Where I Get My Ideas
By Ken MacGregor 2013
I write horror. Dark, twisted tales of the murderous and macabre. I get asked the same question a lot: “Where do you come up with this stuff?”
My earliest memory is of the toilet. I had inherited my older sister’s potty training seat; it was pink. I loved it. The little seat fitted onto the toilet seat, so little butts wouldn’t fall in.
I was peeing. I was getting good at knowing when it was time to pee and running to the potty. Unless I was engrossed in play. I sometimes forgot.
Most of this I learned later, of course, but I remember that one time quite well. How could I forget?
I squeezed out the last few drops and shook myself so the lingering drop would fall into the bowl. It was stubborn and took a lot of wiggling before it let go. I was still watching the ripples when a red cloud came up from the drain. I didn’t know it could do that. The red filled the bowl, eclipsing the pale yellow color of the water in seconds. Then, the liquid began to rise.
I pushed myself up and squatted on the seat, not wanting the liquid to touch me. The red stuff, thicker than water spilled over the edge of the bowl, under the seat and ran onto the floor. It spread out on the floor, where it filled the cracks between tiles; much of it ran down the drain.
I was intrigued, but not alarmed. I looked up as my mother opened the door; she was beaming with pride.
“Did you go pee?” she said, voice higher than she used with my dad. “You should probably sit down, honey.”
When I glanced back down, the red flood was gone as if it had never been.
When I was six, I was playing in the sandbox with Jimmy Schmidt. We were, in our own opinions too old for sandboxes, but as long as my sister Molly wasn’t around to make fun of us, we loved it. This time, we were playing Desert Adventure. I had a big yellow pickup truck and Jimmy had a red monster truck with enormous wheels. We were escaping from mad Arabs who rode super-powered camels and swung scimitars in the air. We didn’t realize it was kind of a bigoted theme.
The sand under Jimmy shifted suddenly, like a highly localized earthquake. We both froze and looked at the spot where he sat. The sand moved again, and Jimmy shot me a look of alarm. I shrugged. It may be my sandbox, but that didn’t mean I knew what was going on.
The sand collapsed under Jimmy, like it was running down the middle of an hourglass. Jimmy reached for me, but I sat on my hands. I wanted no part of this. As Jimmy sank further into the sandbox, I saw the mandibles, shiny head and antennae of a beetle that had to be the size of wolf. The bug pulled Jimmy under, and the sand leveled out again, only slightly lower than before.
In a way, it was a shame. Jimmy was one of my only friends.
I watched the sand for a moment, wondering if maybe Jimmy would get spit back out. He didn’t, so I picked up Jimmy’s monster truck and my pickup and made them race, doing the engine noises in my throat.
I missed being born on Halloween by one day. When I was little, this used to disappoint me, but when I was ten, I found out the November 1 was not only All Saint’s Day; it was also, in Mexico, el Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. Suddenly, my birthday was cool.
For my eleventh birthday party, I asked for an el Dia theme: skull cake, skeleton plates and napkins and piñata decorated to look like a dead horse. I invited all my friends and most of my aunts and uncles were there, along with the cousins I hardly ever got to see. They lived hours away, except Harry, Aunt Jess’s boy, and he and I didn’t get along too well.
The piñata was on a rope, and Uncle Nate kept yanking it out of reach, laughing a bit sadistically for the occasion. When it came to my turn, the piñata had already taken a couple of hits, but it was still whole. My first swing found only air, and I put so much into it, I almost fell down. I could hear Uncle Nate snorting laughter at my expense. My second swing hit with a satisfying crunch and I felt it give. I expected the hailstone sound of candy flying out and hitting the ground and laughter as kids scrambled to get it.
I heard a wet splat and silence from the crowd. I pulled off the blindfold. The party-goers across from me were covered in blood and viscera. My cousin Harry had what I think was a liver covering half his face. I had killed the piñata.
It was a perfect way to celebrate el Dia de los Muertos.
Grandma Fields died when I was 14. I had never been to a viewing and didn’t want to go to this one. While I waited for my turn at the coffin, I looked at the people there. Almost everybody wore black, though here and there women wore splashes of color: a vivid red silk flower; a gold brooch garnished with garnets. Aunt Vera, only a few years older than me, wore a dress that was about six inches shy of appropriate that showed off her athletic thighs. I wasn’t the only male in the room who kept tossing glances her way.
I stepped up on the burgundy carpet-covered platform. The person inside the box didn’t look like Grandma. It looked like a mannequin version of her, here to model her last, best dress. The skin was waxy and pale, despite the makeup. Grandma hadn’t worn makeup since before I was born. She had mentioned that fact every time Molly and I came to visit. Molly wore a lot of makeup.
I tried to think of something to say to my dead grandmother. I cleared my throat and moved my lips, searching for the right words.
Grandma’s eyes flew open and she stared at me. Her lips tried to open to talk, but they were sewn shut. She looked pissed off.
I shrugged and walked away. I couldn’t help her.
