My Life as a Young Adult Urban Horror Heroine

Hawaii Miki 15After work, Mom usually took us to Norm’s, a diner on the corner of Sunset and Vermont for supper. Sometimes she was forced to bring us along for dates. Now, that’s a nightmare… single motherhood, being forced to drag your prepubescent brats along for a date. There are many ways unappreciative spawn can interfere with the dating process if motivated. For instance, my brother took a strong dislike to one long-winded disciplinarian in long-haired hipster sheep’s clothing. The date, a freckled red-head with a halo of nuclear dust cloud red curls,   thought my little brother was charming, at first. Scott was going to show him a new trick he’d learned!

The waitress bought him the child’s spaghetti dinner plate. The sweet and pungent Hawaii Miki 13 Scott 12 Bob Daniellearoma of fresh basil, tomatoes and garlic swirled through the air. My brother picked up a fork and loosely wrapped a single strand of pasta through its tines. Then, he lifted it to his nose and showed mom’s suitor his best magic trick. He sucked the linguini noodle into his nostril and inhaled it, quickly, laughing. Aghast, the red-haired gentleman leaped back several feet in his seat. I could almost hear the plastic-coated dinner seat peel off the backs of his over-tanned, Bermuda-shorts clad legs. Seemingly convinced the man wasn’t sufficiently disgusted, Scott opened his mouth to show him the unbroken end of the spaghetti strand peeking out from between his incisors. As the worm-like strand wiggled back and forth, my brother inhaled deeply, forcing the rest of the pasta into his nasal cavity.

“Scott! Stop it!” my horrified mother screamed. But it was too late. The deed was done. The poor man had experienced his first and last date with my mother and her bratty children.

That happened two days before the horrifying thing… maybe that’s why it stands so close in my memory, even though I was only nine years old when all of this happened.

Growing up in Los Angeles means being exposed to a lot of terrifying things children ordinarily don’t experience. I try to recall the innocence of roller skating, Book Mobiles, and fireworks on the Fourth of July, and forget all of the terrible things I’ve seen. But some memories reel you in and hold you there against your will.

miki and scott kids


Two days after the date from hell, I was sitting at Norm’s with my mother eating the kiddie steak sandwich that they had on the menu back then. It was on a French roll cooked with butter and garlic, and I used to separate them and pretend I was in a fancy restaurant. Scott was sitting directly across from our mother, receiving a lecture about his abysmal behavior. That’s probably why her back blocked his view of the drama going on at the restaurant door.

“Help!” the man with the matted hair screamed. “They put out my eye! They put out my eye!” A white man in his mid-thirties, obviously homeless, was screaming and holding his face. His beige shirt was stained with sweat, the long sleeve across his face stained with mucous. Just a child, I was tuned into his crying. I sat there, aghast, as my mom lectured my brother.

When he removed his hand from his face, his screams were joined by my own. His eye was a mass of red, welted flesh. Blood and ruined ocular tissue were visible from my uncomfortable seat. I kept trying to understand why they wouldn’t help him.  Was it because he was homeless? I remembered sitting next to a homeless man on the bus. His khaki pants were stained and smelled of urine. They didn’t serve people like that at Denny’s, but surely they would help him? They had to!

“They took my eye!” he screamed again, blurting out a disjointed narrative about the young men who caught him sleeping in a car. A couple of younger men, in their late teens or early twenties, found him sleeping in car, and attacked him with the car’s cigarette lighter. They beat senseless.

That was how I learned about man’s inhumanity to man.

It’s also when I first started exhibiting clear symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Days after some Norm’s employee took pity on the homeless man and called an ambulance, I was still unable to sleep. It didn’t help that we were homeless ourselves. My mom had a job, but we didn’t have an apartment. She worked at a bookstore, and we used to sneak in at night and sleep on the floor. She would pull out our blankets, hidden under a cupboard in a cardboard box.

Hawaii Miki bw

I couldn’t sleep at all, because I was seeing things… the wispy figures of ghostly creatures, upraised and predatory aliens. Mom had trouble getting me to settle down. I was up all night, agitated. Suddenly, the whole world seemed dangerous to me. My skin crawled with uncontrolled adrenaline. Fear encased me in a blanket of unease. I’d had symptoms before, but I had been so young that they blended in with the imaginary friends and ordinary daydream worlds occupied by five or six year-olds. At nine, I was a bit too old for this. It was becoming increasingly clear that something was wrong with me.

Something was wrong with me, but something

mom miki grandma

was also wrong with the world. If they would assault that man for living in a car, what would they do to me and my family if they found out we were homeless? I was a pretender, sitting in Norm’s separating my steak sandwich into two parts so I could pretend to be a wealthier girl who lived in a middle class home somewhere far away from the crime and danger here in Hollywood.

When you are very poor, what is there to do but pretend? This was merely the early acclimation to my ultimate fate as a horror writer. If I wasn’t destined to write horror, why would so many terrifying things be put in my way?

(originally part of the #nghw contest on HorrorAddicts)


~ by Sumiko Saulson on October 3, 2017.

5 Responses to “My Life as a Young Adult Urban Horror Heroine”

  1. Difficult story and experiences for an adult to digest. I can only imagine the pain, horror and feat of having to do so as a child. It takes a warrior to take those experiences and pain and turn it into stories that help us reflect on our humanity…or lack of.

  2. Wow this was incredibly deep. It is horrifying to see the world like that especially as a young child. I also really enjoyed reading the story, it gave me an interesting glimpse into your life story and how you took the horrors of your life and placed them into stories. Beautifully written Sumiko.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: