[it’s where you could find me when you couldn’t find me anywhere else]

The Horror

Sandra never read horror novels, because everything scared her. Or rather, when she was young, just about everything scared her, so she never watched thrillers or slasher movies, much less read anything by King or Straub or Lovecraft. Her imagination was easily ignited, and the line between fiction and reality, for her, was much too malleable. Often, after a vivid dream, it took her days to come to terms with the fact that the dream was indeed a dream, and not something more – an alternate reality, a prophecy, a message from dead persons known or unknown. Nevertheless, when she was thirty years old, she had an idea for a horror novel or movie or perhaps both. The entire thing, she decided, would take place during the day. The only other scary movie she could think of that also took place during daylight hours was Jaws, and that didn’t count, because the world underwater, as we all know, is much like night. Her movie would be light the entire time, and, even better, the night would be the time when everyone – all those oppressed by the terror – would rest. Everyone would get a good night’s sleep each night. Having settled all that, Sandra was very satisfied. As a reward for having such a good brain, she walked to her fridge and made herself a sandwich with two typed of bread, and speared it with a toothpick. All she needed now was to decide what exactly would be scary, and how people would die or be torn apart or maimed. She stood, eating her sandwich, and then had another revelation: What if no one died? Couldn’t that be scary, in its own way? It certainly would be unexpected. Now, she felt, she was onto something. A horror movie that took place during the day and in which no one was killed. But what would it be about? What would happen? The movie, she figured, could feature many surprises – people jumping out from closets and jabbing things quickly. That could be made suspenseful throughout, with the audience not knowing exactly when, for example, the jumping-out and jabbing-at would happen. But then again, wouldn’t it be kind of scary – and better all around – if you (a) didn’t know when or where jumping-out would occur, and also (b) didn’t know whether or not such things would occur at all? Imagine watching the movie, fully expecting that something would happen, only to sit waiting, throughout, thus becoming ever more tense? She had now put down her sandwich, because her head was working too quickly and brilliantly; she dared not distract it with chewing. So an all-daylight horror movie with only the pretense of suspense, only the promise (to be broken) of chases, or danger and violence and untimely death. She would have her characters wander throughout, talking tensely – or laconically! – eyeing each other and every doorway warily. Or perhaps with great nonchalance. What if, she thought, her characters walked calmly through their lives,, without threats, without suspense or shadows, expecting nothing and receiving nothing? Now, she thought, that is horror.

– Dave Eggers


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