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Welcome to the official blog of horror, thriller and suspense author Todd Russell. He's written under various pen names including the name of this website, taken from AOL in the mid 1990s where he posted numerous twist ending short stories, six of which can be found in the horror short story collection Mental Shrillness. For Halloween 2011, he shared 13+ new stories in a collection called . His debut novel is now available in paperback and eBook.
|What Scares Author Jon Reisfeld
Date Published: 2011-10-19 23:24:05
Summary: What Scares Authors series #18, learn in his own words what scares author Jon Reisfeld.
The lion at the door, bunny ski-slope designers ... and the current state of our society. Throughout my life, whether awake or asleep, the things that really scared me always had to do with human frailty, stupidity or evil -- even when they first appeared to me in disguise.
As a toddler, I had a recurring nightmare that always ended the same way: with me sitting up in bed, heart pounding, bug-eyed and drenched in sweat. What brought me to that state? The lion at the door. This was no ordinary lion, but a full-sized male, with powerful, sinewy legs, sharp claws, a large dark mane and hungry fangs, dripping with saliva. I never knew how it got there. It might have escaped from the zoo or slipped away from a traveling circus for all I knew. But none of that mattered as I watched, in terror, as the beast paced back and forth, just five feet away, passing between the bushes that flanked the sidewalk at the base of our front steps.
For some reason, our house's thick, wooden, interior front door stood wide open. Only a flimsy metal and glass storm door secured the space between the lion and me. Sometimes, I would grab the storm door's handle and attempt to turn it, just to make sure it was locked. Each time, to my horror, the handle would turn until the door slipped loose from the frame. When that happened, I'd quickly pull it shut again and then run through our dining room to the kitchen, to make sure that dead-bolted door, and the even flimsier wooden screen door beyond it, remained closed. I'd inch up to that door, turn its handle and pull with all my might, only to find its deadbolt still firmly in place. A wave of relief would wash over me, just as the lion came into view again, staring at me through the door's thin veneer curtains.
The nightmare always ended at the lion's initiative. At some point, he would either raise his front claw, growl at me or suddenly spring up, bridging the distance between the front sidewalk, where it paced, and the top of the stoop, where I stood. Years later, I decoded this nightmare, when I realized that my first childhood memory occurred in the very same spot. I was two and a half. It was mid afternoon, and my parents were having a fight. I was downstairs and my four-year-old sister was upstairs, playing in her room, when I heard my father yell and storm out the front door. As he got into his car, my mother ran past me, opened the door and yelled after him, "Wait, I'm coming with you!" As I stood there, behind the same glass and metal storm door, I watched them drive away in the family car. I'm sure they were gone for no more than a few minutes, but the fear of abandonment was palpable. And it returned, over and over again throughout the years, to taunt me in my dreams.
My issue with bunny ski-slope designers occurred eight years later, when my family went to the Pocono mountains for Christmas vacation. I had never skied before so I took an introductory lesson that taught me how to get up on the skis, push for speed and snow plow to a dead stop. Having mastered the basics, I headed for the top of the bunny slope and pushed off.
Down I went, straight as an arrow, building up speed all the while. This was living. This was fun. Incredible! The cold wind hit my face and burned my ears, and I was really starting to fly. Then, several hundred yards ahead, I saw it: A small, red wooden fence comprised of vertical slats held together with chicken wire. The fence rose out of a modest mound of snow, and there, directly in front of me on that fence was a sign. I couldn't make out what it said, but I knew it was time to start applying the brakes.
I turned the heads of my skis inward, as instructed, and pressed forward and down, digging them into the snow, which began flying up around me in enormous walls, just as my instructors said it would. (I could almost hear them slapping each other on the back and congratulating themselves as they marveled at my near-perfect execution of the snowplow maneuver.) Only one thing detracted from my reverie: my rapid rate of descent. Despite all my snowplowing, I continued to race ahead like a ski-slope juggernaut. No matter what I did, I kept barreling forward. When I had come within 100 yards of the fence, I could finally make out the writing on the sign. It read, "Beware, 300-ft Drop." I blinked. I shook my head and looked again. The message did not change.
