Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Serial Killer's Genesis...

Not even done with my current novel and I'm thinking of my next. Not sure if this is the beginning of a new novel or a short stroy. Either way, I like the protaganist and there's a whole lot of Doctor Zombie in this character.

Interesting aside: I was at a luncheon at Cleveland State honoring myself and several other student writers who'd had essays published in a compilation when I struck up a conversation with another honoree named Allen. After he'd looked at my bio info in the book, he asked me how much of myself I put into the main character of my novel, North Coast Gothic. I always hate this question because, truthfully, every character I write has some of my DNA in them when I breath them into existance on the page. Like Pygmalion, I'm often startled by the life my characters take on after I create them. To me, they become real and I can hear their voices and see them in my mind. Their quirks, their idiosyncracies, their peculiarities of speech and dialect all become real. It reminds me of a vignette at the beginning of the classic Hammer films The House That Dripped Blood. In it, Denholm Elliot plays a horror writer who feels he's going mad because he begins to see and become stalked by the snaggle-toothed and wild-eyed killer he's created. I live with my characters when I'm writing and I honestly have conversations with them.

Is that crazy?

Anyway - I threw this together and I need to decide what to do with it after I finish the work on my current novel. And - yes! - this character seems much closer to me in personality and disposition than Tom, from NCG, did.

The sun wasn’t bright that day. It hid behind an endless expanse of curdled milk clouds, not even bothering to raise its head from beneath the covers of its black and grey bed. Alex was sitting there, thinking black thoughts and gazing at the Breakneck Creek far below him. It winded and twisted itself into the distance, fat and lazy like a molting barn snake. The dark sky gave the world a murky cast, and it was this murkiness that fueled the black thoughts Alex was thinking.

He reached into the bag beside him on the hard, unyielding stone bench he was seated upon and grabbed another piece of beef jerky. He put a jagged corner of the dried meat between his teeth and worried a bite free. Then he was struck with an idea.

He would become a serial killer.

Nothing had really prompted the thought, but once it had time to settle into his mind and make itself a home in there, he found that it was a very comfortable fit. He looked about himself at the manicured lawns that stretched and rolled downward, its green broken only by the varied shapes of tombstones that stuck up like black and gray mushrooms. The Evans City Cemetery in Evans City, Pennsylvania, was a little known place. But, to Alex, it was a wondrous place that would forever be famous for what had happened there many years earlier. It was this very same cemetery where, in 1966, George Romero filmed his immortal Night Of The Living Dead.

And Romero happened to be one of Alex’s favorite directors.

Alex knew many things about himself, but he knew one thing above else; he loved horror movies. He loved zombies, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, goblins, and all things dark, creepy, and horrific. He had grown up on a steady diet of Saturday afternoon Hammer Studios classics and Late Night Creature Features hosted by men in mad doctor costumes on creepy sets in the basement of the local network affiliate. He was not a nostalgic man, but he mourned the loss of this curious form of entertainment. Much of the 1970’s could be buried away in a mass grave of popular culture, but there was something sad and tragic about no longer being able to stay up late on a Friday or Saturday night and watch The Ghoul, or Dr. Shock’s Chiller X-Ray Theater.
His love for horror movies was only the beginning of Alex’s eclectic tastes. His introduction at an early age to this genre helped shape his tastes now that he had reached manhood.
Simply said, he loved all things dark.

He was an odd man. On the surface, he was attractive. He had dark hair, angular features and cheekbones that could have stepped out onto a runway at any fashion show. Any attractiveness, though, was marred by his constant frown and choice in clothing. Today, he wore a pair of black Dr. Marten boots, black fatigue pants, a long sleeve Rob Zombie t-shirt, and a long black trench coat.

It went without saying that black was his favorite color.

Black clothes and a scowl weren’t the main reason for his off-putting qualities. It was mainly his incessantly dark and brooding personality that turned people off to him. He wore a perpetual air of gloominess like a velvet- brocaded cloak. It was this that repelled most of the normal people he met. In fact, this alone - when combined with his clothing - assured that the majority of society would never see him as ‘normal’.

And he was all right with that.

All of this explained why he was here in this particular cemetery. He made the pilgrimage to this, his own particular Mecca, every few weekends. It was only a few hours ride from his home in Ohio, and he came here in an attempt to absorb or touch some of the creative brilliance that
Mr. Romero surely must have left here all those years ago.

Perhaps that could explain why he had decided to become a serial killer. The particular combination of his own strange predilections and the mystical aura of the cemetery may have caused it; like the confluence of two dark rivers. Or perhaps he’d made some sort of psychic connection with the residual energy and genius of Romero that still, somehow, lingered in this country necropolis. Either way, Alex knew that one never questioned such things. It was of paramount importance to pursue such bursts of creative energy when they presented themselves, and Alex had no intention of ignoring it.

Just then, like the harsh scream of an injured cat, the sound of a child’s laughter intruded upon his reverie. He swung his head around and saw two children playing with a water pump a few feet away from where he sat. The pump had, undoubtedly, been put in the cemetery for watering plants and cleaning gardening tools. Now though, it served as a source of irresistible curiosity to the children. They were two boys, about 8 or 9 years old, and they were splashing each other with as expected childlike innocence, as it were. Some hundred or so feet away, a women and man that Alex assumed must be their parents, were tending a grave topped by a large, square, black headstone.

