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What does the future hold?
Back before zombies started becoming passé (although the true horror fans among us will never stop liking zombies entirely… just as we believe that vampires will once again be scary), my friend and professor Dr. Kyle Bishop wrote a book called American Zombie Gothic: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Walking Dead in Popular Culture. Next week I’ll be featuring an excerpt.
But without further ado…
(AUTHOR’S NOTE #1: I know and trust most of you who come to my site and read my random thoughts, but for anyone else, I ask that you respect the content of my brain. My main intent with the following post is to entertain, but there are also seeds of stories scattered throughout the piece. Let me harvest them. Thank you.)
Okay, NOW without further ado…
Some days you want to keep dreaming. Some days you’re glad the dreams weren’t real.
If it was a good night in your house in the middle of nowhere, you actually slept all the way through without any nightmares that made you sit up, put your hand on your wife’s chest in an apelike protective manner and whisper, “I just saw something outside the window,” before falling back on the bed, instantly asleep. (Your wife loves when this happens, by the way.)
Occasionally you sleep with your eyes open apparently. At least this is what people have told you, and it makes sense. When you’re having a nightmare, you will often project that nightmare into your bedroom. Because after all, if there’s some light in the room, your eyes are registering your surroundings, even if you’re asleep. (This makes your middle of the night activity even more physical… and very often much more vocal, as well, in your cries for help. Your wife loves those times, too.)
But now you’re awake.
You have the summer off from teaching, which means you have time to do all of the projects that need to be done around the property. Today you are starting by working on your deck. You’re reasonably coordinated, but several times during the morning, you drop something that, without fail, will slip between the boards, falling into the six inch space under the deck. On your hands and knees, you can see your carpenter’s pencil in the shadows under the deck, specks darting through the thin slits of dusty light, but the positioning of the low deck is such that you can’t look under at the same time as you get on your stomach and reach under.
You start to think about what types of real life creatures live under the deck. But the pencil is just a little beyond your grasping fingers, so you wriggle a little more on your belly, pushing to reach just a little further into the darkness, starting to think about what types of fictional creatures might be living under the deck. Probably things with stingers. And fangs.
Just a little farther…
Your father asks you to meet him in town to help him pick up a bay window for his dining room. The seven miles from your house to the interstate is a death trap for a variety of wildlife. Deer are the most dangerous obstacles for drivers in the evening, but the rabbits have a rough go regardless of the time of day.
As you pass the carcass of a deer, your first thought, even before wondering how the car or truck that hit that deer ended up, is the impulse to switch your air from “fresh” to “recycled.” If nothing else, you know that the smell of anything is actually miniscule particles of that thing, ergo you’re actually inhaling tiny particles of that yummy cake you smell in the kitchen.
And the smell of death? But even beyond the realistic, you wonder about some sort of bacteria that will turn you into a zombie or something.
But you refrain from switching the dial on the air. You’re not crazy after all.
Not long after getting on the interstate, you see in the distance a few police cars pulled over by a copse of cottonwood trees. There’s an ambulance. And a firetruck. And as you get closer you see it’s more like five police cars. As you pass, you catch a glimpse between the cop cars of the tailgate of a white truck turned over in the trees. And again, before you think of how the driver of this accident fared (okay, maybe you think that first, but not long after…) you wonder why they need that much of a law enforcement presence at what appears to be a single vehicle accident.
Drugs is probably your first thought, but if you’ve already been thinking along these lines today (maybe that nightmare is still fresh in your mind) your first thought is, What caused him to crash? And then you think about The Stand. Was the driver actually a soldier who escaped from a military base, but not without being infected by some sort of Super Flu?
Or maybe it’s something that will turn you into a zombie.
Oh, and you’ve had several dreams where after being chased by the bad guy, you actually became the bad guy. You’ve been a zombie, a vampire, and even just someone who was shot to death by the mafia but still walked around talking to people. And it was so much less stressful to not have to be chased anymore. Now you were the bad guy.
You meet your father at the lumber store. He’s been to visit his mother, who is 98 years old, slow on her feet, but still sharp as a tack on most things political. He tells you that apparently she has been hearing imaginary music. At first she blamed it on her neighbor, but then she started hearing it elsewhere. “Ave Maria” is one of the songs. She’s stubborn so she doesn’t want to see the doctor. That night after going home, you will start to write your second ever Friday Flash Fiction piece entitled Another Oldie but Goodie.
After delivering the window and visiting with your parents, you go back home just as dusk is settling. You go out to your 6500 garden (living in the middle of nowhere means you have to prove you’re using your water) carrying a steel humane trap. Something has been eating your broccoli and cantaloupe. You hear something rustle in the foliage. Maybe just a breeze in the corn. Or maybe something hiding under the huge leaves of the pumpkin vines.
Did it just get a little darker?
You shout out, “Is there anything out here? Now’s your chance to come out and show me where you go under the fence?” At first you are picturing a rabbit, maybe a cottontail. Then you visualize a jack (you already wrote the Flash Fiction piece Run, Rabbit. Run. And while you’re really not that freaked out about jackrabbits, you really did have that apocalyptic dream you mentioned in the story).
Then you wonder what else might be under those leaves, and a shiver runs across your arms, up your shoulders and your neck. You remember the old saying, “Like someone just walked over my grave.” But there’s not another sound. Whatever it was is silent now. Waiting. As the sky goes from blue to gray. Watching you. To black.
If you get some time to yourself after setting the trap in the garden, you might sit and pore over any of the difficulties in your life with your Other Self. It may be about things that make you feel guilty, confused, or even sometimes elated. Most times you come to a better place in your thinking and attitude, but not always. And this voice often seems a separate entity entirely, one who thinks things beyond your control.
As you write this, you wonder if maybe there are actually two other voices in your head, because now that you think about it, there is definitely a different tone between the voice that brings you to a better place and the one that will sometimes think horrible things. The proverbial angel and devil whispering in my ear? you wonder.
Later that evening, after dark, you go outside to turn off the sprinklers for the yard. It’s a short walk around the house to the spigot, over a concrete pad and a little gravel. You’re barefoot. It’s dark outside. Again, you’re barefoot. But certainly most anyone would be a little leery of this. Scorpions. Spiders. Snakes. Stink bugs. You could’ve easily slipped on a pair of flip-flops, but for some reason, you rarely do. You try not to picture them on the dark ground as you quickly turn off the water.
And then it’s time to go to sleep. When you lay down your head, you hope that you will sleep the whole night through in your house where the closest neighbor is about 400 yards away, without any nightmares that will make you sit up, put your hand on wife’s chest in an apelike protective manner and whisper, “I just saw something out the window” before falling back on the bed, instantly asleep.
“Because I think she might leave me,” you tell your friends, “or at least request a separate bed if it keeps up for too many years.”
But sleep almost always comes fast without much struggle. So much to think about during the day.
And when night comes, your mind will start to play.
( AUTHOR’S NOTE #2– If you still want to know more about me– and more directed at the craft of writing– you might enjoy “Why do I like to write horror stories?” Oh, and don’t forget Author’s Note #1.)
What do I want from you?
I may be opening a can of worms here, but what are some of the irrational thoughts, fears or paranoid delusions that you have during your day?
And don’t forget to check back next Friday for an excerpt from American Zombie Gothic: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Walking Dead in Popular Culture.
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