The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.
-- Everybody's Free (to Wear Suncreen)
Let's talk for a moment about real horror.
Many great friends of mine write tales about monsters. The shadows in the corner. Shambling, rambling zombies that get their motive from elder gods. Immortal creatures that view the beast of time like grains of sand on a beach. Nameless faceless creatures that haunt our dreams. This group includes myself, but that's not the kind of horror I'm talking about.
I'm talking about the out-of-the-blue things that happen on any other day. An everyday event that you can't possibly be prepared for, only look on as a series of occurrences allows it to unfold before you, and you're just along for the ride, destination be damned.
One of my best friends called me yesterday afternoon. I know he's been busy and traveling a lot lately because I haven't heard from him. When I saw his name on my cell, I figured it was a call to catch up, give me hell for his constant pummeling of me in chess, and just a general bullshit session.
I couldn't have been farther from the truth.
I'm taking certain liberties in retelling this, but stay with me... the core is here and you'll understand.
"So, you wanna hear a horror story?"
That was how the conversation started. His next words assured me however, that it had a happy ending.
My friends live in Tampa in a great neighborhood. He does very well and his wife is of elegant style and refined tastes. They're a phenomenally great couple, both intelligent and cultured and have fought their way from their humble upbringings.
They have two daughters, one around eight and the other at fifteen-months old.
It was a typical Friday evening. He was traveling out of town, heading back on a return flight. Their older daughter had some friends over playing in the back yard and pool.
A slightly cracked sliding door... an unlatched gate... the slightest moment of distraction... and gravity took hold.
One of the older friends came walking back by the pool and thought "Why would there be a baby doll with socks on in the pool?"
And when realization hit, she started screaming.
Their other daughter of fifteen-months had made her way outside.
My best friend's wife ran outside to the screaming and felt something I can't begin to imagine - something I never want to imagine - grabbed her limp dishrag of a daughter and ran screaming to the neighbors, holding - in my friend's words - essentially, a dead baby.
Fortunately, their neighbor was home and immediately started CPR, and brought her back, sputtering and coughing up water.
By then, their older daughter had called 911 and the ambulance was on the way.
As my friend's plane touched down and he could turn his cell phone on, he got a text "Call me - emergency."
Amidst the ambulance ride, and the shrieking sirens, his wife explained everything as they were headed to the ER.
After many tests and I'm sure, a surreal, out-of-body night, they assured them that their daughter was okay after the trauma. CAT scans and others revealed that she was all right. The staff seemed incredulous after seeing many other drownings, that this happened, and by the time my friend called me, everyone had just gotten home.
THIS, my friends, is horror, not the creepy crawlies that we can imagine in our nightmares. The things we least expect... the things we can never expect or be prepared for.
Carlos Castaneda's philosophy is that death is always at our side. A sobering thought, but also a respectable one.
Life is short indeed. We can go to church several times a week or ignore religion entirely. We can go to the gym and have a healthy diet or drink ourselves to oblivion and live off fast food. We can take precaution to the extreme or live life on the razor's edge of danger.
But none of it matters. When the cold winds of fate blow against our back, it's our time and there's no way to prepare for it.
Except... there is.
Fingerpaint on the walls? Crayon drawings on the coffee table?
It's just material things...
Bickering over trivial things?
It's not worth it in the overall scheme of things.
Going through troubled times?
Don't forget your friends... each day... each moment may be your last. Show people you care about them. They're there for a reason, but it's a two-way street. And it only takes the tiniest things...
I am thankful today.
I am thankful for my best friends and loved ones. I'm thankful that a tragedy was missed by a fraction. I am thankful that the cloak of death has not descended when it easily could have. I'm thankful that a little girl's breaths today may taste sweeter than they did before - though she may not understand why.
I'm thankful that though I recognize my gift of imagination... of creating worlds, that I have yet to experience real horror.
And though I know at some point, it's inevitable for us all, I hope those of you that read this, have a long, long time, before you experience it too.
Finished Lee Thomas' Dust of Wonderland... great read and I'm lining up something else by him already.
The Dark Tower - The Gunslinger Born. I bought the collected hardback comic and both the writing and artwork kick ass.
I skipped over Cormac's No Country for Old Men for the time being and dove into Mary Sangiovanni's The Hollower. Digging it... very creepy and nice atmosphere.
Martian Child. John Cusak is great in this.. different role for him, but great story line.
Live Free and Die Hard. I'm a sucker for these movies... and though as an action movie with some serious full automatic weapons, there are, of course, some serious moments that I had to put my brain on the shelf, the story's based around a cool, very timely concept of a technological "firesale" and is a frightening social prospect in itself.
Nothing new... any recommendations?