Excerpts from “To Hold & Horrify”

Dee Richards
3 min readMay 8, 2023

Hello, thank you for your interest in my research project, “To Hold and Horrify: Domestic Violence Narrative as Feminist Horror.” The following are excerpts from works of feminist horror autofiction, completed by me over the past year. I use the tenets of autobiography to describe my own experiences as close as possible, given the limits of recollection. Fiction is here used to emphasize the horror I have lived, and bring the reader as close to the mental experience within these lived situations as possible.

Excerpt from “Inherited”:

Every night, I cradled my growing belly as I stared out my eastern-facing window, watching the moon creep lazily across the sky. I was alone in a room that my husband and I had shared in my dad’s house. Propped up with far too many old pillows, dipping in and out of sleep I watched the night. I felt a sharp pain in my hip, and grumbled at the baby. Another shooting ache twisted within me, this time in my back. I looked at the clock and was momentarily relieved that it was almost time for my husband to come home. The exhaustion within me was overjoyed that the baby would soon calm down — then another jolt in my hip. Was there something wrong with my baby? Why did it hurt so bad? Then, I heard Mr. Nieludski close the front door. He was never quiet, even though it was 2:47 am and my dad slept in the room closest to the door. In the darkness, I heard his footsteps. Another pain. His footfalls sounded strange, different. The baby shimmered across my taut belly. If I hadn’t known better, his familiar step now sounded slowed, dragging, like a zombie. Surely, it was my imagination crying out for rest. Scraping across the hardwood floor, toward my door, he moved and my panic grew. The baby did somersaults inside of me. The doorknob turned, and his face was dark except for the smile that cut through the night. I closed my eyes, and the baby jabbed into my rib. A small scream escaped, and I was terrified that he had heard it. “You okay, babe?” He said; I looked at him, and the fear ebbed. The baby rested.

Excerpt from “Dagaz”:

“Blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard it all before. Now sit down!” My body sits rigidly upright on the mattress again, hands folded in my lap, while a small river of blood weaves its way down my face. He had moved through me like a virus, slowly replacing every happiness with anger and cruelty. I began alienating friends, overeating, undereating, crying for hours, and praying for a way out of his grasp. It was his words through my lips when I realized that I was beyond help. I had pushed away every attempt at deliverance because whenever I thought I should reach out, he punished me worse. I would throw up from overeating, or lay helplessly immobile for days on end. He didn’t let me shower. He didn’t let me read. I just sat, alone and afraid of his reprisals. Every inch of doubt or anger that I’d gained from my life was turned to a poison that he could use to force me forever back into my helpless corner. I watched him destroy my body from behind glassy eyes. No more, I said within.

Excerpt from “A Succession of Ghosts”

Staring at the boulder, I wondered what my vision of hiding behind it at night had meant. The enigmatic rock exhausted my mind. My bed was a mess of pillows and a crumpled duvet, but a disheveled temptress at that. I stretched out over it, letting its comfort envelop me. My dream thoughts began and the boulder was the focus of them: I was running toward it at night, the stars and moon illuminated my way around and over the brush. If I could just reach it, I would be safe. Then there was a soft knock on the door, and a man said: “Are you awake?” I gasped and shot up in bed. The hallway beyond my bedroom door was empty, and Luke’s ripping snore from the living room echoed.

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Dee Richards

Dee has a BA in English with honors from UC Irvine; 3 awards in CNF; 8 fiction and CNF pubs to date; writer for The Key Reporter Mag; getting a Masters in CNF.