Throughout my life I have been pretty good at scary things. I can watch horror suspense movies without wetting my pants. I don’t squeal at weeping angels. I think zombies are cool. But every now and again something scares the life out of me, and it’s always something pathetic.
When I was a small child it was the picture book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. I’ll write a brief synopsis of it, so you understand where I’m coming from.
The book begins by announcing that we are going on a bear hunt, we intend to find a bear of large proportions, the weather is lovely, and we are not afraid. This becomes a refrain, and it is always interrupted by “Uh oh!” and a problem. Problems include long grass, a river, mud and so on. The solution is always “we’ve got to go through it.” Eventually we find a bear in a cave and are so scared we run all the way back and hide in bed.
We run because a bear is chasing us. I repeat: a bear is chasing us. We can only move slowly through the mud and the river and the grass. And we forget to close the door of the house when we get home and have to run back and close it. To prevent the bear from killing us. Because it’s a bear and it wants to kill us. Seriously. This is what is going to happen if we get caught:
Someone wrote this book for small children.
It terrified me so much that every time the teacher read us this book in kindergarten I would hide at the back of the classroom behind a bookshelf. The teacher always saw me and made me come out again. I don’t think she linked these hiding incidents with the picture book. I think she just thought there was something a bit off about me.
But I got older and people no longer insisted on reading this picture book to me. I was fine until Jurassic Park III.
As a child I thought dinosaurs were awesome (and I still do). My favourite movie was Jurassic Park, despite the fact that I was approximately six years old. My favourite bit is when the power goes out and the T-rex gets out of its enclosure and starts wrecking cars and eating people. Closely followed by any scene with velociraptors.
Now, my parents thought it was important that their brood watch age appropriate materials. But we were three small children who loved dinosaurs and nothing on Earth was going to keep us away from a dinosaur movie. We weren’t happy until we had watched it. And rewound the cassette and watched it again. And rewound it and watched it again.
So my parents made the best of a bad situation by trying to get us to cover our eyes for the death scenes.
This was all fine until Jurassic Park III came along. That’s the one where the spinosaurus swallows the characters’ satellite phone and they keep hearing it ringing when the spinosaurus is about to jump out and eat them (I guess they thought they needed to update the T-rex’s-footfalls-makes-the-water-vibrate-in-a-glass-of-water-heralding-imminent-eating thing from the first movie).
One scene destroyed me. It was the scene where Dr Alan Grant falls asleep on the plane going to the Dinosaur Island and dreams that a velociraptor is on the plane talking to him.
It was the talking that did it. Dinosaurs, fine. Suspense, fine. Death, fine. Horrifying and traumatic death, fine. Talking velociraptors? Hell no.
My reaction made no sense. Before seeing the movie, a talking dinosaur would have been a dream come true. Afterward?
My parents were not impressed.
It took time, but I eventually stopped having dinosaur nightmares. I was free of crippling fictional-monster fear.
Until two years ago when I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
I can’t explain why I was afraid of Dracula when I had weathered far worse. It’s like the talking dinosaur thing. It just came out of nowhere.
After reading it, I was up all night with my fear while my boyfriend slept soundly. I couldn’t let myself fall asleep, because that’s when he gets you.
It was a long night.
At about 3:30 in the morning I had a dreadful realisation. I needed to go to the toilet. Badly. But I held it. I’m not a fool. Trips to the bathroom are prime opportunities for horror-monster ambushes. A bathroom trip would be more risky than falling asleep.
The situation became steadily more pressing, and when my bladder started hurting I was forced to reassess my options. I could only come up with one workable solution.
And he did.
He braved the house at night and stood guard outside the bathroom door while I peed.
Everyone needs someone like this in their lives. You need someone who does not judge or ask the wrong questions when something ridiculous happens. You need someone who just says “Ok.” This person can be a partner, family member or friend. Not everyone in your life needs to be like this, but you need someone. If you don’t have someone like this, you should consider engaging in a spot of friend shopping. Or maybe get a dog. Also, try and be this person for someone else (someone you trust not to take advantage).
I’m dead serious. It’s important. And I’ll explain why.
When the zombie apocalypse happens (and it will) I will go to my boyfriend and say: “The zombie apocalypse is happening! Pack all the tinned food you can find in the car. I’ll collect tools and cricket bats. We need to get out of the city before the roads are blocked with abandoned cars. Don’t forget the tin-opener!”
And he will say: “Ok.”
While we’re speeding out of town with a stash of food and weapons, all the people who went to the wrong friend with their evacuation plan will be on the receiving end of judgemental looks. They will be answering the question: “is this just some kind of silly joke?”
All the while, the roads will be getting more and more congested, and the zombie horde will be shuffling closer and closer.