by Neil Rochford
Most people you walk past while you're out on the street or bump into on a packed bus fall within a subset of what you would call normal. Sure, there are some obvious fringe exceptions. Like the multi-colored fleece-wearing person keeping eye contact with you while they do things to themselves that become very difficult to unsee. The people who scream in argument with the unseen voices that plague them. More extreme, real life horror shows like Ed Geins and his belt made out of nipples. These are the outliers however, and are notable because of how far they exist outside of the spectrum of normality.
If we really want to be honest with ourselves though, there exists another less obviously strange group that makes up a decent chunk of the population. The members have a fascination with seeing harm come to others, albeit fictional characters, that might seem abnormal if we talked about it with certain people. We clamor for tales where our protagonists suffer almost as much as their enemies, emotionally and/or physically.
I'm sure part of it comes down to our need for catharsis, for the hero or heroes of the story to overcome the worst and succeed despite the odds being stacked against them. We can celebrate and breathe a sigh of relief when they stumble out of the dark cave of horrors and into the dawn, beaten, bloodied, but victorious. Nevertheless, that doesn't account for the amount of fiction where the “good” guys don't win, when there is no happy ending and the suffering continues after “The End” appears.
For me, I think that type of story is a better reflection of the world and the very real and awful things that take place hourly around the globe. I may not feel as good or as vindicated after finishing a book or movie like that, but I will come away with something to think about at least, if not a new perspective. This is coupled with a healthy respect for the creator who saw it through after crafting and shaping the horror and misery in their minds and yanking it out of the darkness for us to look at. I often think of Stephen King's bit about the writer's imagination, which I'll paraphrase: people must think it's great to be able just sit back and play a little mind movie in your head, which it is, but sometimes that imagination can turn around and bite you with long sharp teeth.
Granted, sometimes it might go beyond merely disturbing — reading American Psycho, there were a few spots where I had to put the book down and take a break from what was happening on the page, the first and only book where that happened to me and I'm sure that there is more disturbing stuff out there — but so are large portions of history and the news. Genocide. Torture. Mass rapes. Child abuse. Sometimes these were even sanctioned and carried out by the authorities, those with positions of trust who have power over us. Think about it for too long and you might end up freaking out over the ramifications. Is it any wonder that people turn to fiction for escape, even if what's on the page or on the screen is horrifying or distressing?
Dark stories, in my opinion, exist and are popular for the same reason as any other type of story is. Love stories are told to reflect the love and romance that is in the world. Comedy lets us laugh at the ridiculous things and situations that imitate and exaggerate what we find in real life. Dark and disturbing tales shine a light on the scary part of ourselves. The piece we see in the mirror when the lights are off that spooks us, even if it's just for a second. The same one we see in the history books or on the nightly news, or in the face of the friendly old man down the street who had all those bodies buried underneath his house.
In The Blue Ridge Project, I took inspiration from various real life things. Police corruption, governments experimenting on and torturing their citizens, people in power abusing their positions to further their own ends while committing heinous crimes, and I added some fictional technology. What might actually be the most disturbing part is that if this technology existed, it isn't too far-fetched to imagine the things that happen in this novel taking place. I just hope that while some of the story and its implications might be a tad unpleasant, it will still entertain that dark part of your mind. You know, that part you might keep hidden from everyone until you're alone. I know it's there...
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Neil's Newest Release: The Blue Ridge Project
Detective Andrea Nox has been asked to quietly investigate a bizarre and violent murder-suicide that could have consequences for Beacon City and the people in charge. Dead ends and odd clues are hindering her efforts, and when another similar murder occurs, she has to juggle the investigation and her own troubled past with the Beacon City Police Department.
Journalist Robert Duncan is visiting home after a personal crisis when the unthinkable happens, and secrets are unearthed about his family and his place in it. His involvement in a dangerous and far-reaching conspiracy grows as he uncovers information that implicates powerful people in horrible crimes.
Frank Mortimer, disturbed son of a wealthy and influential family, is taking part in an experimental program that has promised to make him better. However, with the shadowy and powerful group known only as The Project behind the program, what he is getting better at could prove disastrous for everyone else, as a dangerous power is unlocked inside him...
Their paths will converge in a shocking story of murder, conspiracy and clandestine experiments taking place that could change the world.
Available Here: Amazon