A few years later I was in a car with Gina Rollins. I had inherited my dad’s old Saturn when he got a new car. Suddenly, I was date material.
Gina was the hottest girl in school, at least I thought so. Her hair was long and red, not clown red, but a warm, rich auburn. Her hazel eyes danced when she laughed. Gina was a regular feature in my late night Kleenex adventures.
And, one Friday, she asked me for a ride.
“Where you heading,” I asked, hoping I sounded casual and smooth.
“Wherever you are,” Gina said. Wow.
I parked the car on the dirt road behind the bread factory. They had gone out of business a few years back and nobody ever drove out here. The only light came from the half moon and a smattering of stars.
I undid my seatbelt and looked at Gina. She undid her belt and leaned into me. We kissed. I had kissed a few girls before, but was no expert. It was awkward but exciting, the first kiss. Gina tasted like spearmint gum, and I wondered what I tasted like to her. Hopefully okay.
Gina took my left hand and put it on her thigh. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I left it there and gave her a gentle squeeze. She pulled my hand higher up. I was getting hard now. I had never touched a girl there.
Gina pulled my hand all the way to where her legs met. She wasn’t wearing any underwear and my fingers fumbled around, trying to find the things I was supposed to.
Everything was soft, wet and alien. Gina guided my fingers inside her and made small noises in her throat. Her eyes were closed and an impish smile was on her lips.
Gina slid down on the seat and pulled my whole hand inside her. This was too weird. I tried to pull back, but I was stuck. She was all heat and wetness and held me like a vise.
Gina convulsed, biting her lip and more of my arm slid into her. Soon, I was up to my elbow and expected to feel her ribs any second. Gina bucked on my arm like she was having seizures. Her moans were turning into screams, but I didn’t think she was in pain.
I was in up to my shoulder now, my cheek against Gina’s thigh. The smell coming from her was earthy, sweet and tangy. She gave one last massive shudder and relaxed.
I slowly extracted my arm from her and sat back. My erection was painful, but I was afraid to do anything about it, at least until I was alone. I was terrified to put it inside her, lest I never get it back. Gina asked me to take her home. I was happy to.
I got married just before I turned 30. Gwen and I had dated for two years, been engaged for 15 months and we were pretty sure neither of us was going to do any better.
Gwen was resplendent in her off-white gown (neither of us thought anyone would buy it if she wore pure white). She shone like the moon that day, distant and mysterious. We wrote our own vows, which were sweet and filled with optimism and moments of chuckle-inducing humor.
Gwen threw the bouquet of long-stem roses over her head to the waiting crowd of women and girls. Her sister Angela, single, 25, elbowed a 9-year-old girl out of her way and snatched the flowers from the air.
Angela screamed in triumph, or perhaps pain as the long thorns pierced her palms. Angela held her prize aloft, and the blood ran down her bare arm and stained the pastel blue bridesmaid dress.
Gwen and I wanted to wait to have kids until I was almost 40, but a condom broke within a year. We told ourselves it was a fluke and odds were she wouldn’t get pregnant, but of course she did.
In the delivery room, Gwen was huge, pale and drenched in sweat. She had never been less attractive to me. I know I’m a shit for thinking that. Her emotions vacillated from rage to bliss to suicidal depression, sometimes in under a minute.
“This is your fault,” Gwen told me forty-seven times. She had me there.
There was an OB doctor – Harriet something, I forgot immediately after she told me her last name – and half a dozen nurses or technicians or whatever in the room. They were huddled around looking between Gwen’s legs, a view I had previously thought to be mine alone. I squeezed Gwen’s hand and put as upbeat an expression on my face as I could manage. I knew I wasn’t the one with the hard job here. I was trying to be supportive, though I felt useless.
“The baby’s crowning!” the doctor almost shouted. I noted the lack of gender. We had foregone ultrasounds; Gwen said she had read they might be dangerous, though I could find nothing anywhere that even hinted that was the case.
I leaned forward to see my baby’s head, though I had mixed feelings about watching something come out of her vagina. I was sure it would traumatize me and leave me incapable of wanting sex with this woman ever again.
I was wrong, despite what happened next.
Craning my neck to see my baby, I saw clear fluid mixed with some blood splash out of Gwen and onto the bed on which she lay. Immediately followed by a round lump I took to be my child’s head. But, the lump flattened and part of it slid forward. It grew longer and the bottom half snaked out. This was a tentacle, reminiscent of a giant squid from a Jules Verne novel.
The thing protruding from my wife’s vagina was easily four feet long. It writhed around as if looking for something to grab, something to eat. I took a small step back, just in case.
Where do I get my ideas?
I wonder sometimes, if maybe the monsters are really there. What if they are lurking, just out of sight. What if the line between reality and fantasy is far, far thinner than we think? What if the creatures I’m making up are using me as a conduit? To tell their stories. To get their fifteen minutes of fame? You know? I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
This is the kind of shit that keeps me up at night.