It left a mark.
Inside I was terribly conflicted. As a person, I'm this mish-mash Heinz 57 of cultures, but I was raised to expect a purity of design from my pets in breeding. Some of my dogs are AKC with papers, others are mutts, my cats are ... well, cats. The one is so dumb we named him Flat, as in his brain should have flat-lined.
In a way this conflict has carried over into my writing. I can almost never write "just a romance." Just like I can never write "just a horror." Face it, life isn't just one "pure" thing, why should a story limit itself?
Take, for example, one of my favorite horror duets, Frights&Delights. The two tales complement each other by being opposites. The first, Echoes of Yesterday, is a gentle ghost story set in the Appalachian mines with a little boy, his parents and his small terrier. The second, Rave On, is a dystopian zombie scream, slam-dancing in a lesbian freak-out fetish bar in Texas. In Echoes you feel the story ooze right up at you from the very beginning, but with Rave, the feeling is different, the sense of impending violence and horror comes from the actions of the characters and the setting, which is misleading. Passive/aggressive, victim versus aggressor... A lullaby and a seduction.
Echoes of Yesterday
Jackie sat on the shady side of the barn and peeked around the corner at his dad, he was back working under the old rusty car. Tiptoeing past the garage, he and his puppy Fearless Fred, or just Fred as his momma called him, made their way back to the hole.
His daddy didn’t understand! He and Fred had to patrol. They had to keep the chickens from wandering into that hole. He was being just like his Uncle Travis, the kick-butt state trooper, keeping things safe.
“Hello!” he yelled into the hole. Nothing replied back this time. “I’m back!” still nothing. “Be that way then! My daddy said you was nothing more than an echo anyways!”Jackie listened long and hard but he didn’t hear any voices, but he did hear the ting of a mattock hitting stone and the distant sound of laughter.
“C’mon Fred, we got to patrol. Maybe the echo will talk to us again later.”
The night was young, the sun just dipping below the haze of air pollution tinting the sky a putrid whorl of cerulean, saffron and puce when I paid the bouncer at the gate. The place was painted black with a blood red floor and silver stools. Even the drink-slingers walked through the glaring Goth-Rock and vampiresque gloom looking bored and skewered.
The blue haired woman who took my order had her lips outlined with a twin row of pierced silver ornaments that resembled barbed fishhooks. But it didn’t stop her from snapping chewing gum as I ordered the evening special, an Impaler. When she returned, I opened my baggie and tossed back all the pills as well as the drink. It burned its way down like a combination of lava and glass shards. Roughly, I asked for another and the girl gave me a long considering glance from behind chrome-tinted contact lenses.
Pushing a spot on my shoulder, she prompted me to look at a willow thin girl with long pink-streaked hair, gracefully pirouetting like a broken stringed puppet in the center of the empty dance floor.
“Way you’re feeling tonight, sug, I think she’s your answer.”
* * * *
The first combines old fashioned storytelling, borrowing liberally from the tommyknockers and like stories I grew up with as a child, and adding a different sort of ending. The second was inspired by the annual Zombie Apocalypse Day. I figured anyone could be the victim of a zombie, how many could actually be the zombie - and really enjoy it?