Daniel Abraham (published under the name M.L.N. Hanover)
Found in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2011
Healing is an odd process. You dig graves for pain, then exhume the body. Then you dig the grave again, shove the pain back into the hole, and then wait until you can handle looking at it again. If you’re lucky, you do this once or twice and then the pain disappears completely and you’re left with just the scars that all this digging left you and you can go back to whatever you call ‘normal’. Not always, but sometimes.
Abraham takes a slightly more literal approach to this theme with ‘Hurt Me’. The skeletons in the closet image is taken down a slightly twisted road, but one that I think that holds a certain comfort if life has dealt a particularly nasty hand.
Who wouldn’t want to be able to steal back the power to control an uncontrollable situation?
On the outset it looks like the house that Corrie has purchased was a mistake. Haunted by something large, nasty, and misogynistic, it seems that she has put herself directly in line to be hurt. And from the glimpses that we have been given into her back story, it would not be the first time that she’s been hurt and hurt badly. Abraham suggests this may or may not be completely outside of the range of consent-there is a partial suggestion that some of her interests run slightly darker than the average vanilla. However, it is also made clear that whoever or whatever did this to her went well past consensual and straight into heavy abuse.
However, like most dark fiction, it should not be assumed that Corrie is completely unaware of what she’s up against. Like healing from most large injuries, Corrie’s path is both dark and twists in a direction that gives her a certain amount of sympathy. Facing her ghosts literally face first Corrie is not the type of heroine where everything is cleaned up in a nice, comfortable manner. However this rings truer to life than if she were the traditional heroine where life is ‘fixed’ in a clean, comfortable manner.
There is a certain darkness to this piece that does work for it, especially if you recognize the type of pain that Corrie is facing. But be forewarned, this is probably going to be a harder read than a lot of the short fiction reviewed on this site.