I wish the Twilight trilogy had come out when I was a kid. That way, I could have read about vampires and scoffed at these pale pathetic beings. I could have gone to bed to dream of sugar, spice and rainbow-shitting unicorns.
But no. My childhood was pre-Twilight; before Stephenie Meyers managed to dig deep into the recesses of her lack of imagination to create characters that would forever shred all vampiric street cred and turn them into immortal objects of derision.
Before Meyers, there were real writers who didn’t shame the horror genre. They were called Anne Rice and Stephen King. I read their books and watched a young Kiefer Sutherland in Lost Boys and my innocent little brain kept all the images to unleash them before my eyes at night. My imagination, as with most children, was overactive, and gorging it on terrifying books and movies certainly did not help.
Remember in Science class when they told us plants and people compete for oxygen at night and that’s why you shouldn’t sleep with a potted plant in the room? I used to imagine waking up a shriveled gray mass of skin and bone, while a fat grinning cactus sat on my windowsill, thriving off of my oxygen and singing songs from Little Shop of Horrors.
My mind was capable of taking harmless facts and, from them, spinning gruesome horrors, covered in blood and gore and more blood. After reading Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, our pet dog became a radioactive bear-wolf-demon and, if I dared to peer over the covers, I’d be sure to find him poised at the foot of my bed, ready to attack me and take over my body. And no one would ever know that I was missing because my soul would hover in space, unseen for all eternity.
When I read A Christmas Carol, my heart wasn’t filled with yuletide warmth at Scrooge’s conversion into a good guy. No; at Christmas that year, I was convinced that the ghost of Jacob Marley had somehow found its way from the Dickensian world into my Mbarara village – and it was headed towards my bedroom. In the night’s quiet, I heard the infernal rattling of chains and waited for a ghostly face to appear inches from mine, to judge me for whatever sins I might have racked up at that age, and condemn me to an eternity of incessant torture.
I would glance over at where my siblings slept soundly, insulted by their unaffected sleep and swear, swear to never read a book or watch a movie again. I figured that if I stopped feeding my brain with information, it would have nothing to stew into festering terrors to keep me up at night. I resolved to be an ignoramus who could curl up and sleep peacefully.
Inexplicably I’d eventually dose off and wake up to another day, the night’s horrors forgotten. I’d find myself bored and pick up a book about a schizophrenic doctor with an evil alter ego and convince myself that this time, I wouldn’t let it get to my head.