Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 31: Dragging Chains, Ghosts, Nightmares

This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it seemed an hour.  The bells ceased as they had begun, together.  They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine-merchant's cellar.  Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.

The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.

A terrifying little moment preceding the appearance of Jacob Marley's ghost at the beginning of A Christmas Carol.  Charles Dickens knew how to play upon the fears of his readers.  For me, there's nothing more frightening than this scenario:  knowing some unseen threat/creature/force is coming to get you.  Scrooge has to sit in his dusty room, listening to the approach of Marley with growing dread.  For me, it's the literary equivalent of hearing the theme from Jaws, knowing that the shark is somewhere in your vicinity.  DA-DUM.  DA-DUM.  DA-DUUUUMMMMM.

Fear comes in many shapes and sizes.  There's the faceless fear demonstrated in the above passage.  I would call that fear of the unknown, one of my particular specialties.  Then there's more tangible (still irrational) phobic fears:  rats, spiders, lightning, Nicholas Sparks novels, Justin Bieber songs.  Another kind of fear is generated by watching scary movies or reading scary books.

My daughter has been suffering from the latter these last few nights.  It seems my older sister thought it was a great idea to watch a film about demon possession with my daughter last Friday.  Since Sunday, my daughter has appeared at the foot of my bed, begging me to come sleep with her because of nightmares.  Last night was the first night of uninterrupted sleep I've had in four days.  I'm tired.

Yup, I grew up watching stuff like this
I'm not against horror movies or books.  Quite the contrary.  I grew up watching the British Hammer horror films in all their blood-drenched glory.  I was weaned on Stephen King novels, from Carrie onward.  I even read the loathsome Firestarter.  I am a fan of this brand of fear.  It's harmless and fun.  If you're a teenager or adult.  Not an eleven-year-old girl who's into ballet.

There's really no point to this little diatribe.  Fear happens.  Whether ghosts in the wine-merchant's cellar or bill collectors pounding on your front door, we all are afraid of something.  I have an entire wing of fears in my psyche, the largest room reserved for the Ghost of Change Yet to Come.  Fear can be healthy and useful (gun-wielding muggers  and rabid dogs and clowns), or fear can be limiting and detrimental (new jobs or new people or new chocolate bars).   Fear eventually drives Scrooge to become a new person:  kind and generous and good-humored.

Today, fear is driving Saint Marty to a two-liter of Diet Mountain Dew.

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