I’m excited to be rounding out 2022 with a chat with Michael Hock, a fellow graduate of George Mason University and owner of three amazing cats. It was an exciting year for him, too! He had his first short story published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine this year. (Not too shabby a place to debut, my friends.)
Read further to find out what scares the pants off Michael and why you should never, ever, ever disturb a Canadian goose if you want to live to tell the tale.
What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read? Is there a particular scene that really haunts you still?
Without a doubt, the scariest book I’ve read has got to be Cujo. I’m already pretty afraid of dogs, having been attacked by one when was I little. I knew what Cujo was about; it’s probably the only story that’s famous for everyone being happy when the dog doesn’t survive. And yet, I somehow felt it was a good idea to read it. I still can’t tell you why. Maybe it was the only thing to read? Maybe I was going through a phase where I decided I wanted to be really scared? I don’t know. But the fact that I read up about it afterwards to find out that it was inspired by two different dog attacks and dealing with a Ford Pinto only makes it even more terrifying to me.
The scene that sticks with me is when Donna and Tad are first stuck in the car. It’s a really scary situation: They’re extremely close to safety, but also so far away because this rabid dog has decided to trap them in their car. The sun is beating down. It’s a frustrating and terrifying scenario. It’s also one that seems so weird now, because it seems easily solvable by technology. I’d like to see an updated version of this scene that involves the technology we have now, and how terrifying it would be.
What is your weirdest fear?
It sounds like a joke but I’m being serious. If reincarnation is real, what happens at the end of the universe?
I’m a very spiritual person, and I 100 percent believe there’s life after this one. And part of me likes to think that it’s not just this one go around. I mean, there’s a lot of evidence out there that there’s some kind of reincarnation, even if it’s not the traditional religious view of it.
I tend to overthink things, especially when I can’t sleep. I went through a very terrible bought of insomnia a few months into the pandemic where I couldn’t sleep, so I let my mind wander. For some reason it settled on reincarnation. It was actually a very cool thought at first, trying to think about past lives and future lives. I even considered writing it down for a story. Then I started thinking about how, at some point all of this is going to end. The last star will go out. If we’re being reincarnated, then what happens when there’s nothing to reincarnate to?
At the time, I was obviously thinking about death a lot, and thinking about my own mortality. There was a new virus, we all had to stay inside, I was out of my workout/movie going routine… so my mind went there. I think it terrified me because it put an end point to even an after-this-particular-life. It terrified me, and I still think of it from time to time.
Do you believe in ghosts?
I absolutely believe in ghosts. First, it’s just more fun to think that ghosts exist. Our perception is very limited, so logically I think there’s a lot of the world beyond this one, and of course there would be some kind of interaction with ghosts. There’s a lot of weird stuff out there, why not spirits that are tied to Earth or a person in some way?
Secondly, there are just spaces where you can feel them. Maybe not ghosts in the traditional sense, but there are a lot of places that have an energy to them. I’ve never seen a ghost, but I’ve been places where the energy really was off, and there was something there. Maybe I brought it on myself by believing something was there, but that is what ties into my perception comment earlier. We have to be open to perceiving strange things and perceiving a world beyond our own. I think ghosts are messages or something to remind us that we need to keep an open mind.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever written?
Probably my poetry.
I’m just not a very good poet.