Lately my sleep cycle has been messed up: I think from a combination of low-level allergies, the change in light levels for the summer, and who knows what else. It seems like any time this happens, half the people I know are experiencing it too. The end of my night during these phases is typically punctuated by vivid dreams. About a week and a half ago, one of those dreams was so intense that it got me to thinking I should write about it, because I think it’d end up as a cool flash fiction or short story in a Twilight Zone kind of style. (Not coincidentally, I’ve been catching up on episodes I taped from the New Year’s marathon.) Dreams like that can be amazing sources of inspiration, and a series of related dreams under similar circumstances ended up fueling my first book.
But then there are times like last night, this morning.
As a rule I don’t watch horror films—of any kind, supernatural or otherwise. I do like Tremors, which is almost more horror-comedy, but when I was younger I had a lot of trouble with the early death scenes. But worse than supernatural or creature horror is where the genre crosses into the awful stuff humans do to each other. I can’t even watch true crime shows—which my wife loves—or often enough even the news, because it makes my blood boil.
This morning at the end of my sleep, I again had vivid dreams. But a dream that started out as a high-profile trial for a group of terrorists (that’s weird in itself) turned into a set of weird but explainable events, and then into a horror movie that had nothing to do with the previous plot. It never got into any gore or anything serious; it didn’t get a chance to progress that far. It got as far as the premise, and that was enough.
In sleep my brain managed to spit out a fully-formed concept for a horror franchise. I say franchise, because I dreamed the first sequel. So complete was this idea that it came with a title. It’s edgy, it’s meta (the studios love that), and it’s frighteningly, utterly plausible. This is something that not only could be done as a movie, but could be done in real life by people sick enough to go there. And I have no doubt that if I got on a plane this second, flew to California, barged into the studio director’s office at some place that does these kinds of films, and pitched them the idea in the seven seconds before I was thrown out, this franchise would be birthed into the world. I’d never see any money for it that way, because of course that’s not how Hollywood works, but the point is this worm is too juicy for that big stupid fish not to bite.
This isn’t to boast, and I’m not exaggerating how perfect this concept is. I don’t have a script; I don’t have any idea how the story would play out, and I don’t want to. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that in the hands of any horror-friendly studio and given to any of their stable of hack writers, this would be an instant hit. They’d pump out film after film.
This can never be.
The premise for the movie is so plausible, only logistics stand in the way of it being done in real life. There are a few bars to entry, but lest I give away any ideas I won’t say what they are. I feel like the odds of this happening in real life are vanishingly small, even with the films out there, but it’s a risk I won’t take. And I won’t put this kind of filth into the world. When I eventually die, this idea will go with me.
Now this is the part that scares me even worse: Whenever my mind has come up with ideas so well formed, it seems like there’s always been someone else in the world coming up with it at the same time. I’ve forgotten all the concrete examples, but I remember numerous times through my childhood and adolescence that someone else came up with a word or phrase, or idea, that I’d had not long before. Call it group consciousness if you like, or coincidence which is probably the most likely. Consider that maybe the currents of our culture wash more than one stray leaf into a freak eddy, that some ideas are inevitable. This feels like one of them.
I fear that someone else will have this idea, only they’ll see it to fruition. I just have a hunch that I’ll see this happen. Heck, even under the exact title. I won’t blame that person for it; their values are not my values. Nor will I blame the studio, not any more than I already do anyway. But I feel that this meme, having come to me, who rejected it, will soon come to others and will eventually find fertile soil.
As a writer it feels almost like sacrilege to kill an idea. You can’t just let an idea die, because they don’t do that on their own. I’ve had a few good ones that have not yet found their way into my work, but sit in the wings begging me to find a place for them. This one will never find a place; it will never see the light of day, at least not from me. And I’ll never regret that.