“Motivating Factors”, by Ancel K. Houchen
What moves me as a writer? Dreams, nightmares and reality.
When I was a kid I used to suffer from terrible dreams, I later found out they were called night terrors. I’d wake up in a cold sweat, barely able to hold back a scream, looking around a dark room unsure if I was really wake this time.
I used to dream of werewolves and vampires but mostly I was haunted by this dark, amorphous beast that lived in my basement. By the time I was nine I had gotten tired of running from monsters so I decided to fight back. It may have happened over forty years ago but I still remember it clearly.
I was running through Central Park, chasing after some heavy set middle aged guy who kept looking over his shoulder as I closed the distance between us. I remember I had something like tunnel vision; the only things I was focused on were his back and the nape of his neck. Everything else, the grass, the trees, the streetlights was a blur. Normally, when I ran in my dreams, my movements were terribly slow. As if I was running through mud.
This time it was different. I felt like more than just my legs were doing the running, but as strange as it seemed it felt more natural too. My victim was trying his best not to stumble, but he was getting tired and sweating profusely. I could see a dark stain spread across his back as I seemed to glide over the ground. I remember how good it felt to finally have power, to not be afraid to go to sleep and dream.
The man had reached the park exit and I watched him cross the street and make it to the safety of a high rise apartment building. I could imagine him sighing with relief as he slumped into an elevator and headed up to his apartment on the tenth floor.
When he thought he was safe I followed after him. I remember the look on everyone’s face when I broke cover, crossed the busy street and headed towards the high rise building. People were terrified of me, and I liked it. I increased my speed and ran up the side of the building. I looked down at my hands and I was not surprised to see that they had become paws, with long sharp claws that dug into the brick and cement. When I reached the man’s apartment, I crashed in through his window and watched with glee as his glasses fell off his face and his mouth opened wide filling the room with his screams.
Around the same time I learned to take control of my dreams I had a life changing, near life ending, event. Only I did not know how close I came to death until much later in life. I had a bicycle, a yellow three speed with a white banana seat that my mom bought for me for Christmas. It had a slow leak in the rear tire so every time I wanted to go riding, I had to walk it to the gas station, four blocks away, at the corner of Lott and East 98th street.
While I was about to fill my tire with air a man came over to me and asked if I could hurry it up because he was in a rush. He wore glasses, had a pale, round, doughy face and drove a dark green four door Ford. He grew impatient as I fumbled with the air hose and said he could pump up my bicycle tire faster than I could. I stepped aside and let him have at it. He increased the air pressure from fifteen, fine for a bicycle, to around thirty five, which is fine a four door sedan. I said nothing but I do remember thinking it was strange. I watched him continue to fill the bike tire beyond its capacity until it made a loud POP!
The idiot burst the tire! I remember thinking. I thought that he was one of the dumbest grown-ups I’ve ever seen. He apologized and offered to drive me to the nearest bicycle shop to get a new inner tube; suddenly his big rush was all but forgotten.
I said no. I told him to just give me five dollars and I’ll get a new inner tube myself. The man insisted on taking me to the bicycle store, so he opened his trunk and tried to grab the handlebars of my bike so he could throw my bike in the back of his car and take me to God knows where. I remember I wasn’t particularly frightened, mostly because I was too young to realize that he had planned this from the beginning. All I knew was I was on the verge of getting five whole dollars, a new inner tube was only one dollar and fifty cents, enough to buy a new inner tube and a weeks worth of candy.
The man continued to insist on taking me to get the tire fixed so he opened the passenger side door and tried to get me to side inside. I refused to budge and started to get loud. The man became nervous, he was sweating profusely at this point, finally giving up and giving me the five dollars. I was grinning from ear to ear, five dollars richer, not realizing the potential danger I was in until many years later.
I was talking to my friend Carol (C.A. Griffin) a few weeks ago, about what motivates me as a writer so I told her about my dream of chasing a man through Central Park. When she asked me to describe him it dawned on me that it was the guy who tried to abduct me!
I’ve been living with the memory of that dream tattooed to the inside of my head ever since grade school but this was the first time I tried to connect the dream to my childhood reality. Life can be strange at times. But now here’s where it gets stranger still…I actually can’t remember which came first, the dream or the reality?
Ancel K. Houchen 5/20/2012