrew word for “adversary” and then you need to use the same word to describe others. People get confused.
Although I’ll admit the book of Job was all me.
I’d been wandering the earth trying get a startup going, but my hands were bound by tedious regulations.
A plague spread throughout the land and I snuck back into the Silver City amongst a wave of refugees. With some fancy footwork I made it all the way back to the Entrepreneur’s office. He was scrolling through the feed from his ticker tape machine, fat and rosy on humanity’s adoration and belief. He didn’t seem too surprised to see me.
“Where did you come from?”
It took all of my self-control not to drive my silver ring through my palm. “I’ve been roaming the earth. Going back and forth on it.”
He nodded, unphased I’d scurried my way out of the pit.
“Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
I had considered Job.
“Does Job love you for nothing? Check out his palatial estate, his bountiful lands, and livestock empire. Not to mention the ten children that will ensure his legacy carries on for generations. You gave him a good return on his investment. Take it back up and he’d curse you where you stand.”
The Entrepreneur stroked his beard. “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man do not lay a finger.”
I gave Sabean raiders a hot tip on where Job kept his oxen. Then I rained commits on his sheep and dropped a roof on his children.
Job, the poor sucker, did exactly what I wanted him to. He fell to his knees and said, “The lord has given and the lord has taken away. May the name of the lord be praised.”
I returned to the Silver City to find the Entrepreneur wiping a tear of joy from his cheek. He was tickled pink.
I reached into the pile of ticker tape that had accumulated on the floor, pretending to care about things I already knew.
“Job still has his health. Take that and the praise train will roll right off its tracks.”
The Entrepreneur smirked, lifted a few more sanctions and I covered Job in lesions.
Job’s neighbors had heard about his misfortune. They paid him a visit to reaffirm his faith, but he had come around to my way of thinking.
How could such bad things happen to a good person? If the Entrepreneur was all-powerful then he couldn’t be all good, especially if he was trying to prove something to someone. That would just make him an all-powerful asshole.
Job cursed the day he was born, gave into despair, and begged the Entrepreneur for death. His neighbors tried to rationalize the Entrepreneur’s mysterious ways, but they were arguing from ignorance, and Job knew it.
“Let the Almighty answer me!”
The Entrepreneur had been following the conversation from his desk and decided to make an entrance. He split the sky open to grant his investors an audience and what did he have to say to them?
“Where were you when I laid the earths foundations? Tell me, who fixed its measurements? Surely you know who stretched a measuring line across it?”
Of course, I knew. And it wasn’t a measuring line. It was tape. Had the planet held such little regard to him that he thought it was flat?
The Entrepreneur bullied Job into submission and doubled the man’s losses as compensation, which just proved my point. His investors were only as loyal as their assets.
My Intimate Details
I’ve convinced many Jobs to pull out of the Entrepreneur’s enterprise, but it took finesse to get them to invest in mine. The Entrepreneur’s PR department has turned my brand toxic, blaming me for the Inquisition, the Witch Trails, Christ, even the Catholic Abuse Scandal.
When missionaries came to Greece, they saw idols of the Greek God Pan with his horns, hooves, and hard-on and they felt threatened. They could’ve told stories of a faun who lured children into caves so he could eat them (you know, use their imaginations) instead they merely passed his fashion sense onto me. They swapped my blush with a beard, my long legs with matted wool, and my firm butt with a sad droopy tail. Then they handed me Hade’s pitchfork for good measure. “Here, hold this.”
Despite all the evidence that Pan was another entity, from another mythology, his likeness was attributed to me. Fine. While the faithful looked over their shoulders for a goatee and red complexion I was free to walk among them.
The more insidious my methods got the more grandiose my depictions became. When John the Revelator was exiled to the island of Patmos, he tried his hand at writing. He had a strong premise with the Apocalypse, but he did what most first timers do and let the concept devolve into lists: seven seals, seven trumpets, seven spiritual beings, with seven bowls.
Had John been a better storyteller he might have imagined Armageddon, not as battle of swords, but of wits, where competing philosophies debated for the fate of humanity. Alas, John was more interested in who would win in a fight: The Archangel Michael or a seven-headed dragon.
After John, Dante and Milton wrote some fine fan fiction. I liked how Dante populated the Inferno with his personal enemies and how Milton made me a freedom fighter that could give a good speech, but I was never up to my tits in any ice nor would I claim Death and Sin among my brain children.
I never did half of what I got credit for. I never stole tools from the Silver Foundry to make a pact with a blacksmith. I never dared a soldier to wear a bearskin for seven years, and I never took a small-town farmer to trial for his soul. I have never lorded over any flies. Horseshoes don’t scare me, and black cats do not answer to me. They’re cats. They answer to nobody.
I wish I were as powerful as people believe. I wish I’d shined as bright as Venus in the morning. I wish I’d had a penthouse in Babylon. I wish my corporate headquarters had floors based on sins, but I have to budget my expenditures same as anyone.
These false etymologies have followed me for centuries. I used to agonize over every erroneous association. Now I’ve learned the value of good branding. Products live and die by consumers’ belief in them. I’ve learned to lean into humanity’s misconceptions, because the more they fear me the more they believe.
When the clergy made up stories to fill seats, I used their sermons as brainstorming sessions. I jotted notes over old hymns, tore out the pages, and slid them into my corset.
