Once you put something in your brain, you can't get it back out again.
It's something my mother used to say to me. She was concerned more for my moral health than my mental health, I suspect, because she's no stranger to scary movies. But scary movies are what I can't seem to get out of my head, so that's where her lesson has really resonated.
I don't get it. I don't get it. Why do people watch this stuff???
I blame most of my complete and utter terror on accidentally walking in on my parents at the age of 4 as they watched Hellraiser. (Yes, there are many things you could walk in on your parents doing that could potentially scar you for life, but let me throw out there that seeing THIS:
IS PRETTY HIGH UP ON THE LIST.)
The thing is, I have an imagination that won't quit. And I don't mean that in the "ooooh, girl has legs that won't quit" kind of way. I mean I can't turn it off, even when I want to. I mentally write characters into every television show I watch. I craft dialogue for movies that will never be filmed. I live and re-live scenes from my own life; I rehearse telephone conversations I'll never have; I have long, detailed conversations with people I've never met. This is my default. Sometimes it's exhausting, but this is how my mind keeps itself occupied. (In case you couldn't guess, I am the world's worst at meditating.) But what this means is that once I see something scary... it multiplies, becomes something else. Something bigger. It takes up residence, digs in its claws, and fills my brainspace with its rotting breath and shining eyes.
It wasn't just Hellraiser that invaded my mind. When I was... I don't know, maybe 12 or so, my brother and cousin and I watched Scream. Now, I know the cool thing to do here would be to scoff and say, "And I mean, that movie wasn't scary at all," but uh... it was. It really, really was. The three of us were huddled up together in the dark, in a trailer, in the middle of the woods, in the middle of NOWHERE, in rural North Carolina. As we watched the movie, I realized with a jolt that the light from the television was glaring blue off the windows, and I couldn't see outside. As the night went on, I became sure - absolutely certain - that someone was standing out there, watching us. Waiting. And then the movie ended however it ended, with gore and terror and room for a sequel, and it was time for my brother and I to leave. We had to. We were staying at a house about a half-mile away, and our parents were expecting us back, and that meant we were going to have to cross a wide expanse of field in suffocating blackness while being chased by the knife-weilding sociopath who was standing on the other side of the window, stone-faced and merciless and just waiting for us to come out so he could torture us to death.
I have never run so fast. Every footfall was a heartbeat was him; every star reflected the glint of a knife; every shadow kept pace. Every breath was a reminder that there was no escape.
I suppose some people find that sort of terror exhilarating. I just felt hunted.
So, unless you count The Sixth Sense - and I seem to be the only person who does - I haven't seen a scary movie since. (I still have moments of complete terror that I'm going to round a corner and a kid with half his head blown off is going to ask me if I want to check out his father's gun.) I don't read scary books. I squinch my eyes shut and mute the commercials for scary shows on TV. I can't let that stuff in.
Because the scariest part is, once it's in, I can't get it out again.
The scariest part is: then, there really is no escape.