I will likely always struggle with horror—it’s not a genre I go to often, and almost never without many people first letting me know what I’m in for. Horror gets snagged in my head, and I end up having dark dreams or outright nightmares, so when I do read horror, it’s in tiny bits, during the early hours of the day, in the hope that the imagery will be filtered out by the daily detritus thereafter.
So, when I picked up a copy of We Shall Be Monsters, it was from a “support worthy ideas and marginalized voices” point of view, knowing I might not read it anytime soon. But then I cracked the cover, and read a bit of the first page, and hit Day Al-Mohamed’s line, “I seem to have died.”
It’s right at the end of the first of a series of journal entries that make up the story, which is set in 1888, and begins quite literally with the main character realizing when they got out of bed in the morning, they were already dead. Their heart has stopped, but for whatever reason, their body has not.
What unfolds is a macabre journey of what happens to an animate—but dead and decaying—body, and what lengths the medically trained narrator goes to to maintain some form of continued existence while seeking a remedy. It’s dark, and creepy, and shudder-worthy a few times over.
And I have such writerly envy over that simple line: “I seem to have died.”