Initiation to Horror

I have been drawn to horror films (and later on horror stories and novels) since my earliest memories. When I was a small child, I have trace recollections of spying a horror film advertisement on the television or sneaking a peak at a scary film playing on my parent’s television and experiencing the strange rush of adrenaline and repulsion that terror brought to bear on my tiny frame. The earliest memories of terrifying visions on film for me are the helicopter seen from Jaws 2 and the hospital nightmare sequences from An American Werewolf in London.

While I was allowed to watch Jaws 2 and likely Jaws at a very early age (Kindergarten) and for the first years of elementary school enjoyed watching Universal classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman. I had attempted to read classic horror literature like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at some point during first or second grade. In third grade, I eagerly purchased a copy of the novel Jaws and hoped to read it aloud to my classmates during story time. Oddly enough my teacher at the time agreed to this idea, and I was allowed to read a chapter or two to the class on a few occasions. I knew enough of the ways of the world that I censored myself while reading. When encountering curse words during these readings, I would substitue an alternative that was “safe” for my audience. I don’t recall the exact circumstances, but another student in my class whose first name was also John also had a copy of the book and wanted to rotate the readings with me. He wasn’t as cautious as me. During his first reading session, he read aloud the word damn and the teacher allowed the reading session to continue noting that it was all in the context of reading a story, but coincidentally enough we never had time to allow another reading, and I was annoyed that my classmate had not shared my good sense.

Although I was well along my way into exploring horror, I was not allowed to watch an R-rated film until Aliens first aired on HBO in 1986 or 1987 when I was 10 or 11. Years before then, many of my friends had seen early eighties slashers such as Friday the 13thA Nightmare on Elm Street, and Psycho II, but I had never been allowed to watch these films although their eerie VHS cassette cases at the local video store had always called to me with their soft siren sound when I visited with my parents. The video cover for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre although seemed to the creepiest to me. But it was Aliens that first broke the R-rating barrier for me. I have no idea what particular appeal convinced my parents, but somehow I managed to get there permission one night to watch Aliens all by myself in my bedroom.

I still remember both loving my first experiences of the film, how my pulse raced, the mounting tension as the film relentlessly moved towards to its harrowing climax, how I pulled my limbs in close so as not to leave an inch of exposed flesh to dangle off my bed for fear of the slightest possibility that one of the terrifying xenomorphs may have been lurking under my bed. This last fear was similar to the one that I experienced every time I watched Jaws or Jaws 2 when they aired on TV as happened every so often in those days. I never missed an opportunity to catch one of these films, but I always feared during and afterwards when going to sleep that a giant great white shark may have been lurking beneath the bed waiting to pounce and pull me under the imaginary waves surrounding my lonely bed. It is strange as an adult thinking about these fears when I consider that surely I had to know that these fears simply weren’t possible. I suppose it must  be like an amplified version of the irrational fears that even now can grip me as an adult: when sitting up all by myself late at night with all the lights turned out in complete eerie silence, I have on more than one occasion found myself run up the stairs with an irrational jolt of fear that something might be lurking around the corner even though my reason tells me otherwise and some piece of me giggles inwardly at the silliness of the reaction while also savoring the taste of my own fear.

I love the visceral nature of fear. It is like a fine wine meant to be savored slowly and in careful phases. When you fear, you are alive. I love horror. I love the increasingly rare film that can truly terrify me and the almost non-existent book that can do the same.

There are only 289 more days until Halloween…

Fun With Dog Vomit – Part I

So we had some friends over for dinner yesterday evening for dinner and games. As has been the case for several months now, we had a few dog toys laying around that my dog Perrin enjoys chewing and playing with from time to time.

One such toy is a Kong’s Genius Leo Treat Dispenser.

Perrin has had this toy for several months, and it showed now signs of wear or tear. At the first such sign that one of the chew toys is going the way of the dodo, we pick it up and throw it in the trash and then make a mental note to stop by the pet store at our earliest convenience and pick him up a new toy.

This toy is large. It’s roughly a foot in length, and at it’s widest point it is a little wider than my fist.

That why we and our guests were quite surprised to find that at some point in the evening between nine and eleven, Perrin had somehow managed to devour three quarters of the Kong toy while laying innocently under our dining room table (which also serves as our gaming table). We were rather alarmed.

We had had an earlier scare on Saturday as when we came home from our dinner outing, we found that Perrin had stolen a small picture frame from a book shelf and shredded it – cork back, wood frame, glass, and all – across our living room floor. We hastily tried to reassemble the glass shards and convinced ourselves that we had managed to account for 98% of the glass. Also, as we were handling the glass pieces we found that they were not that sharp and upon examining Perrin’s mouth we saw no signs of cuts. In addition, some online research suggested that we could afford to wait and see how he was. As it turned out, he was completely fine.

