For the last thirty minutes, I have systematically put myself into a state of exceptional terror. This is what happens when a vivid imagination is bored, anxious, and mildly startled.
No one else is on the homestead tonight, we have no neighbors in shouting distance.
Just outside the front door, I heard one of the cats have a very brief fight – a couple of yowls, a few growls, then silence.
Concerned for my feline friend, Jasper, I turned on the very dim front light and opened the door, calling him quietly. Nothing in reply. Crickets and tree frogs continued their conversations without pause.
I closed that door, and went to the kitchen door where Jasper usually lurks, and cries for me to come out and pet him, and makes me feel just horribly guilty for not being able to accommodate every single second of every single day.
I called him again through the screen door, and began to open it… but developed a very strong, very weird feeling and stopped. I listened. The symphony of night stopped. One lone frog gave a half-hearted croak and fell silent.
A moment later, I heard what sounded like two heavy footsteps in the lava rock mulch right around the corner from the door. I closed it, locked both locks. Locked both locks on the front door. Locked the sliding glass door. Closed all the drapes as closed as they would go. Fretted about the gaps.
Performing fear-based tasks such as these tend to reinforce one’s sense of paranoia. “My God, I’m locking the doors, there must really be something out there, this isn’t something I’ve ever done before, what in hell is going on? Ok, better safe than sorry in cases like this. “Cases like WHAT?!” “I DON’T KNOW, SHUT UP AND BE VIGILANT.”
A stronger, very bad feeling. Situational awareness felt insanely acute.
Got my bear spray canister. Desperately wished I had a firearm. Turned off the computer monitors, the only source of light in the house. Crept to the stairwell and sat there, halfway up. and began listening.
Here’s where the actually scary stuff comes in – in my head: This is what it’s like to live in my brain.
I sat, still as a stone, breathing slowly and silently, listening. My pupils were expanding wide enough to make out a few things in the minuscule light cast by LEDs in two power strips upstairs. My insane imagination began to work:
- It’s a prowler, just looking for an easy score. Everything is locked up, if he takes the bikes, they’re insured. He’ll move on, you’re fine.
But what if he breaks in?
You’ve got your bear spray.
What if I get it all over me and am equally incapacitated?
Fair point. Don’t do that.
Ok, but what if he’s on PCP and doesn’t even notice the bear spray?
Well, then you’re fucked, aren’t you. Also, PCP? Seriously? What is this, the 70’s?
- A few moments pass…
- Remember the scene where the T-Rex busts into the wooden outhouse in Jurassic Park?
Of course I do, everybody does.
Isn’t this house made out of wood?
[Image of T-Rex bursting into stairwell fills my brain. Vividly.]
Oh COME ON. Be serious.
Shh, listen. Do you feel that?
- [A few thumps on the roof.]
Probably acorns – we have those here, right? Probably.
OR IT’S RATS.
I’m not even afraid of rats.
Oh yeah? What about rabid rats with brains the size of Camaros. That have opposable thumbs.
Are you being serious right now?
- Alright, so it’s a monster – some kind of werewolfy, black-furred, scraggly, red-eyed, growly, toothy beast that’s as strong as an ox and easily bursts through the sliding glass door.
…Ok, you have my attention…
It can smell you and hear you anywhere you go, it can even sense the heat of your body. You can’t hide, and you’re halfway upstairs. You know what’s upstairs? NO WAY TO GET DOWNSTAIRS WHEN A MONSTER IS ON THE STAIRS, that’s what.
[nervously]… Go on…
Let’s say you somehow manage to jump through a window down to the ground without breaking your ankle, then where do you go?
I get in the car!
THE CAR IS LOCKED. Where’s the key? That’s right, inside the house. Oh look, the monster just broke through the window and you’re being torn to shreds and eaten.
[heart pounding] This is terrifying. [I remove the bear spray’s trigger safety.]
It’s not supposed to be a guided meditation up in here. Ok, it bursts through the door, and…
Ok, I trick it! I turn on the TV in the upstairs bedroom…
The TV that’s not plugged in?
I plug it in! Then turn it on as a decoy and when the monster goes past me to the obvious target, I run downstairs and over to Mary’s house and lock the door.
The door that’s just like the one that thing broke through as if it were balsa wood. It runs up the stairs, pauses ever so briefly to break down that door, too, and begins consuming your entrails while you scream into the lonely darkness.
