I’m new to horror. I’m easily spooked and disturbing scenes in movies can haunt me for decades, the flashbacks as real to me as if they were my own. I can still recall moments in Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, and The Strangers has to be the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Pretty tame, I know.
Head with Broken Pot by Georgia O’Keeffe
So it puzzles me why I find writing macabre scenes that are narrated by twisted and perverse characters so easy. Maybe the time of day is a factor. I do my best writing before sunrise. I’m up every day between four and five. I make a huge strong coffee and sit in the stillness. No distractions, just me and my pen.
Maybe it’s because I’m in control and therefore there are no surprises. But if, when I’m writing a scene, I can make myself laugh so much I’m rolling on the carpet, then I’m just as capable of spooking myself.
I’ve been told that writing psychological horror can be purging or cathartic, releasing the inner demons. Which would mean I have an inner psychopath or two lurking in my depths. Not true. I prefer to think I’m tapping into the collective unconscious. Or drawing on psychos I have known.
Then again, how many of us can say with confidence that we are aware of every dusty corner of our psyche? Perversity breeds perversity, like a virus, and just because you suppress or deny it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. We are all corrupt, all in denial, all capable of cruel acts.
When my cat Psyche was a kitten, I stroked her and she rolled on her belly, little paws in the air, her gaze fixed on mine. And my hand circled her neck and I knew that all I had to do was squeeze and she’d be dead. It was that easy. I paused, felt the power rise, an ultimate sort of power, and I knew that there was not much space between realising the potential and committing the act.
Most of us have a stronger moral self, a conscience, that stops us from doing macabre things. I didn’t strangle my cat. I was disturbed it even occurred to me that I could.
My latest novel is shaping up to be more about the banal nature of perversity than it is edge of seat terror. It is more like the movie, Sightseers, or Peter Carey’s The Tax Inspector, than anything by Stephen King. I’ll be relieved when it’s written and I can move on to something else. It isn’t pleasant to dwell in such dark terrain. I’m becoming distant from the world around me, mistrustful, suspicious, on guard. And as for the things I’m discovering in my imagination, they’re unspeakable.