Mama, there’s a monster under my bed…
My Better Half has been trying to persuade me to see The Babadook. For those of you not in the know, The Babadook is an Australian film about a single mother who, in the aftermath of her husband’s violent death, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house. Soon, she also senses a sinister presence and starts thinking her son may not be wrong about the Babadook after all. The film has garnered a string of five star reviews. “One of the strongest, most effective horror films of recent years!” claims Empire Magazine. The Guardian calls it a, “clever, nasty, clammily claustrophobic chiller.” “Terrifying!” says The Telegraph .
“It’s a must see,” says my Better Half. “We should go.”
“No way,” I reply. “Not in a million years.”
“Come on, it’ll be fun,” he says. Yes, I think to myself: fun for him as he watches me cower under my coat, scream out loud, or jump out of my seat. Or all three things at the same time. The thing is, while I’m attracted to the idea of watching a movie like that, in reality, I can think of nothing worse. I can’t pull myself away from the story. It’s like I’m there with the characters, living their story. As a result, I’m plagued by nightmares for days after.
And maybe this time around I don’t want to watch it because my three-year-old daughter has recently discovered monsters hiding in her room. Specifically, there’s one staking out under her bed. Every night she leaps onto her bed and under her quilt. You’re not allowed to read her a book until you are (safely) sitting beside her with your feet tucked under you so that the monster doesn’t eat them.
Before she goes to sleep we run through the following drill:
“Are you going to be in Mama’s-Papa’s room?”
“Yes, my little lamb,” I say. “Either that or I’ll be in the kitchen/living room/dining room.” (Delete as appropriate).
“Goody!” My daughter scrunches up her nose. “Can you leave the door open?”
“Yes, I think I can do that.”
“Oh thank you, Mama!” Her response makes me want to giggle, but I have to contain my laughter because she’s quite serious and gets cross if I laugh. Just as I get up to leave she whispers, “Mama?”
“Yes, my lamb?”
“Monsters will come into my room. And the one under my bed will come out and eat me. And there are wild animals too.”
“I don’t think so, my lamb.”
“Oh yes, Mama.” She pulls the quilt over her head. “So scary, so scary!”
“Shall we say a spell to protect you from the monsters and wild animals?” I say.
“Oh yes!” My daughter squeals with excitement as she emerges from under her quilt, her hair a mass of nutty professor curls. At the top of her voice she cries, “Abracadabra, zim zalah bim!”
And then she goes to sleep.
There’s fear and then there’s fear. I can’t remember how old I was when I first experienced that paralysis-inducing type terror. From about the age of five, I recall taking cover from my older brother when he threatened to clobber me over the head just for being his little sister. But I wasn’t afraid of him; I was more in awe of his brutishness. And besides, his antics paled when set against my sister’s pranks.
Like the time she and I were home alone. I must have been seven or eight years old. Back then, her bedroom was above the kitchen and noise often travelled up to her room and vice versa. It must have been winter as it was a blustery and drizzly day outside, and I was forced to play indoors on my own. Boredom soon hit me and I decided to seek out my sister in the kitchen. Too distracted by the sight of her freshly baked fruitcake sitting on the table, I forgot about my older sibling. Little did I know that she happened to be directly above me, in her room.
As she listened to me pottering around, an idea formulated in her head.
“Amna, I’m coming to get you!” Her words carried through the ceiling, sounding like an incantation hissed by someone more sinister than my big sister. The weather outside didn’t help matters either, with the wind rattling the window pane as if it was trying to break in. I stood stock still. Then my knees began to shake. “I’m coming, Amna, I’m coming!”
I screamed and burst into tears. But I couldn’t move. I called out for my sister but she didn’t reply. (She was upstairs, laughing uncontrollably). Eventually, I managed to prize my feet from the kitchen floor and scarpered to my own room where I hid under my bed. I stayed there until my parents returned, several hours later.
That’s the sort of prank I’m talking about. To this day, I don’t think I’ve quite forgiven her for what she did, and I do believe my sister’s the root cause behind my inherent jumpiness.
If I get scared so easily, then why have I written a ghost story? I’ve no idea, other than the fact that I wanted to write something that I would want to read. My Better Half says my choice of genre is a little ironic. Now and again he wonders how I’ve created something haunting. It’s different, I tell him, although I struggle to explain why. Perhaps it’s because I’m the one writing the story and I know what happens in the end. At the cinema I can’t censor what I see on the giant screen and I don’t have the power to switch on the lights to lessen the tension.
For those of you waiting for my novel to come out (the date by the way keeps moving – sorry! I want to ensure it’s as good as it can be), you can whet your appetite by reading this lovely collection of ghost stories written by a cohort of authors. It’s called 26 Ghosts. http://26ghosts.org.uk/category/stories/
Until next time!