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Friday, July 1, 2016

An Icy Touch From the Past

One of my favorite steps in story development is research. Setting a story in a real time and place gives the work a dimension of convincibility. And I believe it adds a level of "fun" for the reader. When reading Anne Rice's works I always enjoy and admire her ability to transport me to other places during different times. One can tell she puts great effort in her research. Making an effort to add as much factual material and anchoring a fictional story to a physical place gives it credence making it more believable.

Seven years ago, when living with my brother Steve, I spent several nights researching for a story titled "Toothie." This novelette is probably one of the scariest stories I have ever concocted (making it the most "fun" story for me to write). I will not relay the subject here (check out Darkside of the Planet) but what is important to this post is the setting.

Toothie explores my adaptation of the Jack the Ripper phenomenon with a huge twist (again, check out Darkside of the Planet). To make my story more "plausible" I spent more than a week doing research of the Whitechapel area of London, England in the 1880's. I poured over old police reports, maps, eyewitness accounts and pictures of each crime scene of every murder. By the time I penned the first word of my tale I had the odd feeling I'd actually walked the streets of an industrial age London.

With notes in hand I launched into relaying my story. The hours of research gave my writing an unexpected flavor as I began to toil away tapping out the yarn upon my keyboard. As I added existing theories into the fabric of my own work it produced a new degree of pleasure to the act of storytelling. I was in the zone and on a roll as my fingers flew across the buttons. I was having a blast writing this story. 

Three nights and a few thousand words into the novelette something odd happened bringing me to the subject of my post. I've written some potent and horrifying stories, most of which exist in the before mentioned "Darkside of the Planet". 

I've also received feedback from readers that I have absolutely frightened (a fact that I am exceedingly proud of). But, I can truly admit, this is the one and only time that I've ever been scared out of my wits by one of my own stories.

As the hour grew late and I tapped out the story on my computer I got this odd sensation I was no longer alone in the room. All of us have a limited sense of "radar" like a bat using sound to navigate flying through night air. The echoing of my keystrokes off the walls and hardwood floors suddenly seemed to be bouncing off a physical presence somewhere behind me.

I knew my brother had left town and wouldn't be home for a couple of days, but my rational mind hypothesized he'd snuck into room in an attempt to frighten me. It was the only plausible explanation for no one else possessed a key to gain entry to the house.

Swiveling around in my chair I expected to see my sibling ready to pounce, but, no one there. I wrote it off to overactive imagination and resumed my work. Again, the odd sensation of eyes on me persisted as the dampened echoes returned to my ears. This time I sensed whoever it was in closer proximity. My mind desperately grasped at the rational expectation of a hovering sibling once again.

Upon turning and finding nobody, I truly began to feel the touch of fear niggling at my stomach. Collecting myself for a few moments I took a deep breath and swiveled back to my keyboard mustering the constitution to continue.

Again the nagging sensation filled my soul that some entity occupied the office behind me. I began constantly monitoring the emptiness over my shoulder. Still the feeling would not leave me. When I suddenly felt an icy touch upon my shoulder adrenaline shot shards down the veins of my arm and momentarily arrested the beating of my heart. I jumped from my chair and immediately vacated the room.

Closing the door tightly behind me I desperately sought out distraction for the rest of the evening, making every effort to avoid the office area of the house. I couldn't return to writing and I didn't find sleep that night. Instead my mind contemplated the origin of my spectral visitor.

"Was it just an overacted imagination?" my brain questioned, "or, when revisiting the Whitechapel streets of historic London, did something follow me back through the ethereal portal of time?"

A Science Fiction writer tends to lean rational. But, more importantly, a Horror writer desires to believe the Supernatural.