Like creepy stories with a romantic twist? Have you picked up Legendary yet?

This week we take a closer look at one of the stories in the anthology that blends urban legends and romance. “The Hook” by Michael Leonberger gives a new twist one of one of the better known urban legends, the man with a hook for a hand who terrorizes a young couple parking.

Today, his guest post encourages us to take on what we fear.

Everyday People

By Michael Leonberger

Tons of things scare me.

But driving especially scares me.

I’d like to say it’s because I was in a car accident when I was a teenager, but that’s not it — it was a minor fender bender, and probably more embarrassing than anything else. More likely it’s got something to do with the dreadful thing that lives in my brain, that ghoul Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, that’s a real nasty creep of a backseat driver.

Others with OCD have probably experienced this: you’ll be driving along one night, go over a speed bump, when suddenly you’re bombarded with apocalyptic visions: what if that wasn’t a speed bump at all?

What if it was a person?

A large, yellow, horizontal stripe of a person, but a person all the same.

So you go back and check and clarify with your guilt addled soul: yes, it was only a speed bump. Yes, everything is okay.

Only to experience the same dreadful panic two minutes later.

What if…?

Wash, rinse, repeat.

This, I might add, is a spectacular cocktail if you’re trying to furnish a “fashionably late” persona.

I believe my bestie OCD also extrapolated all kinds of horror from the highway safety patrol videos they made us watch in high school.

I specifically remember a picture of a burnt teddy bear in the morning sun sitting at the end of a long trail of intestine, threading in and out of the dotted yellow line, which made the point: don’t drink and drive.

Or something. Don’t drive at all, really.

Don’t try and do anything.

And while I can’t blame my fear of cars entirely on any one of these things, I do feel as though I’m strapping myself into a metallic death machine every time I click the seat belt into place. That we’re all just a little bit out to lunch to be driving at all, and so thereby I’m joining all the other nuts out on the highway who thought this was a good idea, all licensed madmen, all of us rabid and foaming and either crazy or terribly brave for being out there at all.

Terribly brave. Yes, that’s the one I like. Sometimes just getting up in the morning is terribly brave, for some people. An act of stunning defiance.

It is for Tilly, the protagonist of The Hook, who has lost her hand and her dad to a car accident, and is doing her best to put the pieces of her life back together.

It isn’t easy. On top of the guilt and trauma and sadness, she’s fallen in love with a girl in a town that’s deeply homophobic. She’s distrustful of what this other girl sees in her, as she can only see her own scars and imperfections. Worse, she’s being stalked by a sociopath. These things happen. But what’s most endearing to me about her is that she wants to drive a car again. To really gun that sucker, out of town and far and away to a place where she can be herself. To some Heavenly Eden that is revitalizing, a place without fear, the place countless rock songs are written about, the high water mark of hope that really pulls you up and away from whatever dreadful thing haunts you.

And she’s terrified to do it — terrified to do any of it at all.

But that’s what makes her brave. That’s what makes her my hero. Because man, if she can muster up what it takes to drive a car again, I can too.

The more bruises and lumps and scars life has given us, the more wounded and maimed and limping we’ve become, the blacker the pits of certain darkness right beneath our feet, the farther we’ve fallen to pieces — all of this only amplifies our strength more. Our beauty and our resilience.

They make us brave. They make us strong.

They make us a species of wonderful madness and beautiful miracles, and all of this gives me hope, because all of it’s true. It’s how people are.

Surviving, anxious, scared, and braver still.

Super heroes, really.

Also known as everyday people.

Michael Leonberger is a writer and teacher from Virginia, where he lives with his girlfriend and their pet turtle, Tippy.

His writing credits include a novel (Halloween Sweets), several short stories, annual contributions to the online journal Digital America, various screenplays (most notably Goodish, an official selection at the 2014 Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville, VA), and a macabre series of poetry called Death Haikus, illustrated by his girlfriend for Nun Comix.


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