Fraidy Cat

Memories, circa 1995.

I had an “overactive imagination” that fed ravenously on anything mysterious or taboo.

I was morbidly fascinated by the true-crime and conspiracy programs my dad would watch late at night.  I’d sneak out of bed and get a peek of the television; wide-eyed, I’d take mental notes about potential warning signs:  creepy white guys and alien tracks were at the top of my list.  Did you know that a distinctive stone is produced in the spot where an alien falls to the ground?

(I just tried Googling “alien leaves stone on ground where it falls on its butt” to find the original clip on Youtube.  No luck.)

I would get a cold thrill when I heard the dramatic music of America’s Most Wanted.  John Walsh’s composed newscaster-like persona told sinister murder stories with a detached, factual demeanor that totally creeped me out.  I was haunted by the composite sketches and mugshots they’d display at the end of every dramatized murder re-enactment.

Immediately thereafter, I’d run to the bay window overlooking our front yard and rip open the heavy curtains to look outside.  All I would see was the same orange streetlight glow reflecting off car windshields.  Quiet suburbia.  A little too quiet, if you asked me.

Thus was born the conspiracy-driven investigative fixation of my childhood.

I was ever-vigilant, on the lookout for crazed murderers in our suburban cul-de-sac.  I also set intricate traps in my bedroom to thwart potential extra-terrestrial room invaders.  Webs of yarn strung like a spiderweb, marbles on the carpet to make an intruder slip and fall, my toys placed with painstaking precision so I’d spot any slight disturbance or irregularity in their arrangement.  The only intruders I ever caught were my poor parents trying to tuck me in.

§

Fast-forward to adulthood.

I’m a notorious fraidy cat.  I don’t enjoy watching horror films, or any media with extreme, graphic violence.  However, I’m still fascinated by grisly stories, true-crime cases, and creepy unsolved mysteries.

Hearing a true scary story around a campfire is way creepier than watching fictional dramatized storytelling on a big screen.  A mental image is vibrant enough, and even more terrifying than someone’s attempt to visualize a “scary” image.  Our imagination fills in the dark cracks with those terribly personal innermost fears, those secret things that take hold of us in our nightmares.  Our own intimate fear triggers that make our pulse quicken and give us chills when we’re alone in the dark of night.

As for me, I don’t set alien traps or supervise neighborhood surveillance anymore.  But I always lock my doors, keep my eyes open, and take an extra cautionary peek over my shoulder.  Just in case.

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