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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Berntsom

Old Haunts

Updated: Apr 17, 2021

I never thought I could love horror fiction more than I already do. More than I already have. Not sure that even makes sense, to be honest. Things have changed a lot in the course of the 30-year journey as a writer, reader, man, creative, what have you. The demons are alive and well. The shadows, too. But these days I turn more toward the philosophy that light dispels darkness. It never used to be that way. As a writer of horror (and dark fantasy and children's fantasy. That's not all I do, of course), I always thought the horror tale was at its most effective when the horror wins. I do still believe that. The end of Pet Sematary comes to mind. Hey, that's good stuff, man! Tragic, sad, and heartbreaking, sure. But still good stuff.

I have been revisiting the Old Haunts, as I like to call them. The early works of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, Robert McCammon and a dozen others I hope to get to once more. Books I've read before, loved before, but love even more this time around. What happened? I have no words, although I have a slight inclination. The heart changes as the years go by, the eyes and mind, too. At least if you're willing to let them. But it's been a beautiful journey. I've even been digging out the old campy 70's and 80's horror films: Creepshow, The Fog, Salem's Lot, Halloween, etc., just to name a few. At work, with the headphones on, I turn the station to 80's Alternative, mixed, of course, with Ratt, Dio, Dokken, Great White, and some other bands it feels good to belt along to. Judge me as you will. I love every minute of it. And I can shred on the air guitar with the best of them. Sometimes, I imagine I'm on stage tearing apart the axe like Jake E. Lee would do with Ozzy. Where is Jake E. Lee these days? How can you not love that hair? I miss it. I miss it all. Sentimentality? Nostalgia? Perhaps. But I don't think so. It goes deeper.

All in all, it's given me a fresh perspective that things aren't always easily understood. There are layers upon layers to things we might know about, or think we did, and yet a million things are still left unknown, regions, terrains, landscapes to discover. I find that's beautiful, a gift. For me creativity, even after 30 years, is being redefined and re-experienced. The love is deeper now. Something I thought would fade. but hasn't. The appreciation. It's like being 16 again, where everything is new and your eyes are seeing things for the first time, only it's not. It's the Old Haunts with a different perspective. It s a new appreciation, and I haven't the foggiest idea how to explain it. I'm just rolling with it, seeing what there is to discover. I've read Salem's Lot 3 or 4 times now, but nothing quite like this time. My eyes sparkle a little more over the words put down. The smile stretches a little wider. It makes one excited to see what there is left to uncover, new horizons, familiar ground, but different. See? Maybe not.

The stack of books next to my bedside probably looks a lot lot yours. The movies play on the HD television, and the voices of wordsmith sound like a hymn in my brain. There is a song behind the words. Crazy, I know. It doesn't make sense. But it does, too. It makes perfect sense. I just never expected it.

Love is what it must be. That's the only thing I understand. A deeper love from a deeper source, where love itself is redefined and re-experienced. Like falling in love again. I was ready for new horizons, new terrain: more children's fantasy maybe. But horror decided to smile and motion toward me with it's skeletal finger, and beckon: Come this way.

What can I say? I'm happy to oblige.

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