Monday, August 3, 2015

The Question Most Asked

Greetings, WYMOP fans!

Ask most writers, and they’ll tell you the number one question we’re asked when we do events and panels and the like, is “Where do you get those wonderful ideas?” Did you notice I said most writers up there? No? Go ahead and look, I’ll wait. Okay, you see it? That’s because, as horror writers, some of us (and back me up on this, oh Tellers of the Terrifying Tale) get asked a different question: “Where do you get such creepy ideas?”
Well I’ll tell you: I have a service that sends me two ideas a month, satisfaction guaranteed. If I don’t like an idea, I can send it back, and a replacement idea will be along in a matter of days. I got a great deal on the service through Groupon.
I’m kidding. All you have to do is live in the world, and the ideas just keep pouring in. It’s not like I even have to have a passel imagination: most of my ideas come from stuff that happens every day. To illustrate what I’m talking about, I’m going to tell you a few things that happened to me just this weekend, and you’ll see what I mean.

I was on my way out of the house, intending to drive somewhere, but when I went to fetch my glasses—useful items for driving, I have to admit—they were not where I had left them. I knew where I’d left them. I always put them in the same place when I get to my room, just to avoid situations like this. I started looking throughout the house, trying to retrace the steps I’d taken when I’d arrived. I looked on the key hook, but no dice. No keys, either. I checked the kitchen counters, the top of my bureau, the dining room, and my desk. I turned out my pockets thirty-seven times, each time thinking perhaps I had forgotten one the last time. I checked the car’s ignition, hoping I’d been stupid enough to simply leave the keys hanging there, inviting neighborhood thugs—all only eight years old, true, but very advanced—to take the car for a joyride.  I even checked in the freezer, because, well, you never can tell.
They weren’t in the mint chocolate chip ice cream: I finished the pint, just to be sure. Like I said, you never can tell.
It was as I bent to put the empty ice cream container into the trash can beneath the sink, that I felt something slide, just a bit, across my bald pate. I reached up to find my glasses resting on top of my head like some sort of nerd tiara. I froze as a sudden realization was thrust upon me, the only logical conclusion I could come to: a playful poltergeist had hidden my glasses, only to pop them onto my head when I wasn’t looking. Oh, sure, a skeptic might point out that they may well have been up there the whole time, but I knew better! Note to self: contact the church about exercising the spirit from my house, before things go all “indian burial ground” on my ass!

I walked into my bedroom, intending to get . . . something. I scanned my desk, bookshelves, and bed, spinning in place like a small dog who’s just discovered this new thing called a “tail,” wondering just what the hell I was in there for. I’d known right up until I crossed the threshold, you know? I’d been moving with purpose, not just meandering about, but walking with a definite destination in mind, an aim, a goal . . . but what? I mean, I’d just had it in mind. If someone had asked me, just seconds ago, “Hey, Rob, what are you looking for?” I’d have come right back at them, with “Hey, I’m just picking up the most recent addition to my skull collection—gonna give it a good clean and polish, you know?” Or something like that. But not that. I couldn’t be in there to get part of my skull collection—mostly because I don’t have a skull collection. It would be really cool if I did . . . but no.
So what the hell had I come in here for? I scanned the room again, turning all the way about to peer back out into the hall. I wondered just what had happened between there, five feet away, where I knew what I was looking for, and here, closer to the apparent target, but floundering like a second-grader taking a calculus exam—and not one of those super-genius second-graders, either, but a regular old seven-year-old. It was like the information was just wiped out of my brain at one fell swoop—
My jaw dropped, and I looked up at the ceiling—in my mind I looked through the ceiling—then looked straight ahead again, plastering a calm, almost bemused expression on my face. I scooped a ball cap from the hooks on the back of my door, as if that was what I’d come in there for in the first place, and brought it down to the kitchen. I couldn’t let them know I was onto them.
The aliens.
Oh, some people might say, you’re forty-six, my friend. These little slips will happen. But I know better. Bored from traveling billions of miles with just the one in-flight movie, Smokey and the Bandit IX: Grandson of the Bandit!, on their way to backwoods Kentucky to take their practical exams in proctology, the little green men (or tall gray men, or whatever) had decided to have a little practice with their mind-control ray. Oh, ha-ha, very funny. But I’ll have the last laugh here; I try not to grin too much as I line the inside of my ball cap with layer after layer of tinfoil . . .

“What’s this?” said my son. We were taking a break from cutting the grass, and he’d come up behind me as I sat on the lawn.
“What’s what?” I said.
I felt a strange sensation on my back, just beneath one shoulder blade, a pulsing, slightly painful sensation. “Ow!” I said. “What the hell are you doing?”
“This,” he said again, then reached out and gave something on my back a tug.
“Ow! What the hell is that?”
“Looks like hair,” he said with a grin. “Growing out of your back. A whole tuft of it. There’s another one over here.” I felt the tug under the other scapula. “And what’s this? he said again, twiddling a finger next to my ear. I nearly rolled over sideways at the sudden tickle I felt shooting in through my ear all the way to my brain. I ran inside and looked in the mirror . . . at the long, luxuriant hairs growing out of my ear. There was even more sprouting from the other one. My stomach turned to a ball of ice, if a ball of ice could be said to be sick to itself, because this one sure was.
“There’s hair,’” I said, trying to keep the horror out of my voice as I pushed past my son in the kitchen, “growing out of my back and ears. I have to go. Now.” I jumped in the car and headed for home, where I quickly barricaded myself in my room, foil-lined ball cap jammed down tightly over my scalp and ears.

I’d write more, but I have to spread out some newspapers over by the big bowl of water I put in the corner, quick, before the sun goes down. You ask me where I find my creepy ideas? For Christ’s sake, you’re talking to a haunted, alien-mind-controlled werewolf. I don’t find my creepy ideas, they find me!

Talk to you later!

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