Saturday, June 27, 2009

Uncanny Story (i)

This is a good one. I'll try to get this right, tell the story as it happened.

I am 16 or 17. My older brothers moved out years ago, and my parents are away for the week. It's the school holidays. I have the house to myself.
I love having the house to myself. I get to do everything the way I want to. In practice I do everything more or less the same, except I rise later, eat more, etc.
But on the other hand it's creepy. I find that I'm walking around as quietly as possible – as if making loud noises will draw attention to myself. Whose attention?
I have to look after Monty (the dog). Walk him twice or three times a day, feed him, hang out with him so he doesn't go insane from boredom. Dogs are like children, they need to be constantly occupied. Monty prefers to stay upstairs in the lounge, where he can watch the street outside from a high window and bark at everyone who passes.

I'm downstairs. I'm sitting at the piano, practising. Lazily playing through the same old parts of The Wall, the parts I already know.
I stop playing and sit there, thinking, looking at Dad's bookshelf. Reading through the titles of all these old books, the ones that have always been here, lined up on these shelves. Even when we lived in the States, the same collection of old paperbacks.
The sound of a passing car outside. The sound of someone typing in the next room.
I think: wait a minute.
I listen.
Someone is typing in the next room. Typing on the computer keyboard. Reader: you know this sound. Summon it to mind – the sound of someone typing on plastic keys. It's unmistakeable.
I sit on the piano bench, and look at the closed door to the next room.
The next room is Andy's old room. My oldest brother's room. It's been converted into a combination guest bedroom and computer room, Dad set up his new IBM in there. Except obviously no-one else is home, so there shouldn't be the sound of typing, but there is.
I wait for this sound to fade away or evaporate. Sometimes when you get too far into a daydream you'll actually hear the sounds from it, and you'll shake your head or snap to your senses and they'll vanish. But this person is still typing. Click-clickaclicka-click-click-clickaclicka-click.
I think: what is this, supernatural? A ghost? Kind of an exciting possibility. Except there's no-one else at home, I'm here alone (and will be for the next couple of days).
I get up and walk to the door. I'm surprised by how well I'm dealing with this. You always wonder whether, confronted with something really weird, you'd run or you'd walk closer. I listen. They're still typing. I open the door.
The sound stops.
Exactly, as if on cue. Because the room next door is empty and the computer is switched off.

Lucky for me I had plans that evening – me and some friends were going to go see Alive, the new true-story film about a plane crashing the Andes, and all the rugby players have to eat each other's corpses. We were going to Wellington Boys College at the time, I think the story had a special appeal to us.
I walked Monty, chucked him into the kitchen quickly (freaked out, hand trembling) and left the house as soon as I could. Walked down the hill into town, thought about & rehearsed this incredible story for when I told it to my friends.
We met in the Mid City movie centre (RIP) and went to dinner at Pizza Hut first. This was back when Pizza Hut was an all-you-can-eat restaurant with a self-service dessert bar, in a sense they were glory days for me because I hadn't yet discovered smoking, sex or drinking. I weighed 100kg and eating was the biggest thrill in my life.
I was really nervous, I ate too much. In particular I ate too much dessert. I told the story of the “mystery typist”, I told it a few times to different people, milking it for all it was worth.
Someone said: "Are you sure it wasn't just the sound of your dog walking around upstairs?"
"No way. I know the sound of Monty walking around, I know the sound of typing. It was typing."
I wonder what we would have looked like that night – seven or eight 16 year old guys with no facial hair and no bad habits. Bad dress sense, probably. Loud, nerdy laughter.
Anyway the time came and we went up to the movie. Filed in, took our seats. I was sitting next to Texas Tim – or rather a 16 year old version of Texas Tim who at that stage I'm sure had never dreamed of going to Texas.
The movie starts. There's this plane, it's flying into the Andes. Everything's normal, except you know they're fucked, so there's this certain element of tension. All these people from South America are laughing and talking – and I CANNOT HANDLE THIS UNBEARABLE TENSION.
The plane crashes, OH MY GOD. It thumps into this mountain and whips around and people are ripped to pieces, dismembered. Mortality on an epic scale, IT GOES ON FOREVER... and then in the aftermath people are regaining consciousness, except their BODIES ARE MANGLED. One guy goes up to another and says “Am I okay? I feel weird.” And he has this HUGE bit of metal sticking out of his CHEST, he's in shock and he hasn't noticed it... and the other guy has to PULL IT OUT OF HIM...

