The origin of this story came from a phone call with my sister who'd said that her dog had been waking her up at night in a panic, barking down a dark hall, and then going totally calm like nothing ever happened. Her husband gets up really early for work and the dog would only bark after he left, which left her feeling vulnerable and unnerved. I fell in love with that image of a dog barking down a dark hall at nothing (my sister is fine, by the way), and she gave me her blessing to use the imagery. I'd been reading a lot of Raymond Carver's short stories and wanted to experiment with short, punchy dialogue and characters undergoing a major life change who experience the stressors of such. I'd also been watching Denis Villeneuve films like Arrival and Blade Runner: 2049, where he uses wide, open spaces to induce a sense of claustrophobia, and I thought that was such a cool angle to play. After a few drafts that weren't working (originally, Charles contracted an illness from mold and went a little nuts), I came back to the feeling I got when my sister told me about her dog. So, I focused instead on vulnerability and the idea of an unknown entering into our personal space. After that, things fell into place. There's Julie's pregnancy, the movers, how Bob comes over unannounced, the contractors, and, of course, the dog barking into the darkness. I also wanted to connect Julie and Bob through their own unique, hidden, painful backstories. This element bonds the characters in a way that, for me, helped balance the story.
Why do you write horror?
There is nothing more upsetting and terrifying than human suffering and, right now, the entire world is suffering. Horror acts as an often-overlooked catalyst to explore the shadow sides of our psyche. We can all relate to suffering, and horror allows us to navigate complex emotions; everything from feeling victimized to seeking vengeance to immersing ourselves in vulnerability. When I sit down to write, I'm often seeking to uncover something new about myself. How would I react in this situation? What if that wasn't an option? What if I indulged my fears? By the end of a horror story, if I do it right, my humanity and empathy will have grown because I will have gained a greater capacity to understand what it means to suffer and perhaps, more importantly, that I am not alone in my suffering.
W.T. PATERSON is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, MFA candidate for Fiction at the University of New Hampshire, and graduate of Second City Chicago. His work has appeared in over 80 publications worldwide including The Forge Literary Magazine, The Delhousie Review, and Fresh Ink. A number of stories have been anthologized by Lycan Valley, North 2 South Press, and Thuggish Itch. He spends most nights yelling for his cat to "Get down from there!"