For those that don’t read the comments at the end of my articles (read: everyone), my blogger friend Nemo proposed the idea of a story that used a location as the central character. (You can read the conversation here: Click me). I decided it sounded like a cool idea.
Here’s my attempt at it.
It occurred to me on a random summer night, while I was laying on the singular bed inside a house with no fewer than fifty rooms, that I will never kill anyone. That thought, no matter how minor, managed to eat at my concentration for the rest of the day, culminating in the forceful slicing of my finger while cutting bread. As a drop of blood condemned my sandwich to the garbage, I decided that I was going to have to scratch that itch eventually, and perhaps that it was not too late for me to become a monster. If the news has taught me anything over all these years it’s that psychopaths were made, not born.
“Paula Avenue, a street that will live in infamy for its entire existence. Named after the founder of the town it resides in, it’s known throughout the supernatural community as the most haunted location in the world. This is mainly due to it containing the mansion often nicknamed ‘The Devil’s Hideout,’ a large, decrepit building that once was home to a doomsday cult. It holds the record for most murders committed on a single piece of property, and the surrounding neighborhood has a history of illegal dealings as well.”
She looked so peaceful sleeping there, so innocent. She was shy, even in rest; her hands pulling up the covers, obscuring her ebony skin that brought me so much pleasure. That was going to continue giving me pleasure. Our clothes lay on the ground, giving some color to this bare room. Nothing protecting her, completely exposed to me. Her arms are frail, and her breath: as soft as her body. But, I did not have any interest in carnal desires anymore. No, I was full on her love. I wanted something more. Something intimate. Something I had to dig for, rip into and pry from her. I wanted to see her soul. And I wondered how red that ebony skin was going to get before I found it.
“The sheer number of deaths within the house are due to the nature of its owners. Without fail, every single person that purchased that house later plead guilty to charges of rape, murder, and torture. As such, the house is no longer available to the public, and is not even listed as property. Its ownership now falls to the state, and no one can even go on its grounds. That was, until the search of ninety five….”
Why was mommy mad? She’d never hit me before. Was I a bad boy? Had I broken a rule? She won’t tell me. So I’m hiding. Hiding underneath this bed. I hope she doesn’t find me. She’s so mad. I can feel the bruise underneath my left eye. It stings. Bullies hit me all the time, but an adult…it knocked me off my feet. Why would mommy do this? Is she a bully too? I can’t let her find me. Not when she’s holding that gun. She told me they weren’t safe. That I was never to touch it, never. That it was only for police officers. That it was only for her. Something sits down on top of the bed. Something heavy. No legs swing down. Just then, mommy walks in. I hope she doesn’t find me.
“Funded by a somehow still undisclosed company, a group of specialists entered the mansion with several hundred pounds of vaguely mechanical equipment. Even to this day it is still unknown what they did within the mansion, and what their motives were. What we do know, however, is that exactly three hours later a single man ran out of the building. Witnesses say that he was wearing an outfit described as ‘belonging to a sailor,’ and covered in a thick black liquid. Police attempted to calm him down, but eventually had to use nonlethal weapons to subdue him. Later attempts to interview the individual failed, as his vocal cords were found surgically severed by unknown means. He now resides in the local psychiatric hospital and is not available for questions.”
Isn’t it amazing how quickly words turn to screams? It only took the smallest twist of a nail for him to go from begging, to moaning. Both sounded like music, like an orchestra of flesh. He was so old, so frail, that I snapped his hip with the smallest of pressure. I just dug my elbow right into the bone and pressed till it popped. It was…glorious, spectacular. The bed was sturdy, the straps on his wrists even stronger. He was not going anywhere. It wasn’t the first time that I gave him CPR, but it was the first time I genuinely enjoyed it. Just like my teacher taught us: place a pulsing, mounting pressure against his chest, pound until his heart starts again. Of course, no one in the entire nursing class ever bothered to ask how long you go when the heart already worked. Do you continue until the chest cavity breaks open? Or until they stop screaming?
“Since then, no other attempts occurred, and no other companies showed any interest in exploring it further. Orders for the demolishment of the house continue to fail as a vocal group of lobbyists continue to defend it; arguing for its cultural significance. Personally, I would want that house removed as fast as possible, but it is up to the people of the town to decide.”
