FEAR THAT MAKES THE HEART BEAT FAST
I had a vivid nightmare—it involved a member of my nuclear family turned into a little person with a suction cup mouth. The mouth had tiny teeth around the inner rim. The family member was coming to hurt me and grab me with its little hands. I thought Why did he ever buy the new mouth? because I knew that installing that on his face was what had changed everything. And I had to go up a narrow tower staircase and close a trap door behind me.
I woke up raining sweat. I was literally vibrating. The feeling of authentic fear was also a kind of exhilaration. Related to the feeling of having escaped.
(Is there a word, perhaps a German word, for the vertigo one feels when waking up from a dream and realizing it wasn’t real? That is, the terrible disappointment of waking from a dream of finding millions of gold doubloons buried just under the dirt of your back yard and realizing you’re still broke—or the glorious relief of waking from a nightmare of losing limbs or being humiliated, only to realize it never happened—or the guilty rush of waking from a dream of murder to think: Whoa… I got away with it. Because I’ve had all of those.)
I realized I hadn’t had that feeling in a long time—hadn’t had a nightmare that felt so real it scared me. I saw my heart beating fast through the skin of my chest. People pay money for that feeling. Then I realized I hadn’t been scared, genuinely scared like with a quickened heart rate, by a book or a film in recent memory.
Do you lose that susceptibility as you age (and read/watch more)? Because I know it happened to me more often as a young reader. Off the top of my head I tried to make a list of Shit that Actually Scared Me:
Shit That Actually Scared Me
- The Between, Tananarive Due
- Ghost Story, Peter Straub
- The Bridesmaid, Ruth Rendell
- House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
- The House on the Borderland, William Hope Hodgson
- Teatro Grottesco, Thomas Ligotti
- Helter Skelter (nonfic), Vincent Bugliosi
- The Shining, Kubrick
- Night of the Living Dead, Romero
- El Orfanato, Juan Bayona
- Wait Until Dark, Terence Young
- Paperhouse, Bernard Rose
- The opening of Rubber Johnny, Chris Cunningham
I wish I could think of more, or find new ones. I want to see my heart beating fast through the skin of my chest.