From a young age, I have had passionate devotion to monsters. In every shape and form, I was truly drawn to them. Every moment since uncovering the genre of horror, I have sunk my teeth into every story I could get my fangs around. Now, that love doesn’t just extend to the Draculas and Wolfmen of fiction but more to modern monsters like Freddy and Jason. This love was handed down to me from my mother. She introduced me to the monsters and stories that she loved that helped shape my particular taste in horror. Even with this inherited love for the genre and monsters. I could never quite put my finger on why I was always drawn to these visceral tales of horrific creatures. That was true until I finally found my answer in The Plot.
I had seen the series in passing because of a Swamp Thing homage cover and asked my editor at CBR if she could get me a copy to write about. I truly was unaware of the effect it was going to have on me when I read it.
For the sake of this piece, I will try to avoid outright spoilers for the story as I want you to read it. If you know me, it’s very likely that I have somehow already gotten you to read it but to those of you who do not, I will give you a pulse. The Plot follows the Blaine family who is going through a horrific loss. Chase Blaine is working through the loss of his brother, Charles, while he has gained custody of Charles’ two children Mackenzie and Zach. The three move into the family home in Cape Augusta, Maine. From there, it follows some similar beats to the typical haunted house slash monster story. But there is one key difference between a typical horror story and the Blaine family’s story. The Blaine family is cursed. Their curse is a creature that appears in many forms from a monster to a grotesque reflection of the lost but always drenched in the murky water of the bog that surrounds the family home.
The Blaine family has a motto that comes from Chase’s grandfather from his grandfather before him, so on and so forth.
“In Order to Receive, First You Must Give”
This theme is what I focused on because it helped me understand something about myself. I found that key to unlock a deeper understanding of myself was hidden at the bottom of the bog in Cape Augusta. I realized I loved these monsters because despite them being unstoppable beings of sorrow, turmoil, and rot… there was always something willing to push them back.
There is something I want to lay out on the table in front of you, dear reader. I have been struggling to battle monsters since I was old enough to realize they were the bumps in the night. I have held that machete and swung fiercely at the beast coming for me. I have screamed in the face of the dream master that I am not afraid of him. I have given so much of myself to something that grants me nothing in return.
You see, I too, am cursed like the Blaines. Cursed to face a monster that plagues my own bloodline, passed down through generations. That monster isn’t the creature that bubbles up from the swamps but rather a mind looking to destroy itself.
When I first finished the story, I cried. I had never cried so genuinely because a comic has torn at a heart string I didn’t know was there. I immediately read it again, and again, and again. That bog monster was a stand in for a struggle with my own mental health. Trying to explain that struggle to people who don’t struggle with depression, severe anxiety, and other mental illnesses is like pointing to the monster in the room that only you can see. It’s bog drenched foot prints leaving their marks all around you. You can describe it in perfect detail but they will never truly be able to see that.
The Blaine’s see it though, their own mental illness runs thick in their bloodline. They understand that you give everything to this monster. You give it your health, your stability, and everything you can in order to have but moments of quiet refrain where things feel okay. So many of the depictions in the story are of the horrors reaching out for the different family members to drag them down. Yanking to drag them so far down that all they can do is drown.
A large portion of my family has struggles with mental illness and addiction. For me, they go hand in hand. One monster relieves the strain of another while only killing you in a different way. Until recently, I think I was too immature to make that connection. To understand that they were handling their monsters in the only way they knew how. From what I understand these struggles go back far. An illness, like a motto, passed down from my grandfather from his grandfather before him, so on and so forth.
I fear that my mother has dealt with the monsters that I often struggle with, handed down to her from the same family that bore me. As with the affinity for horror, my mother and I also share the similar trait of trying to conquer our monsters in quiet. Never wanting to take from the others around use while we give all of ourselves to these monsters that we never asked for. My mother has dealt with so many monsters and has lost so much to them through her own life. That constant struggle with inner turmoil comes to both of us as it has come to everyone who shares our DNA. My mother has never had the struggle with addiction but she has seen so many people grapple with that particular monster .I have often wondered how she has faced her own monsters time and time again.
But now I, too, face those monsters. I have sunk so far down into that bog that I thought, or even wished, that I would never return. There is a page in Issue #6 of The Plot that was the closest depiction of how I felt at a time when I thought I had finally given in to the monsters dragging me under. I will not describe the scene but I will show you. Everything surrounds Chase and his world falls apart. Everything coming down on him at once as he is almost swallowed. It’s the first time I had seen an image that described how I felt when I believed that living wasn’t worth it anymore. When you’re at the bottom, you see everything. The people you feel you failed and the things you have done but most of all you see what you care about most. From that moment, I have done everything in my power to only swim back to the surface.
Now, more than ever, I give everything of myself as often as I can. I extend myself, my empathy, and all that I can give as far as I can. I am not sure I know how to stop. The first few pages of the story capture this perfectly where Charles describes his father. A man who gave everything, he gave every piece of himself constantly in order to try and maybe find something he could never find. Peace. That monster, or darkness, that dwells beneath the surface will never go away.
Most devour monster stories to feel the shivers they can send down your spine. I devour monster stories as a reminder that I will always have the backbone to stand in the face of those unstoppable monsters, and give them everything I’ve got. I have inherited a great number of things from my mother. I am a lot more like her than I have ever realized. But what I attribute to her the most is my strength to never stop facing the monsters.