Monday, October 18, 2010

What is Horror to ME?

Sort of a follow up to Friday's question, which was about why I found myself drawn to the horror genre.  This may crossover a little bit, but even so...

I've never been much afraid of monster movies or slasher flicks.  Because of this, they hold little interest for me.  Extreme gore makes me a bit nauseated and disgusted, but not afraid.

Why so much interest in fear? Because how we face fear - as human beings and individuals - says a lot about ourselves.  I'll be the first to admit that I don't like facing my fears, and can often ignore them or pretend they don't exist, depending on that fear.  So maybe I've turned to horror these later years - as a writer, and a reader - in an effort to try and find a way to use my creative gifts to face my fears. That writing in the horror genre - where ANYTHING can happen - is often just a cool side-treat.

What is horror to ME?

I touched upon it last week. I still want to write about monsters and demons and ghosts, but only if they're useful in examining some inner part of us.  So many times, that monster we hate the most looks back at us from the mirror in the morning.  There, then, is a great vehicle - in my mind, anyway - for a werewolf, vampire, changeling, shapeshifter, possession, etc story.

Anyway.  Last week I stopped in to visit Zack at his school.  For those just joining us, a year ago my two year old son was diagnosed as severely autistic.  He's since been downgraded to moderately autistic and his speech is growing by leaps and bounds, but I can honestly say we're in a rough patch right now in regards to the rest of his development.

Plus, there are daily things that bite beneath the skin, for both Abby and I.  Reminders that our son is different, not like other kids...and may never be.  For almost two years, he's had to attend a five day a week, 7 hour a day special intervention program.  The program has done wonders. Abby especially hates even thinking where we'd be without it. 

But, the physiological impact of putting our 2 and then 3 year old on a BUS, in a CAR SEAT for over an hour long drive both ways hits hard, deep inside.  Abby can't deny how the program has helped him, but she feels like she's lost her little boy so much sooner than she should have.  

He spends almost his entire summer there, because relapse is a huge danger this early in the game. So already my son spends more time IN school than out, and he's not even four.  He should be running and jumping and playing in the summer. Not seated at a desk, falling asleep because he's so tired.

I stopped in to check on him last week.  They have an open door policy that allows parents to drop in unannounced to watch their children from a different room through a closed-circuit TV.  Now, the visit itself went fine.  

But the moment I walked into the center, I felt an icy chill.  A medley of wails and groans and even screeching - of children - echoed throughout the halls and into the waiting area.  Now, my rational mind - having worked with these kids before as a paraprofessional myself - knows most of those screams are from kids acting out and throwing tantrums.  And, I know Zack is far past that level.

But still.  This is how my three year old son spends his days?  Surrounded by all these cries and screams of kids who sound like they've never known a moment of peace their entire lives? That's what my baby boy has to hear, five days a week, almost year round?

It sounded like an insane asylum for children.

Now, I'm playing the drama queen a bit.  I'm sure it's not always like that, and from my own experiences I know how these kids are. BUT, from my own experience I also know that some children with autism - ones who have it worse than Zack does - NEVER achieve much more than a vague sense of comfort.  No real pleasure or happiness or sense of accomplishment.

And of course, the horror writer in me snatches that moment.  Thinks about how it makes me feel.   Thinks about how other parents like us feel, and about the fact that, if you DON'T have an autistic child yourself...you have no clue.  And of course because of that, the horror writer in me kicks into storytelling gear....but sometimes writing about that stuff hurts. A lot.  But it has to be done.

So.  At the risk of repeating answers to Friday's question - when I asked "Why you chose horror"...what's horror to you?