Sunday, October 09, 2011

I Should Be a Horror Writer

I have a terrific imagination, particularly when it comes to imagining the worst. The least little thing can send my mind scurrying down dark tunnels towards disaster.

There was one place I lived where I hated to clean the bathroom. Every time I started scrubbing it, I'd notice this odd smell. I was convinced there was something nasty living in the drains or the walls that was going to poison me and kill me. I'd die and no one would find the body until several weeks later. They'd do an autopsy and pronounce that I'd died of a heart attack or stroke, blissfully unaware of the evil POISON that had really killed me.


A few weeks back, I heard a series of explosions in the middle of the night. There were two at around 11:00 PM, one at midnight, and another at about 1:00 AM. Just as I'd start to relax, there'd be another one. Each time I got up, walked around the house waiting for another bang so I could pinpoint where it was coming from, but nothing happened. Until I sat back down in front of the TV and relaxed for a while. I went outside to see if my neighbors had noticed it. All the houses were dark. I was the only one prowling the yard, shining a flashlight up on the roof to see if anything had fallen on it.

After the midnight explosion, I went to the garage and got the ladder so I could see up in the attic. All I could think of was that there was gas accumulating in the furnace until it reached the explosive point. I mean, the whole house shook on the first explosion, so it must have been close, right? Since there are no basements in Arizona, furnaces are in the attic or the garage. Mine hangs from the roof beams. I couldn't smell anything or see anything, but I also couldn't get up into the attic. I only have a ladder tall enough to reach the vent to change the air filter and I am too short to boost myself up through the hatch in the ceiling.

At 1:00 AM, knowing I would never get to sleep, I woke up a couple I know from church and asked if the husband could come over and check out the attic for me. He did. No gas. No critters. He did the same examination outside my house that I'd done with the flashlight and couldn't find anything wrong. Eventually, he left.

Two days later, there was a story in the paper about the explosions. It seems that there were some leaking containers from Raytheon that needed to be detonated immediately, so they were taken to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and set off there. In the middle of the night. Exactly at the times I had heard them. Lots of people had called the police about the explosions, recognizing that they were occurring somewhere not inside their own homes.

 This happened to be the night after there was a total lockdown on the base all afternoon, supposedly because there was a mysterious gunman. There was no access for hours, even to the point of not letting the school children leave. Afterwards, they said there had been no gunman.

So I start playing my "what if?" game and thinking that the gunman story was a cover and that the real problem had been that some top secret weapon had gotten out of control. They had kept the base closed so no one would see what was really going on. And they detonated whatever it was in the middle of the night for the same reason. I stopped before I got to the scenario that they really hadn't gotten it under control and it was still a threat to detonate in the middle of some other night and blow up the neighborhood. Barely.

Then I found a small snake, tiny really, in a glue trap the exterminator had put near the garage door. Immediately the phrase "nest of vipers" came to mind. I had to mentally beat down the image of a bunch of writhing snakes living in my yard before I started obsessing about it.

And now I find I have ground squirrels out of control. Now, I've been of the live and let live opinion regarding these creatures for the past couple of years. I'd noticed a couple of holes but, as long as they didn't come in the house, I was willing to let them stay.

Only they got greedy this summer. While it was too hot for me to work in the yard, they apparently decided to invite a bunch of their buddies over. They started eating the flowers off one of my plants every time a new crop of blossoms bloomed. They've dug a pretty good-sized hole next to the slab at one corner of the house. It was time to take action.

So what do I do? What anyone in the 21st century does. I Googled "ground squirrels." This is when I learned that they aren't as benign as I thought they were. Not only are they rodents that carry disease, they can undermine your foundation with their tunnels.

So now I've got this image in my head of a maze of tunnels weakening the structure of my house. Some day the weight of the house is going to be too much and it will collapse into a big sink hole. I'll climb out of the rubble and stand there shaking my head, wondering how such little animals could do such damage.

Of course, this isn't going to happen. I've got some bait traps and the recommended poison that I'm going to put out later this afternoon so when they come out for their nocturnal feeding they'll find a deadly feast. So now I'll get to fantasize about dozens, maybe hundreds, of dead squirrels rotting under the ground. Don't go there!

It's at times like this that I understand how Stephen King comes up with his story ideas. While I quash my fantasies as quickly as possible so I won't have a stroke, he just goes with them. It also explains why Poe was an alcoholic. And I never want to know what it feels like to be H.P. Lovecraft. I'll just stick with my nice, cozy mysteries thank you.
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