Their names have almost become a mantra: Kyron, Caylee, Haleigh, Somer, Maddie...It's a long and sobering list for any parent and for any community.
These are but a few of the children that have been abused, mistreated, taken and, in the worst cases, extinguished. While I don't think our current era is any more dangerous than life in America twenty or thirty years ago, the simple truth inherent in the list of names above is that life can be cruel and brutal. The fear and anguish suffered by these children--it's the kind of thing that puts those little triangles at the corner of your eyes.
I spend a small portion of my free time writing about monsters. And, while I think of myself as a writer of horror tales, most of my work is fantasy. These are weird tales that I'm writing, not stories of the evil that men visit upon each other.
And yet I can't help but shake my head at the horrifying and often random nature of it all. As a father, I can do only so much to protect my daughter. I can nurture her intelligence and teach her to be self-reliant. I can work with her to value herself and be careful to recognize dangerous situations.
But then you see some stories that shatter any idea of perceptual control, and those are the outliers that could impact any one of us. Take, for example, the senseless loss of life that was visited upon Makia Coney. She was killed so her murderers could feel the thrill of execution. I won't indulge in the fallacy that enrolling kids in private schools offers some elevated level of security; rather, I'll just lament the fact that Coney, a bright and personable young woman, merely made the mistake of getting into a car with a pair of human rattlesnakes.
Nihilism is a bruise on the soul and, if ever a tangible example could be tied to such a dark term, it's Coney's tragic death and the utter destruction of the lives of those who cared for her. One of Makia's University Christian classmates attended a composition course I taught here at the college. This dual-enrollment student wrote a little about Makia, and how her death was a stark reminder of how tenuous our very existence is. She, like the rest of us, couldn't answer that simple question: why?
Consider little Mona's story. Sent on an errand to the corner store, Mona was abducted, raped and strangled. Her killer was never captured. The prime suspect perished prior to the connection being made between his perverse appetites and Mona's death. It's a heart-wrenching story; when Detective Delehant provided the dress Mona was killed in to her mother, some forty-eight years after her death, the sense of overwhelming futility in all of it is palpable. For forty-eight years, Joyce Lane punished herself. And for forty-eight years, that punishment was not warranted.
People are not disposable, and yet some in our culture believe they are. Some of the people who believe this live next door to us.
It's the horror that we see in life--horror much more jarring than the lurching zombii or the cobbled-together Frankenthings our psyches conjure when we talk about scary stories.
So why even write this down? Why even contemplate such things? How does one prepare for the ultimate wild card, for the perverse and thoughtless monsters that walk among us on a daily basis?
I write because I want to, on some small level, make a tiny bit of sense of it all. And the simple truth that I arrive at--the one thing that provides even the smallest glimpse of rational thought in all of this--is that none of it makes sense.