Copyright 2011 by Gary L. Pullman
Newspapers may or may not be dying, but, until they do (if they do), one of them, USA Today, as I have indicated in previous posts, provides, in its “Across the USA” column, bite-size morsels of news that horror writers can use: these tidbits provide the imaginative horror writer plenty of food for thought. Of course, you have to be a bit twisted to add the right imaginative (and imaginary) twist to these items, transforming them from prosaic fillers into storylines with potential to frighten and repulse.
Here, as in other, similar, earlier posts, are my own takes on these tidbits. (First, the tidbit; from the September 12, 2011 issue, page 8A; then, the imaginary take on it.)
Item 1: Texas: Longview -- As children, their parents dressed them in identical outfits and for 18 years they shared a bedroom. The Kent quadruplets have turned into young women who are students at East Texas Baptist University. “I’m looking forward to just growing while I’m in college,” Kinsey Kent said. “Since we aren’t together as much, we have the opportunity to grow as individuals.”Twist: This is an interesting idea. The main question, for me, is how will the four sisters change, now that they can become themselves? Will some change for the better and some for the worse? What type of horrible transformations are in the (Tarot?) cards for these young women? Witches? (That would be an ironic possibility, given their attendance at a mainstream Christian college!) Vampires? Werewolves? This tidbit is one a horror writer can--or should be able to--really sink his or her teeth into!
Item 2: Utah: Salt Lake City -- A West Valley City man has been sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for the beating death of his girlfriend. Third District Judge Judith Atherton handed down the sentence to Thomas Valdez, who was found guilty of first-degree murder in July. Police found Maralee Andreason dead on march 9, 2010, from blunt force trauma to the head.Twist: So, he clubs her in the head, killing her, and he’s charged with murder in the first degree--and he gets off with 15 years to life--and the judge who hands down the sentence is herself a woman? Why did Thomas receive such a relatively puny sentence? What was his girlfriend like that would justify such treatment of her killer? I mean, there must have been some hellacious extenuating circumstances! Was she a witch? A vampire? A werewolf? (Probably neither of the latter two, because a club’s not going to kill a vampire or a werewolf all that easily, so the most likely scenario, of these three possibilities, is that she was a witch, but what did she do, put a curse on her boyfriend? If so, why?) There’s a story here, somewhere, and it could be a humdinger!
Item 3: Vermont: Stratton -- New York City area residents are gathering Tuesday for a fundraiser to benefit the Stratton Foundation’s Flood relief Fund. New York City escaped serious problems when Tropical Storm Irene came through, while Vermont was hit hard.Twist: A politician should “never let a crisis go to waste,” the Democrats recently observed. What was Irene if not a crisis, if not for the Big Apple, for Vermont, at least? The fundraiser sounds noble, but when’s the last time a New Yorker was noble? Never! That suggests that New York City area residents may be raising money, but it’s probably to fund something dark and sinister. Maybe they are planning to build underground concentration camps in which to incarcerate--uh, I mean, house--pesky homeless people and are using Irene as an excuse to raise big bucks. They’ll give a smidgen of the money they raise to Vermont and keep the rest to improve the subway (by building subterranean homeless “shelters”).
Item 4: Washington: Spokane -- A 25-year-old man accused of murder was found dead in his jail cell. County Sherriff’s Sgt. David Reagan said deputies discovered Tristan Jordan on Saturday morning when they went to his cell to serve him breakfast. Cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner.Twist: He’s locked in a cell. Let’s assume that he didn’t kill himself. What did? What could get into his locked jail cell, and how did it manage the feat? A demon? A monster that can take the form of solids, liquids, or gases, one that came through the ventilation system or the pipes, as a gas or as water, and then turned into a solid--solid steel, maybe?--and delivered a little brunt trauma to the prisoner’s head, maybe? There are other possibilities, too. Maybe he was poisoned by his jailers for some reason. Hey! I’m just saying. . . . I mean, weren’t they on their way “to his cell to serve him breakfast” when he was “found” dead?
Item 5: West Virginia: South Charleston -- State Police unveiled a 45-foot-long mobile command center that will help them manage special events and respond to disasters. It has satellite phone technology, weather radar systems, and a planning room. Its official rollout will be Oct. 15 at Bridge Day events at New River Gorge.Twist: Are you freakin’ kidding me? A “45-foot-long mobile command center,” fully loaded with satellite technology, “weather radar systems, and a planning room”? This sucker has a mission other than the “official” one of supposedly lending a helping hand at “special events” and aiding “disaster” victims. It has “UFO Chaser” written all over it, that’s what I think. But nice try with the references to “special events” and “disasters.” The cops are hunting for spaceships and aliens--they just don’t want the state’s taxpayers to know what they’re really funding!
Item 6: Wyoming: Powell -- Weeks after Glenn French’s death, farmers gathered to harvest the fields he planted in the spring. “It’s a community effort of people who saw a need and filled it. And it’s a tribute to my brother,” Larry French said. “He was one of the kindest people I ever knew.”Twist: What did Glenn plant, and how many acres of it is there? Is the crop marijuana, perhaps, or something more exotic, like seeds that fell out of the sky, on a meteorite that landed in the south forty a couple of years back? Maybe it’s a whole passel of man-eating plants like the one in the Little Shop of Horrors or flowers similar to H. G. Wells’ “strange orchid.” Whatever it is, it must be one hell of a crop to have managed to get the whole community to turn out, hoes in hand.
Item 7: U. S. territory: Guam -- Police arrested four men and two minors as part of an investigation into the stabbing death of three men. The adults are Benny Sam Robert, Osupwang Jery Muritok, Jeff Pedro, and Vimson Menisio.Twist: What linked these four men (and two minors), and why did they stab three other men to death? What was in it for the killers? A common reward of some kind, or something different for each of them? Was it just money? Or maybe some deep, dark secret, maybe about the tire identities of the killers, that was best taken to the grave. Something about voodoo, maybe, or Satanism, or human sacrifice? The apocalypse is always a possibility, too, if all other ideas fail. Find the link between the killers or between the killers and their victims, and you find the story.