Meanwhile, my impotent snowplow continued to make a big show of things as the distance to the fence grew shorter and shorter. When I was no more than 20 yards away from it, I finally rolled hard to one side. My skis flew off, and I began tumbling forward, head over heels. The sensation reminded me of getting caught under a big, breaking wave at the beach. Finally, the spinning stopped and I found myself sitting upright, with my ski boots dug deep into the snow. I had come to a stop just one yard before the fence and directly in front of the 300-foot drop sign.
That marked the end of my brief infatuation with skiing. The thought that someone, anyone, could build a children's bunny ski slope in front of a 300-foot drop was more than my 11-year-old mind could fathom.
As I've grown older, I've learned that bunny ski slope designers were the least of my problems. Plenty of people, who we all expect to act responsibly, demonstrating at least a modicum of concern for the welfare of others, have routinely proven to be derelict in their duties. That's why what scares me now -- and the most -- is the mess that our government, our society and our economy have gotten into. The economic collapse that we continue to wrestle with grew out of a failure of government oversight; the unbounded greed and arrogance of Wall Street investment bankers and the successful actions of paid lobbyists, who, for decades have bought preferential treatment for their corporate clients for pennies on the dollar and at the enormous expense of average Americans. Perhaps the reason Congress has failed to act, and to work with the Executive branch to solve our problems, is because many members know they have blood on their hands.
But the gravest danger to come out of this economic disaster is the notion that out-and-out crooks and disingenuous and corrupt government overseers do not have to pay for their crimes. We must insist that they be held accountable, if our society is to have any hope of continuing to function for the good of all. That's why I am encouraged by the Occupy Wall Street movement. At least it suggests that some of us are waking up and showing our displeasure with a society gone completely amok.
My book, The Last Way Station, tells the story of the final judgment of one of history's most notorious villains and mass-murderers: Adolf Hitler. But it's fiction. Hitler never paid, in this life, for his massive crimes against humanity, and for a good reason. He built the Third Reich on a foundation of complete non-accountability for evil doers.
About The Last Way Station
On April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler, one of the most notorious mass-murderers in history, retired to his room in his bunker, 25 feet beneath the old Reich Chancery garden. Above him, the Red Army was encircling Berlin as his dream of a thousand-year Aryan empire lay in ruins.
Hitler placed a glass cyanide capsule between his teeth and pointed a loaded service pistol at his right temple. Then, smugly believing he had both evaded capture and escaped all accountability for his crimes, he bit down and pulled the trigger. He was wrong!
The Last Way Station begins moments after Hitler's successful suicide, when the Führer finds himself mysteriously transported to a numbingly cold, solitary holding cell in the afterworld. There, he meets his caseworker, a supernatural being tasked with helping him face, and work through, his sins. The caseworker explains that Hitler will remain in solitary confinement indefinitely, as he prepares his soul for eventual return to the material world. The method, Hitler learns, involves seeking enlightenment through physically embodying his victims and then personally reliving the atrocities committed against them in his name. This speculative, historical fantasy narrative explores Hitler's psychology, the psychology of evil and asks, 'What, if anything, constitutes fitting punishment for the 'super evil?'
Book Purchase Links:
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About the Author
A graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Jon Reisfeld has worked, most of his adult life, as a writer and marketer. He has more than 25 years combined experience in journalism, corporate communications, advertising and marketing.
At 23, Jon became the first writer ever to have a story start on the cover of Baltimore Magazine. (It was a piece about teenage suicide.) He later founded and published Housecalls, a Baltimore-based health-and-fitness magazine. In the mid 90s, Jon served as Director of Marketing and Communications for Duron Paints and Wallcoverings. He ran the half-billion dollar regional paint company's 12-person in-house advertising agency for several years before returning to his private marketing consulting practice.
Jon's eclectic interests run the gamut from cosmology, chaos theory, technology and sci-fi to social issues, politics, the economy, anthropology, marketing and writing. He began writing fiction in his 40s and enjoys reading, walking, cycling, attending the theatre and "most" new movie openings. His next major fiction project will be a sci-fi trilogy set on earth and spanning "several hundred years" of human history.
Your book sounds like an interesting read. Thank you for sharing what scares you, Jon.
Read what scares the last 10 authors in the What Scares Authors series:
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Also available through Smashwords
Todd Russell's books on Goodreads
WIP (Works In Progress)
Novella #1 (1st draft)
NOVEL: Pain Plane (final)
NOVEL: Fresh Fetus (1st draft)