So, I’m closing in on the final bits of my first horror novel (mostly sci-fi up to now) and I think it’s a doozy. Told in first person by a man trapped in a hospital bed for 18 months, this is horror that is up close and personal. Here’s the first un-edited scene:
I don’t dream anymore, and I’m grateful for that; my demons leave me alone out here in the real. No one could blame me for ignoring them at first, since I was clinically dead at the time, but demons don’t care if you believe in them. Instead, they crouch, they wait, and they watch.
Friday nights in Southeast Texas can be sultry affairs—even in early October—and this one had been no different, leaving everyone in the stadium drenched in sweat. The air was dense and sticky, every breath I took labored and short. The sweet fragrance of freshly cut grass drifted from the field; the smell of roasted peanuts and hot dogs and popcorn filled the air in the bleachers, dragging my heart ever backward in time. Fall hits you like that, pouring itself into your ears, nose, and mouth, flushing the last dry leaves of summer from your soul.
September rains and a final blast of summer heat had left us with a crop of mosquitoes so big they had numbers on their wings. They swooped and danced in the fuzzy glare of the stadium lights—not the old arc lights that took half an hour to perk up, buzzing in the sixty hertz range like thousands of over-sized cicadas, but the big LED jobs that turned night into high noon with the flip of a switch. None of the bugs bothered siphoning me, and I figure now that was because my blood oxygen levels were so low, I wasn’t exhaling enough carbon-dioxide to lure any. It’s odd what you remember from high school science.
Traffic to the stadium was, as is tradition, a serpentine line of headlights, cars and trucks all decorated with the home team colors in a polite procession of school pride. Streamers of red and white crepe paper tied to car antennae fluttered miserably in the damp, languid breeze, while truckloads of teenagers sang and shouted decades-old cheers from their windows and beds. A former teacher once told me, at our school, tradition was anything we did one time in a row. He wasn’t far off in his counting.
I remember cheerleaders tumbling, a referee’s sharp whistle, and the boisterous thump and blare of a marching band in the throes of yet another round of Louie, Louie. I remember how Danny, wearing his favorite number twenty-one, snaked and hurdled around and over the defense, scoring his third touchdown of the night, me jumping and raising both hands over my head like a referee on crack. I remember John Swanson clapping me on the back hard, congratulating me on a job well-done raising such a fine young running back. I remember our daughter dumping Danny on our doorstep twelve years ago before disappearing into the night—a night not unlike this one. But mostly, I remember Barb beaming up at me as she cheered, tears of joy shining in her hazel eyes. She was always the best part of us, and I can’t for the life of me remember ever telling her that. I’d yell it from the rooftop now if I could.
There is literally nothing quite like Friday night football in Texas; we’ve cornered the market on pomp, spectacle, and bone-crushing violence. Bread and circuses for the civilized. Once a week we sacrifice the bodies of our sons, and occasionally our daughters, to the great and powerful football gods and hail the results. Danny went down in the very next series with a concussion, but I didn’t see it; I had already gone tits-up with my first heart attack of the night.