The Horror of Bologorsk is one of my most successful pieces in traditional publishing terms. It’s been published twice and earned me a semi-pro payment (if you think I could quit my job and live on the Canary Islands, think again — it was enough for the electricity bill, though). Which reminds of the following Stephen King quote: “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Never fails to cheer me up.
It seems right that my first story-origins post is about this novella.
A warning to the curious: this isn’t an introduction and it may SPOIL the story for you. Treat this as an afterword and read it first. Click the button below to summon your free copy.
Sometimes I find nightmares a fertile ground to develop into a narrative. Other times they are so random that not even the greatest horror writers can shape them into coherency. This time, the former was true, thank the horror gods.
In the dream, I was driving up a hill towards a small town, in a familiar car — I think it was our childhood Zsiguli, a popular car in Hungary at that time and appropriate to the environment of my dream. Here’s a photo:
A frozen, derelict landscape surrounded us until the eye could see. The old car climbed the hill and darkness descended on us, prematurely, as it was only four o’clock in the afternoon. I don’t remember who was there with me, but I’m sure I wasn’t alone. It might have been my wife, so that’s whom I’m going to refer to. In the next scene, we were investigating several abandoned houses on the top of the hill while an almost total darkness enveloped us. We were using the flashlights of our phones. We found bodies lying around, and they moved like there was something underneath their skins. The surrounding shadows were also alive. We didn’t talk, just walked from house to house. Then, from one of the corpses, a million tiny bugs swarmed out, and we had to run down the hill to escape their torrent, and when we reached a point where there was light again somehow, the bugs stopped. We walked back to the car, panting and not understanding what had happened, but now there were corpses everywhere next to the road as well. We got into the car, and I saw that something was moving underneath my wife’s skin.
I woke up, quite disturbed, and although the dream was incoherent, I liked its imagery. I got up and scribbled down some notes. For a long time, I didn’t know how to use it. Then, a few weeks later, during those useless headline-scrolling minutes, I found a real-life article about a Russian village where the inhabitants suffered from terrible hallucinations and nightmares. I won’t link it here because it was a Hungarian news article, and you can find a pretty accurate replica in the novella.
It was perfect. I made the connection in my head, and I had a story to write.
The Horror of Bologorsk was published in 2018 by The Society of Misfit Stories, first online and later in their annual print anthology. The chalice is raised with my eternal appreciation bound to it.