The Importance of Place

What lots of Kentucky is like.  I love it.

I remember going trick-or-treating once as a kid.
Now, we grew up out in the country, so there wasn’t any of this ‘roaming the neighborhood’ kind of thing happening.  Instead, we’d put on costumes, load up into the car and drive to the houses of friends and family, where we would get fist-fulls of candy and mom would catch up on the latest small talk.
So, one year, I was dressed up in (what I imagined to be) a pretty cool ghost costume.  I think I had a Casper mask on, but my mom had pressed an old sheet into service as a shroud, and the way it draped and folded looked pretty awesome.
We had just visited my Grandma and Grampa’s house, and while Mom was catching up, I went over to my uncle’s house next door and stood on his deck.
The house was perched on the ridge of Mockingbird hill, and you could see the valley stretching out below you for miles.  A large creek curled its way through the tree-lined fields and in the growing twilight a thick mist had begun to curl along the creek bed, twining through the trees and creeping toward the small town below.
Halloween night.
I was in heaven. 🙂

I wanted that kind of feeling in the novel I’m working on, “Ghost Zero: Spookshow”.  There’s a beautiful loneliness to the land that I think is the perfect setting for a ghost story.  Yes, there are people nearby, but always just far enough to make you feel alone, and maybe a little bit vulnerable.  Here’s a description from the story:
We walked through the fields, past overgrown ponds that muttered with frogs, skirting alongside gap-toothed and silent barns.  Any cattle fled when we came near, thundering in the dark.  I was completely without my bearings, trying to guess at how far we had come or even if we were going in the same direction.  I just followed Pallentine in silence.

Twice, I wondered about stopping and getting help, maybe trying to find Todd and I imagined telling him the story.  Of course, Todd lived miles in the opposite direction to where we were traveling, and even if I did go to him and he believed me, what was to keep another ghost from popping up and killing him?  I ached for his company, for someone…living…to talk to, but I wasn’t sure how dangerous I was.  I had to find out more about things before making decisions.  I didn’t want more blood on my hands.
After what seemed like forever, I saw the angular shape of a rooftop rising from the tree line ahead of us.  I could see fairly well, almost like there was a full moon, though the sky held nothing but stars.
We passed by a shed containing a small, red International Harvester tractor and suddenly realized where we were.
“The old Horton House?”  I whispered, and it seemed like a shout after so much silence.  “We’re going in there?”
The Horton House, as it was known locally was the largest place in the small town of Secret’s Crossing.  Sitting on the outskirts of town, it resembled something like a southern plantation house with large, square columns supporting 2-story high porches.  It was squat and wide, with ornate carvings that were once elegant, but now the white paint was peeling and the yard was high with weeds.  The old Widow Horton was the last person to live in the place, shuffling alone behind shuttered windows and talking to no one.  They say she went crazy at the end, screaming at ghosts in the walls and stabbing through the thick, textured wallpaper with knives.
It’s been empty for years, kids daring themselves to go inside on Halloween…to see her ghost.
And here we were.”
And here I am.
I’m 17,876 words into the novel so far and everything is rolling along well.  I’ve got a small, dedicated crew from Grave Digger’s Local #66 (I love you guys) on board to point out when things are a little off or don’t make sense, and so far, none of them have waved me off…telling me it was a hopeless task.  I honestly don’t know if I could write the thing without them.
I’ll turn 45 this weekend, which I’ll be spending in a silent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani.  See you all next week.


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