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So I was thinking through your story and what I had commented earlier. I think I got why, although this story has its great flavour, it wasn’t quite the spice I was thinking of.
I mentioned Resident Evil’s Spencer mansion as my example of the house ‘being a main character’. In game itself, you go to a few rooms while you lack access to others. You really explore the rooms you have, get a few puzzle pieces, put them together, get to the next room, and backtrack a crap load. In that way, you really get to know the Spencer mansion.
and when I mean know, you get to know it. You almost can’t help feeling as if it’s ‘alive’ with all its escapable death traps-if you knew what to do, and all its secrets. It feels almost like a teasing, understanding, yet unmerciful gentleman; it trips you up to see if you’re worthy, and if you’re not, well, he kills you. A lot of the terror comes from the lack of knowledge of the location and what it can do. It is a terrible, terrible place, but we are drawn into it. We have to, because plot makes it necessary, and also because we feel like we can overcome this challenge. It is tough, but it is possible. It simultaneously obstructs your way as you try to make sense of the plot of Resident Evil and guides you along your path.
I’ve concluded that that aspect is key. This story, with its news article interspersed between the stories, has a different feel of terror. It’s a bit more like Lovecraftian horror, and yet on a parallel plane. With Lovecraft, you learn something about its monstrosities and realise its implications that you’re a small puny human in this great big universe and that you’re screwed. But notice the similarity with the Spencer mansion here: you’re stuck within the location of the universe. You’re still part of the system, just as you are in the Spencer mansion. You have no choice but to explore it and to come to terms with it. However, whereas the Spencer mansion could be overcome, with Lovecraft, you could only stave off insanity at great cost.
So we can’t to this story. It felt mysterious, it felt eerie, it sends shivers down a person’s spine if they’re not prepared, and yet it doesn’t feel terrible. Where the Spencer mansion is a mysterious, powerful, teasing gentleman and the Lovecraftian universe possibly a sociopath who will skin you limb from limb cos he sees you as nothing more than a toy, the house here feels like that creepy old man in the woods…
…which you can avoid.
Perhaps that is the problem. There isn’t terror because we can escape it entirely. There’s no need to explore the house, we just need to stay away from it and just ignore it until we have to; then we’ll explore it, then we’ll have to come to terms to it.
And this is perhaps no different from normal people in stories. A murderer read on the news is not as terrifying as the one at your door giving you a smile, because you must contend with that murderer. You are weak. You are pathetic. You are a toy. But you must, absolutely must, somehow, get out of it. There is no looking away from the void. You MUST face it and overcome it… even at great cost.
I must conclude then that what I wrote in the previous comment was a bit misleading. The location cannot be a main character like we normally think of people as main characters. Just like how a major character challenges and changes the protagonist in some way, the location is a major character that challenges the protagonists and forces them to change. How do they change? It depends on if you want the Spencer mansion or the Lovecraftian universe. With the former, it feels like the main character because it plays and toys and challenges every single other character in the game; the chessmaster, with the feel of ‘all according to plan’. With the latter, it is a major character, forcing us, US, as people forced to interact with it; the collection of murderers on the street as they party and rave in their debauchery, going door to door to do whatever they please… and they’re at your door now, waiting to play with you.
NOW, the question after all this is, how does this translate to a flash/micro fiction? You have had more time with the art of writing than I have and are superior to me in technicality (ignoring differences in style). I look forward to what you can dish out 😀
Hmm, I’m sorry, I could not fully understand everything you wrote out there. But, I do think I got the gist. I do agree that there is a bit of a difference between the two; though I have not personally played Resident Evil, so I’m only going off of what you said. The way I wrote the story I made the house more of a stalking monster, whereas the one in Resident Evil is more of an active antagonist, proactively planning against the main characters.
(It’s funny, you are not the first person to relate my stuff to Lovecraft. I should probably read some of his work.)
That last bit seems like a challenge. And if it is, then I accept. Name your terms Nemo, I’m game to play! In fact, if you want, I’ll do it as a guest post on your blog!