“Hey, kid, why are you so into all this macabre shit?”
That’s what my uncle asked me two years ago just about this, the spookiest, time of year. It really struck me for two reasons: 1) it’s a very funny combination of words, and 2) wtf, for real @me “Why??”
Mostly people don’t ask me why I like spooky things, they just accept it when we meet. But my uncle’s known me my entire life, albeit on an off, so when we saw one another for the first time in many, many years, and I expressed so much excitement about ghosts and witches and the undead, he actually asked. And I didn’t have an answer.
So I’ve been thinking about it since then–yes, actually for two years–and I still don’t really have a good answer. I thought maybe there would be some triggering moment in my childhood or one aspect of Halloween that really dug its claws into me, but there seems to be no one thing. I’ve attempted an intro-spook-tion, if you will, but don’t get excited for a conclusion.
Halloween is, in many ways, the last bastion of imagination for adults. As an only child, I used my imagination a lot when I was kid.
And I didn’t really let it go when I grew up. I’m a big fan of “what if” now. It’s not a particularly useful characteristic when you’ve got anxiety (it actually might be a core component), but it does make life more interesting. My what ifs aren’t always “what if I trip in front of these strangers and am then forced to relive that moment of embarrassment every night before falling asleep for the rest of my life?” sometimes they’re “what if my pharmacist with the long blond hair and pronounced canines who always works evenings shifts is a vampire and is developing a pill to replace the vampiric need for blood?” or “what if when I go into this completely empty public restroom and all the sound is shut out I really have entered into another dimension and when I go back out I’m in a different *timeline?”
Halloween makes those what ifs not exactly possible but more people seem to entertain them in their own minds. So ultimately, I’m less weird for a short time every year, and that feels kinda nice.
Speaking of being a kid and also a total fucking weirdo, I’ve always had a strange relationship with my own emotions. I guess, really, everyone does, so maybe this isn’t unique, but I feel like I’ve been on this roller coaster my whole life where for a few months or years I was a complete slave to whatever my tiny mammal brain decided I was going to feel, and then there would be a span of time that I was so in control of my feelings that I would barely be able to experience them at all. I’ve come to find that throughout all that, fear has been the only constant. I can’t step back from it and analyze it. I can reason with myself when I’m feeling almost every other emotion, but fear happens to you in a way that the others don’t. Fear is sudden and, frankly, reliable.
And fear makes you forget everything else. You can’t worry about the distant future when you’re concerned with surviving the next ten seconds as you run up the stairs from the basement, you know?
But why ghosts and goblins and zombies and skellies? Honestly, no fucking clue, dude. The supernatural has always been such a draw to me. I guess I look at the world, and it’s so damn boring and like, I KNOW it’s just like how it is, right? I believe in science, I would like to believe there’s a cool place you go when you die or you get another chance at life, but I know logically that probably not (don’t get me wrong, I’m holding out hope, Dear Reader, I’m just sadly able to rationalize a lot of it away). But having these fun concepts and these things that people have believed in a feared across cultures and millennia as an active part of my life just feels…right?
Modern American life is so sterile. I don’t think this is necessarily bad, it’s actually great that things are clean, and we’re very aware of the way the world around us works, and yes I am incredibly privileged and lucky to be safe and healthy and surrounded by opportunity. But doesn’t that just all lend itself to a longing for something…mysterious? Something dark?
*I used to think I should come up with a code phrase to use with Husband for the timeline situation; however, I’ve figured that it’s quite likely the code word would be the same across most dimensions because if I am in an instance where I think I’ve fucked off into the wrong dimension, but it’s only a feeling and everything else appears to be the same, it would be INCREDIBLY coincidental that the only difference would be the code word which ultimately nullifies the code word.