Love is something we all crave. Being loved and accepted is part of our human wiring. Whether we like other human beings or not, we need to be around them in order to be happy. Studies show that aging people suffer depression and have a shorter lifespan simply because they are alone. Prisoners are tortured be solitary confinement. Isolation is so toxic for humans, it leads people to suicide, to hate, even to orchestrating mass shootings. If we don’t feel loved, we are doomed.

But this love is a mysterious thing. Is it an emotion or a part of our being? Is it selfish or selfless? Is it the fulfillment of a psychological need? A divine force? A survival mechanism? In my story “Conviction” (to be published in the †3Dark’s Cursed Crossings), Michael is a young man whose father left when he was five years old. His mother is unavailable as a mother or teacher. She’s wrapped up in her own chronic illness and doesn’t have anything left to give him.

Michael doesn’t find any comfort and security in his peers either. They have cast him out for being poor and awkward. It is as if he doesn’t exist. Society to him is shallow and meaningless only because it rejects him. He is totally alone except for in his virtual life, immersed in role-playing games where he gets to be the hero and interact with characters who can’t reject him.

Then he meets Seb, a young man of unfaltering confidence and otherworldly intellect. It’s an instantaneous infatuation. But does that really happen outside of fiction?

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Love at first sight is real, but not as mystical as one might think. There are many reasons we feel a jolt when we meet eyes with a stranger across the room. What happens after that is a series of psychological and physiological processes that explain why we go “head over heels” for someone. Can love defeat nihilism? #amwriting #love #god #nihilism #darkfiction Click To Tweet

Finding the “Better Half”

We are attracted people who have the qualities we lack. As Dr. Berit Brogaard D.M.Sci., Ph.D says in this article in Psychology Today, “Love completes our deficient narcissist selves.” A shy person will be drawn to an outgoing person. A submissive person will feel attracted to a dominant. One who plays it safe will be fascinated by a risk taker. Character traits and faults interlock. That is why we feel complete when we find “the one.”

In “Conviction.” Seb is everything that Michael wishes to be. Seb is older, more physically developed, intelligent, and composed. He is wealthy and knows what he believes in. He is a leader who intimidates everyone in his line of sight. As Michael spends more time with him, he absorbs some of Seb’s mannerisms. He borrows Seb’s power and is able to become physically and mentally stronger. Because of this, his loyalty is solidified. The new person he becomes is made from borrowed parts of Seb.

Re-finding the Love of a Parent

Freud said that we don’t find love, but we “re-find” the love we lose when separating from our parents. Michael may have vague memories of his father; that is all. When Seb establishes himself in a role of leadership and mentorship, Michael feels as though he is getting the fatherly love and guidance he never had. He thrives on the praise, attention, and approval.

Losing Yourself in the Other

It’s easy to lose yourself in love. The phrases “falling for you” and “you stole my heart” come to mind. When we first fall in love, especially at a young age, it is intense and obsessive. Our beloved becomes our world, and the slightest disharmony can cause havoc within us. We do anything we can to please our object of affection because when they are happy with us, we soar with joy. When they are displeased, we are in torment until we can win them over again.

Michael has lost his identity in Seb. He is emotionally dependent on how Seb is making him feel. When Seb shows Michael the slightest bit of attention, he melts under it. If Seb seems upset or disappointed, Michael rushes to do anything to be in his good graces again. Michael is so starved for love, he doesn’t think twice about agreeing to Seb’s peculiar way of life. He justifies it in his mind, and when Seb puts him to the test, Michael goes against his inner conscience to do the unthinkable and win Seb’s approval.

Surrendering to “God”

Whether we believe in a higher power or not, if we don’t accept our situation here on Earth we will be miserable. In this way surrendering to “God,” or to the fact that there may not be a god/gods are one and the same. No one has come back from the dead to tell us definitively (in a way that can’t be discounted by science) that Jesus is waiting for us in some kind of heaven or that any trace of our consciousness continues beyond our physical existence. The only ways we know for sure that we aren’t completely destroyed is 1) the part of ourselves we pass on through having children, 2) our contribution to society (e.g. a book, a building, a war, a discovery) 3) the very atoms that make up our bodies be recycled and reassembled into something else.

This is why Seb believes that the consumption of food is holy. It is a conduit to immortality. Whatever we digest becomes part of us. When we decompose, we pass that matter along to the next creature who needs to borrow it for their life cycle. If you don’t believe reincarnation is real, it is in this way. We are all made up of matter that has been reincarnated time after time over billions of years.

For Michael, Seb becomes more than a replacement parent, a better half, and a new identity for Michael. Seb has become godlike in his eyes (mostly because Seb believes he is godlike himself). Michael willingly submits to him, despite any rational thoughts that nag in the periphery of his mind. What does it matter to which god we surrender if everything is God (or if everything is nothing)?

Read "Conviction"

Your chance to get a copy of “Conviction” along with 3 other unique dark fiction stories ends on August 13, 2018