I’m not much for self-analysis. Stuff happens, I deal with it. Why it happens is of no real consequence – how I deal with it is all that has ever mattered to me.
Lately I have been forced into self-analysis and frankly, I’m a weirdo. I seem so sweet and harmless and then I write stories of terror and despair. I have occasionally wondered though, why it is that the scariest of my tales have no death in them. Three in particular have characters who don’t even get bruised.
What could have inspired me to put such terror into the mundane?
I have been in discussion with CynaraeStMary about Dr. Who often. She is a recent convert while I have watched since it started in 1963. The Daleks were an early event, I think in the second ever episode and they didn’t scare me at all. Others have told me they hid behind the sofa when the Daleks came on but really? Bumpy talking dustbins armed with a sink plunger and a bent wire coat hanger? Scary?
They were impressive though, and they remain so. The first truly alien monsters. Not just someone in a suit.
Incidentally, all the Dalek problems were caused by the Doctor. When he first found them they were in a city on Skaro and couldn’t leave. They were powered through the floor like Dodgem cars and were quite content to be evil in their own little place. It was the Doctor who let them know there was a universe of time and space to conquer.
But no, they weren’t scary. Neither were the Cybermen. The ones I found scary were the Autons.
The Autons hid as shop window dummies then came to life and started killing, for no apparent reason other than that is what Autons do. They were there, in the high street, when we little kids went shopping with our mothers. They weren’t like the Daleks or Cybermen, fictional things that could not be real. There they were, staring with blank eyes through shop windows. At any moment they might start moving…
I think it was the Autons who inspired the scariest of my tales. The Hand that Feeds, The Beer Monster, One Stop after Marchway, Telephone Pest, A Christmas Contract… the ordinary and everyday made into something more, something monstrous.
Just like those shop dummies coming to life. Give the reader something real to fear, something they see every day, and you have the gateway to some really dark imaginings.
Oh sure, there’ll always be a place for the demons and the ghosts but those are easily laughed off at bedtime. Not so the twists and turns of a half-seen reality.
Look back at that clothed mannequin. Is it in exactly the same position it was when you last looked? Has it turned its head towards you, just a little? Did its hand rise or its arm turn a tiny bit? No?
Are you sure? Really, definitely sure?
It’s not the monsters that are the effective part of the scary story. It’s the uncertainty. The possibility that maybe, just maybe, it could be real.
The tiniest possibility that maybe I’m not making it up.
I am, though. Probably.