I don’t care much for long car trips. As a child, my mother used to take me and my sister on a trip through the desert, to Phoenix, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada and back to where we lived in Southern California. We affectionately called it “the loop.” Those were good times and I wouldn’t change them for anything, but all that said, I developed a general loathing of being trapped in a car for a whole day.
Fast forward. As a road-trip-hating adult, I started thinking back to those journeys. The destinations were always a blast, but the drive… good God, the drive… all those ugly cacti driven into the monotonous dirt floor, under a colorless desert sky. Then I got a “What if” moment. Imagine two characters who are always road-bound. They can only remain in one place for two weeks tops and then must drive off. With scarcely any time to become familiar with a place, in any kind of meaningful way, they’re off again, putting more miles on some burnt-out vehicle. This was my inspiration for the Nomad characters in my novel, BLACK & ORANGE.
So now I had a basic idea for characters, but no story to drop them in. I just mentally filed these folks away until something came up. Nothing did. For a while, anyhow.
So next, this happens: I’m up late at night at a Halloween party. Earlier that day, I’d done some research on the holiday, because I wanted to write a short story in the sub-genre. Funny thing about research though—sometimes it doesn’t move your imagination. Pagan rituals, superstitions, druids, harvests, the spirit world being opened, and I wasn’t feeling it; here I am drinking a syrupy red cocktail called a Vampire’s Squirt (that can’t be it), standing in a room full of adults dressed up as slutty pirates, slutty nuns, slutty nurses, slutty angels, slutty devils, zombies, politicians and other ghouls, and I think, wow, much like Easter, this particular holiday is about something totally different. Once I had that realization, another came to my gentled brain (not the realization about a Vampire’s Squirt being a sipping drink) and it was this: what if my Halloween story wasn’t about Halloween at all? That was the moment. The “What ifs” started pouring out.
What if another world did open on Halloween? Not just a spirit world, but something more hideous and frightening?
What if my Nomads’ only true destination was a gateway that opened to that place every year?
What if our world unknowingly depended on them to keep the gateway from staying open?
If they failed, what then?
A more brutal, more terrifying Halloween ever imaginable, one that lasted until the universe ended…
The idea gave me chills right through my slutty Darth Maul costume.
Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s fiction has appeared in Doorways Magazine, Dark Recesses, FearZone, and others. His dark fantasy novel BLACK & ORANGE (Bad Moon Books 2010) has won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in First Novel. Beyond that he’s written several collaborations with Michael Louis Calvillo, one of which is a novella called UGLY SPIRIT, available in 2011. He also wrote a master’s thesis entitled, “CAUSES OF UNEASE: The Rhetoric of Horror Fiction and Film.” Available in an ivory tower near you. Benjamin lives in Southern California with his wife and daughter, both lovely and both worthy of better. When he isn’t writing, reading, videogaming, he’s defending California’s waterways and sewers from pollution.
You can visit his website at BKEthridge.com
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