Suggested Audio Candy:
 Hans Zimmer “Paperhouse”
 Ron Grainer “Tales of The Unexpected”
It’s commonly stated that things have changed considerably since we were young. In many respects this is true; back then there were no mortgage payments to meet, no stress to manage, and precious little to worry about outside of which trading card we needed to complete our collection. We tend to look back at these times with a great sense of fondness and it’s the whole reason why nostalgia has such an immense pull. Anything that reminds me of these carefree years brings an instant smile to my face and, momentarily at least, I forget every last worry and strife. As we grow up and take those first apprehensive steps into adulthood, we leave a great deal behind and often forget who we were back when we were just figuring things out for the very first time. It’s easy to sweep such memories under the rug, especially given that it appears to have so little relevance to the person we have become. Over the past year or so I have embraced my inner child and the one thing I have learned above anything else is that not as much has altered as I led myself to believe.
Somehow I managed to hoodwink myself into believing that my childhood was a less than happy one. My father was diagnosed with a muscle wasting disease way before I had reached adolescence and the impact this had on me growing up was massive. However, the human mind has a way of telling a one-sided story and it wasn’t until a short course of therapy that I realized, while this clearly had a bearing on the person I became, I was already wired. As infants we have an over-abundance of nomadic neurons floating about our craniums and our earliest interactions determine our circuitry. Our intake of information is at its peak as we learn how to walk and talk in our infancy. We also get our first taste of who we are as a person; what interests us and what leaves us cold. It’s all about us; as toddlers we are utterly self-absorbed and, when you think about it, we need to be. The world is chock full of data to translate and we begin to do so from a very early age. It’s when we are at our most honest; not only with others but with ourselves.
I was actually a gloriously contented young whippersnapper. There was clearly a creative gene inside of me, likely donated by my father, which encouraged me to write the most outlandish short stories in primary school. They were considered so articulate and off-the-wall that I was packed off to secondary school assembly to read them out. Back then I was absolutely fascinated with dinosaurs; I could take you from Triceratops to Brontosaurus via one degree of separation and reel off my fossils at an alarming rate. Most of the other children were content with hopscotch and skipping rope but they didn’t really interest me if I’m honest. Sure, there was fun to be had in such repetition, but it seemed a drop in the ocean when compared to what my brain could conjure and put down on paper. I made friends easily enough as I was a confident boy heralding from a close-knit family unit and had three older sisters to interact with. Granted, they dressed me as Barbie and pulled me up my grandmother’s stairwell with a pair of her tights over my head, but I never felt lonely. Thus I mingled rather well.
It wasn’t long before I located my very best life friend. I have known this gentleman for thirty-five years and, while we don’t speak nearly as often as we should, when we do the years slip away instantly. The reason for this is elementary; we share the very same genealogy. Like me, he wasn’t interested in the normal pursuits of a five-year old boy and, instead, his mind worked in much the same manner as mine. All these years later nothing has changed; he remains the most knowledgeable and captivating person I have ever met. Again, similar to myself, he has struggled with depression and I believe this is because his neurons were wired like my own. We spent every lunch break playing doctors and, before you start sniggering at its ominous connotations, there were no stethoscopes or rectal examinations. Instead, we saved the world, which consisted of the entire playground, from a plethora of evil minds hellbent on wiping out civilization as we knew it. The malignant medical masterminds were our foes and we took them out, one at a time, thus scuppering their endeavor for world domination.
I did, however, dabble in an altogether different game of “what’s your ailment?” but this involved a female patient and this time I was the one wearing scrubs. It played out in my makeshift surgery, unlicensed I might add, which was located behind her rabbit hutch. It was her sixth birthday and the party was in full swing. While the other children were tucking into their jelly and ice cream, I was more concerned with prognosis and this poor girl appeared to be in dire need of medical attention. To the casual eye this young girl would have appeared perfectly healthy but I knew better. Between her legs there was something most untoward transpiring and it appeared to have left her with her own battle scar. A single well-placed incision, dead center of the infected area necessitated further exploration and, like any good intern, I applied a little bedside manner. Alas, her mother became concerned by her daughter’s evanescence as she prepared a round of musical chairs. All signs pointed to the garden and it was here that my license to operate was revoked.
I blame the family bunny for gifting her coordinates. Beneath its free-standing palatial home a pair of white cotton panties dropped to the granite and the chase commenced. I lived two houses along and could make it back there in a matter of seconds under normal circumstances. A haggard rolling pin-wielding hell hag hot on your heels is anything but par for the course. Thus my voyage home transformed into a veritable assault course. The simple gate latch alone turned into a complex safe to crack and all the while I could feel her breath on the back of my neck. In the nick of time, I managed to release the catch and scuttled home before she could get her gargantuan hands around my scrawny little neck. Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Skinner chases Bart home from school? That had shit on “boxy boobs” as she became affectionately known amongst my peers. Truly terrifying; my first brush with death left me duly jolted but also rather intoxicated.
Horror and erotica; the two appeared peas in a pod. Both had me riveted; made me feel alive. I just had to learn more although I wasn’t destined to discover the answers to the latter until later in life so I opted for the macabre. Quite how a ten-year old boy manages to talk his parents into letting them watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is anyone’s guess. I think by then my poor mother had become suitably worn down and my father, sensing that he may not have as much time left to watch his son grow as he had hoped, thought it better to fast-track me. Most children could be forgiven for being sworn off of horror for life after spending a solitary evening with Leatherface and his nearest and dearest but not I. One doesn’t become the Keeper of The Crimson Quill without first sampling a few grotesque pleasures. I filled my boots with any horror film I could get my grubby paws on. Meanwhile, I was creating my own fiction; short stories which raised countless red flags amongst the school faculty, although I was actually as contented as the next child.
When trying to navigate the maze before me last year I was required to revisit my youth. Therapy did a number on me; although it ended up being the making of me as I finally faced up to my childhood demons and remembered that I gleaned rather a lot of glee from hanging out with them. They weren’t nearly as scary as I had suspected; just a fun-loving bunch of finger monsters with big dumb faces. I was fortunate that I never suffered from a lack of love growing up as it encouraged me to embrace my darkness in a secure place. I checked under my bed each night and scoped out the closet for monsters before reaching for the sanctuary of bed linen. Once submerged, not a single appendage could protrude or else bad things would inevitably happen. I’m not sure what exactly it is about one’s bed sheets that make for such a formidable fortress but it worked and I never perished. Now I’m forty and still I canter up the staircase as though my life depends on it. Watching Sinister did my ability to attempt such in darkness no favors whatsoever, thus I still jump at shadows all these years later. What it boils down to is that I remain little more than an oversized child and, do you know what, I take considerable comfort from that. It is what makes me who I am; it’s how I’m wired. I’ll be young until dead and I’m more than happy being remembered that way.