Eggs, Needles and Death
I don’t drive. Not yet, anyway. I might finally learn one day, but all past experiences of my hand eye coordination (along with a couple of gut wrenching failures in the go- karting arena) have left me thinking that I should never be put in command of a vehicle. Not on a road around other vehicles, anyway. Not with other people’s lives at stake. I can navigate pretty well when I’m given a map and a moment to get my bearings. Also I like to think I can set up a decent playlist of music for a long journey. Some classics, some new stuff, some soundtracks.
Every so often, from my set place in the passenger seat, I will look over at the needle of the petrol gauge and think we’re about to run out of fuel. The needle looks pretty close to the red for me. Sam, sitting but one seat over and driving like it’s the easiest thing in the world, will tell me that the needle’s fine from where she’s sitting. Perspective, it seems, can be a tricky proposition.
I have the same problem when it comes to, well, pretty much everything else. There is a part of my brain that appears to be one seat over to a lot of other people, no matter how I try and look at things the right where. It’s as if my mind has secretly trained itself to see dilemma when there’s actually around a quarter of a tank left. The most everyday of things will set it off. The way people will crowd around a new baby will make me think of cuckoos and brainwashing. Listening to some people hungrily bite into a piece of steak will conjure a glimpse of cannibalism. The distant shrieks of kids playing will always a tinge of terror to them when I hear them. Then, of course, there are the holidays.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Christmas. Hell, I’m an only child. I love Christmas. Presents, food, time off work. Christmas is close to perfection when it comes to my selfish little heart. Only, the season should come with trigger warnings. I listen to kids talk about Father Christmas and find myself wondering why they’re not having more nightmares about him. On any other occasion, a large man sneaking into their house by means of a chimney he shouldn’t be able to fit down should cause them long spaits of sleepless nights, right? It can’t be just me. Not only the house breaking worries me. There’s the fact he seems to be able to make a night last as long as he needs to carry out his work. His bottomless sack of toys, made and wrapped by his army of tiny slaves. His ability to make horned animals fly. Or the fact children have to leave food and drink out for him to keep him happy. I guess it’s the promise of presents that stops them worrying or seeing through the cracks and past the beard to his ancient teeth. Although let’s not forgot that, in order to get those presents, they have to behave all year long. Which means he’s watching them all year long. Which, again, they’re fine with. It really is amazing just how well bribery works.
In some respects, it’s no wonder so many horror writers and filmmakers have become obsessed with Krampus recently. He has been plucked from relative folklore obscurity and thrust into the limelight of Christmas specials and movies for the past few years, just so we have a way to talk about how insane Christmas really is. Father Christmas, the immortal housebreaker who rewards the good and records the naughty. He can sneak through any crack in your wall and he must be fed by all us, every single year.
Then, of course, there’s Easter. Easter truly is all over the place. If you’re not going to church every week then Easter is basically the festival of chocolate and eggs. All those chocolate eggs. Shelves and shelves of chocolate eggs. They appear after Christmas, much to the anger of some people. Then, in the blink of an eye, they all go. The eggs, not the people. The eggs disappear and are replaced. Over and over again. Who is eating all that chocolate? It’s an addiction. It’s obsession. People are driven to consume them. To tear off the shiny wrapping and devour them whole. It’s hard not to picture some form of mass psychosis. Eat the young. Spring is here.
There are, of course, different sizes and fillings within this tidal wave of eggs. There are thousands of different brands of basically the same chocolate egg. I’ve heard people debate them. I’ve heard people argue about them. Never mind golden calves or even the goose that lays the golden eggs; we’re worshipping the chocolate factories and the gleaming wrapping paper. We are, for a while, The Disciples of Wonka.
When you’re ready to burn off the slew of chocolate eggs, you can go hunting for painted ones instead. Whenever I see a little, brightly coloured egg hidden almost out of sight in a park or garden so a kid can find it, I begin to wonder what sort of bird lays an egg like that. Or what comes out of it. Never mind picturing the bewitching cuckoo beast that leaves trails of unborn young out in the world, for children to follow. Possibly into the woods. Nothing good ever comes from going into The Woods. It’s the same as The Moors, The Cave or That Old Hospital.
If you do spend some of your Sunday under steeple then you’ll probably get a different sort of Easter. You’ll tolerate the eggs and chocolate and talk of little chicks, but you’ve got death to deal with. A dark and brutal death. Just like Superman (and many other comic book heroes) your carpenter’s son will sacrifice himself yearly for your sins and he will do it in a grim and grubby fashion. There’s no spectacle or flash to the death of Jesus. It is murder. It is capital punishment. It is pain before glory. There’s wood and nails and torture involved. There are thorns cutting into his head and a spear in his side. It’s damn near torture porn; before he dies and you can relax. You can relax, of course, because you already secretly know how this is going to end. Just like all the classic tricks. The woman sawn in half rarely remains left in fractions. The audience member put into the mystery cabinet and disappeared, never to be seen again, will most likely be seen again. (On a side note, imagine if none of these results were given things. Magic shows would be very different affairs, right?) Still, come Easter and the old wooden cross, you know the drill. You know what comes next. He goes in the cave. The cave is inspected. The way is blocked by a bolder. In three days, he’s out of the cave and working in the cemetery garden.
Realistically, horror writers should love Easter. Never mind the nefarious lure of the mystery eggs. There’s a man coming back to life in it, after being tortured to death. Not only that, he comes back with powers and the clean wounds to prove who he is. That’s our bread and butter. We write that stuff all the time. Man, how many religions have we nearly started? I never thought about that. The Easter horror has never taken, though. Or, at least, not to the point where it’s landed on my radar. For all the Krampus craze of a few years ago and, even with the massive zombie like following of the zombie genre that’s taking over the world, you rarely come across an Easter horror classic. Passion of the Christ, maybe. That has come gratuitous close ups of flesh wounds and a devil of a sort in it. I’m sure one day someone will get around to writing something else. Something that tackles the themes with a smile on its crooked lips and blood on its sly fingertips.
That’s the thing about horror writers. We’re all sitting one seat over from the dials and needles. We’re reading the results differently and wondering why everyone else isn’t either panicking or aiming the car for safety and home. I guess that’s why we write our stories and pass them around. We want everyone else to see what we see when their kid comes in from the garden holding a brightly coloured egg, smiling from ear to ear and talking excitedly about giant rabbits. It’s terrifying stuff, I can tell you. Truly terrifying.