My doorbell rings. It hasn’t done that in months. I disconnected the phone about 2 months ago, and if I didn’t have the mail slot, the postmaster probably would have sent some cops over to do a “wellness check” and make sure I hadn’t kicked. After what happened in the mountains, I was put on a ‘voluntary’ unpaid leave of absence from the DNR. I had started to show up late, finish my projects well behind schedule, and take several more days to get somewhere than usual. My boss likes me, so I figure this was the chance to fix myself up before I get shit-canned.
I bolt awake and feel the weight of the heavy black shotgun pressing into my chest. After I lost the rifle, I needed something with a bit more kick than the .45, but also cheap. The salesman showed me a pump-action shotgun. It had a short barrel, enlarged magazine, and a smaller than normal stock for self-defense in the tight spaces of a home. I bought it on the spot and picked it up the next day. I had taken it out behind my house a few times and test fired it. The steel and polymer gun shouldered differently than my now lost rifle but was easy to pick up nonetheless. I wouldn’t be winning any skeet shooting competitions, but I know how to at least clear a jam and roughly where to point the end of it.
The doorbell rings again and I slink off the couch, carrying the shotgun by the receiver. I try to knock the plates and empty pizza boxes out of my was as quietly as possible.
Then comes the knocking. Knock knock knock, right on my front door. Don’t they know how rude it is to knock on a man’s door at 3pm?
In a few previous posts I introduced y’all to my dog, Bailey. Here she is taking care of me after my recent Septoplasty. I clearly am in good hands here. (Also, I can breathe now, which is the strangest sensation.)
Anyways, I posted some of the weird happenings in my recently built neighborhood here:
As a quick refresher, the back of my yard, as well as those of my neighbors, butts up to a 100 feet wide gas exemption, where nothing can be built due to large pipelines run through the ground. Taking Bailey out one night, I heard a strange voice. That’s detailed in the first post. The second is something I discovered about the local lore.
So, while I do write horror stories, this series of events is true to life.
It’s been like this all day and I really have no idea what to do. My wife is standing next to me, as puzzled and frightened as I am. She’s clutching the flashlight like it’s a holy relic. I’m holding the axe so tight that I can already feel callouses forming on my palms. I haven’t taken a swing yet, because, well we don’t know what to do.
It’s becoming more and more apparent that the Internet may be changing the way we read. People are starting to just scan text for key words and very easily digestible information instead of taking the time to let content sink in. As a writer with a love of short form written horror, this is my worst nightmare. Horror needs build up! Tension! Actual consumption of atmospheric words and not just scanning for ‘blood’ or ‘incomprehensible!’ How can I compete with that? Well, I took a look around the Internet and figured I’d give it a shot. Fuck it.
My mom had probably the strangest experience in the house. I had been a sickly child, getting ear infections and strep throat often. The first year of my life I suffered from horrible seizures that luckily went away with time.
When I was just able to start making coherent sentences, I came down with an extremely bad flu and a horribly high temperature. My father was away for the weekend on a business trip to Atlanta, where the corporation he worked for held most of their meetings. She was trying everything in the book to get my temperature down, but the fever wouldn’t break.
I generally think of myself as a rational person. In one of my stories I wrote about how the character was so tired he was seeing things darting in and out of his vision. This happened to me while finalizing a 40 page paper in college that was due at 9am. It was currently 5am. As I typed furiously on my laptop, I would see small fuzzy black shapes appear to run across the doorway in front of me, back and forth. I know that was my brain reacting to being up as long as I had been by then, in addition to how much effort I was putting in to my rushed paper.
One of the things I’ve been asked by readers, as a courtesy so that I can feel like a real writer, is how I come up with my story ideas. The truth of the matter is that my inspiration comes from no single source. I primarily write short-form horror, which as a genre is easy to get an idea for, but a tough balancing act not to be incomprehensible or cheesy. I write short form horror because I’m still developing the skills to keep the scary thing scary in a novel-length story. Story seeds come from trying to imagine a story that’s built around something that’s scary to me, such as forgotten places, unknown creatures, and intimacy.
I like my horror like I like my women: supernatural with dashes of mystery here and there. I enjoy writing about strange, possibly one-off creatures, who have very ambiguous goals, and a slowly developing rule set. Many times a picture will spark an idea. As an example, take a look at my “The Map’s: The Deer story.”
Floating around on the internet is an eerie picture taken by a hunting camera, the kind that hunters stick on trees along game path to see if it has actually been active or not. The picture is the result of grainy, infrared lit night vision. The image perfectly captures a moment when two bucks are fighting, right square in the middle of the picture. They’re about to lock horns and have both reared back on their hind legs giving the impression that they’re dancing with each other. Since the shot is lit by infrared lighting, the two deer are lit as if in a spotlight, while just enough light is able to reach the rest of the woods behind them. A group of about a dozen deer are watching the fight, but all that we can see are just pairs of shining eyes in the background. There’s also a random body part of a couple of the deer in the background that gave me the feeling like they were slowly closing in around the viewer for having seen something they shouldn’t.
