The inspiring image for this story was quite different than the final product. Just a sketch of this strange cave encrusted with lichen and moss, and the terrible rumblings from the depths. I had no back story or characters to explore the cave. I could never figure out the rest of the story, so I shelved it, and moved along to work on something else.
Months later I wrote 500 words of a new tale, this one about a school teacher named Frank who enjoys his summer vacations doing yard work and walking around the neighborhood park. Soon reading becomes his new pastime when he meets a mysterious tattooed man sitting at a park bench writing in a notebook. This new acquaintance is horror author Charlie Royal. Frank strikes up a conversation with the man and learns about what he’s writing. Frank has never been a horror fan. He just can’t understand why anyone would want to dream about horrors with so many real horrors going on in real life. Yet, he’s curious. He wants to understand the attraction. He steels himself by reading stories from classic authors in the genre, preparing to read Mr. Royal’s work in progress with the hope of helping him critique it. Matters turn very dark when Frank begins reading Charlie’s tale. The ink in those diary pages conjures something menacing, and Frank becomes possessed by it. The sketch of the cave I had made months prior turned out to be the lair for the monster that possesses Frank.
I wrestled with conflicting matters while writing this story. I love horror stories, and part of me wanted to express that love for them, to celebrate them. However, there were many other conflicting voices in my head at the time, particularly of those that expressed Frank’s opinion: “Why would you want to dream of horror when so many real horror takes place in real life?” I was raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and still practice the religion today. I’m someone who has grown up around the opinion that stories about demonic possession, rampaging zombies, serial killers, and the many unnameable terrors out there can invite evil influences into your life. Part of me even agrees with this sentiment to some degree, although I see the line differently than many in my community, and a discussion on the matter should be consigned to an entirely different post. Let’s just say I’m fine if evil is depicted in fiction, so long as the author isn’t attempting to promote or enact the evil.
I love the horror story, but I guess there’s a part of me that still feels a little guilty about it, because those voices from my upbringing continually echo in my head. “Hooked” was an attempt to puzzle out the quandary as well as an opportunity to explore the opposite point-of-view through the eyes of my main character. I see some maturity in this story. The characters are far more fleshed out than my previous stories. They exhibit more depth and complexity, the story’s greater length allowing for this.
A small amount guilt for my love of horror still exists to this day, and maybe that’s healthy. It’ll hold me back from becoming too gratuitous with a violent scene and prick at me if I do cross the line into the territory of promoting evil instead of merely depicting it. I sure hope I never create the monstrosity Charlie Royal does with his writing, or readers of my work will be disappearing into a dreadful place.
You can find my story here.