Suddenly I'm in crippling pain, like a bad leg cramp except it's happening all over my body. The story has advanced considerably – I think I have missed several minutes. The pain is so awful I think I'm going to vomit. I get to my feet and stagger up the aisle steps & out of the theatre, except I can't stand up properly so I have to lurch like a hunchback.
Out in the lobby I sit down on the floor and start trying to straighten my spine, a long process which takes almost an hour.
After about ten minutes Tim comes out. “You okay?”
“I don't know what happened... I just suddenly had this pain.”
“You freaked me out,” says Tim.
He explains: right after the plane crash sequence (which I'm assured is not that horrific) I slumped forward with my head between my knees, as if in a faint. Then I slowly came up until I was rigid, leaning back and to the left in my seat in quite an unnatural posture, which I held for a long time before abruptly saying: “I need to leave.”
I said: “Oh man. I don't remember any of that.”
“It was pretty strange,” said Tim.
The others came out to check if I was okay. Reassured, they went back in and watched the rest of the movie. I can't remember, (I was in a lot of pain) but I think Tim sat out the whole movie talking to me.
“It's something to do with my brain,” I said. “You know what I told you, about hearing someone typing at home? It must have been a hallucination, and this fainting thing must have something to do with it.”
Why would that happen?
Too much pizza and sugar? But that had come after the initial hallucination.
Maybe my brain had been malfunctioning all day. It had run low on some important chemical or whatever.
I thought: shit, maybe I've been possessed by something. It hadn't been too long since I'd seen The Serpent and the Rainbow.
But why? How? Our house was built in the 80s, we were the first owners, it had no history at all.
“You sure you just didn't freak out because the movie scared you?” said Tim.
“Shut up.”
Get real. I'd seen worse movies than Alive.

Speaking of the uncanny, Ed sent this in:

"Chapter 7, Page 99"
just bought this
randomly opened it
read this thought of you:

In the 1950s psychiatrist Cathy Hayes raised a young chimp in her own home. In late infancy Viki, the chimp, began to trail an arm behind her as if pulling a toy on a string, and would even pretend to catch the string on obstructions and then release it again. After several weeks of this behaviour, Viki one day appeared to entangle the imaginary toy around the knob of the toilet, and cried for help. Hayes pantomimed untangling the rope and returning it to her, to be rewarded with what could have been either "a look of sheer devotion" or "just a good hard stare". A few days later, when Hayes decided to invent a make-believe pull-toy of her own that clacked on the floor and swooshed on the carpet, "Viki stared at the point on the floor when the imaginary rope would have met the imaginary toy, uttered a terrified "oo-oo-oo," leap into Cathy's arms, and never played the game again.

don't know what the context is or anything
from "On the origin of stories (evolution, cognition and fiction) by Brian Boyd (NZ Auckland academic)

Something I wrote, or was working on a few years ago - the image of a woman in a blue dress walking past, pulling a little girl (her daughter?) along my the wrist - the little girl in a blue dress, and with her other hand she's pulling along a doll - the doll in a little blue dress, and in the doll's other hand is something unnamable - a little blue dress and glittering eyes, and //n its# other han/#@//

But anyway that's monkeys for you. Monkeys are creepy & dangerous.

1 comment:

  1. And in one of those odd little synchronicities I find that Quincey / Shocker has just blogged on the subject of the uncanny -