Isn’t it weird how perfectly ordinary, everyday things can, given the right setting or the right conditions, end up being the things that creep the bejesus out of us? I mean, think about it. How many of us have been creeped out in the dark of night in our own bedroom after stopping for a reckless nanosecond to contemplate the possibility that the shadowy shape by the closet door might not be our dressing gown after all but a fluke-mouthed soul sucker in search of a midnight snack?
I started thinking about this the other day, and I was startled to realize how many mundane things, either individually or in combination with other mundane things, hurl me headlong into a full-bore heebie-jeebie mode. A lot more than three, that’s for sure. And it’s a good thing, too, because don’t each of those heebie-jeebies moments contain within them the spark of an unborn story? Aren’t these the stuff of Ray Bradbury’s “dark attic,” that fear-sodden source of a writer’s best material?
I’m taking Ray Bradbury’s advice and trying to coax down some of the Things “at the top of the stairs in [my] own private night.” So far I’m looking at things that creep me out rather than terrify me. Baby steps, you know. These are three items from the “whoa! creeps me out!” section of my writing notebook:
- Men with red, self-satisfied faces and bleary eyes who reek of Old Spice and stale alcohol sweat. If I’ve just described you, (a) sorry about that, and (b) let’s not get together in person any time soon.
- People who smack their lips and make a lot of wet noises when they eat. Extra creep-out cred if they dribble food sauces down their chin in the process and/or manage to get food all over their hands. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking there’s a big difference between grossed out and creeped out, and this sounds a lot more like the former. It isn’t, though. This is genuine creep out. I don’t know whether it’s because the wet and sloppy eating thing conjures memories of Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie moments that I wish I’d never had a chance to bond with, or whether it’s just some atavistic horror of being eaten alive that kicks in, but whatever it is, it’s creepy to the power of lots.
- People who wear blue, semi-transparent rain ponchos over backpacks. Especially if they’re also wearing baseball caps and walk with a slight stoop. I know. Weirdly specific, isn’t it? It’s not like any one of those things by itself is enough to creep me out. I have no issues with rain ponchos of any colour regardless of whether they’re transparent or opaque. People with stoops don’t worry me. And, let’s face it, if I were creeped out by baseball caps, I’d never be able to leave my house. Throw all those elements together, though, and I’m starting to wonder which specific body parts that psycho has stashed away in that backpack.
So, how about you? What creeps you out? And, if you’re a writer, does the creep out factor grab you around the neck and drag you headlong into story?