Have you ever had a rush of chills shoot down your spine for no good reason? It happens to me from time to time. I've walked down a trail in the forest and cold fingers crept up my back. I stopped and paced backwards, trying to figure out what had unnerved me. A foul smell hovered across the path, growing stronger towards a thicket. Maybe I had just missed a Sasquatch (<-- sarcasm).
A cold patch rested upon my neck in the middle of an intersection. Obviously I didn't stop walking. That would be foolish in the middle of a city.
I've been alone in my house and felt a hand rest on my back.
I don't feel I'm sensitive or that the source of my anxiety is paranormal. Humans are masterful at invention, improving their environment through manufactured means. Cushioned from nature - and even other humans thanks to technology - we have forgotten about the instincts we've relied on since our beginnings. All day we are faced with other humans, subconsciously reading their facial expressions and body language. We are social animals with instincts, and the ability to interpret potential threats translates into adrenalin production before our brains can rationalize the response.
However, the reaction can be spontaneous, and it's easy to wonder if something more sinister is responsible. Maybe it's a shiver from the past - the imprint of something terrible left behind.
We laugh, or tell ourselves that we're being silly and move on to something more responsible like remembering to pay a bill or how to market an upcoming novel. Those memories fade and eventually disappear.
Not for me. They haunt me, popping up in my writing at unexpected times. The place I watched a homeless man beat himself senseless worked its way into chapter eight, serving as the backdrop for Lucian's place of business. It was a place I walked frequently on the way to work and never grew comfortable with. It was too stark. Pavement, brick, and cold grays covered everything. When I needed a place to house an arms dealer's place of business the reinforced doors, barred windows, razor wire, and security cameras provided the perfect backdrop. The area is industrial with a smattering of bars. There was even a strip club to leverage. How could I resist?
It seems as though those creepy moments experienced firsthand add a realistic air to those scenes. How can an artist paint a scene they have never witnessed? Our imaginations can take the scenario to a new level, but that underlying emotion can provide a solid foundation. Maybe if I let myself dwell a little longer when those moments hit, I could create even more realistic scenes. On the other hand, it's probably best to listen to what my instinct is telling me and keep walking.
Have you had an unsettling feeling about a location that fed into your work or heightened your response to someone else's writing?