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Monsters

A relentless portrait of a family on the brink of chaos, as they struggle to care for each other under the weight of fear. by Raphaela Weissman

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The Synopsis

Monsters is the story of a family falling apart as they struggle to care for each other under the weight of fear. Every evening, Annie and Paul Mayfield and their son Thomas sit together in the seething silence of their Brooklyn apartment, still haunted by the memory of the attack on the Twin Towers a year earlier. The nights are plagued by Thomas’s vivid nightmares, Annie’s unexplained sleepwalking, and Paul’s growing paranoia as he fears the deadly implications of their disquiet. At eight years old, Thomas is eerily serious, and precocious to the point of premature adulthood. He also lives in fear— of his parents’ unexplained behavior, the monsters he imagines are hiding everywhere and can take on any form, and the uncertain world he inhabits in his own room.

Peter Mountford, author of A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism and The Dismal Science, calls Monsters "haunting and beguiling." As frank and painful as a family dinner, it's a relentless portrait of three people on the brink of quiet chaos.

The Excerpt

The first time it happened was in the spring. She’d woken up at the staircase, gripping the railing and staring down. She didn’t wake anyone, but Paul stirred when she climbed back into bed. She was cold and sweaty; her hands still felt the phantom curve of wood against her palms, pressing into her skin with an urgency she didn’t understand. “Mm?” he’d breathed, turning towards her.

Then she made a mistake.

She could have said nothing; why did she even decide that his noise was a question? He could have just been half-awake and happy to feel her there. But she was half-awake too, in a way she’d never felt before, one foot still deeply implanted in her dream life, the rest of her more aware of the tangible world around her than she’d ever been this late at night. But for whatever reason, it seemed imperative to interact with the living thing next to her, so, question or not, she’d answered, almost immediately.

“I think I just sleep-walked.” The silence beside her came alive; there was no doubt that Paul was wide awake. “I woke up at the railing.”

Remembering that moment now, it seemed so obvious to her what that thing was that she’d felt: it had been fear, beginning to work its way between them. Their room was silent enough that any movement echoed in the bed language of sheets and springs, but even though she heard nothing, she knew he’d moved away. The pressure of his arm, that tingly warmth that only happens when two skins just barely share a surface, was gone, just gone; he didn’t even leave a phantom, like the banister.

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The Author

Originally from Woodstock, New York, Raphaela Weissman studied French and creative writing at New York University and in Paris. Monsters is her first novel, and her fiction and nonfiction work has been published in L Magazine, New York Press, Bookslut, Gallatin Review, GeekWire, Publishers Weekly and the Euphony Journal. She has worked as a literacy teacher, a campaign fundraiser, a community organizer, a tech sector drone, an amateur comedian, a mortgage banker, a salesperson, and a video transcriber for various reality TV programming. She lives in Seattle, where she conceived and wrote much of Monsters in classes at Richard Hugo House, and is working on a second novel loosely based on her experiences in high school marching band.

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