The pump fascinated the children. It was one of those old fashioned ones that you only saw in Westerns; the kind with the big handle that pumped the water up from some deep well or water table far underground where white, blind, and grotesquely plump creatures lived in perpetual darkness. When the boys began drinking from its gushing mouth, Alex actually opened his mouth to warn them, but them snapped it shut with an audible clack.

If he was going to be a serial killer, he mentally chastised himself; he’d have to stop thinking like a normal person.

If he weren’t a serial killer, he would have warned the kids that they might not have wanted to drink from a well beneath a cemetery. Instead, he affected what he thought was an almost reptilian coldness and made himself enjoy the idea that the boys were drinking water that undoubtedly had been tainted with the leeching of what lay above it. It was a deliciously morbid thought and Alex relished the imagery it conjured. Cannibalism was a very serial killer fascination. It’d worked for Dahmer in Wisconsin.

He adjusted his ass on the hard, unforgiving bench and turned back to thoughts of murder. All the famous serial killers had signatures or fetishes of some sort; some specifically murderous taste in victims that they preyed upon. Ted Bundy had liked pretty college girls, The Green River Killer liked prostitutes (and so had Jack the Ripper, for that matter. HE was one hell of a twisted bastard, Alex thought.), Dahmer liked Asian boys.

He’d need something. It’d take some more thought, Alex decided, although he was pretty sure it would be pretty girls like old Smiling Ted Bundy. He also found that he liked the idea of the infamy that might have come from becoming a serial killer. He saw himself as Death, cloaked in black with obsidian armor and a flaming sword like some almost inhumanly beautiful Manga character.

The overcast sky rumbled with coming thunder and there was a flash of lightning. The trees overhead swayed with a sudden wind like the rasp of beetles in a corpse. Far below, the creek churned brown and muddy in the growing dusk. With a sigh, Alex stood and brushed dust from the back of his trench coat.

At that moment, the parents of the children called to them, and the two boys scurried away, yelling and punching at one another like all young boys do. Alex watched them go, gnawing on his last piece of jerky and glaring balefully at the family.

Maybe he could kill them, he thought.

There was nobody else in the graveyard, and it would be appropriate to do it here. He almost smiled at the thought of the headlines in the paper. Grisly Murders Committed at Infamous Graveyard, they would read. It would be a fitting tribute to George. It would be worthy of this great place.

These thoughts, though, quickly turned to logistics. He had nothing to do the deed with. There was a rusty, bent tire iron in his trunk, but he wasn’t sure how to undo it from under the tire. Also, the children’s father looked like a pretty big guy. Alex knew that he himself was a pretty strong and wiry guy, but the father was morbidly obese. So was the mother, for that matter. And he wasn’t sure he could kill the kids. The thought of killing a child made him feel a little queasy. He hesitated, and saw that his calculations were pointless anyway. The family had begun piling into a newer Ford pickup as the first, fat drops of rain began to fall.

It was better off anyway, he thought as he stood there watching them drive off.

He wasn’t regretful that he’d let them go. In fact, he was glad he hadn’t been rash in killing the family. The murder and subsequent clean up would have taken longer than he’d wanted and he wanted to be back in Cleveland before midnight.

“I’m going to only kill someone who I’ve stalked,” he said aloud to himself. It seemed a better idea than random, unplanned violence. It was more appealing to hunt his prey. Besides, there was the forensics to think of. He thought himself smarter than the average person and knew he wouldn’t get caught - - but only if he planned and took the time to do things right. Yes, forensics would be a problem. It was something he’d need to seriously consider.

As he jogged to his dented Toyota Land Cruiser, dodging bigger and faster falling raindrops, he smiled in what he thought was a chilling manner.

He would be an exceptional serial killer.



Chuck said...

I like.

Alex seems to not be obsessed with killing as much as he's obsessed with the empty hole he seeks to fill by killing. He's intellectual and calculating rather than passionate and daring (as evidenced by his rejection of killing the family in the cemetery). Stalking his prey gives him enough time to think through the deed and perhaps provide much needed motivation?

I can see Alex start off as a vigilante killer, sort of a Jigsaw meets Megadeth's 'Black Friday' kinda guy. A stalker of those he deems unnecessary or undeserving of the life they've been given. You could explore the transformation of Alex into an upright citizen through the methods by which he determines his victims. While murdering places him a odds with society's norms he comes to realize that no matter how much good he ultimately provides, he can never reconcile fully. His murderous ways cannot be accepted by the world around him. Acceptance by society never fully arrives. He begins to resent the people calling him a murderous animal, uncaring vigilante.

With no hope for acceptance and a real taste for blood, the REAL killing starts.

Dr. Zombie said...

Chuck - I agree with his being intellectual and calculating, with a black hole in his soul.

I think I may rework it some because I wanted to convey more ambivalence on his part. I think he's more infatuated by the IDEA of being a serial killer than actually being one.

I see him stalking victims, coming close to killing them, and then rationalizing a reason not to kill them. Not to say that he won't kill someone...somebody getting dead is a foregone conclusion. It's his reaction to the actual and inevitable bloodletting that I'm so fascinated in exploring.

He lacks all the prerequisites of a classic serial killer, he has more the makings of a thrill killer than an actual sociopath.

I especially like the vigilante aspect, although I'm loathe to go that route because of the awesome work Jeff Lindsay's done with his Dexter novels (the basis for Showtime's deliciously mrobid Dexter). If I did do that, I'd need to make it original and innovative. I'll have to worry this over some more before I get to the succulent marrow inside...

Thanks for the feedback, brother...