And then it hit me. It has to be about ghosts! Why ghosts? Because, unlike discovering gold in them thar hills, most people either have a personal ghost story, or are close to someone who has lifted the veil between this world and the next. I recently tested that theory in my writerís group when I brought the subject up. Sure enough, five out of six people had had their own encounter with a phantom, wraith, ghost, whatever you want to name it.
Ghosts scare people because of what we, as a society, perceive to be their very real nature. Even if someone says they donít believe in spirits, put them in a strange house at night and see how they react to odd noises or distant moans. Sure, it could be the house settling, but thereís a very primal part of our brains that reacts to the potential of the supernatural in ways we canít control. Everyone loves a good ghost story, even the ones who say they get scared by them. It only seemed natural that I try to spin my own ghost story, and for close to four years I did just that, writing my book, Forest of Shadows, combining the classics of a good haunt with new, hopefully terrifying twists and turns.
Another reason for choosing ghosts was a series of unexplained encounters my wife and I had with a phantom boy in my house for over a year. He would be there, clear as day one moment, and gone the instant you went to seek him out. The oddest part of all was the feeling of comfort that always washed over us when he was around. Who was that boy and why did he only stick around for that one year? Weíll never know. But I did know that I wanted to get aspects of those events onto paper.
So I wrote. And the ghosts of my past and that shades of societyís darkest nightmares became my constant companions. When I knew I was going to write a scene involving apparitions or shadow people, I would darken the room, so it was only me and the feeble light from my computer screen. I wanted to feel the tingle of the phantom presence at my back, catch shadows within the inky darkness moving about from the corner of my eye. I wanted to be scared.
Enjoy this excerpt from Forest of Shadows. If you feel you have to sleep with the light on tonight, Iíve done my job.
ďIím here,Ē he called out with far less authority than he had wished. His voice cracked and he swallowed off the last syllable as he gulped for air.
With the normal night sounds silenced, his ragged breathing sounded like the whoosh of an incoming breaker.
He caught movement behind the window leading to the great room. A flash of something pale and alive. He blinked hard.
The face of a boy was pressed against the glass. But there was no body beneath it.
Judas stifled a scream and felt a strong urge to empty his suddenly swollen bladder right there and then. He watched the face, with its benign expression, indifferent to the terror stricken man in the front yard, as it pushed forward through the glass without breaking it. As the head hovered on the porch, a prepubescent body dressed in a dirty t-shirt and shorts slowly materialized. His neck came into focus last, forming the bridge between head and torso.
No way! No freakiní way! Judas turned on his heels and started to run.
Shadows were seeping out of the trees like spilled molasses, coiling through the grass and sweeping up their trunks. The deathly quiet was broken by the hum of incoherent murmurings. Dozens of whispered voices swirled around him as the shadows continued their steady march towards the driveway and his only means of escape.
He swung back around and the boy was only a few feet from him, his body more corporeal. In fact, if Judas hadnít seen him materialize from a wafting head he would have sworn he was face to face with your average ten year old boy out for a late night sneak.
This time Judas gasped aloud.
The boy narrowed his cold gray eyes, raised a rigid arm and pointed at the advancing shades.
Even though he wanted to run mad and screaming from this place, something compelled him to stay. Slowly and with great fear, he turned his head.