I remember the first time I read The Turn of The Screw. I have always been rather overly sensitive to horror, having far too vivid an imagination for my own good, but was pretty confident that I could manage a novella from the late 1800s.
I went to bed and started the book, which I needed to get read in the next few days for Uni. Around 2 am I realised three things: (1) it was very late, (2) I needed to go to the loo and (3) that I was too frightened to get out of bed and make the journey in the dark through the kitchen and the corridor to the toilet.
It has always been this way. I am an idiot. When I read a book, I am like someone doing one of those trust exercises. Arms crossed over my chest, eyes shut, I fall back into the story and allow my imagination to be caught up totally by the narrative. I suspend disbelief and go competely along with the ride, but sometimes I forget to get off.
So when I heard an interview with William Friedkin the other day about how he came to make the Exorcist film, I wondered briefly about whether I should watch it. We have a copy of the Blu Ray at home that my husband bought. Then I thought better of it – and wisely so.
My husband was working away overnight this week. Being alone in the house does not worry me. I spend all day at work surrounded by people and I enjoy my own company and that of my dogs too. I had taken them for a walk, then got caught up doing a number of things. By the time I sat down I realised it was gone half nine and I wanted to get an early night. I had a new book to read and an electric blanket warming the bed after the June Solstice had officially declared winter was here. I turned off the fire, gathered up my stuff and called the dogs to go to bed. Then I made my mistake.
As I went to turn the main light off in the living room, I turned to face the large windows that looked out into the black night in the backyard. Just for a second, I imagined turning off the lamp, equalizing the light inside and outside the house and seeing a man standing in the yard, looking in at the windows. He had been there all the time. I even knew what he was wearing, and I also knew who he was. He was Peter Quint, the gardener from the story The Turn of the Screw, a character from a story which I read in 1986 and who had decided to pay my imagination a visit.
Instead of turning off the light, I moved to the other wall and flicked a switch which lit up the back patio. Nothing. Of course there was nothing. The Turn of the Screw is a fiction that I had read 30 years ago that had been written about 150 years before that.
I went to the kitchen, took a small paring knife from the kitchen drawer and put it in my dressing gown pocket. I switched both lights off and retreated to the bedroom where the dogs and I hunkered down on the bed and I slipped the knife under the pillow. I am not sure what good I thought it would do me. I am not sure threatening to peel an intruder would be much of a deterrent, but it made me feel better. I opened my book and we settled in, Lucy lying with one ear cocked for the front door because as smart as she is, she does not have a good grasp of intrastate timetables and was listening for my husband to come home.
A loud crack sounded from the living room. Lucy woofed and both dogs leapt off the bed and charged to the door. Silence, then Archie came back in. A while later, I went to get Lucy, who was watching out of the window, expecting her dad to appear.
‘Sorry Lucy,’ I explained, ‘That was just the fire grate cooling down.’
That is what I told myself it was anyway.
Yeah, might wait a bit longer before I watch the Exorcist, I think.