I have this story idea that has been bouncing around in my head for some time. I am not going to tell you what it is because I still hope to write it eventually. The reason I haven’t written it yet (other than procrastination) is that it works best told in present tense and its non-negotiable setting doesn’t really exist in the same way it used to. I’m sure there are plenty of good ways to deal with this. Perhaps I’m just being obtuse and haven’t thought of any yet. Or maybe I’m just procrastinating about this first hurdle as well.
Anyway, I told Rebecca my story idea and what my issue was, and her reaction was “Sounds like a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode.” She was absolutely right and that got me thinking.
I’m pretty much OK with having my imagination fueled by that show, even though there were a lot of episodes that were absolute stinkers. The worst, at least for me, were the ones that tried to grope my heartstrings. The bottom of the barrel had to be the last episode aired, “The Bewitchin’ Pool.” The story centered around a couple of ugly kids whose parents are going through an ugly divorce. Instead of something hilarious happening like having neither parent want custody, a Huck Finn wannabe from another dimension pops up in the swimming pool and beckons the kids to dive in and follow him through a magical portal. They emerge on the other side in either a river or lake next to a rustic cabin. Inside they meet an affable old bat, equal parts Granny Clampett and Aunt Bee, who tells them they stay forever in this wet dream of wholesomeness and never having to return to the intolerable reality of parents who put their own happiness first for once.
I did once write a story based on an episode that was pretty bad, though not “Bewitchin’ Pool” bad. The episode was about a doddering old teacher played by Donald Pleasance who is visited by ghosts of his former students who convince him he doesn’t suck so much after all. In my version, the ghosts are students he molested because sexual abuse is never not funny.
I might write “The Bewitchin’ Poolboy,” a prequel where the titular character comes by while the husband is at work and ends up as the reason for the divorce. Then again, I probably won’t. The joke lives and dies in the premise. There really is no reason to actually write the thing.
The story I do intend to write, the one I told Rebecca about, doesn’t mock “The Twilight Zone.” It’s not an homage to the show either though it does contain an intersection of reality and nonreality, and to make things interesting, death. And unlike a lot of my stuff, it won’t be thumbing its nose at anyone.
Or maybe it will. I’m not comfortable being serious for very long. One thing is certain. Weird stuff will happen.
Even if I never write this story, I’ll write one of its ilk and probably several more because I’m a sucker for that kind of thing, both on the creative end and as a consumer. I especially love the moment when the unreal creeps in. Reality has always been kind of lame for me so when it’s usurped, it’s a moment of liberation. Alas, what follows is often a disappointment.
A prime example of this is The Matrix. It was a near-perfect film up to the point when Keanu Reeves took the red pill. As oblivious as Reeves’ character, I watched his world unravel and cheered “That’s right. Fuck the day to day. Kill it with fire.” It was like he was on an acid trip would never end. My enthusiasm was perhaps odd knowing firsthand that being on acid and thinking I might never come down is not pleasant. Nonetheless, I could enjoy the vicarious thrill from the safety of my theater seat.
But he had to take that red pill and learn not not the kind of truth to make one’s head explode, but rather how he’s the chosen one to defeat evil in a by-the-numbers adventure yarn tarted up with whiz-bang special effects.
I hate stories where some dickwad fulfills his destiny. If it’s destiny, why is the story even interesting? Give me someone who on some level welcomes the here and now getting a beatdown from unseen forces no matter how grotesque and potentially dangerous they are. I’ll read those stories. I’ll watch those movies. I’ll take notes.
I’ll also contribute a few tales of my own. They may not be very good (for examples of my fallibility, check out my attempts at poetry on this blog). I’m OK with it sucking as long as the words get out there. When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer but didn’t want to write. Now I don’t care if I wear the writer label yet I write a lot more.
So yeah, the doorway looms large in my mind. My own version of Wonderland is just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Perhaps I’m already there and living in a hallucination of examining every detail of a door I walked through a long time ago.
Cue the “Twilight Zone” theme because I just went into bullshit overdrive.