Horror and Hugs

If I want to watch a horror movie, I have to wait until everyone’s either in bed or away from home. When one of these two conditions is met, then I have to search carefully for a movie that’s worth watching: so many are compromised by poor acting, or they rely too heavily on special effects, or they peaked in their previews so there’s no good material left unseen in the actual film. So many commit the fatal error of showing too much; the terror’s in what you can’t see. For any number of reasons, really, it’s difficult to find a solid, truly scary movie, one that fulfills its implied promise, thereby making you afraid to enter dark rooms or look into mirrors. And I can’t leave out the real terror: feeling like I’ve wasted a precious hour-and-a-half. Generally, for me these days, watching a horror movie at all is a precarious endeavor.

Last night, however, the fates aligned, it would seem. Everyone was in bed. I had roughly an hour-and-a-half before I’d start falling asleep upright in my chair, and I already knew of a couple of titles I wanted to try. Scrolling my list on Netflix, I settled on I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, a film with mediocre reviews but that I’m curious about anyway. The dark, opening screen appeared, accompanied by a spooky-sounding female narrative voice-over; the ghostly image of a standing girl in-profile, translucent, slowly glided backward across the screen, her face leaving a spectral smear of ectoplasmic mist; a baby cried out. What? Yeah, a baby. My daughter was awake and nearly distorting the monitor in the kitchen with the intensity of her crying. This was no couple of cries and then back to sleep; she was awake-awake, and from the sound of it, hungry. Being the one of her parents still conscious, it was only right that I get her (though I was tempted to linger in the hope her mother would get there first).

Her face was puffy and red from the crying, and from having just awakened. Her eyes squinted tight as I moved from the bedroom to the lamp-lit living room. The cries quickly tapered to nothing. I wiped and kissed her cheeks, snuggling her against my chest. For the briefest moment, she rested her head on my shoulder. Then she raised her face to mine and smiled, wielding a power I’m sure she’ll always have–the power to absorb my attention fully. In an instant, none of my movie-watching plans even mattered.

Alan D. Tucker, MA
Content Writer, Essayist, & Novelist

 

 

 

 

 

 

***New feature! Subscribe to Excitable Mind!

Temperature of Fear: Attack of the March Hares

The stuff of nightmares.

Before sunrise this morning, there was a briskness which I breathed deeply. It reminded me of fall. Late fall, to be exact. Maybe even post-Halloween, when temperatures surprise you with their lowness. The kinds of temps which, in Tennessee, one doesn’t expect until December. I worried my flannel-shirt-and-hoodie combo wouldn’t be enough, but I also knew the temperature was going to rise at least twenty degrees, and I was only going to be outside from the garage to the car.

When I rounded the back-left corner of my RAV4, moving to the side where no light from the house reaches, a pale sliver of white—incorporeal-seeming in the pre-dawn black—scurried off soundlessly down the grassy alley formed by ours and our neighbor’s fences. It was as if a fuzzy rectangle of moonlight had freed itself from the ground and broken into a full sprint. I decided it must be a rabbit. We know they’ve birthed at least two litters in the backyard, if nests found while mowing count as evidence. Once on a separate night, I walked out into the backyard and was startled, as something apparently alive shot off in a blur from the shadows behind my boys’ swingset. This, too, had to have been a rabbit.

The odd thing, however, is that despite all evidence these dark encounters were with rabbits, I still felt that little rush of a touch with the unknown, because I couldn’t see them well enough to make a positive identification. On both occasions, all I could sense were fast movements and pale blurs. Perhaps a primordial fear of the supernatural tried to overcome my good sense, but I resisted it by telling myself they were only rabbits. Or perhaps the unseasonably cold temperature had me in a spooky frame of mind, mentally somewhere in the vicinity of Halloween, which is a place I tend to hang out anyway.

Alan D. Tucker, MA
Content Writer, Essayist, & Novelist

Hiking up a Mountain, Which Sits atop a Famous Cave

Cardwell CollageHalf-an-hour or so after noting that this particular hike, taken on a chilly early-March morning, may be the quietest one I had yet experienced in Middle Tennessee, a vicious rumbly roar issued from an indefinite distance.  This was not an animal’s roar.  It was manmade–the product of explosives.  The big sound shook me from my reverie, and I searched for its source.  Through an opening in the bare-branched canopy I watched a wide cloud of gray-brown smoke disperse upward off a faraway hillside and take slow flight on the breeze.  A dynamite explosion, perhaps, for some mining or quarrying process, was my first assumption.  Unexpected outbursts often startle, but in this wooded sanctuary, it was plain unnerving.  After a period of bemusement, there was nothing to do but trudge onward.

 

An ominous air had already insinuated itself upon the morning, beginning when, en route to the trailhead, I turned onto a narrow, shoulderless two-laner named Dark Hollow Road.  It seemed the kind of remote rural backroad that has some grim legend attached, the details of which the locals are familiar but outsiders are regrettably unaware.  Once on the trail, the total absence of other hikers lent its own eerie charm to the labyrinthian limestone, and a fresh, sizable set of canine pawprints, big as my forefoot, was a nice touch.  I measured a print at four-and-a-half inches long, which is well within range of a mature wolf’s.  The tracks may have belonged to a large, friendly dog, but being in a spooky frame of mind, I was picturing a red wolf that had migrated west from the Smoky Mountains, hunting these very woods.  All of this just adds to the enjoyment of a solitary hike, however.  These dangers are mostly imaginary and provide the same brand of innocent thrills one may experience on a trek through a haunted forest during the Halloween season.

 

Later, having lunch on the mountain, in a sublime natural amphitheater made of enormous boulders, the earlier disruption was becoming a memory.  Peace had been restored.  Buzzards circled overhead, their shadows crossing the ground endlessly before me–yet another spooky element.  But in spite of these things that may seem scary to the imagination, the very real and present danger seemed to be the explosion that had occurred that morning.  It carried a violence that the backroads and rocks and wolves and buzzards did not.  A question came to mind:  Is this progress?  Is this the way to steward the earth’s resources?  It feels like a perversion of stewardship.  It seems that as our kind advances with its technology, the goal should be to come into harmony with nature, not to destroy it in an attempt to take what it does not readily give.

 

It is naive to think we have reached a place in our collective journey where we are ready to stop taking resources from the earth.  But maybe there is a better way to do it than by blowing up vast tracts of wilderness.  Maybe a mind more technical than mine already has the solutions, and maybe those solutions will plod through the muck of bureaucratic special interests and come to light before our wild places disappear completely.  Maybe.

...having lunch on the mountain, in a sublime natural amphitheater made of enormous boulders...
…having lunch on the mountain, in a sublime natural amphitheater made of enormous boulders…