As a writer of horror (and other fabulousness) I often get asked where it all stems from. Was it a fractured and frightening childhood? Was it a tragedy that occurred later in life? Or was it just a normal evolution? And, what was the first horrific moment you can recall? That question is more important than you might expect. Why? That first experience with true fright worms its way under the skin and soul and sticks with you throughout the span of your life.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share with you my first horrific memory that may well have shaped my mind into the twisted thing I enjoy today.
When I was seven years old, I succumbed to what is called Legg-Calve-Perthes Syndrome. From Wikipedia:
Legg–Calvé–Perthes syndrome is a degenerative disease of the hip joint, where growth/loss of bone mass leads to some degree of collapse of the hip joint and to deformity of the ball of the femur and the surface of the hip socket. The disease is characterized by idiopathic avascular osteonecrosis of the capital femoral epiphysis of the femoral head leading to an interruption of the blood supply of the head of the femur close to the hip joint. The disease is typically found in young children, and it can lead to osteoarthritis in adults. The effects of the disease can sometimes continue into adulthood. It is also known more simply as Perthes disease, ischemic necrosis of the hip, coxa plana, osteochondritis and avascular necrosis of the femoral head, Legg–Perthes Disease or Legg–Calve-Perthes Disease (LCPD).
This disease (or syndrome) is rare (5.5 in 100,000 children per year) and managed to wrap its cold, dirty fingers around the bone of my right hip.
I well remember the day the issue finally brought me to the ground, incapable of walking. I was seven. My parents had taken me and my younger sister to get ice cream. I stepped out of the car and could feel the femur give away. The pain of the bone moving into my hip socket was excruciating and rendered my right leg unable to bear weight. Naturally (me being a bit of a clown) my parents thought me joking around. That wasn’t the case and I simply couldn’t stand or walk.
That is not the memory… that only gives you a bit of back story.
I went through numerous treatments for the problem. From a special pair of shoes (that were NOT fabulous) to various casts and braces, to traction. Eventually it was determined that surgery was necessary. Remember, I was seven — and really couldn’t fully comprehend what was going on. Eventually, however, it became clear to me that I was to be put to sleep and someone was going to go inside of me and do “some things”. Magic was going to happen.
The horrific moment came as the wheeled me into the surgery room. My mother was holding onto the gurney crying and screaming as if she knew something no one had bothered to tell me. Naturally I assumed I was being wheeled into the end of my ride. And when the doctor put the mask over my face and told me to relax and breathe, I knew that was that. The last bit of my life was going to be on a hospital bed with a bunch of bright lights and strangers glaring down at me. My family and my friends were all gone.
That wasn’t the case. I lived (obviously). But that moment, that feeling of impending loss and loneliness wormed its way deep into my system and would never leave. Ever since I have had to fight the fear of loss at every turn. That fear makes its way into my writing. You might have noticed in the I Zombie series that no one (not even the main characters) are safe from the fear of losing everything.
My parents still have the brace I wore as a child. I hope to get that from them some day and snap some pictures of it. When you see it, and its tiny size, the whole issue comes crashing down. Although children are resilient, their minds are also like traps and they remember everything. When traumatic things happen, the repercussions can be long lasting.
There’s a message there.