Behind the Black Door: Dreams and Story-writing

Last night, I dreamed I had suffered a stroke that left me unable to speak and with only limited use of my left side. Having already suffered a TIA almost a decade go, you’d think I would take the dream as a warning. I didn’t. Dreams, as we know, rarely mean what they portray.

In the dream there was this black door I had to find:

The black door was, in real life, a ramshackle cracker-version of a Bilco door that led to my basement. I called it my Game of Thrones door since it weight close to one hundred pounds after years of water damage. Anyway, the black door lies in a small scrap heap in my backyard as my house undergoes some renovation work. In the dream, however, I learned that I could make myself well again if I found the black door and passed through it.

All the makings of a story so far, right?

In my dream, the black door was “hidden in plain sight,” a bodiless voice told me. In my stroke-addled condition, I had to wander around center-city Philadelphia with the hope of discovering the black door I had removed from my house in real life.

Are you with me so far? Good.

It wasn’t easy, but I found the black door lying on a sidewalk on 12th Street near Pine. In my dream-stroke weakened condition, I was unable to lift the black door (having a sense that once I lifted the door up a portal would open in the sidewalk and I could fall into it, thus facilitating my cure).

Enter a Sandman, of sorts. A familiar face, who shall remain nameless, appeared next to me. In my dream this gave me a fright since the face belonged to someone I knew in real life, someone who, sadly, had passed a few years ago.

“I can help you,” the familiar face said, “but you have to touch my heart first.”

He opened his shirt to reveal what looked like a brick beneath bruised skin on his chest. I was unable to say anything since my dream stroke left me mute.

Before the dream ended, I shoved Mr. Dead Familiar Face aside with my good arm, gripped the handle of the black door lying on the sidewalk, and yanked on it with all my strength. The door tilted up, enough to reveal nothing but plain old sidewalk beneath it.

My dream ended as I wandered further along 12th Street, distraught over having to remain as I was—nearly crippled and completely mute. Or did it?

The black door is still in my backyard (see photo above). I don’t have the heart to lift it up. There’s no telling what doorway I might find beneath it if I do. Maybe I’ll write a story about this dream instead.

Hungry like the Hydatid: A Review of Nick Cutter’s The Troop

I have found a novel that creeps me out almost as much as The Stand did decades ago when I was a teen. Nick Cutter’s The Troop is that book. Nick Cutter, in case you’re interested, is a pen name for writer Craig Davidson. 


For the most part, the characters are fleshed out enough. What’s intriguing about this novel is that Cutter intersperses news and magazine articles, blog posts, transcripts, other tidbits to help propel the reader along. Where this method fell short for me so far is in finding out how many of the characters survive their ordeal (spoiler alert: not many). 

The story centers around a small group of boys and their Scoutmaster on a camping trip in the Canadian wilderness. Throw in a diabolical scientist, a genetically engineered product of secret research, a vile nasty that causes its victims to become insatiably hungry before their hosts consume themselves, and the natural elements of the wilderness, and Cutter provides all the fixings for a horrorific tale.

If I have one fault with the characterization so far (better than three-quarters of the way through the novel), it is the way Cutter provides a seemingly cardboard cutout of a police chief and his bully son. Such characterizations have become a trope of sorts; one, sadly, we have seen again and again. Still, the rest of the boys and Tim the Scoutmaster round out a rather convincing cast.

Cutter acknowledges Stephen King and his novel Carrie as being “a great inspiration” in his writing. It becomes apparent while reading the novel where King’s influence has left its mark. 

The Troop is one of those novels perfect for a summer read; unless of course you plan on vacationing in the Canadian wilderness. If you do, beware hungry strangers. Whatever the case, if you like a good horror tale in the vein of The Stand then try The Troop; even if you are creeped out by the prospect of contagions.