Last night, I lay awake thinking about what I would post today and decided, because of a recent event in my life, that I would talk about the speculative aspect of horror stories. Almost everyone has either seen a horror flick or a suspense-filled movie, read a thriller or murder mystery. As with most stories, these also have a ‘what if’ that the author builds upon to create their plot. Examples of this could be: What if an alien parasite used humans as hosts? What if a seemingly harmless fog was really poisonous gas emitted by weird beings intent on taking over the Earth? What if a giant shark began eating swimmers off the coast of Florida?
But what if something horrific happened to a family member or friend that left you with more questions than answers?
The other night, Hubby’s mom called to tell us that his older brother was taken to hospital with 3rd degree burns over 30% of his body and had severe smoke inhalation. In order to save money while living in the next province, he’d been sleeping in his van on his boss’ property when it caught on fire. We’ve all been sitting on pins and needles, aghast that something so horrific has happened to a member of our family, the suspense nearly killing us and keeping us awake at night, wondering and worrying.
As a fiction writer, so many ‘what ifs’ sprang to mind after hearing this, especially when the RCMP would only say the fire was ‘suspicious’, at first. What if he’d pissed off a homicidal maniac who set fire to his van? What if some random arsonist saw his van sitting in the parking lot and decided to light it on fire? What if his van was struck by lightning? What if he fell asleep while smoking and dropped a lit cigarette onto his mattress?
Some of those questions border on the edge of the fantastic and unlikely – speculative fiction. Only one of them seems closest to the truth.
Hubby’s mom went out with her youngest son, yesterday morning, to get some answers and try to make arrangements to have my brother-in-law sent to a hospital closer to home where he’d be among family while he recovers. We feared it would be some time before we’d learn what actually happened, but we were sent an email this morning telling us that the fire was not arson, after all. It appears that the fire started in the front cab part of the vehicle, although we can only speculate whether it was a mechanical problem or he did, indeed, leave a lit cigarette smoldering in the ashtray before going to sleep in the back of the van.
We also found out that the burns were not as severe as we were first led to believe, that they only covered 20% of his body with his hands and legs being burned the worst. The doctor’s biggest concern, now, is the toxins he breathed in during the fire. They have suctioned out his lungs but he’s still coughing up a lot of black gunk. Remarkably, he will be going in for the first of his skin grafts today and should be out of surgery within the next few hours. They have been keeping him sedated as the burns are extremely painful. Once he regains consciousness and the RCMP finish their examination of his van, we should find out more about how the fire actually started.
‘What ifs’ can produce some wonderfully horrifying stories, but sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.
So, now, if you haven’t been creeped out enough by this real-life story, here’s a link to Random House of Canada’s recommendations of 5 Creepy Creature Novels. There’s also an interview with Kelley Armstrong, a Canadian writer of paranormal and speculative fiction that you can find here. 🙂