I have a confession to make: vampires don't scare me. Neither do ghosts, werewolves, zombies, or pretty much anything in the paranormal realm. It doesn't matter if the character/being is being spun at me all sparkly and with feelings by Stephanie Meyer or with fangs dripping blood bent only on imminent in something concocted by the crazy mind of Stephen King.
It doesn't scare me because it's not real. I don't believe in the existence of any of these things/beings outside our own imaginations, so how could I be scared of them?
That's not to say I completely discount their possible existence. Who knows? The world is a crazy place and unexplained occurrences happen all the time, so maybe at some point I will be shown some kind of proof, but until then I'm just as happily agnostic about the paranormal as I am in the existence of a higher power.
Some say there is crossover between the two; I don't want to get into that.
I just can't find myself getting scared by this genre in a book or a movie. Sure, I may get bothered or shocked out of my skin, but scared? Nope. (This is not an invitation to the world to go out of your way to scare the shit out of me. That would just be rude.)
What does scare me is scenarios with truth in them. A time and place where something happens to a person and I think, hey, I could see that happening to me. And what would I do in that situation?
Getting caught in the middle of a store robbery.
Getting in a car wreck with a drunk driver.
Being stuck on a plane with malfunctioning engines.
Finding myself as one of the unfortunate pieces of collateral damage in a terrorist attack.
Stuck in the crossfire between two gangs in an urban neighborhood.
Wrongfully accused of something and being unable to prove it.
Losing my job and running out of money.
THAT shit scares me. THOSE are the kinds of things that keep me up at night.
The late night ringing of the doorbell.
This one actually happened a few weeks back. Wifey and I were in the office, her studying and me working on the novel, about 9:30 or 10 at night, when the doorbell rang. Odd. Who rings a doorbell that late? That's never good, right? Misaki didn't even bark, just looked down the hallway towards the stairs and then back at us.
After debating for a couple seconds, I decided to answer the door. "Be careful," Wifey called as I walked down the stairs.
Think about that for a minute. We are sitting in our own house, minding our business, and the simple action of a doorbell ringing after dark necessitates a reminder to be careful. What does that say? And yes, I was a little freaked out. Should I grab a knife from the kitchen, just in case? Do I even open the door?
I debated this as I walked down the stairs. Then I did what most people do in these situations: I chose to believe the 99% probability this would be completely harmless. That other 1%, though, is where I get totally freaked out about.
I answered the door after flipping on the porch light and a man, who had made it back to the sidewalk at this point, hurried back to my door. I tensed, unsure what to expect, until I recognized his face as my neighbor. Then I relaxed, mostly (not completely - we don't know them that well), and asked what was up.
"I have to tell you something," he said. Um, really? Now? Okay, what?
Neighbor proceeded to point out a house just up the street on the next corner, a house with a family I don't know, and said that a couple days before - he just found this out - the mom woke up early in the morning, about 5ish, and went to the kitchen to make some breakfast. She saw a man in her backyard. Here Neighbor made a point to say the man didn't belong there, but in my mind I'm thinking well, what man does belong in any backyard at 5am?
The man saw her and ran off. She didn't get a good look at his face and had no description, but a patrol car did come out and take a statement, then pledging to up patrols in the area a bit.
The end result of this story had Neighbor urging us to keep our doors locked and our eyes open. He thought we should know. I said thank you, I appreciated that, and didn't say I was more freaked out by the doorbell ringing late than this story.
But it is disconcerting, to say the least. Backyards are not secure by any means. When you really think about it, neither are houses. Or cars. Or really much of anything. Locked doors are more of a deterrent than they are really about keeping the bad people out, the presumption being why make it easy for them, and if it's not easy, they will look elsewhere.
But this, this is the shit that scares me. The little bits of every day life that could so easily go horribly wrong. Or the events with a broader impact, like a terrorist attack, and getting stuck in the middle of a fight I have no dog in (which, really, is a horrible, horrible phrase - dogfighting? really? that's a metaphor?) and being forced to deal with the situation in the way I best know how, which may not be very good at all.
In the story I have written, part of the main sequence of events is under the control of the main characters, but the biggest flashpoint of the story is not - they are forced to react with something they never saw coming and go from there. To me the story is not necessarily in the event itself, though the events are fun to write and work through, but in how a given set of characters reacts to those events.
For me, a story will always begin with the phrase "What if....?" and go from there. Maybe it's an exercise in learning about myself, about preparing myself for the unexpected, or maybe it's simpler than that. Or more complicated. Or simply just is.
I do know that this is the shit that keeps me up at night. This is the shit that scares the holy hell out of me when I think about it too much, too deeply.
Vampires and werewolves? That's just entertainment.