Thursday, February 13, 2014

Eating My Own Shadow

I scare really easily...like too easily.


Just a commercial for the latest horror movie can mess me up for the rest of the day, the fear giving me irrational fears that turn far off sounds into monsters and the soft hum of benign household utilities into whispers from the beyond.

In sum, I am a victim of my own overactive imagination.  Frightening tales often pale in comparison to things that I conjure up in my head. An article about a sinkhole making headlines in the news?  I will stare into space for ten minutes after I read the article and wonder if the gaping sink hole has the potential to spread to me, 300 miles from where it originated, and engulf everyone unfortunate enough to be in its path, unexpectedly pulling me from where I sit at my computer, leaving only enough time to scream, "WHY?!?" as my weakening fingers lose their grip on the edge of the Earth.  A plane flying too low as a thunderstorm approaches?  I stare up at the sky just a little too long wondering, what if a flash of lightning strikes an unsuspecting plane teleporting it and all its' passengers to another dimension, leaving me to convince those that didn't witness it that the passengers of the plane are still out there (victims of citizens of a parallel universe intent on learning human patterns and studying Earth to prepare for a planet-wide colonization).


You would think as a writer with such a creepy imagination and a clear penchant for torturing myself the horror genre would be a natural fit.  Wrong.  For years, I was too afraid to try.  Thinking dark thoughts gives them power enough, writing them down to have them live into eternity would be like offering my nightmares a seat at the dinner table beside me and passing them the salt.

Last summer, I decided to stop being such a punk.  I was travelling with my husband on a long road trip when a stop at a rest area sent my imagination spiraling out of control.

“What if…” I began, when we returned to the car. “There was some kind of disease in those free Iced Tea samples at Starbucks and everyone turned into zombies?”

My husband, used to my brand of crazy, indulged me.  “Instantly?”

I nodded, rattling on and on about a rest area turned ground zero of the zombie apocalypse.  I pictured a pretty young girl, twenty-something, dropping her skinny vanilla latte at her feet and screaming at the bloody carnage.  I pictured her reaching for her boyfriend only to find him running off, leaving her to brave an unimaginable horror on her own, in BCBG wedges and a sundress.

“Why don’t you write it?” my husband encouraged.

I shrugged.  “I write literary fiction.”

My imagination was telling me otherwise.

Horror writer, Harry Shannon, is quoted as saying, "...reading and writing horror is about eatin’ [your] own shadow so it won't eat [you]."  I wondered if maybe the “Stephen Kings” and “Tananarive Dues” of the world aren’t these brave badasses sitting behind a computer screen fearlessly creating nightmares.  Maybe they were the biggest ‘fraidy cats of all.  Maybe giving life to my biggest fears would give me control over them.  If I could imagine a young girl in a sundress slamming the heels of her platform wedges into the forehead of a flesh-soaked zombie, maybe the zombie wouldn’t be so scary.

So I wrote her.  The girl in the sundress.  She became Dani, the heroine of my first horror short story, White BeltMy experiment in bravery.  My triumph of courage. It turned out to be fun.  Not just fun but fulfilling. 

Turns out my shadow tastes pretty damn good.

About The Author
Faye McCray is a native New Yorker and current resident of the Washington, DC metropolitan area where she resides with her husband and two young sons. She is an attorney by day and writer by life. She is the author of White Belt, a short story that follows a young college student turned unlikely heroine of the zombie apocalypse. The sequel, Yellow Belt will be available on Amazon January 29, 2014. You can also find Faye's work on Black Girl Nerds, Madame Noire, Black and Married with Kids, and Rachel in the OC. She recently completed her first novel and is working hard on her second. Connect with Faye on her blog, www.fayemccray.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fayewrites, and on Twitter (@fayewrites)
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