The Black Cat

When I was about twelve, I watched an episode of Charmed in which an entity called the Demon of Fear used a witch’s worst fear to scare her socks off.  And when I say, “scare her socks off,” I actually mean scare her to death.  Her hair would go white and she would die from a heart attack.

Although in that instance the white hair was pretty laughable, and I wasn’t positive why someone with a fatal fear of earthquakes would inhabit San Francisco, sometimes I reckon that fear-induced heart attack could happen to me.  I don’t want to take drugs.  However, if anything makes living clean a necessity it’s the strong suspicion that, if I took a paranoia-inducing substance, I’d get myself in such a fearful state I’d exhaust either my heart or my adrenal glands and keel over.  (Trivia: did you know you actually cannot survive without adrenal glands?)

I am an intensely paranoid person, and almost always over completely irrational things.  Anything supernatural weirds me out – especially anything involving ghost children.  The Ring truly traumatised me as a teenager.  Ten years on I can barely stand to sit in the living room after everyone else has gone to bed because I still get the heebie-jeebies thinking about it.  The Sixth Sense got me too, and I’ve seen enough screenshots of The Exorcist to want to steer clear.  The body bag in A Nightmare on Elm Street freaked me out too.  And the baby on the ceiling in Trainspotting.  Okay, that one wasn’t strictly horror, but it still was not pleasant.

It is for this reason that I have speculated upon my capacity to write horror fiction.  I do like the idea of it.  I’m just a big scaredy cat and worry I’ll get sucked into the darkest recesses of my mind and never pull myself back out.

This is one of the reasons I have been casually delving into the works of Edgar Allan Poe.  When I was in Year Nine, I remember having a great substitute teacher who got us to read The Black Cat.  As a result, I used the infinite power of the Kindle to bag a copy of Poe’s works for 77p or some similar crazy amount and began to mooch through a couple of his short stories.  (The other reason I was having a read is because I am adapting to the short story environment and was hoping for some guidance from one of the greats.)

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The Black Cat is fantastic.  Poe writes a narrator’s account of a series of strange coincidences – perhaps supernatural occurrences – in his life as he yields to a drinking problem and he allows his affection towards his loved ones to turn to abuse.  His beloved cat, which he kills, appears to be haunting him for his betrayal, and eventually it is another black cat who reveals his murder of his wife to the authorities.

I think what Poe’s works have made me realise is this: I prefer general eeriness to out-and-out terrifying scenes.  I thoroughly enjoy a subtler tone; something more psychological.  I’ve always been a fan of unexplained events or mysterious circumstances, like the Bermuda Triangle, tales of haunted buildings or unsolved murder cases.  As a kid I loved programmes like Are You Afraid of the Dark? and It’s A Mystery.

What I’m saying is, I’ll probably always be a wimp.  I’m never going to sleep after I watch some girl with a green complexion turn her head all the way around.  But, thanks to Poe, I am three pages into an eerie short story and feeling good about it.

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