Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Where Do You Get Your Ideas?" . . . or "How a Death Scene In THE WICKED Was Inspired By a True Event (Sorta)"

     There’s a particularly gruesome scene in The Wicked that several readers have cited as one of the novel’s most memorable sequences.
     It’s one of my favorite moments too.  Probably because it really happened to me when I was a kid.
     OK . . . not exactly.  But I got your attention, didn’t I?


     The scene in question finds a boy named Billy Dawson overwhelmed by a swarm of what I describe in the novel as “baby/bee things”, hell-spawned creatures that resemble a cross between human infants and giant hornets.  Their skin is hard and brown like the Egyptian mummies Billy has seen on the Discovery Channel.  Their eyes are wide, black and soulless.  The deadly barbs at the tips of their plump torsos drip with the alien poison that ultimately ends young Billy’s life.
     I’ll leave it at that, so as not to spoil the scene for anyone who hasn’t read the book (and why haven’t you?), but I thought it might be fun to talk about how this sequence was inspired by a nightmare I had . . . .
     It was a nightmare from many years ago.  I could have been no older than ten or eleven.  Believe it or not, I don’t recall consciously thinking about this dream as I was writing The Wicked.  I only realized within the last month or so that Billy Dawson’s death scene was inspired by that long-ago childhood dream.  But there’s no doubt in my mind now that it was (isn’t it fascinating how the subconscious tends to take over when we’re in that creative “zone”, and if we realize it at all it’s not until after the fact?).   
     Anyway . . . the creatures in my nightmare weren’t “baby/bee things” like they are in the novel, but more like alien beetles.  They buzzed about in the air like the little demons in The Wicked get around, and their sting was just as deadly.  I can remember somehow knowing in my nightmare that this was the end of the world, humanity was under attack by these insects from beyond, and now my family was trapped inside our home, trying to fend off a swarm of them.  Specifically, my grandmother and me (everyone else must have been dead already, or perhaps they had run off to hide, leaving Granny and me to fend for ourselves!).  I remember she kept telling me not to get near the screen door, even as she ignored her own advice, swatting with an old broom at five or six of the things that hovered on the other side of the door.
     I can remember this dream as vividly as if I dreamed it only last night, and I can still recall the unholy drone that filled the air as the creatures buzzed about, trying to get inside.  At one point, for some reason that can only be attributed to the nonsense logic of dreams, my grandmother decided to sacrifice herself in order to save me.  She opened the door, stumbled outside.  The things lit upon her.  She screamed, flailing about as they stung her again and again.
     I watched her fall beneath them.  And then I realized she had left the door slightly ajar.  I ran to it, reached to close the door before any of those things got inside.
     One of them got me with its stinger.  The barb sunk deep into my right hand, and its poison flowed into me.
     My hand tingled all over, down to my wrist.  It grew heavy, useless.  I couldn’t move that hand as more of the things made their way inside the house . . . filling the air . . . invading our last sanctuary.  Alas, there was no hope at all . . . .
     And then I woke up.
     My heart raced.  I was drenched in sweat.
     I thanked God as I realized none of it was real.  I gasped for air.  The last remnants of my nightmare slowly faded . . . .
     But the tingling in my hand continued.  It remained paralyzed, was nothing but dead weight, even though I was no longer dreaming!
     And then I realized my hand was trapped in an awkward position between my pillow and the headboard of my bed.  It had merely fallen asleep.


     Two decades later, this odd little experience showed up – in its own way – as a scene in my novel, The Wicked.
     Sorry, Billy.  Blame the writer’s subconscious.  It does stuff like this now and then.  

Order your copy of The Wicked today . . . and know how to protect yourself from hell-spawned bugs!

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