It was a fascination with psychology that led me step by step down the garden path to horror. Readers connect so readily with fear, and authors love dissecting it, because it’s such a universal human emotion.
There are folk out there who’ve never known a grain of love, happiness or peace. Yet with the exception of a rare few sporting crumbling patches of darkness where their amygdala ought to be, they are all intimately familiar with shivering in fear.
To be human is to be afraid.
To be afraid is also wonderfully humbling. That job you worked for so hard ceases its relevance. Your achievements, everything you’ve built to tell yourself you’re a good person and you matter, all blown away like dandelion fluff on a cold wind.
This tends to be why throwing mixed status characters together in horror is so gratifying: because what’s then played out has a justice seldom true in life. They all get torn down to the same level. The rich are not any more special or likely to survive than the poor. Cruelty has no more going for it than kindness.
Thus, fear is all about being exposed, flayed You are careering out of control and the worst thing happens every time, and everyone sees it. And the beauty of horror is how it encompasses that fear.
Horror is a safe space. It imposes boundaries and rules on the distressing, screaming chaos. It allows the reader to rehearse surviving the unendurable. Builds resilience.
Paradoxically, by spreading intense paralysing terror horror pulls fear’s toxic fangs. Because the story will always be over. You shut the book, and you are still here. A survivor.
Flora & Jim
The world is frozen. The animals ascendant. And, locked in desperate pursuit of “the other father” across a grim icy apocalypse, Jim will do anything to keep his daughter alive.
Enjoy a sneak peek from Chapter 1: Pursuit
I came upon the unlucky fellow lying in the middle of an intersection with a broken back. Looked for all the world as though he’d been thrown there in a motorcycle accident. Never mind that there was no traffic, no vehicles. Both vanished artefacts of old Aunt Amelia’s childhood.
I scratched my scalp through my balaclava and stared at the puzzle of the time travelling motorcyclist. First from a distance. Then up close.
As I circled and chewed my lip I was nothing but an impertinent disruption to a man’s sacred final hours. He wouldn’t talk to me. I wouldn’t either, were I in his position. His visor was half up and he stared at the clouds with glazed eyes, trying to go away, in the only manner left him. Wearing silence that would carry him off.
It only occurred sometime later that he must have been all armoured up to confront some animal. Superstitious chills. Thank heaven nosy impetuous me never ran afoul of it.
Took me a while, but I yelped in triumph when I finally deducted he’d plummeted from a building. Helmet flinched a bit at the noise. Pleased with my sleuthing and curious enough to make the effort, I laboured up fourteen flights and found the broken window.
At this height the wind roared, sucking from outside, wouldn’t mind a taste of me for afters. Keeping a determined hold on the frame I peered down, confirming trajectories. But for the life of me I couldn’t work out what anyone would have been up here for.
The building only offered empty offices, the most numerous and useless breed of real estate. Cold steel and crazed glass. Carpet tiles pulled up. Not even any paper. There had to have been a reason.
Disgruntled, I returned to the street and crouched over the motorcyclist, all splayed out.
There was enough wherewithal in those bloodshot eyes to follow me. My noise had upset him. He was breathing in anxious huffs that fogged the visor, making him blink rapidly. His nose was grey. Lips violet. No telling how long he’d lain there trying to die.
I was about to upset him more. The injury paralysed movement, but not feeling. As I unzipped the man’s jacket and began manipulating stiff limbs to take it off he screamed. High. Unrelenting. In incandescent agony.
I almost took my hands off him, but remembered my family and stuck my chin out. The family I chose, the one with the small “f”. We needed these things more than him.
Still, I was glad nobody could see. It was shameful that a human being couldn’t be left to die in peace. There was only indignity heaped on pain, right to the bitter end.
It’s one thing to grit your teeth, see, and say, ‘I’m doing this for others. It’s the right thing.’ But your heart calculates all the ways you benefit, and it knows a vile act. It twists from it. Never forgets.
He screamed the whole time and by the end there wasn’t much voice left in that convulsing throat. His ruddy beard jutted like something electrified. Tears rolled freely down the sides of his head and froze his long hair to the ground.
I wept, too. It wouldn’t be the same good man returning to my wife and child tonight.
I left the motorcyclist naked. A sallow broken starfish with only a rasp of a voice, staring up at the sky. Guess the only mercy was he wasn’t shivering. He couldn’t have much longer to wait.
Author and avid reader BP Gregory brings monsters, machines and roaming cities, insanity, betrayal and lust! With such tales you shouldn’t always feel comfortable or safe.
Hailing from sober corporate beginnings she’s been an archaeology student and a dilettante of biology, psychology, and apocalypse prepping. However, her love of frogmarching hapless characters through hell drew her to science fiction, horror and urban fantasy: all vehicles for peeling screaming layers to discover what, if anything, lurks within. Do we each treasure some inviolate core of self, kept safe from our actions and choices? Would it matter if nobody saw it?
BP Gregory is the author of five novels including the recently released frozen post-apocalyptic horror Flora & Jim, about a father who’ll do anything to keep his daughter alive. A stroll down life’s eerie back alleys with a few fistfuls of short stories, and a novelette which was a messy love letter to her adolescence in the city round out the piece.
She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and is currently working on The Newru Trail, a murder-mystery set in a world where houses eat your memories.
For more stories, reviews and recommendations as she ploughs through her to-read pile visit bpgregory.com.
Please follow BP on Twitter @BP_Gregory