…is a pretty popular question I get asked, quite frequently in fact, but it’s a good one…no, it’s a great one. Pull up a chair kiddos, smoke ‘em if ya’ got ‘em, ‘cuz this could take bit. The short answer, I believe, and I’ve even talked about this in some of my interviews, well, I think it’s not necessarily as much of a choice as it is a small invisible tube, connecting my brain to some little tinkerbell who shoves tangible ideas from one end to the other out of a bin labeled ‘Horror’. I’m kidding, but only half kidding. The rough idea is that, I don’t choose it. It chooses me. The ideas that strike me, out of the blue, just happen to be gruesome and terrifying. I can’t control it anymore than you can make it rain midgets eating M&M’s. It’s like that hooded machine at the beginning of a long conveyor belt, spewing out horror, pulling ideas along an assembly line from start to page. Sometimes, I wonder where this ‘Machine’ came from…sometimes I ask myself, why horror? Occasionally I’ll get an idea that’s of a different genre, but those are few and far between. Flukes, I wager.
But, through time and self-examination, I’ve developed a theory I’d like to share, so stick with me, we’re going back in time a ways.
When I was a kid…real quick preface, this story is absolutely true, no details have been altered as this tale has clung to me like a tic, not always noticeable but always annoyingly there; I haven’t been able to forget it. Continuing…When I was a kid, we lived on a small farm outside of my hometown, which in itself was very very small (still is), in the “Corn Belt” of Illinois. It was your typical farmhouse, situated on a plot of land amidst a barn (complete with a hay loft), a shed for the John Deere lawnmower and other tractors and farmy things, a garage, a chicken coop, and a pasture for the cows and goats we had. Yup, I was a little farmboy for the early years of my life. Our farm was a little off, though. For instance, our chickens, my dad admittedly said he knew nothing about when he started venturing into poultry, were “exotic” chickens. These were the strangest looking birds ya’ ever did see. They had tall Mohawks, were mean as shit, and laid Technicolor eggs. They were a strange lot.
All the main structures of the farm were separated by a huge gravel lot, probably about the half the size of a football field. It was pretty big, that’s for damn sure. Not only was the farm in the middle of nowhere, but there were no neighbors for miles. It was JUST us out there.
So, now that I’ve painted you a decent picture, here we go…theory time.
The main floor of the house was a living room, a bathroom, and a kitchen. In the living room was a set of stairs that went up to the second floor, with four bedrooms, all along one hallway, all on the same side of the hall. My little brother’s nursery was first in the line (he was just born, and now he’s freakin’ 21..sheesh), then it was my older brother’s, then MINE, then my parents. Mine wasn’t initially there when they purchased the house, and neither was my brother’s nursery. Those were added after the fact, and were very small. I have a walk-in closet now that’s bigger than my bedroom back then. But, I was a kid, and I had my OWN room. I was a happy camper as long as I got to bed on time. My mom always says, out of all the kids, I was never any trouble at bed time. It’s funny, she said I used to ask to go to bed. Haha.
Now, I can’t tell you how that night started because, honestly, I don’t remember. I sure as hell remember how it ended though. I’m sure it went something like – The family sat down for dinner at 7 o’clock. We ate, me, my brothers, my mom and dad, all of us ate, not saying a word (that was typical). I’m sure my mom tried making conversation, my older brother most likely scarfed his food then asked to be excused while I separated my veggies from whatever else was on the country-style porcelain plate. After I finished, I prolly went into the living room and played Mario on the Nintendo (the first one!), until I ‘asked to go to bed’ lol.
Whatever really happened, I know, for a fact, I was in bed when the sun set and the moon rose, because I was in bed when it happened.
If you stood at the doorway to my bedroom, you’d see the bed, flush with the left and far wall. Immediately beside the head of the bed was a window, and then my dresser hugged the right wall.
Here we go…
I was lying in bed, facing the wall, sleeping. I don’t know how long it went on before I actually woke up, but I KNOW, when I DID wake up, I heard a tapping, like someone was drumming a pencil eraser against the schoolbus window, letting it bounce, stopping, then doing it again. It was slow at first, but when I rolled onto my back, facing the ceiling, it got faster, like it wanted my attention now that whatever it was knew I was awake. I looked around my room, confused, listening to this soft tapping in the dark. It was just so soft, it was hard to pinpoint. Then it let one go, like BAM!
I turned, following the slam, a little kid so confused as to what the hell was going on. There, in the window. I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about it, but it scared me so completely, so fully I’m getting goosebumps right now.
I couldn’t make out exact details because it was dark, but it was a shape, a completely black human shape, silhouetted by the full moon, and it was hiding in the bottom right-hand corner of the window, cowering there, like it was disturbingly shy. I could see the jagged outline of its shoulders, but the most striking thing about him/it/whatever, was its hair. It was poufy and stringy at the same time and stuck up in weird, asymmetrical angles against the creamy moonlight. I couldn’t see its eyes, but I knew it was looking at me, now that it’d gotten my attention. But, what happened next was so profoundly simple and yet so utterly terrifying that I can’t sleep with an uncovered window to this day and, in fact, I covered my windows with blankets until the age of 12, and by that point my mom couldn’t take it anymore so she invested in thick, ultra thick, incredibly thick curtains AND blinds (I made sure to add the blinds).
It was literally seconds between when I noticed the thing in the window and when it did what it did, seconds!
But, it raised one of its hands, palm open, and it waved, ever-so-politely, the fucking thing waved. I, immediately, flipped over and lay, facing the wall, pulling the covers over my head so tight I had a hard time breathing. I closed my eyes and cried to myself. I cried, and cried, and cried. I stopped crying though, tears falling down my cheeks, when I heard it start tapping again, wanting my attention AGAIN. It tapped faster, annoyed.
I mustered what courage I had, still crying, and tossed the blanket off my head, leapt from the bed, and ran through the door and down the hall faster than Forrest G with BIONIC legs, the whole time thinking this thing’s pretzel thin fingers were going to wrap around my throat and pull me into the night from behind.
EVERYTIME I tell someone that story, every single damn time the natural response, of course, is that it was a dream, and I’ve heard that so many times I’ve started to believe it myself. It was soooo real, though. So real. I couldn’t tell you exactly what the damn thing was, or what the hell it wanted, but it felt real.
So…um…why horror? Deep down, in my gut where all the hard-boiled truths lie, waiting to be scooped up for a quick use, I KNOW that night, whether it was real or not, has had a bigger impact on me than anything else when it comes to my writing. The fear I felt was so pure, so guttural, I can still feel its echoes every now and then. That night must have built that machine that churns out these horrific ideas that make it from my head to the page, then to your eyes. It simply must have. Thanks for tagging along