WiHM 12: Wait, is it weird that I am in horror…?
By: Jennifer Anne Gordon
Happy Women in Horror Month everyone! It’s the magical time of the year that all of us “women in horror” all of a sudden think “Wait, is it weird that I am in horror…?”
Last summer I was lucky enough to write a guest post for Horror Tree, called “Doomed from The Beginning” and there I told the story of my first experience of reading a Stephen King novel, an how that lead me on a dark winding path through Gothic Romance, and VC Andrews, those writers and that one long gothic summer are part of who I am. But I would be remiss if I left out other parts of the puzzle, the puzzle of “Why did a nice girl like you end up writing such dark twisted stuff…”
Well, I could talk about how as a child I played almost exclusively in a cemetery and in the sand pits under some buzzing (probably cancer causing) power lines. But instead, I am going to talk about the summer, that I fully believed I was possessed by a demon. Or at least what led me to believe that.
Now you have to understand, before I go on, that I had ALL the symptoms of demon possession. (I had seen the edited for television version of the Exorcist about 4 times…I was practically an expert in demonology.)
Symptom 1- Drastic Changes in Personality (I hated everything, EVERYTHING, and EVERYONE.)
Symptom 2- Drastic Changes in My Skin (sores on my face…AGH)
Symptom 3 – Strange Dreams (you know what I mean…. sexy dreams)
Symptom 4- Body Odor
Symptom 5 – My parents were really embarrassing. (this might not be a symptom)
Symptom 6 – Crying, so much crying.
Symptom 7 – stayed up all night, slept late during the day, would only consume junk food, thought I was fat, I wasn’t.
Okay maybe it wasn’t possession, maybe it was puberty.
I was eleven, and sixth grade was coming to a strange end. At best I was considered “unpopular” and “too gloomy”, mostly, I was the kid that people threw raisins at on the bus and was ignored most of the time. That was fine in a lot of way, there was more time for books, and napping. But I would be lying to say that there was not a loneliness in me. There was a part of me that wanted my classmates to like me. Sure, I was also the weird girl who turned in Nightmare on Elm Street Fan Fiction for a school assignment, but most of them didn’t know that.
The middle of sixth grade saw a few things happen, one, I started getting boobs, and that was horrifying,
Second, there was a book going around, one that all the girls were reading. It was called, “The Game”.
“The Game” by Les Logan, was like reading Sweet Valley High books, except written from a hallucinogenic nightmare world, of car accidents, wheelchairs, and Ouija boards that seem to whisper to wounded girls from their closet. It was solid 1980’s YA fiction, so it was shelved in between The Babysitter’s Club, and the Cheerleaders series. This was a book we could all read proudly, we didn’t have to hide it like it was Flowers in the Attic, no this was a book we were allowed to read.
The third thing that happened near the end of sixth grade, was a girl I barely knew, let’s call her Becky (with the blond hair) for the sake of anonymity…Becky, broke her leg. Now Becky was nice, a nice girl with nice friends. One of them was a fellow asthmatic like me, we had to sit out the mile run in gym class together. The others were “peer tutors” and did volunteer work…VOLUNTARILY!!!
So, Becky breaks her leg, I get boobs, and everyone is reading “The Game”. We’re eleven, and twelve, and it feels like the air in the hallways is on fire all the time, there is electricity coming from the lockers. It’s Spring.
My school had a barely functioning elevator, so out of benevolence on the part of the teachers, Becky is allowed to eat in a classroom with her friends, unsupervised. Now, as I stated before, these girls were good, they were nice, so nice in fact that when I asked if I could stay with them during lunch, they said yes.
We were not friends, and I was never asked to sign Becky’s plaster leg cast.
It still felt good to be with them, it felt right. We ate in the social studies classroom. The dull vibration from the Cafetorium could not reach us all the way on the third floor. The girls, Becky, the asthmatic, the peer tutors, and I, all ate at separate desks. The other girls ate quickly and barely talked. One of them pulled the shades down and then killed the lights. The room lost all sense of time. It was hazy and kind. Silence never felt so good. I felt myself relax, I wondered if they were not talking because I was there, an outsider…but they all seemed so comfortable, just being.
I just wanted to “just be” too.
Before I had finished my goldfish crackers, the other Asthmatic, began clearing our desks, throwing away the Capri Sun Lemonade pouches, the applesauce containers, the crust of my sad store brand white bread, none of it finished.
