One of my favorite stories when I was young was about this silver colored train in the Stockholm underground system. All the other trains had colors – blue, orange or green. You where not supposed to get on the silver train. If you did, you would never get off. You would be condemned to travel the tunnels for ever – and ever – and ever … The train actually existed. It was just a regular train that had not been painted. But I remember the first time I was standing on the platform and saw it coming out of the tunnel. Of course I knew it was just a story – but I could not help hesitating before getting on.
People find different things scary. Some are freaked out by spiders or snakes, others get shivers from stories of serial killers, monsters or Japanese girls with long black hair. I have come to realize that the stories that scare me the most are the ones that take place very close to reality or in a situation that I somehow can identify with – when threats and horror materializes and when where you are supposed to be safe – in your house, at school or on the bus. I love when movie makers and authors bring the fear into our homes, into our regular life. (These stories can also be quite original – and that doesn’t happen too often in the horror genre.)
Stephen King is a master when it comes to hauntings in everyday life. For instance he created ”It” – the evil clown in the book with the same name – and Christine, the haunted car that changes it’s owner’s personality and turn them into monsters. Alfred Hitchcock turned regular seagulls and sparrows into nightmares with the movie Birds and he made many – especially women – avoid shower curtains for years after watching the movie Psycho. Then there is of course Ted Hooper’s and Steven Spielberg’s movie Poltergeist that made us all fear television sets – at least for a couple of hours.
When I was a kid I was actually afraid of the bath tub – after reading the book Jaws (more known as a movie by Steven Spielberg) by Peter Benchley. Even though I realize that I overdid it just a tiny bit – I know that many baths lost a great number of visitors at the time. Even swimming pools scared people. In that case the horror actually entered reality – without being realistic at all.
Stephen King’s book Pet Cemetery is one of the scariest books I have ever read (and the soundtrack from the movie, recorded by one of King’s favorite bands The Ramones is just brilliant). Pet Cemetery is as story about parents not being able to talk to children about death. Therefore they bury loved pets in a special place that makes the animals come back – but not as sweet and friendly as they once where. Instead they are weird smelling creatures that can’t really be trusted. After reading that it took me a while before I looked at my cat the same way again.To me, old abandoned houses, vampires and zombies are a child’s play compared to stories where best friends, pets or mothers starts acting evil, scary or just weird. And the closer it gets to home, the better and more intimidating it is. I believe the scariest thing that can happen to many of us is that we ourselves loose control, go mad – and do evil deeds. But it’s a good thing to keep in mind – that we all might be monsters. Like Anthony Perkins aka Norman Bates says in Psycho – We all go a little mad sometimes …
This city is very hard to resist. It really gets to you. And at times it is a bit of a challenge to switch from Belgrade street life to working mood, writing stories that take place in the Swedish country side. People ask me if I find Belgrade inspiring. I go through my notes on my ongoing projects that I always carry with me since I quite often work out in cafés, bars and restaurants – and I can’t help smiling. Belgrade is everywhere – without me being really aware of it. To be honest, this place sneaks in into everything I do right now. I realize that this far I have made a piece of art, an important clue in a story – after watching the really talented grafitti artist TKV create a beautiful wall painting. One of my characters is now very supersticious since I learned that in Serbia it brings bad luck to put your bag on the floor – and that if you sweep your broom over a child while cleaning, it will not grow up (I really want to learn more about Serbian superstition!). In a cemetery in Zemun my friend Ana showed me a stone that explained that the woman that was buried in the grave was murdered – and it also cursed the murderer. That gave me the idea to write a ghost story about a murder victim getting back on her killer. I’m also sketching a short story about a complete stranger helping someone find their way – and giving you the wrong directions, for a special reason. But I think my favorite input is that I have changed the name of a character. Now she is named Lily, after a lovely salad that they served at the restaurant Alo Alo. It comes with cellery and walnuts. I have already developed a craving for it.
None of the construction workers wanted to admit it. But the scene behind the brick wall made them all very uncomfortable. It was creepy. The wall had been torn down to make place for a new craftsroom in the basement of the old school building. No one had expected to find anything behind it. But there it was – a small concealed room. Only a few meters wide, with no doors and no windows. In neat rows stood six old pulpits from the beginning of the last century. On one of the walls hung a blackboard – and on another a crucifix. Everything in the tiny room was covered in a deep layer of fine dust. It started to whirl up as soon as the first bricks came down. It was obviously a small classroom. A couple of old books lay open on the pulpits. It looked like the pupils just had stood up and left the room – right in the middle of a class. Then someone had built the wall to cover it up without even touching anything in the room. What had happened here? No one knew. And no one asked any questions. The construction workers where on a tight time schedule. In silence they carried out the old wooden furniture and got rid of everything that they found dust covered in the room. They never mentioned to anyone about what they had seen – not even to each other.
This is the beginning of the book (at least I think so) that I plan to work on while I’m here in Belgrade (thanks to Krokodil – hurray!). It’s a ghost story about a small school on the Swedish country side – with an evil and forgotten past. That’s where I grew up 😉 My only problem right now is to actually get any work done – since Belgrade is such an interesting place. There are so many things to see and do – so many great things to eat and drink – and so many charming and interesting people to hang out with. Fingers crossed – please wish me luck and that something wicked this way comes.