It started as a dream journal. I called it that but the goal I started it with was to collect story ideas – kernels – I could use when I was in the mood for a short story. Apparently, once you finish a novel every story idea that comes to mind is a novel idea, or at least this is the case for me. Now, dreams on the other hand, dreams are short story material, I’ve no idea why. What I know is that most of the short stories I’ve written started their lives as something in a dream. It made sense to collect these story kernels.
I’ve now got about 30 pages of dreams spanning six or seven months. That’s a lot of dreams because for me forgetting a dream upon waking is the exception rather than the rule. This is sometimes good, because dreams are interesting. Sometimes it is quite unpleasant because besides interesting they can be scary, too. Today, I was browsing through these thirty pages of dreams and came across one I had completely forgotten. Now, that’s a major exception.
The dream had featured what I’ve called “supermegacreepy children” with red eyes and obvious signs of a disease. Evil children. Feel free to call it an archetypal dream because creepy kids are a horror archetype all right. Ditto red eyes. Ditto disease. This dream was an excellent example of something that if it was a book title would read The Amazing Storytelling Powers of Your Brain.
Scary children. The ultimate monsters, a lot scarier than any many-legged, supersized, or simply slimy creature of human imagination. The reason they are so scary is, of course, that they are essentially the deconstruction of everything that childhood is all about. Children are supposed to be anything but scary. Which is why the creepy children trope is so successful.
I remember my two-year-old daughter inadvertently scaring the hell out of me by standing at the door to our bedroom. In the early morning light. With her back to it so I could only see her as a silhouette. The previous night I had been reading Pet Sematary for the first time since her birth. I’d thought it was safe. I had been wrong.
A friend of mine got a serious fright when a voice said Mummy in her ear. In the middle of the night. With the splashing of seawaves in the background. With her only child asleep. She had been reading Duma Ki at the time. She had probably thought it was safe to read Duma Ki at the seaside. But we are never safe.
When I was little, the first horror film I watched, The Murders on Rue Morgue, gave me a lasting fear of parks and enclosed spaces. I was afraid to go to the bathroom at night. Much later I re-watched the film and found it mildly amusing (though Poe’s story is genius). I thought there was nothing that could scare me off going to the bathroom at night now that I was all grown up and adult and responsible, and everything. And then I watched American Horror Story. And then I watched The Strain.
Now I don’t think there is an age at which creepy children, monstrous children, sad, blind, vampire children are not scary. Maybe if I live to be eighty and my adrenal glands don’t work so well anymore I wouldn’t be scared at the sight of the Infantata or the little blind kids crawling like spiders across surfaces. For now, they are working just fine judging by my reluctance to leave the bed at night to go to the bathroom if I had accidentally remembered the Infantata that same night. I’ve heard The Children of the Corn is among the better adaptations of Stephen King novels. I don’t think I’m watching it anytime soon.
Anyway, back to the dream I forgot. Sorry, The Dream I Forgot, because forgetting such a rich horror plot is a rare occurrence. I tend to remember my most horrible dreams for years (Me tied to a bed because my father thinks I’m insane and wouldn’t let me out of my room. A friend with a severed head because he is awaiting a brain transplant. This sort of thing.). Apparently, my brain thought the supermegacreepy children were too scary to remember and discarded the plot. Yet it didn’t discard it fast enough. I managed to put it on paper in the story repository.
Maybe some day I will write a story about supermegacreepy, mean, diseased children living in a boarding house (probably abandoned). Maybe it will be a funny story, not a creepy one, because I don’t like to be obvious. I like a Jeffrey Deaverish plot. And maybe I’ll never get to it, what with all these novels that want to be written right now, thank you very much. But I’m happy enough just having the story kernel there, in the thirty pages of dreams, some silly, some funny and others plain weird. That’s what repositories are for. Storage. A story or two for a rainy day when the muse is sleeping off a hangover. Okay, make that dozens of stories. You never know when the rainy day will come.
P.S. Yes, I’ve seen Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Yes, the twins are creepy. No, they are not creepy enough to be scared of. They are more aesthetically creepy as is the whole film.
P.P.S. I couldn’t read Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. The very first description of the little blind children gave me nightmares that same night. Truly horrible nightmares. This had never ever happened to me before. Talk about a shock.