12.17.2008

The Genesis of a Horror Tale

I scared myself this morning. Badly.

I had a hard time getting to sleep last night and didn't drift off until after midnight. I read in bed (Bentley Little's The Academy) until about 11:50, and then just passed in and out of shallow rest until sometime after 3:00.

Then I got down to business and dreamed one of the most vivid nightmares I've had in a long while. It was set in an imposing old apartment building in Portland's Goose Hollow Neighborhood. The place, a former luxury hotel, had undergone a series of crazy renovations, and I was an architect that enjoyed touring the place a couple of times a week.

I was on the second floor when I met a little girl in a Christmas dress. She walked with me, sharing information on the people who lived in the building, until we got to a stairway leading to the penthouse apartments, which I'd never seen before. The little girl produced a key and we went up.

There were two apartments--one on the north side of the building, one on the south--divided by a long hallway. Behind one door, I could hear a low-pitched hum. The other doorway was framed with lightly frosted glass. I could see a woman behind that glass, and she was fumbling with something. She had on all of this crazy make-up, and the girl told me we should go back downstairs.

That's when the woman started shooting. And shrieking. And chasing.

I tucked the little girl under my arm and sprinted for the stairwell. The woman gave chase--down five flights of stairs until I burst into the dim lobby of the place. The girl scampered away, out into the streets I guess, and I just hid--in a hollow beneath the stairs.

The last thing I remember was the woman, her face painted hideously with Kabuki makeup, sticking the barrel of an enormous gun in my face.

I awoke moaning about a nightmare, but it was 5:56 and Jeanne was long gone. Man, it creeped me out something fierce and, though I was able to fall back asleep, the opening line to the story I just wrote in two hours played over and over in my head. It was there when I was eating my bagel and having my coffee. It followed me while I perused the sports section. It was under my skin and dying to get out.

Here it is:
The Chamberlain did not change as it grew older, but instead became more clearly itself.

It's a play on an old quote I recall from a composition text. It might not be a crackerjack hook, but it captures exactly the sentiment of the dream I had last night.

Sheesh. This story poured through me. I wasn't going to work on anything in the short form until I was through with Book #2, but this couldn't be helped. I'll polish it over the coming weeks and see where we are.

That said, I'm always thankful when the projector up there gets cranked up. It's sometimes hard to take and I get a little scared, but a few seconds of frightened moaning is worth every minute of suspense that a good horror tale can provide a reader.

Tentative title:
"Life in the Chamberlain Hotel"

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