[The dogs begin barking their heads off]
I’ll run in with the dogs! There are five of them, surely…
The dogs that are terrified of your stationary, inert motorcycle.
SHUT UP, they’re different when threatened.
The dogs that sing with the coyotes.
If you say so. It kills the dogs first, and then kills you. Happy?
NOT THE DOGS. Can we please be scared to death in another way? Please?
- So a T-Rex bursts through the wall
YOU ALREADY DID THIS ONE. It was more effective when I was six. Or thirteen.
- A giant Anaconda escaped from … oh, from somewhere irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, it’s 27 feet long and has just pushed its way through the screen of the open kitchen window. It is, at this moment, slithering toward you, flickering its tongue which is roughly the size of Florida deliberately, seeking you out, sensing you hiding here in the dark. It doesn’t give a fuck about the dark. You know who can’t see in the dark? That’s right, YOU can’t. It could be right in front of you, coiled to strike, and you’d never know it was coming. It would grab you by the face, teeth sinking into your skull, wrap itself around you more quickly than you can fathom, and squeeeeze. Every time you struggled or exhaled, it would get tighter, tighter, until you feel your ribs popping, and your arms breaking and then you don’t care anymore because you couldn’t breathe anyhow with a snake mouth over your face, so you’re dead. Again. You’re that long, vaguely human-shaped lump in a big-assed snake. Creepy, right?
You are SUCH an asshole. Next?
- An elite squad of a paramilitary group has mistaken you for someone important and dangerous…
Ha, if they only knew.
HEY, T-REX!! Ha ha, just kidding. Anyhow, they have infrared and microwave and so on, and sniper rifles, and it would be so very easy to just pick you off right through these walls. Ok, this isn’t even fair, you’re of no use here. Well, what would the boyfriend do?
BOYFRIEND would have already killed these motherfuckers. With, like, a shoe. And he would’ve left me with a shotgun. And a machete. And probably some napalm. As well as a plastic cup, whose genius purpose would only become clear the moment it was needed.
Fair point. Moving on, then.
- Land-dwelling great white sharks have…
That’s not even fair.
- ERIN, GET YOUR PISTOL!
Real-life situations aren’t cool.
Sorry, for real this time. T-Rex?
Thanks, not bad.
I don’t think I’m up for Grizzly Bear right now.
- It’s surely been long enough now, nothing and no one is coming.
They only want you to think that. They’re patient – unlike Little Miss AntsyPants here. You move and BOOM! Snake. Or sociopathic serial killer, your choice.
How about no. Just… no. I’m going to go write down this completely insane chain of thoughts before I forget.
Pff – “forget.” As if these things aren’t going to haunt your nightmares for, like, 17 years. I’m just that good.
Tragically, yes; yes, you are.
Oh, you are not.
I snuck carefully toward the computer, only tripping over something in the dark three times in the span of 15 feet. The “Mission: Impossible” theme quietly played in the back of my mind, mixed with the womp-womp trombone.
I kid you not, I knelt in front of my desk, waiting for a good 30-45 seconds to make sure my movements hadn’t triggered a stealthy attack. I flipped on one monitor and ducked, all ears. Nothing moved. A small thump on the roof. Acorn.
Slowly, I moved up onto the chair, still gripping the live bear spray canister. The house creaked. Suddenly, nothing happened. Nothing continued to happen for sufficient time that I began typing and completely forgot all about the perceived reality of the story I was getting written down.
Then, a distinct thump on the patio.
FOR FUCK’S SAKE, SERIOUSLY?
I pretended not to hear it, unceremoniously got ready for bed, climbed under the sheets… made sure the bear spray was right next to the bed… and listened to the cacophony of my heart pounding and blood racing. I could feel every capillary in my body, every cell was in total fight-or-flight mode. Of course, neither fight nor flight would save me, because the sound was actually…
[…and so begins another endless loop of self-torment.]
What do you do when the enemy is inside your own mind? No hiding from that. No bear spray fends off the brain weasels as they burrow deeper, getting good and comfy, writhing and biting, digging and chewing, scraping and clawing.
“Meditation,” some will say, “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” others will murmur gently. The brain weasels chuckle, genuinely amused. “Yoga?” Oh, sweetiebabyhoneychild, you are aDORable. Brain weasels are as old as time and are as inexorable as the tides. They ebb and they flow by their own rules, and are swayed by no other law.
This is how we develop tics. This is how we begin talking to ourselves aloud without noticing and become That Lady. This is how it begins. The descent.