My grandparents purchased a modest but charming cottage on Lake Erie in the 1960s. To this day, the rest of my family enjoy the property by staying there, sunning themselves on the beach, splashing around in the water, and having bonfires. At some point in my adolescence, I started enjoying it by staying up late, listening to creepy music, and writing stories about murder and guilt that were set at our charming little family cottage.
I was — and I remain — mesmerized by Lake Erie, the runt of the great lake litter whose unpredictability rivals that of its musically celebrated sister, Gitchigumi. It’s shallow and fickle. It can look absolutely stunning on a sunny day and like hell on a windy winter one. And the chunk of it that belongs to Wainfleet, Ontario, where our cottage is located, is so isolated from and forgotten by the rest of the world that I became convinced that all sorts of sinister things could go down there.
To the best of my knowledge, nothing like that has happened on the Wainfleet shore in the two decades I’ve been writing these ghastly stories. People have, tragically, drowned in Erie’s fatally deceiving undertow in nearby towns. Neighbours have come and gone, occasionally before their time. The carcass of what could have been a testicle-biting monster fish may or may not have washed up next door a couple years ago. But not once has anyone caused the death of a sibling or best friend and then engaged in untold amounts of psychodrama in and around the property.
But I have never let that stop me. To this day, I continue to write twisted stories about weird shit happening in Wainfleet, and I continue to insist that it can be the eeriest (sorry) place on Earth. If you let it.
“Million Days,” a story that I wrote curled up on the top bunk of what we creatively call “The Bunk Room” at the cottage, while I was listening to “Million Days In May” from The Headstone’s sophomore album, Teeth and Tissue, and reading even more Joseph Fucking Conrad, is the piece that started it all. I have no idea how I got this plot out of those lyrics. Or how I came up with it at all. Or how no one ever thought to take me to a therapist when I continued to write things like this.
I was so completely enthralled with my own talent and vision that I later adapted the story into a feature length screenplay. Which I then submitted in a screenwriting contest run by the Canadian Film Centre. I was so shocked and heartbroken when it didn’t win that I sobbed for a week straight.
I re-read the script a few years ago. The loss now makes perfect sense.