THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
Anyone who knows me or has taken one of my classes knows I am a horror junkie. Going all the way back to when I was a kid, I loved both reading horror stories and watching scary movies. As I've grown older, I have appreciated these works for more than just providing a thrill and a shudder: they've also helped me understand some of my greatest fears, they've helped me cope with my anxieties, and they've provided some of the greatest social commentaries I've ever seen (Get Out, Rosemary's Baby, and Beloved are just a few that come to mind). In this vain, I began work on a short story called "Viral" (available here) during the early days of the pandemic, when I was also finishing the final edits on my first novel (which you can read about here). It was the most fun I've had writing, and I wondered why I didn't lean into this genre more as a writer, since it is the one responsible for my love of reading and my career as an English teacher.
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As the pandemic continued and I began teaching in continually- evolving and different ways, I started thinking of other horror stories to write. A short story called "Gods of Flesh and Blood" was the next one I wrote, which I plan to edit and submit soon, and the other was a story inspired by my days when I was fully virtual. Our school had adopted a hybrid teaching model at the start of the year, so we were teaching both in-person students and virtual students; however, there were weeks when we had to pivot to 100% virtual instruction, and the longest one came at the beginning of November 2020, just days after that highly-volatile
presidential election. Most of the teachers taught from home during this time, but because my two-year-old daughter was across the street at daycare (and I absolutely could not teach from home and be a dad and expect both to be successful), I was at school, one of the few people still there. I remember pacing my room and reading Stephen King novels before school and during my lunch time; I remember walking the empty halls and gymnasium during my prep period, an eerie journey to be sure, and thinking, I should write a haunted school story, and thus began my journey toward writing (un)Reality, a horror novella meant to capture my experience teaching and being a father and husband during that awful time. As with most haunted house (in this case, haunted school) stories, there is a lot of this writer's inner-workings (my fears and anxieties) placed behind the monsters inhabiting this tale, so as I was writing this novella, I not only aimed to scare but also--if you'll pardon the metaphor--to exorcise some of the demons that had been haunting my head since March 2020.
In that spirit, I hope when you read (un)Reality that it scares you, but I also hope it helps you understand the horror of these past two years and your experience living through them a little better.