For as long as I can remember I have been afraid of the dark. It’s not a logical fear that a burglar or a serial killer may be lurking in the shadows, but rather that various types of monsters are waiting to rip my face off. Many of these particular fears have been inspired by movies. I’m writing this instead of sleeping because I went to the bathroom and saw the shower curtain shift, so it got me thinking about what might be lurking in my shower. Then I remembered watching a movie or television show where a murderous creature was lurking under a woman’s bed and kept reaching out to grab her as she got in and out of bed. Now, I need to turn on some lights before I get back into my own bed. This incident made me think of the constant narrative I have going on in my head. I’m always telling stories to myself, and all too often, they give me a good scare.
We all have a narrative playing in our heads commonly known as imagination. It’s from this narrative that the best stories are derived. Sometimes the imagination serves to fill in gaps of knowledge, like what a particular sound is, like a creak or a groan from an old house. Sure, it’s probably an old house merely “settling,” but it’s more fun to assume some supernatural creature is prowling about you home. Otherwise, you just live surrounded by the ordinary, and who wants that? Imagination gives us possibility, and possibility gives us some damn good stories.
Several of my stories are inspired by nightmares that I’ve had, the few that I can remember or am able to write down. One of the first nightmares I remember was when I was with my dad when he was on a business trip to Montana or somewhere and we had watched a movie about some tentacled monster lurking in someone’s basement. It pulled a puppy through a heating vent. We were still living in Spokane so I must’ve been about five or six years old. I wish I could remember what movie it was because I’m sure it’s something totally cheesy, but it caused a recurring nightmare lasting for years. Still, it would be intriguing to watch it now and see if it inspires the same fear it did a quarter century ago. It certainly made me afraid of going into basements, which was unfortunate because my bedroom was in the basement.
Another recurring nightmare developed after watching Jurassic Park. In the dream I’d always try to evade a T-Rex that apparently liked to hang out down the street from our house at nighttime. I always encountered it on the street, and in the same dream I keep ending up outside and barely make it back into the house before it snaps me up. Fucking Spielberg, he’s ruined my sleep too many times now. Not too long ago I had one of my most vivid nightmares ever, in which one of those little grey aliens was in my bedroom. Only it wasn’t really my bedroom, it was the room Celine Dion runs through in her music video for “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” I could just barely see it in the darkness of the room. My dream self must be a badass because I just lunged for the thing and it ran away and leapt out of the window. My friend Heather insisted I must have been abducted but I don’t think aliens would be active in the part of North Portland I was living in at the time.
Not all my stories are derived from my nightmares or movies. Many are just the accumulation of legends and myths I’ve read about over the years. One of my favorite theories is that magic and supernatural creatures existed at one time, but something, perhaps science or rationality, killed it all off. Can all the magic that has been written about be explained rationally? There are mundane etymologies of certain legends that can account for their existence, but that’s just no fun! If the simplest explanation is usually correct, than one of these legends has to be true! Even if they’re not, the fact that all these myths and legends exist is magical in itself. Maybe my own narratives will take on a life of their own someday!
Most of my day at work is spent in a darkroom, which, unlike the classic darkroom with the red light, is actually dark. You enter the room through one of two revolving doors designed to keep light out, and behind the main room is another room with a door between the two. My job is fairly mundane, and I make up stories to entertain myself. Being a sane, rational person, I logically assume that there must be some sort of inter-dimensional gateway in constant operation in the back room that lets in hideous demons that are evidently thwarted by door handles seeing as how none have ever actually made it through said door. (That I know of anyway.) As a result, I scare myself silly several times a week and end up rushing out of the darkroom into the light before some wicked nasty disembowels me. It’s great fun.
Still, in all my thirty-three years I have yet to actually encounter the monsters lurking in my parent’s basement, or aliens in my bedroom, or a werewolf that almost certainly lives in Council Crest Park across the street from my parent’s house. (Let me tell you, that makes for a long walk between a car and the front door after visiting them, especially late at night when the neighborhood is quiet, and you can hear the animals from Washington Park Zoo carried on the wind that makes the trees creak in a rather stereotypical manner.) I have yet to be accosted in the darkroom by a demon, and I’ve never been chased by a T-Rex, and to be perfectly honest, it makes me a little sad. Every time the lights come on, and there’s nothing there, I find myself wondering why I was so afraid and why I had bothered to arm myself with a kitchen knife just so I could go get a sweater from my bedroom. I open the door to the darkroom at work to let in the light and there’s no gateway or demons, just the same boxes and spare parts that have been stored there.
In the rational part of my mind I know that there aren’t monsters lurking in the dark, but my imagination leaves me wide open to all the magic that’s in the world, and the effect on me is incredible. In those moments anything seems possible. Just once I would like to see one of those things so I could know that there’s some magic and mystery in the world; that there are things that don’t just vanish when the lights come on because they were never there in the first place. Some small confirmation would go a long way with helping to understand and rationalize my fears. I could face my fears in the real world where they would have substance, and not just in my head where I can’t do battle with them.
And then I’d crap my pants.