I just went outside for my last smoke of the day.
The farm is scary in the dark. Soundless. It’s poetic, almost, in how many cliches of spookiness it possesses: shadows cast by ravenous moon beams, a pale dusty mist that hangs on the air, the chicken coops rearing among the nettles. An owl hoots. Wind rustles the grass. I gulped nervously and stepped down the three rickety wooden planks that comprise the front steps to tread the track towards the stable block. Chair. Roof. Smoke in safety.
I survived the walk. Took my seat, relieved. Retrieved my lighter from the dressing gown pocket. Put the torch (in the absence of my currently broken phone) in the cup holder slot, whose wide mesh provides a pleasant optical ambience, casting giraffe patterns onto the concrete. Lit up, the torch and the smoke.
What-ho? A sound!
‘Buckle up, prick,’ said my brain. ‘We’re going on an adventure.’
Chest tight, shoulders up, breathing shallow and fast, eyes wide, palpitations, pallor, light sweating, mild shakes/tremors in hands and bouncing leg. My brain appears to be piloting the whole vessel for this…adventure.
An infrequently discussed element of this disorder – at least, my experience of it – is the rapid and immediate inflation of fear. One rustle amongst all the Things That Can Rustle that are stored in the stable block – there are many things that can rustle in the stable block, it’s currently miscellaneous storage space – one rustle, and it is any or a combination of these things: (this is a non-exhaustive list, only mentioning the things that spooked me tonight)
All of these are exacerbated by darkness. It’s not as bad in daylight.
- the ghosts of Miss Jessel, Peter Quint or the governess from Henry James’s 1898 novel The Turn of the Screw. I’m very afraid that although I got a distinction for that essay, I have angered the fictional spirits in my scholarly cynicism.
- Satan himself. The one. The big fella. Just hanging out in the stable block, behind the wardrobe. (Horses haven’t lived in this stable block for a while.) My brain seems secure in the knowledge that the stable block is the devil’s personal hide out spot.
- the bland disappointment I experienced after watching the first half hour of Thirteen Reasons Why becoming more and more overpowered by the glitching memory repetition of the youtube video I had foolishly watched before pressing play on the pilot. (I thought it would desensitise me if I watched the end before the beginning. That, folks, was a terrible idea.)
- Any sort of hand, noose, or other groping/grabbing/reaching/trapping sort of experience. There is something in there. And it waits.
- Sheep heads.
- This one chilling image that has Stuck me ever since I watched The Episode of Neil Gaiman’s Likely Stories. I won’t describe it. I watched the episode once, in early Autumn last year. It has been months. The image was on screen for 0.2 seconds. I see that bastard in the dark and in my dreams. It wasn’t even that bad. Conscious Bailey is able to laugh and say it looks like a badly photoshopped picture of Trump, which I suppose it did. Orange. Unnerving. Hello, Mr President. The episode was also narrated by Johnny Vegas, generally known for his comedic career more than acting skills, which should evaporate any fears about the episode. But as soon as the sun goes down, the image goes back to the Bone Chilling Paranoia Driven Limb Paralysing Terror that has stuck since I saw That One Shot. (It’s a great show, watch it, it’s really good honestly I enjoyed all of it apart from that 0.2 seconds)
There was a sound.
I shone the torch beam into the darkness. The sound stopped.
Perplexing. (The fear pot kicked up to boil.)
The sound resumed. A rustling. Soft, subtle. Calculated.
I shone the torch beam into the darkness. On top of the wardrobe is a mattress. In front of the mattress laterally (to me in my chair) is a white board mounted on a skeletal wooden structure. Behind the whiteboard longitudinally (to me in my chair) is a wooden palette on the floor that forms the platform for boxes, boxes and boxes of Assorted Junk and/or Crap. Surrounding these boxes are, astonishingly, more piles of assorted junk and/or crap. It’s claustrophobic in the stable block when I’m the only person in there.
Shadows from atop the mattress slithered back into the larger outline. The fear pot bubbled and spilled.
I never felt the idea of sleep evacuate from my thoughts so quickly.
Again I shone the torch beam into the darkness. Swept over every box, every chair, every toolkit, every perceptible outline to get a clearer view of my company.
A familiar sound. Rustling. …claws.
A faint meow.
‘Hi, kitty,’ I said. ‘Thank fuck,’ said the fragile foundations of my mental state.