's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" Matthew is Suffering "

Submitted by Peppermint Monster


You get sucked in by those pictures. Those images of children in poverty, cheeks sunken; eyes glazed over with hunger and quiet injustice. That was what I saw in Matthew.

Matthew is suffering, the website said. Do you want to help him?

The website was simple: a photograph of an emaciated child, standing alone on a dusty path that could have been anywhere in the world. Below it was a story of poverty, sweatshop labor and endless pain--the usual sort of thing you'd expect on a charity site, hoping for empathy. I'll admit I only skimmed it. I was drawn in more by the picture than anything else.

When I clicked the 'donate' button I saw a Facebook popup listing the names of my friends. I clicked on my sister since she might be interested in donating.

Your donation is being processed, the screen said. What did that mean?

That picture of Matthew is on my desktop now and I can't get rid of it.


I can't explain exactly why I went back to the site, that site asking me to help Matthew. Maybe it's because of my sister. We don't know who took her but she disappeared the day I clicked her name.

We have received your donation. The site said. You are not pure.

That popup I'd seen the first time wasn't from Facebook. It had people I barely knew, it had my mother and she didn't even own a computer. Matthew's photo was on that popup. It was on every page of the site. His eyes pierced me. Judged me. I could drown in them. Something in them made me click my mother's name.

You are not pure. The screen said. Murderer.

That afternoon, I understood. I was called in to identify a body. It was emaciated almost beyond recognition, but it was my sister. That image of her laying on a mortuary slab, her limbs cramped and curled together and her thin face tight with pain--I'd seen it before. I'd seen it in the back of my mind when I clicked her photo. She had starved to give Matthew relief. Her hunger had fed him.

I did this to her. And now I've done it to my mother.


Matthew is suffering. Do you want to help him?

We have received your donation. You are not pure.

My mother, found bloated in the gutter. Flies around her eyes and open sores covering her skin.

Each time I click a name, they disappear from the list. Donated. Given to Matthew to ease his suffering. I see them in my mind's eye, clearer each time. I know they're dying because of me, but Matthew is suffering.

My neighbor, dead of exposure in his back yard, fingers and toes turning black.

I'm damning myself a little more with each click, but I know it's all helping him, somehow. This poor little boy. He's suffering. I'm helping him.



Why did I think he was real? Why did I think he was human?

I can't get the images out of my mind. My nephew, barely ten, withered limbs cramped and curled around him. My first girlfriend with flies around her eyes. My best friend torn to pieces by shrapnel and left to die for hours in the hot sun. The police haven't found them, but I see them. They're with Matthew now. Watching me. They know what I did, they know I'm responsible, and they're waiting for Matthew to take me.

He's talking to me. Not in words but in ideas that he puts in my head. This certainty I have that I have to keep donating, have to keep giving him my family, my friends, or he'll come for me.

The picture isn't on my computer any more. It's in my house. Matthew's eyes weren't always that dark. He wasn't always standing that close. Every now and then he moves a little closer to me, and the only way to drive him back is donating.

I know it's wrong. But I can't face what's coming. I need to hold him back.

I'm running out of people to donate.

I know what he is, now. Matthew is Suffering. And I helped him.

Forgive me.