As the light buzzed to life, my eyes fell to the small side window next to the back door. A face stared at me in it as I stepped into the kitchen. My heart leapt in my chest and thumped so hard I thought it would burst from my chest with one more beat. My feet seemed stuck in quicksand.
I convinced my body it had to move to see if something was about to attack, kill, or eat me. I took one-step back and shook my head, and shut my eyes in an extended blink. When I finally braved them open, the face still stared at me, but it blinked, changed, and then again went back to staring at me.
As I stared, words formed across the face when it finally dawned on me that someone had left the television on in the downstairs living room. A character from a DVD looped on the screen and reflected in the window. I sighed, thankful it wasn’t real. My over active imagination once again. It got me to thinking about a question I’m asked all the time.
“As a horror writer, what scares you?” My first response is typically, there is nothing that scares me. I’m not sure if that is my machismo talking or a response that I’m supposed to give—a man response. However, after this episode I realize there just may be a few things that do scare me. Perhaps my invincibility has some chinks in its armor. I decided to sit down and have a more honest look at things that scare me and some that do not.
For most people, death seems to scare them. At least what might happen to them after the fact. I’ve never been one on that list. I don’t want to die, but if it’s time, I’m ready. Am I scared of going to hell? No! Am I scared of messing up and doing something of which God will strike me down with lightning? No. This goes back to my perception of God in the first place. I don’t view Him as some over-sized, authoritarian bolt thrower who sits around and waits for us to mess up just to rain fire and brimstone on our heads. That’s not to say I don’t believe in God’s wrath, judgment, or the rewarding of His followers. I’m just saying those thing do not scare me.
Am I afraid of monsters or aliens? No. It’s hard for me to fear something I don’t believe exists. However, for some people their concept of a monster may entail a demon or something to do with the devil. Am I afraid of the devil or demons? Again the answer is NO. I believe that as a Christian, every demon must submit to me, especially when I use the scriptures to fight against it. I must admit during the times, I’ve met someone possessed or felt the presence of an evil spirit it raised the hair on the back of my neck. I believe demons have power, but it’s more important to realize that the weakest Christian with a knowledge and belief in scripture is more powerful than the strongest demon.
Since I live in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, if I walk down the street at night, it’s down a darkened path (very few streetlights). Does that scare me? Maybe sometimes because of the wild animals that may lurk in the shadows. Anyone that has read my first Whisper novel may think I have a phobic fear of snakes. But it isn’t really the case, as a clinical definition of phobia is one that interferes with the activities of daily living. I’m not going to pick them up by the tail and play with them, but I’m not afraid to kill everyone I find. If there is a snake around my house, I will take my murder shovel, hunt it down, and decapitate it. The murder shovel got its name from the bloodstains of about twelve poisonous copperhead snakes I’ve killed in the last two years. So, being without a weapon, I’d be somewhat afraid to walk down the street at night.
At the beginning of this post, I described a true account of the face in the window that admittedly scared me. Does that mean I am afraid to look out my windows at night? Before I answer this particular question let me say this about the town in which I live.
Retselville is scary period. Perhaps, it’s the urban legends that everyone swears are true. Maybe it’s the abandoned buildings and houses emitting dread and creepiness. Maybe it’s simply because it is home to the spookiest looking woods I’ve ever seen. These woods surround the whole town, and crouch at my backdoor. They make for great inspiration for horror stories, but they are so real the horror stories come alive within them.
Okay, so I am not ashamed to admit it the Retselville Woods scare me. So much that I’ve only been in them once at night. That’s another story all together, but the short version is this; my daughter and her friend had gotten their ATV stuck and me and my son trekked four miles in the dark to help them. All I could think about was walking unarmed in the woods with cell phones as flashlights accompanied by three teenagers, two of them girls. Talk about a live slasher film.
As in the case of any self-reflecting essay, I realize there are a few things that scare me. My justification is that I write horror stories that involve this town, these woods, and the native inhabitants. I write stories that have a sense of dread tinged with speculations of truth.
In essence, I scare myself.