But we seem to have underestimated just how much Perrin wanted to go visit our vet Dr. Miller and even get reacquainted with the fine folks at the Cobb Veterinary Emergency Clinic.

So there we were as the clock hands approached eleven and our guests were calling it a night. Melinda had read some disturbing information online about the possibilities of consumed rubber getting blocked inside Perrin’s innards, and we determined that this time we couldn’t afford to wait until our vet opened in the morning, but instead we needed to rush off to the emergency vet. We packed up the tiny remains of the partially consumed Kong toy (now a pitiful thing the size of my fist instead of the grand source of hours of amusement that Perrin had known for months), and we each brought an eReader with us in anticipation of a long, unpleasant wait at the emergency clinic.

We arrived and mercifully there was only one other dog in the waiting room, and he wasn’t gravely injured – there were no severed limbs, no badly misplaced eyeballs dangling from their sockets, or similar horrors from the Kafkaesque treasures that sometimes await poor souls at odd hours of the night in either emergency clinics for pets or ones for  humans. Perrin was quickly ushered in and then we proceeded to wait by ourselves with Jimmy Kimmel on the tube and our smartphones in our hands. I immediately decided that my mind was too frazzled with worry to focus on anything like Anna Karenina. Instead, I browsed through my Google Reader and found an article on the economy of Vietnam to keep my mind occupied while we waited. I would occasionally glance at the TV in glazed amusement mixed with hopeful and fearful anticipation of the nurse coming at some point to invite us back to meet the vet.

When the time came, they led us to what seems to be the clinic’s only patient room. It’s the same room where over half a decade ago, we were given the grim news that our dog Bodie would need to be euthanized. It’s not a place with pleasant memories for us.

Presently, the doctor came in to tell us about Perrin’s condition. She was very friendly and not a note of gloom or doom dotted her eyes or streaked her kind face. She told us that they had given Perrin an injection and induced vomiting. In no time, he had vomited up a shocking amount of purple rubber toy chunks. Struck by a morbid curiosity, we agreed to allow the staff to show us the tray where they had collected the vomit and toy pieces. Like stunned characters in a murder mystery, we calmly identified the missing Kong carcass. I told myself silently that surely that was all of the toy…

To be continued…

Stabbing Oneself With a Fork

On New Year’s day, in the evening I was preparing some brownie à la mode for Melinda and me to enjoy. Melinda had made the brownies the night before and the remaining brownies were still in their pan. They had firmed up in the refrigerator and I was having some difficulty dislodging the last few pieces from where they had stuck to the sides of the glass pan. Despite a brief thought that what I was about to do might be a bad idea, I gripped the side with my left hand and tried to apply more force to the fork with my right hand.

Naturally, I slipped and jammed the fork into the palm of my left hand impaling one of its tips into the flesh. It hurt quite a bit, but fortunately the wound wasn’t very deep. No blood shot out, but it did start oozing a fair bit and required a bandaid. Today, it is a little sore if I accidentally push against it. Fortunately, it’s on my left hand which doesn’t see as much use as my right hand. Looking at it now, I wonder if it will leave a visible scar – perhaps a faint mark underneath the skin. If so, then it will be a mate for a similar wound scar on my right hand.

One day when I was in elementary school, I accidentally knocked my pencil off my desk and in my rush to reclaim it before it could fall, I actually managed to impale the pencil’s tip into my right hand as the pencil had rotated such that the tip was aimed skyward and the eraser was just making contact with the floor as my open palm accelerated towards the fallen object. I think that one bled a little more. It also left a little graphite in my hand so that to this day you can see the faint greenish spot underneath the skin.

In my mind’s eye as a child, this greenish mark on my hand transformed into the friendly gaze of a sperm whale whose mighty jaw was formed by my pinky and ring finger while it’s head was formed by the rest of my hand with my thumb flattened against the palm.

As there was no graphite on the offending fork and as I suspect that brownie would be readily broken down and absorbed by my body, I rather doubt to see years from now a twin green eye on my left palm. But perhaps there will be a scarred tiny patch where the fork entered. Or perhaps not. The skin above the green spot on my right palm doesn’t appear different from any other are of my hand.

What factors determine whether or not a particular injury to the skin will cleanly heal leaving no visible trace? Obviously, a large wound leaves a visible scar, but are there factors besides wound size involved? As fascinating a question no doubt as any ever raised, but that’s what you get when you ramble on in an attempt to write 500 words on the thinnest of materials in anticipation of not having much time later to produce anything better.