My tween self’s experiences was also partially a factor. My father has always been an avid hiker and camper, and had no qualms about navigating the forest behind our house in the dark. I decided that I was going to be tough too, to be one with nature and the night! I tried to think of the best way to prove it. My course of action inevitably became: walk to the creek about 75 feet behind our house without a flashlight. Then I could tell the ladies of my bravery and get all of the dates to the movies I wanted so long as my mom was willing to drive.
I put on my finest surplus Army camo jacket and pants, because of the ‘One with the night!’ thing. I figured that dressing up as Arnold Schwarzenegger from Predator would, by the transitive property, also make me tougher. I also put on my old Vietnam jungle boots I used for hiking (which were so old and battered we had to re-glue the soles back on about 3 times by this point,) and grabbed a knife to put on my belt.
I wouldn’t take a flashlight, oh no, but I would take a camping knife to defend myself. This is because the disconnect between my stupid kid bravery and actual bravery was pretty high, and I hadn’t been introduced to the idea of cognitive dissonance yet. I waited until 10 pm, sliding the door open and slipping into the inky blackness of the forest that hovered over the back deck.
Now, the knife wasn’t for murderers or slashers or anything like that. That doesn’t scare me, and even then it took extremely well done slasher movies to keep me frightened. Oh no, the knife was for my imagination. I had images of strange supernatural creatures waiting in the trees to pluck my plump little self from the ground for an easy snack. But, jokes on them, because I have my knife! I’m not gonna go out like that, damnit! Taken out by the low-rent monster clearly waiting in the wings, who’s supernatural weakness is getting stabbed a bunch.
The first steps were the hardest, but once I was in the woods my eyes adjusted to what little moonlight filtered through the trees. I could see about twenty feet around me relatively clearly. With such a short distance to close, I began to feel cocky. Practically strutting to the creek, I made it about 10 feet to the edge before I heard it.
A deep, loud, single grunt.
It was about 20 feet in front of me, across the tiny creek. Then I heard movement in the underbrush, something making a hell of a racket.
I investigated further, stealthily crawling thro- Ha, no I ran like hell. I ran up that small hill so fast I’m pretty sure my jungle boot started tearing itself apart again. Breathless (I was not the smallest or fittest of children), I ran to my father and explained what happened. He listened intently while trying to suppress a smile. When I finished trying to convince him to arm the neighborhood with pitchforks and torches he began openly laughing.
“It was a deer. You startled a deer. They make a loud grunting noise as a warning that a predator is in the area. Things like that.”
I might have ran like a wuss at the first strange noise, but I felt pretty good. I was able to sneak up to a deer without even knowing it, AND it viewed me as a predator. Pretty good for a 12 year old.
A big credit to my lifelong love of horror does go to my dad (who took that picture up there.) For my current writing project he told me to use any of his spooky outdoor pictures I wanted, which has been extremely awesome. He started getting into amateur photography as I started to get into writing. It’s been great watching his photography skills improve while my own skills have gone from: writing crappy fiction for only myself to read, to writing my slightly less crappy fiction that I’ve gotten malicious enough to inflict on the internet. He has a passion for the outdoors that he shared with me, and that clearly reflects in my writing.
My dad has a huge supply of horror genre paperback novels, more than even the local library. I was practically raised on Stephen King and a multitude of less prolific, though still scary, horror writers. We watched some horror film staples together, like The Birds, The Shining, and The Stand miniseries. Even Phantoms, which as we all know, Ben Affleck was the bomb in. Older movies like the original 13 Ghosts set me on course to get into ghost stories and prompted my ghost hunter phase in high school. So, I just have to say, thanks Dad.
You’re still an asshole for hiding that giant Halloween mannequin in my room that scared the shit out of me, though. I haven’t forgotten that one, Old Man.
My mapping project started to find missing planes and ended with me nearly dead in a car accident fleeing from some kind of monster.
Weeks have gone by since Kylie’s house went up in flames, taking whatever the hell that thing was with it. I was on edge, having trouble sleeping, finding myself hiding in my room with the rifle and .45 by my side. I was searching the internet for anything I could find on the occult no matter how insignificant. Anything from ways to protect myself, ward my house, or interpretive dances to ward off vampires.
I just took another dose of painkillers so I hope this will be somewhat coherent by the time I’m done. The doctor said that once they popped my shoulder back into place most of the pain would disappear, but I think she was just trying to make me feel better. Tonight I’m going to destroy the map. I’m backing up my files and digital copies on a flash drive, but plan on locking it in my safe deposit box at the bank. The physical evidence though, I’m going to burn.