Hyperobscure is a rare monster. He’s managed to find success on NoSleep and the smaller but still super active r/ShortScaryStories. With the latter, Hyper wasn’t just successful, he’s not just popular, he’s an institution. For something like 30 or 40 posts in a row, Hyper never missed getting #1 for the day on ShortScary. It honestly might be an even longer streak. Everything he wrote was devoured by readers who were always starving for more.
All of that while also showing up to grab #1 on NoSleep every few weeks just for kicks and giggles. But that level of consistent popularity has a sharp-side, a little razor that cuts any time a story doesn’t perform. There’s a lot of pressure to keep writing, keep posting, keep growing. I’ve had a fraction of Hyper’s popularity and even that caused enough stress that my temples went from “touch of gray” to “accurate Mr. Fantastic cosplay.”
Hyper has posted about his own struggles with competition and trying to meet reader expectations in the past. Recently, he told me a single comment from a reader was enough for a tectonic shift in his perspective.
“I used to be super-competitive, but after the message from a reader I honestly don’t care as much anymore.”
This particular reader is a frequent reader and commenter on NoSleep and r/TheCrypticCompendium. She is also kindness personified and left a comment when I posted Part 1 of the new series to my own subreddit. This is the comment that had an impact on Hyper.
“I have no clue, how I made it through this last 8 months, with my brother passing unexpectedly. Then I remembered, every day I would come here and read. You, Hyper, Common Grackle, and Girl from the Crypt, and I can not forget You Shall Not Pass, helped carry me through, the darkest period, in my life. I’m so grateful to have found your writings.
Thank you for taking me out of my nightmare, and allowing me to have a different one. I don’t know how to tag, individuals. So I apologize in advance, and for also putting this here if it’s not where it belongs. I just had to tell you all, before I lost my courage. Especially Hyper, you have no idea, how many times you actually wrote/spoke me off a ledge. More times than I care to admit tbh. Just thank you. Thank YOU ALL. I am forever in your debt, and invested in your successful writing careers.”
The competitive part of me is happy (but never satisfied) with some of the work I’ve posted to NoSleep. I’ve checked several items off my NoSleep bucket list: managed to get a story into the top 10 of all time, a monthly contest win, and two annual. But by far the story I’m most proud of wasn’t due to its popularity. What made it special was the response.
I wrote, Maria on the Moon, after the passing of my grandmother from Parkinson’s a few years ago, the sudden death of my uncle in 2019, and the chronic illness that’s followed my mother for years. Like her mom, she also suffers from Parkinson’s disease. It’s taken a sledgehammer to her quality of life, left her unable to work, and dependent on family for most day-to-day tasks. The sickness has hurt her, terribly, unfairly, and if you could magically transform a disease into a living being, I’d gladly murder it every morning and eat its fucking heart for breakfast.
My uncle was only 63 when he passed from a heart attack. It was less than a week after he retired. So much life left, all snatched away. Stolen.
Death and illness. The often random unfairness of both is infuriating and tragic and there are so many times where there’s simply nothing you can do. Being powerless when people around you suffer is the scariest thing I can imagine. So I turned my sadness into monsters, into a story.
Grief is a heavy thing. It bites and rips and stalks you in the dark. But when you give it a name and drag it into the light, sometimes that makes it easier.
Maria did well, got read a lot, plenty of shiny upvotes. The comments, though, the messages, the vivid and uncompromising kindness shattered me a little in the best way. A few hundred comments and messages came in with people talking about their own losses, loved ones they would give anything to see again. The experience was cathartic, a collective moment of mourning.
I felt connected to every single person that shared their story, their despair, their hope that some part of a person carries on after death, even if it’s only a memory that we can pass down in the stories we tell. I’m not religious but I like to think every person has a fire and we share the flame with those we care about, and who care about us. Those fires mix together and with that connection, no individual flame ever truly goes out.
Grief is a heavy thing but when we hold it together, it’s so much lighter. That’s how I felt the night I posted Maria. That’s how I still feel when I think about that memory and the comments readers left on Maria. Those stories felt like flowers at a grave. Fields and fields of bright, lovely words that reminded me when we hurt, we hurt together.
I thought a lot about Maria this week and the response from readers. The recent comment that affected Hyper was also on my mind. Motivation came back quick and easy. It was never gone, just...sulking. I decided to post Part 3 of the new series on r/TheCrypticCompendium, a writing subreddit shared by myself and some spooky friends. Doing so meant accepting that the series wouldn’t have a shot at NoSleep numbers. But anyone who wanted to read it and enjoyed the world would be able to find it. I wouldn’t leave the series abandoned, which is always a temptation when drops in karma.
Part 3 is currently sitting around 60 upvotes with three (encouraging) comments. There’s nothing for the post to compete with, no contest to win, no chart to topple. The story is simply there.
I’m a little surprised by how ready I am to write the next part.