Guest post by J. D. Barker
I'm delighted to welcome American horror novelist J. D. Barker to my blog today. J.D has written a powerful post about the power of the imagination. Take it away, J.D!
It’s 3AM on a Thursday morning and I’m alone in my office. My wife is sound asleep upstairs, the dogs are snoring (rather loudly) in their beds, and I find myself parked at my keyboard squeezing three pages of my latest novel from my fingertips. The house seems so different at this early hour, without the voices and sound of little feet. I can hear the grandfather clock faithfully ticking away in the other room, the crickets outside, the wind as it moans its way through the trees in search of some far off destination. The world is black, the world is resting, but something still stirs.
I had been woken by a voice, a single voice whispering at my ear. She was one of my characters and she desperately wanted to tell me what comes next in the tale I’ve been weaving of late; a haunted house story unlike any other. I turned over and tried to block her out but they can be rather insistent when they come to me like this and I eventually found myself crawling from bed and down the stairs to my office. It wasn’t until I wrote her words that she fell silent.
She’ll be back.
They always come back.
The clock in the corner of my office chimes the hour, three minutes late I note.
My office is filled with little trinkets.
There is an antique globe on a stand in the corner, a chest at my side filled with pages of stories past, an intricately carved pocket watch hanging from the lamp beside me. Yesterday a friend had stopped by and picked up that watch, commented on just how “cool” it was, then set it back down before asking me if I wanted to be in his fantasy football league come August. Before I could respond, he received a call from his wife, something about a problem at work and can he pick up their daughter from softball, then he was gone.
After he left, I picked up that same watch, wound it, and watched the hands move across the dial, catching the light just so. I then opened a file on my computer and browsed through the sixty odd pages I had written about that very watch, the start of another novel.
I couldn’t help but wonder how one man can look at an item and dismiss it, while another sees a history, a story waiting to be told.
As children, any one of my friends could have picked up that watch and transformed it into a time machine, a communication device, the key to a futuristic vehicle made up of our swing set and some pieces of wood strategically placed to draw a hull and door in the earth at our feet.
I rolled it between my fingers.
If the hands were to turn backwards, could we bring back the dead?
Just when do we lose the ability to imagine?
When I was a child, we lived in a grand English Tudor built by my father in the middle of a forest of oaks. Shortly after moving in, our friends began to tell my sister and I about the ghost of a woman sometimes seen wandering through the same forest where our house now stood. They told us she had been around for decades and nobody knew why her spirit remained or who she was. They knew enough to be frightened, they also knew enough to be curious.
On my eighth birthday, I had a party and a number of children stayed the night, a campout in our basement. As midnight approached and a hardy game of Truth or Dare was played, I eventually took a dare (only after an exhaustive triplet of truths) and David Spivey looked up at me with a flashlight held at his chin. “I dare you to walk to the center of the woods tonight at midnight, alone.”
The room fell silent as the weight of such a dare fell on everyone. Heidi Orgler shook her head and quickly told me I didn’t have to do it (yes, at eight, slumber parties were still co-ed) but I knew I did. Most of these kids had grown up together but my sister and I had only moved there a few years earlier, we were still outsiders in their eyes and I knew such a dare would help me check off another box on the entry form for that local club. I had to do it and do it I did.
As midnight neared, I stood and the others followed. I ascended the back stairs and opened a door on the night, all of us moving with stealth as to not wake our parents one floor up. They remained and I went, telling myself I was shivering from cold and not fear.
One day I may tell you what I saw that night but today is not that day for that is not the point of this article. I will tell you the things I saw followed me back out and continue to work their way into all my writing and that is the point.
Is that why I write the things I do?
If I had made that same journey as an adult, would I have been just as scared?
Would it still be ghosts, wolves, and things that bump in the night like when I was a child or would I have been watching for homeless people camping behind the trees? Would the idea of being mugged prove a more frightening prospect to an adult than a mysterious ghost?
These childhood experiences do shape us, they do stick with us.
As an adult, I traveled back to my childhood home and stared off into those woods, I peered hard into the trees, my eyes searching for her, just a glimpse of her. I didn’t see anything but then it dawned on me… I still looked. And I couldn’t help but smile.
I think as long as we find ourselves searching the woods for ghosts, that part of our childhood will live on. Our imagination will continue to thrive, the characters will still wake us in the middle of the night to tell their tale.
When was the last time you went in search of a ghost?
Perhaps everyone should.
More about J. D. Barker
J.D. Barker is the international bestselling author of Forsaken (Hampton Creek Press, 2014) - a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Debut Novel. The expertly crafted tale twists both past and present into a fast-paced, suspenseful ride which has earned him comparisons to Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Saul.
His latest novel, The Fourth Monkey, is set to release early in 2016. In addition, he has been asked to co-author a prequel to Dracula by the Stoker family. Barker splits his time between Englewood, FL, and Pittsburgh, PA, with his wife, Dayna.
You can find out more at www.masterofsuspense.com.
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