Samhain marks for (some) Wiccans the end of the year. It’s a time of reflection and introspection, thinking back on time past. For me, it lends well to today’s daily prompt.
As a kid, I loved all things spooky. Ghosts, goblins, ghouls, you name it. Halloween was (and is) my favorite holiday. I lived for trick or treating in our Miami Shores neighborhood, looked forward to the block party that took place every year. I don’t know if they do it anymore. And a lot of kids won’t know what it’s like to go door to door in their costumes, begging for treats. It makes me a bit sad if I think about it too much. But another thing I always liked was being scared.
Not too scared, mind you. Just scared enough. No real fear of danger, no disgust at some gory scene. I mean real, mild fear. That tingling sense that something wrong is going on. A story with an unexpected twist, or an answer you’ll never get – or worse yet, one you could never have imagined. Forget about shock scares, things popping out and shouting “BOO!” in dark places. There’s something about knowing that things are not quite right that makes your skin crawl and your blood run cold. And more often than not, these experiences of real fear come hand in hand with the mundane.
Recently I found myself thinking back to my old tutor’s home. As a kid, I struggled with math. It wasn’t so much that I found it particularly difficult as it was that I just didn’t like it. So the point of tutoring was basically to have someone sitting over my shoulder, watching me do my dreaded homework with a little kindly guidance. There was a narrow little room that branched off of my tutor’s kitchen, and that was where we worked. Often it was three of us: Myself, my friend Lisette, and her younger sister Yvette. I can’t remember my tutor’s name, but I remember her endless patience. She was always kind to me even when I was being difficult. Her family had lived not far from my father’s in Matanzas. It was funny how that worked out. In any case, to the right of my usual seat was a door, and in that door was a window that looked out into the walkway that led around the house from the front yard to the back. There was a gate as well, and occasionally my tutor’s husband passed to and fro while doing yardwork.
The day came when I was at work alone and I saw someone walk past the window from the corner of my eye. I saw them clearly enough that I could make out the color of their hair, dark, and the color of their shirt. It was my tutor’s husband, I assumed, and got back to work. A moment later, someone else passed by the door. Unusual, I thought at last, because I hadn’t heard the gate open or close after them. A blonde, this time, in a blue shirt. By the time the third “someone” passed by, I was curious.
“Someone’s in your yard,” I remember telling my teacher, who looked at me in surprise and said the words that seemed so normal at the time:
“You see them, too?”
There was no one in the yard. She opened the door to show me. The gate was shut, and locked. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, she’d tell me, but not so common that she felt the need to scare any of the kids with it. I don’t remember much of the lesson that passed, only that my tutor told my father of what happened afterwards and reassured me once more that it was nothing to be afraid of. In hindsight, I don’t think I was afraid. I think I felt cheated. I’d always wanted to see “something.” For my thirteenth birthday we went ghost hunting, for Cthulhu’s sake. And when the moment came it just flitted past, with nothing more than that tingling sense of unease. It’s a memory that comes back at odd moments – when I’m sitting in my car, commiserating with my sister over her schoolwork, or when I’m spending a quiet Halloween at home watching Youtube videos.
It’s a funny kind of feeling, the kind it’s so hard to capture in writing. It comes on you all at once, or it builds and builds until you’re full of it and you had no idea it was coming. Spooky Halloween fun is well and good, but it’s the real stuff – the strange, the eerie, the wrong – that sticks with people. I’d like to think I’ll learn how to manage it someday. Maybe it’ll even come easily to me. But I know all I can do is practice and wait. There’s no use waiting for it, after all.
Because that’s the thing about fear – you’re never ready for it.