I Scream, You Scream
Flash Non-Fiction, Essay, Horror, Love Note to the Dark
I scare myself. Call it a talent, call it a curse. You may do it too. I’m not so full of myself that I believe I’m the only one. I’m sure Stephen King or Dean Koontz or Clive Barker do it all the time. Mostly at night. When I’m by myself. When it’s quiet. I live by a highly trafficked street now, down the center of Fresno, so it happens a lot less than it used to.
But I scare myself. I think myself silly. When I was a child, I thought about how big the universe is, I tried including heaven and hell and I would give myself anxiety attacks. I would think if All That Is is surrounded by a wall, how thick might that wall be? Would it go on forever? And if not, what might be beyond that wall? Now I know there are theoretical physics that deal with those questions, that there are membranes between dimensions, and just—oh, it makes my head hurt and my stomach ache.
My family lived in a tiny house, and sometimes I would sleep in my parents’ bedroom and stare at the pattern in the couch sandwiched next to the bed. I would see a witch or a face and it would stare back at me and scowl at me. I was afraid to close my eyes for fear it would tear itself out of the fabric and come at me.
When I got older and we moved across town and I finally got my own room, there was one night I stared at the window so hard I convinced myself that any minute I was going to see a shadowy shape on the other side of the curtains. Years later that moment inspired the scifi prose poem “She Is Not Herself” published in Prelude to Spiral Legion.
One night, I awoke to my own X-Files moment when that same window was bathed in light and a terrific booming noise, the curtains billowing madly from air being blown through the screen. My first thought was, “They’re here! The aliens are here! I knew it!” Only to have my hopes/fears dashed when I ran to the window and discovered that it was a helicopter landing in the field next to my house. After that night, emergency medical choppers landed with regularity there. Unfortunately, car accidents happened a lot in Orange Cove and that field was centrally located. Eventually a clinic was built in the spot. I don’t know where the choppers land now.
My nightmares are, well, the stuff of nightmares. Fueled by science-fiction epics, the slasher films Friday the 13th and Halloween, they involve a lot of running, a lot of pulse-pounding fear and the worst, waking up within a dream. With the advent of Computer Generated Images and films like the Abyss and Terminator 2, the killers in my dreams have become fluid and damn near indestructible. In my youth I trained myself to achieve dream control, but these days, working in retail with a constantly changing schedule, I have no steady sleep-waking cycle, so it’s tough to recall my dreams, let alone control them while I’m in them. It’s also rare for me to realize I’m dreaming until it’s too late.
And yes, I have been killed in dreams. It’s not fun.
I don’t consider myself to be superstitious, but I do believe in the psychology of self-fulfilling prophecy and to a certain extent karma, so as much as I dismiss those kiddie emo chain letters or posts that start off, “okay, you’ve started reading this so you have to finish it or such and such bad will happen to you,” I can’t help but avoid them at all costs because I don’t like the (f)ear worm affect those things have on my subconscious. Especially when I come across them at night.
Recently, while stalling from going to sleep, I read a “scariest stories in two sentences” list on one of those buzzfeed/reddit type sites and scared myself shitless. I didn’t want to look up, down or sideways. I didn’t want to listen for my non-existent kid’s voice down the hall or up the stairwell I don’t have. And I certainly didn’t want to look under my bed.
And what the fuck is up with the Thin Man?
Yeah, I scare myself. I love Supernatural and Ghost Hunters. I’m a sucker for the Paranormal Activity films. I really loved Insidious and The Conjuring and Dark Skies spoke to me. My fiancée tells me that when we get together I usually steer our viewing choices to scifi and horror films. And now that I know that she’s a little tired of them, I watch the smaller, more indie horror films like WER, the Signal (Really Good!) or found footage films like Afflicted and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones when she’s not around.
Alisha is moving in this weekend. This may be the last night I spend alone for awhile. I’m in the living room on the laptop and I gave up trying to watch movies or listen to a podcast as I wrote this.
I let the silence envelop me. The cars aren’t whizzing by as often as they were, say, an hour ago.
The blinds covering the sliding glass door occasionally flutter. They shouldn’t, as there is no open window and I don’t have the central heating on. But occasionally they flutter. Maybe air still shifts through the ventilation or through the crack between the door to the apartment and the doorframe.
My imagination is a powerful one, though. Sometimes, I think, powerful enough to manifest something. Something dark, evil even.
I can almost imagine the figure coming down the hallway, having coalesced from the darkness coming from the bedrooms, or stranger, from the bathroom. Next to the darkened bedroom, I have started to consider that the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house. I have slipped in that shower before. I’m sure at least a couple people have fallen in there and hit their heads, maybe even died.
Fresno is a dangerous place. A violent place. There have to be lots of ghosts here, trapped between the membranes.
God, my eyes hurt now. Maybe if I take my glasses off, I can last another few minutes or so. Long enough to post this. Long enough to get this to you.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll live through the night to see your comments in the morning.
Good night. Get some sleep. If you dream, dream of lovely things.
Unless, of course, you prefer the dark.