Hi. I’m Levi Lee, and I like to write horror stories.
I had, as a child, a recurring nightmare. We all have our own experiences with these early night terrors. Some of them are more cliche than others, and mine I feel was probably no exception. Nevertheless, it pulled me screaming from sleep many a night during the first six or seven years of my life.
In the dream I would wake up in my bed, having largely escaped the safety of my sheets and heavy comforter in my nocturnal tossing and turning, on my side almost nuzzled up to the wall. My forehead pressed against the cool, textured plaster, my eyes would spring open. It wasn’t a sound that had pulled me from sleep, nor a tingling sensation of some six or eight legged creature crawling up my arm. There was no feeling of some strange thing brushing against my skin…in fact I was acutely aware of the pervasive silence and stillness around me. The emptiness seemed to fill everything. It seeped its way into every corner of the room, into every fold of the sheets which I curled my fingers around with growing unease. The room around me was dead, and yet the still black of the night very much alive.
In that living emptiness I could feel the difference in the space of the room. The difference brought by something that was not supposed to be there. A stranger. Something that had come right in and made itself at home in the place where I was supposed to feel the most safe. I could feel, in the night, in the dark, the heavy gaze of something on my back, something that was at best indifferent to my fear and at worst…feeding on it. Slowly inching my arms and legs back under the safety of my blankets, and pulling my knees up toward my chest, the thought of rolling over to find out what was there looking at me with eyes that stabbed the back of my neck like needles of ice was paralyzing, but I had to know.
Rolling over to look this unknown horror full in the face was unthinkable. It was out of the question. I couldn’t if I wanted to, but I had to know. I had to see. Forcing my muscles to move with all the strength that I had, I turned my head as slowly and (hopefully) imperceptibly as I possibly could, hunching my shoulder up to cover as much of my face as possible without obstructing my view, and out of the tear welled corner of my eye I could see it.
There, lying parallel to the bed, just within arms reach, was a coffin. It looked hundreds of years old. Its ornate mahogany marred with grime, rot and a light dusting of soil. Its’ lid was open ever so slightly, and from the thick blackness within shone two glowing eyes, burning and hungry. The night closed in around me. The living emptiness of the room stirred, winding its tentacles in concentric circles which grew closer by the moment. I snatched short terrified gasps of air as every part of my body seized with fear. It was Dracula. It was Death with a capital ‘D.’ It was horror itself, here to take me, here to drag me into the dark and enfold me in its arms until my life was snuffed out like a weakly burning candle. I knew there was nothing I could do, and no one coming to save me. In that moment, the gaunt and grey hand of a dead man shot out from under the lid toward me with the speed of a runaway train…and I would wake.
Covered in sweat I was thrown back into waking life, the dark room around me so similar to the horrible, ethereal one I had emerged from. I would catch my breath and sigh with relief. Sitting there in the dark I would go through the process of rationalization, or at least as much of one as a child can manage, and at length calm would return. Sleep would creep back up on me, and I would lie back down…but no matter what rationalizations I had just finished making…no matter how much I knew in my mind that dreams were just that…dreams. Still, I would not face the wall. I would never go back to sleep facing the wall, for fear something might manifest itself behind me. Something might appear from the darkness, and take me back with it. To this day, I never sleep facing the wall.
There are likely a myriad of things that have fostered my fascination for horror, the dark underbelly of the human experience and the supernatural throughout my life. The aforementioned recurring nightmare is probably one. The inattentiveness of a father who made no effort to censor my intake of popular culture during my formative years is probably another. I remember at around seven sitting on the floor, slack jawed with equal parts wonder, laughter and disgust as we watched (really he watched and I just happened to be there with him rather than any kind of actual father/son communal movie experience but…) Universal Soldier on HBO. I mean, there has to be some kind of effect on a seven year old watching Dolph Lundgren, adorned with a necklace made from human ears, dragging dead dudes through a supermarket to put in the deep freeze and flipping his shit while his buddy eats raw meat out of the butcher display case. Which even then I thought was slightly hilarious.
Luckily for me, shortly thereafter my mother married my stepfather, and while they weren’t overjoyed at my voracious appetite for Goosebumps, the Salem’s Lot miniseries from the 70’s or my choice of ‘Dracula’ or ‘Frankenstein’ as opposed to ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ or ‘The Great Gatsby’ for book reports on classic literature…they supported me nonetheless. Then, as I grew older and was trying to decide what to do with my life, they didn’t even give me that hard of a time when I went to film school at the University of Oklahoma! Talk about great parents!
The creative community that I had at OU was something that was simply amazing to be a part of. I had like minded individuals with which to talk about my ideas, and help to critique my work, and while the program there was not focused specifically on narrative storytelling there were a handful of us there for whom storytelling was what made us feel spiritually and emotionally fulfilled. Being able to pass on a piece of yourself, however trivial or by contrast meaningful the story might be was something that I absolutely fell in love with. I was able to make all sorts of work there, but invariably my mind and my ideas always strayed to the horrible and the fantastic, usually with at least a twinge of dark humor thrown in.
After college I got together with two of my friends from college, Adam Oxsen and Jordan Boyd (the great Jordan Boyd, I might add, who now works as an amazing colorist in the field of comic books for the likes of Image, DC and Marvel, SHOUT OUT TO MA’ BOY!) and formed a production company with the goal of making a feature length film. The three of us co-wrote a script from a story by Adam and at the end of a long and arduous two year odyssey we released ‘The Gunslingers’ through Lionsgate on home video.
‘The Gunslingers’ was a low budget western with a supernatural bent. Somewhere along the way the more supernatural elements of the story that I so loved seemed to get lost in the shuffle, but while the finished product isn’t necessarily what I imagined or the story that I fell in love with while writing the script it was the greatest creative learning experience of my life and to be certain an achievement that I can take some pride in. After all, there are thousands of independent films that get made every year that never see the light of day or at best get self distributed by their creators and maybe get watched by a handful of people outside the families of the cast and crew. We were able to pay back our investors in full, and we had a product that was released by a company of note.
Ever since we finished making ‘The Gunslingers’ back in late 2009 I have made countless attempts at continuing my creative career. What I love above anything else is telling stories, no matter the medium. I’ve written scripts for short films. I’ve started the scripts for several feature length films and taken them to varying points of completion. I’ve written comic book scripts only to never follow up with a script for a second issue or to enlist the help of an artist to illustrate them. I have more unfinished short stories than I dare to count, a few half completed novels and even more that never made it through the first act.
I realize that in large part the completion of these efforts is down to me. It is down to my commitment to bringing a story or an idea in my head to fruition. Something has been missing in these last seven years though, something that has been vital to my success in the past, something that benefitted not only me but also all who were a part of it.
A creative community.
Outside of higher education and more well established institutions this is something I have found that is sadly lacking in Oklahoma. This is doubly true for those of us who are not only storytellers, but genre storytellers, and specifically in the realms of horror and dark fantasy. So this, after my exceedingly long and rambling introduction which I cannot apologize enough for you having to sit through to get to the point, is where the Oklahoma Horror Writers League comes in. OkHoWL is a group for like minded storytellers whose imaginations reside on the wrong side of the tracks can come together. It’s a place where we can create together, a place where we can improve and hone our craft with each others help. In the coming months I’ll be arranging monthly and eventually bi-weekly write-ins and critique sessions. These will be events where we can come together and get much needed support and the oft-required kick in the ass.
OkHoWL is a place and a home that I, as someone who feels honor bound to tell stories but have a hard time without the proper support and sounding boards, desperately want, and I hope it’s a place that some of you want as well. Since no such home exists, I would love for you to help me build it…like Habitat for Humanity….but for people who dream of ax murderer’s possessed by the vengeful spirit of Elvis Presley. Come howl with me. The moon seems awful lonely without us.