Welcome to this week’s installment of The Scariest Part, a recurring feature in which authors, comic book writers, filmmakers, and game creators tell us what scares them in their latest works of horror, dark fantasy, dark science fiction, and suspense. (If you’d like to be featured on The Scariest Part, please review the guidelines here.)
My guest is Erik Williams, whose latest novel is Demon. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Mike Caldwell is a CIA assassin who thinks he’s finally got a real case to work on. At a remote construction site in Iraq, something deadly and dangerous has been unearthed, and Mike believes he’s dealing with a powerful pathogen that turns the infected into primal killing machines. The truth, however, is far worse.
The ancient prison of the fallen angel Semyaza has been uncovered, and for the first time in thousands of years he is free to roam the earth, possessing the bodies of the humans he hates. And everywhere he goes, Hell is sure to follow.
Now Mike is on Semyaza’s trail, hunting a demon whose mere presence turns every living thing near it into a weapon of mass destruction. Both merchants of death are on a collision course, while the fate of humanity hangs in the balance.
And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Erik Williams:
So, I wrote a book called Demon. It’s about a CIA assassin going up against a, well, demon. Or fallen angel. Whatever you prefer. Anyway, it’s not your normal ho-hum horror novel. It’s got action! It’s got drama! It’s got carnage! And yes, quite a few scares. Don’t believe me? I dare you to buy a copy and read it. Go on.
Seriously, what happens on page 150…scariest thing you’ll ever read.
Now I won’t tell you what the scariest part of the book is. That would be spoiling. Nor will I pretend something I wrote scared me. That would be silly. But I can tell you what the scariest part of writing the book was: tapping into the past.
February 2003. I’m in the Navy. I’m on a ship in the Northern Arabian Gulf. The war’s about to start. Shit’s about to get real.
As soon as we sailed into the Gulf, we got issued gas masks and auto-injectors (the stuff you shoot into your body if you’re exposed to chemical weapons). We’re required to carry this stuff on us at all times. Just in case, you know.
But we didn’t know. No one took it seriously. No one actually thought Saddam was going to launch chemical weapons at a ship in the Gulf. Maybe at the Marines in Kuwait but not our-
And then the alarm went off. A chemical alarm went off in Kuwait. Our ship (only a few miles of the coast) went to General Quarters (that’s like Red Alert). We were ordered to MOPP Level 4 (that’s means everything gets worn). And we were told this was not a drill.
In a span of thirty seconds, I saw grown men start crying. People’s hands shaking so bad they couldn’t get their gas canisters on the masks or their masks pulled over their heads. People freaking the hell out because they couldn’t get a good seal on their masks. People having panic attacks because they instantly became claustrophobic from wearing their masks.
It was insane. And possibly the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me. Because at that moment, it was real and instead of doing things the way we were trained to, instead of maintaining order and discipline, we turned inward and let chaos take over. If this was happening before actual exposure to chemicals or biologics, what the hell was it going to look like if we actually sailed through a cloud of mustard gas or something? Were people going to start fighting over auto-injectors while others choked to death on their own spit? Were we going to go batshit crazy and kill each other in a panic before any chemicals did?
Of course, there was no chemical attack. It was a false alarm. We laughed it off and then didn’t talk about it. The war started a few days after that. I was lucky to do my time and make it home without another scary incident.
But obviously, that moment stuck with me. So much so that when I first got the idea for Demon (imprisoned demon escapes its prison and causes havoc was the initial idea) I zeroed in on that chaos, that complete breakdown of order I witnessed, and gave it to my demon in the book, making him the agent of chaos that brings absolute disorder to anything that comes into contact with him. Just like I saw in 2003, albeit with a lot more death and destruction.
Erik Williams is a former Naval Officer and current defense contractor (but he’s not allowed to talk about it). He is also the author of the novel Demon and numerous other small press works and short stories. He currently lives in San Diego with his wife and three very young daughters. When he’s not at his day job, he can usually be found changing diapers or coveting carbohydrates. At some point in his life, he was told by a few people he had potential. Recently, he told himself he’s the bee’s knees. Erik prefers to refer to himself in the third person but feels he’s talked about himself enough and will grant your eyeballs the freedom they deserve.