Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Afraid of the Dark

I had a very unpleasant experience this morning. Back track, though, to what started it. Yesterday afternoon I went to see a movie. It was an action film, and not a particularly great one, but good enough for a matinee. One of the previews, however, was kind of a shocker. At first it was just a home video of two little girls playing in the backyard of a ordinary American home, one jumping on the trampoline, the other hanging around the edge of it. The dad who was taking the video was trying to get the girl on the ground to smile when suddenly the picture changed. It was a brief flash, not enough for me to see what the new picture was. It went right back to the home video footage, but it was fast, dark and disturbing. It turned the back yard and the home video and everything else sinister. Then the dark disturbing music began and rapid flashes of sinister images. I covered my ears and closed my eyes, but there were two things I remember from the rest of the preview. First was the quote, “I don’t remember. We didn’t know what it was, we just knew it thrived on fear. The more we paid attention to it, the stronger it got.”

The second was a long scene of the two little girls playing around in the bathroom. They had a camera set up to look in the mirror, and they turned the lights off so all you could see was the power indicator light from the camera. Then they said the phrase, “Bloody Mary” three times together, and waited to see what would happen. It turned out the older one had set it up as a prank on the younger one because she had a flashlight and after a couple of seconds she turned it on so it lit just the lower part of her face and yelled. Of course the younger girl screamed and then laughed, but as the flashlight swung around the bathroom, and they chased each other out the door, for a split second you could just make out a tall female figure standing in the dark behind them. It was nothing more than a silhouette with long, tousled hair hanging all around its head, but when I saw it (I had opened my eyes) three thoughts immediately crossed my mind. First was, “Saw that coming.” Then I thought, “That’s a really cheap, simple, and powerful movie effect.” Then I said ruefully to myself, “Well, that’s going to keep me awake tonight.” Apparently it was the trailer for Paranormal Activity 3. I haven’t seen the first two, and what do you know? Looks like I’m going to plan on never seeing the third one either.

Fast forward through to about 3:45 this morning. Thus far I hadn’t even thought about the movie. Then I woke up, hot and thirsty and with two hours before the alarm went out. Usually I just use the bathroom, drink some water, and go back to sleep. Unfortunately, as I lay back down something kicked that scene, with the tall lady standing in the background, into the front of my mind. It was not a pleasant thought. The window was a little open, but the air outside was humid and still. The air conditioning was turned way up, and I always have trouble sleeping when it’s hot. Ideally I like it to be in the sixties or I just can’t get comfortable. I’ve slept outside in sub-freezing weather, and in 90+ weather. I would pick sub-freezing for sleeping any day.

So there I was, trying to sleep and being unable to. Every time I opened my eyes I was scanning the room for a tall, ragged female shape, and every time there was a noise outside the window I keyed in on it like a cat. Now, I don’t usually have night fears. I operate in the dark all the time, and usually it gives me a feeling of being at an advantage. But every once in a while I’ll have a night like that, where for some reason it just feels like there is disembodied fear in the air. Nothing to do about it, but just endure it.

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