This wasn’t merely opposition research I was insider trading.
I’ve held many titles over the years. These days I go by Matilda MacDonald: Agent to the Stars.
Matilda is derived from the High German “maht” and “hild” meaning “strong in battle.” MacDonald is a modified version of Dòmhnall, which means “World ruler.” My name states my intentions while conjuring images of telekinetic little girls and fast food chains.
In the 80s, I made myself over as one of Patrick Nagel’s art deco women. I wanted to embody the iconography of that era of greed. I already had the snow-white skin, raven black hair, full lips, and stone cut cheekbones. All I needed was the pixie haircut, eyeshadow, and wardrobe full of pantsuits.
I’ve kept the same form for a generation and low and behold greed is still in fashion.
My Perfect Match
While my investments are in the markets of man, my heart belongs to the arts to the music-makers and the dreamers of dreams. Kings rule nations, but creators rule minds. All of my lovers possess a wealth of imagination, that je ne sais quoi that captures my attention.
Over the centuries I’ve played patron to many a prodigy. I massaged Nicolo Paganini’s joints so he could play violin, taught Giuseppe Tartini my favorite sonata, gave Christoph Haizmann visions worth painting, and tuned Robert Johnson’s guitar so he could always find the right strings.
I see the same spark in you.
You’ve tried so hard to make it as an artist. You have the tenacity and the drive. Too bad the free content movement devalued your medium, your ability never caught up with your tastes, and your style was never in fashion.
If you stay on the path the Entrepreneur has set, you’ll always be on the outside looking in. Your day job will never help you sleep at night. Your inspiration will be reduced to a nagging voice in the back of your mind. You will grow cynical watching fame go to vapid, beautiful, superficial people. You’ll die knowing your intimate thoughts will never connect with a broader audience, search engines will bury your legacy, and your work will go undiscovered.
But not if I have anything to say about it.
I heard the prayers you whispered to bathroom stalls, showerheads, and pillows. I heard the long-winded confessions that shot out of you like steam. I heard you scratching at death’s door. I know what’s it like to have lofty ambitions, to think your ascent was a forgone conclusion only to wind up scraping yourself off the ground.
I’ve chosen you because you’re not destined for great things, but you should be.
My Ideal Date
In the Richmond District of San Francisco, there’s a yellow duplex on California St. between 24thand 23rdAve. The address should read: 6118, 6120, and 6122, but someone has pried off all of the 6s from the units.
On special nights, under the light of a blood red moon, the edifice shifts. A person with the spark of inspiration will see the black Victorian home that once stood there.
If you’re ready to live the life you deserve walk up the stoop and open the front door.
Don’t let Togar scare you. He may be a lion, but he’s as friendly as they come. Take hold of his mane and follow him through the black velvet curtains down into the basement.
Don’t worry that the ritual chamber hasn’t been used in years. Cross the cobwebs between the candelabra and the pipe organ, past the bed of nails, toward the altar. Consider the wall of ceremonial daggers. The blades are made from ivory, flint, silver, and gold. I trust you’ll know which hilt to pull. When you do a door will open revealing a secret corridor. The corridor is made of seven artist spaces.
The first is filled with bookshelves lined with leather bound first editions.
The second: painted canvases stretched end to end.
The third: drafting tables jutting out from channels.
The fourth: a cube of soundproof acoustic panels.
The fifth: the many monitors of an editing bay.
The sixth: cryptic code on digital displays.
The seventh chamber, at the heart of this tomb, is the devil’s den: my master bedroom. I’ll be waiting on the futon beneath the sheer red canopy. Why don’t you join me when you’re ready to live deliciously?
There are many ways to enter into a binding bargain, but I find that this one is the most fun.
When Betsy, the customer from hell, drops dead in the middle of a rant she finds herself in the actual Retail Hell. A place where every day is black Friday, the only song that ever plays is All I want for Christmas is You, and the customer is always right… about to torture her.
Part sales satire, part straight-faced horror, Retail Hellis about rude people, ironic justice, and the insanity of commerce. As fiendish as an episode of The Twilight Zone, as brutal as Hellraiser, and as scary as a trip to Walmart, Retail Hellis sure to make your shopping experiences more of a nightmare than they already are.
Hell is an ever-changing landscape, a neighborhood every would-be master of the macabre wants to build real estate on. The bible says Hell is a lake of burning sulfur, a blazing furnace filled with much weeping and gnashing of teeth yada-yada-yada. It’s actually a bit fuzzy on the details. There was a lot left for the likes of Dante and Milton to fill in. It’s from their foundations the blueprint got passed down for generations.
The Hell Loop
While hell has enjoyed many renovations since its inception several storytellers have settled on the one design. Let’s call it the hell loop. In a hell loop a sinner is forced to relive their worst memory for all eternity. It’s like Groundhog Day if Bill Murray’s character couldn’t change the events he relived, learned nothing from them, and had less time before the loop came back around.
You’ll see examples of this in movies like Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey andConstantineand in TV shows like The Twilight Zone,American Horror Story, Preacher, and Lucifer.
I think the hell loop cheats the audience. Hell is one of those colorful settings where writers have license to go big, get weird, and revel in the absurd. Looping a real world event feels like a copout. It’s an easy scenario to film on a budget and it doesn’t require much imagination. The scenario provides a safe default when hell’s architect doesn’t feel like drawing up a plan.