Which urban legend disturbed you the most as a child?
Sirens Call Publications has recently released Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a Friend Told Me and as a special treat for each of you, we’ve asked the authors to provide us with a few words on the inspirations to their stories. Today we are joined by Kimberly A. Bettes who contributed her story The Kindness of Strangers to this anthology of ten chillingly fantastic tales.
Kimberly A. Bettes is the author of several suspense and horror novels, including RAGE and HELD. She lives with her husband and son in the beautiful Ozark Mountains of southeast Missouri, where she terrorizes residents of a small town with her twisted tales. It’s there she likes to study serial killers and knit. Serial killers who knit are her favorites. You can find Kimberly on Twitter at @KimberlyABettes, on Facebook, or on her blog.
And now for Kimberley’s inspiration…
The Inspiration for The Kindness of Strangers
The inspiration for my urban legend story The Kindness of Strangers stems from my overactive imagination. I used to work an hour away from home. That’s an hour-long drive on country roads at night, with virtually no traffic other than an occasional trucker and me. My mind worked overtime, imagining scenarios such as a man stepping out of the woods and onto the road in front of me, a stranded motorist flagging me down and then killing me, and a blown out tire leaving me stranded and at the mercy of whoever happened along. I tried to tell myself that none of those things would ever happen, even though I knew they could. Hoping to keep myself occupied on the way home, I sang along loudly with the radio, but I was always frightened out of my mind by the time I pulled into my driveway, often having to talk myself into getting out of the car and hurrying to the door before anyone could come out of the forest and attack me. Yes, my imagination is a powerful one.
My favorite urban legend has always been the one where the gas station attendant tries to lure the young woman traveling alone into the station and away from the man lurking in her backseat, unbeknownst to her. That one was terrifying for me, probably because I traveled alone every night on my way home from work. And believe me when I tell you that I always checked the backseat before getting into my car. So I decided to combine my fears with that particular legend.
There were times as I wrote it that I found myself breathless, once again gripped by the fear I used to experience on the long drive home. I had to remind myself that it was just a story, even though it was the combination of some of my worst fears. And it was a reminder that all those nights I worried about something like that happening, it could’ve happened to me.
I didn’t want to use the same ending as the urban legend. So, as is my way, I added a twist to the tale. I put a new spin on an old story that – to my knowledge – hasn’t been done before. I’m very pleased with the story, and I hope everyone who reads it enjoys it.
Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a Friend Told Me
We’ve all come across them. The warnings told by a friend of a friend – don’t go in there, I wouldn’t if I were you, did you hear about…? Or perhaps your mind leaps to the cryptozoological realm – creatures barely glimpsed, and yet to be identified. Other spheres of existence – they can’t be real… certainly not until you’ve experienced one!
Maybe the real horror lies in the minds and hearts of others just like you. People with a slightly bent perspective that feed on the fear in others. Twisted souls that would take advantage of the weak, or vulnerable. Those who believe they are doing good for a higher power, or to gain power simply for themselves. Petty vengeance that breathes a life of its own once unleashed.
Whatever your poison, the ten stories in Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a Friend Told Me are sure to intrigue, and perhaps bring back fears long forgotten.
Run, don’t look back… or should you?
Contributing Authors include:
Morgan Bauman, Kimberly A, Bettes, Matthew Borgard, Alex Chase, Austin Fikac, K. Trap Jones, Sean Keller, Lisamarie Lamb, Jon Olson, C.M. Saunders
Interested in Purchasing a copy?
And now for a quick excerpt from Kimberly’s story The Kindness of Strangers in Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a Friend Told Me…
The clock struck two o’clock, and I eagerly walked to the front of the building and clocked out. It had been a long night, just like the string of long nights before it. My shift ended two hours earlier, but I stayed late like always, working an extra couple of hours to earn some much-needed money. It wore me out to do it, but I did it anyway. I had no one to rush home to, and I sure liked to shop, so while I was here I might as well stay late.
With aching feet and legs, and a throbbing lower back, I walked to my car, wishing I had a job where I could actually sit down, or at least a job that didn’t require standing on concrete for twelve straight hours. But I liked the job and the people I worked with, so I toughed it out.
I got in my car, preparing for the long drive home. All my friends had tried to talk me into moving closer to work so I wouldn’t have to drive so far. They were worried about me, and why wouldn’t they be? I drove an hour each way to work, and the trip home was in the wee hours of the morning. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I drove country highways, where there was no traffic at two in the morning. If something happened, I had to depend on myself. It’s not like someone would come along within a minute and stop to assist me. Their worries weren’t unfounded.
With the radio up and the windows down, I pulled out of the parking lot and headed home. As the lights of the sleeping city fell away behind me, the pure darkness of the country enveloped me, both welcoming and daunting.
It was peaceful driving the country road, and it was beyond rare to meet any oncoming traffic. I was free to let my mind wander, to think about the things the noise of the day kept me from focusing on. I could get a little silly singing loudly with the radio without fear of other drivers seeing me. It was a good way to unwind from a long, noisy night at work. But there was also a downside to driving a dark two lane highway at night, alone.
One of the things that bothered me about driving home was my overactive imagination. The night was dark, broken only by the glow of my headlights, which illuminated the highway directly in front of me. Trees lined the highway on both sides, and I always envisioned a deranged man stepping out of the tree line and onto the highway, hell-bent on killing me. I tried to have a plan in place in case that unlikely scenario ever happened. Would I stop? Would I plow him down and keep going? With any luck, I’d never have to find out.
But the main concern was always that I’d fall asleep at the wheel. And though I’d never told anyone, I actually had fallen asleep a few times while driving home. After battling with tired, burning eyes, I’d simply blinked and nothing more, but my eyes remained closed. They eventually opened, allowing me to see that I was completely on the other side of the road…
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow when we’ll discuss inspiration with C.M. Saunders!