The peer tutors started to gather the desks around Becky, whose leg was broken so badly that she was in a wheelchair. A few of the desks were pushed together, making a table. The sound of the chairs being dragged over the floor sounded too loud for such a silent space.
“We have a half hour.”
“Bring your chair over.”
That was directed at me.
By the time I got there, our Becky with the blond hair, had reached into her school bag and pulled out a large thick sheet of cardboard, with paper glued on top. It was folded in half and looked from the back of it to be a handmade card that we would all write inspirational messages on…
I was wrong.
One of the peer tutors went to the teacher’s desk and dumped the little glass she kept her paperclips in.
Becky opened the cardboard, and I saw the brightly colored glue from the glue sticks lining the each of the edges. The bluish green looked both like a faded bruise and like the most beautiful color I had ever seen.
(Not real image…but VERY CLOSE, just imagine more glue stick clumps.)
What the F#*k?
These nice girls were cooler than I thought.
We spent the next almost 25 minutes with our fingers precariously places on the glass paperclip holder. It moved with a stuttering speech over the lumpy handmade Ouija Board. No one asked questions like “What boy likes me?” or “Will I make cheerleading?”
The questions were real, and when I look back on them, I am surprised that Becky, the two peer tutors, and the other asthmatic are not all horror writers.
“Did God break my leg on purpose?”
“Does anyone know how tired I am?”
“Do people know my sister wasn’t at camp, do they know that she tried to kill herself?”
The glass danced around the cardboard, it moved on its own. Its answers were merciless but still kind. If any of those girls were willingly pushing it, I will never know.
I don’t want to.
My question, my first question…at the end of our 25 minutes…It felt like I was screaming into an ocean. I said a thing that would not make sense to anyone except me.
“Do you know what is in my Japanese box?”
The glass slid to yes immediately. And before I could ask another question, my teacher’s paperclip cup spelled out. “P L E A S E N O”
Seeing that gave me the same feeling of walking out of a dressing room wearing a bathing suit, seeing myself in mirrors under fluorescent lights. I was exposed, raw.
The girls didn’t say anything, and neither did I. They didn’t ask what it meant, or why my face was hot, and my eyes filled with tears. There was an electricity inside me, it felt like my elbows were being nailed into a barn door. If those girls pushed that glass, I could not feel it. All I felt was the “please no”. The imaginary words I thought were a message, a whisper to me.
I was eleven, I had boobs, and I needed to hear this.
My Japanese box contained – 2 razor blades, 16 Benadryl tablets. 6 extra strength Tylenol, 14 Flintstone chewable vitamins, the yellow ones, the ones that were “Bam Bam”. They were yellow and to me, those childhood vitamins tasted like dirty pennies when they were yellow and like hope when they are pink – those were always the Wilmas. The vitamins were there because my neighbor ate a bottle of Flintstone vitamins one night after babysitting the neighborhood kids.
She was gone for a week…that hole carved in our neighborhood was heaven for the children and hell for the parents.
I spent the rest of the school year’s lunch hour in that social studies classroom, the blinds drawn. The whispered secrets that should have gone to anyplace but there.
There was always strange energy, powerful. It crept from those girls fingers and through a teacher’s glass and then into me.
I was changed.
I was darker, but more hopeful. It felt like pulling a flower up from the earth and hearing it scream.
I kept the Japanese box. I added to it, but never used it.
The girls faded away when summer came.
I hated everything.
My skin split apart, and my normally homely face suddenly made people in the stores look away. My father could not look at me.
I screamed inside for months, still feeling that weird electric charge in my arms.
I started bleeding one night when my mom was at bingo. I wrote a note, secret and sad…I hoped she would see it when she came home.
I fell asleep, bleeding into my bed. A Rorschach test of whatever I was bled around me. My mother came into my room that night, well past 2am. I sobbed and tried to reach out and scratch the world with my dirty fingernails. She put her hands on the sides of my face. All I could think of was my Japanese box, and the paper glued onto cardboard.
All I could feel was the scream.
All I could say was “I’m sorry.”
There are so many demons.
The ones that consume you, and the ones that are you.
I got my period, four months after the cardboard Ouija lunch hour.
There were years before the Japanese box was thrown away. Maybe it never was. Maybe it is here now inside me, maybe that’s the demon. The bitterness of yellow Bam Bam.
Maybe now when I think of my demons I think of Becky, her blonde hair, and I hope.
I try to apologize for being the “type of girl” who doesn’t write anything nice…but I can’t.
Lies taste like yellow vitamins in a Japanese box.
I know now I can only speak in…
I was possessed. But now I am not.