Some time back I came up with an idea that I could only describe as a "horror comedy" novel. I approached a few agents with the pitch. Most of them told me that there was nothing tougher to sell than a "horror comedy" novel. Apparently, I wasn't the only person who'd thought of writing something like that. Of course, the book wouldn't be all horror, nor all comedy. Just the same, no agent wanted anything to do with the concept, so I shelved it. It was to have been called DOGGED: A COMEDY OF HORRORS. It dealt with Mailmen (called "dreamers" in the book) and Dogs (who were now in charge of the Earth in the book).
I've been told I could rework it as something else. But then I'd have to lose the title. And I really liked that title.
At any rate, here's a tiny slice of what would have been the book, although this bit shows neither horror, nor comedy. (Not intentionally, at least.)
He came down into the camp from the top of the ridge. The camp was on a kind of ledge below the lip of a forested slope and just above a steep drop of some height down to the river. He could hear the water below tumbling along through the trees.
There were a lot of dreamers there in the camp. Tents of all shapes and colors were set up in a patch of grass that passed for a field. None of the tents were very big, and most of them were nice, expensive models with pricey logos emblazoned on the fabric in white or black or red. Well, with no families, no one needed more than a two-man tent, anyway. However, things like that—seeing only one-man and two-man tents—still surprised him.
Dreamers. They called themselves dreamers, now. He’d give almost anything to hear someone call him by the old terms: mailman, or letter carrier, or postman, or even son-of-a-bitch. Anything but dreamer. Of course there was no one else left to call them anything. There were only the dreamers left. Well, the stupids were left, but they didn’t call anyone much of anything. They growled or moaned or grunted or cried if they made any sound at all.
No people talked anymore, except for the dreamers.
This was the biggest camp he’d seen in weeks. Ever since he’d split up with his station and set out alone, as Coyote had told them to do. In their dreams. After everything that had happened, they did whatever Coyote said. He was the one thing that still protected them. Nothing seemed to have protected the rest of what remained of humanity; that was for damned sure.
He looked around at the dozens of tents, many of them plain to see in the grass and under the bright yellow sunlight shining down between green leaves. Finally, he picked out a spot sheltered beneath a really large chestnut oak and dropped his pack. Tired, he sat down and leaned, his back against the tough bark of the oak and allowed himself to relax a little. Coyote had let them know that they were safe here, for now, and almost everyone seemed relaxed in the big campground of the Dreamers.
Eyes closed, he heard footsteps approach him and listened to the murmur of voices around the camp. No one talked very loud, even after the dreams of Coyote. Safe in the assurances of their benefactor, his eyes remained closed and he did not fear any harm coming to him from the approaching footsteps.
“What do you miss the most?”
He opened his eyes and looked up. She would probably have been very pretty in the old days, before the dogs. Some soap, some makeup, a yellow sundress to reveal her strong shoulders and accentuate her charms. Yeah, she’d obviously been pretty in the day.
“What do you miss most?” She asked again.
“Shit. I don’t know. I don’t like to think about what I miss.”
“I just want to talk.”
“For fuck’s sake,” he muttered. Looking up again, he squinted at her standing there. Five foot two, maybe. Nice hips. Brown hair. Tan skin. Hispanic, but she spoke with no accent. “I guess I miss my wife and son the most. And my mom and dad. And my two brothers and my kid sister. And my kid sister’s two children.
“There,” he added. “Are you happy, now?”
“That’s not what I meant. I didn’t ask you whom you missed. I asked you what you missed.”
“Goddamn it.” He closed his eyes again. “What’s the point?”
“I like to think about those things,” she said. “I like to think about them and it makes me miss them a little more and that will make me more determined to get them back.”
Without saying anything, he looked up at her and she could see the question in his eyes.
“C’mon. Humor me.”
“You say that a lot.”
Grunting, he put his hands beside his hips and sat up. “Okay. I’ll humor you.
“I miss the noise. I miss the sound of automobiles. I miss chocolate. I miss hot baths. I miss air conditioning and gas heat. I miss the freaking mall. I miss pimento-fucking-cheese. I miss hamburgers. I miss Gatlinburg Tennessee. I miss Myrtle Beach. I miss big slices of Vidalia onions on a beef patty grilled over charcoal in the back yard. I miss my washing machine and my drier. I miss electric lights. I miss taking long showers after a hard day delivering the damned mail.
“I miss a lot of damned shit.” He looked up at her. “I could go on for days. Are you happy?”
The woman turned and walked away, heading back to where her little one-man tent was pitched in the grass. “Yes,” she said, not turning. “That’ll do. You think about that stuff before you go to sleep.”
Damn her, he would.