When I was very young, I remember my mother telling me why I shouldn’t talk to strangers and that people weren’t always as nice as they appeared. It was a foreign concept to me as a child who believed everyone was kind and nobody would ever want to hurt me. Back then, evil only existed for me in books and movies to be swiftly defeated by some brave and virtuous hero. Of course, as I got older, I came to the realisation that life isn’t that black and white; we aren’t divided into ‘good’ and ‘evil’ and bad people don’t always look like monsters.
I remember being a nervous child by nature; I was afraid of everything. I would sit out on games my friends would play, opting to watch from afar instead. I would quickly offer to hold my friend’s coats while they went on the rollercoasters, and I would generally avoid doing anything that could have been even remotely dangerous like the plague. I was never a thrill seeker, never enjoyed the rush of adrenaline or the sensation of my heart pounding in my chest.
So I could never understand why I was always so drawn to the most frightening looking books in the library, especially the ones with the chilling illustrations that I had to hide underneath my bed at night as I felt like they were watching me as I slept. It seemed strange to my parents that I loved reading about the supernatural. They would ask me why, if it frightened me so much, I would let my morbid curiosity win, and seek out the scariest books and television shows. I loved tales about being hunted by vampires, or being turned into a werewolf or some equally hideous creature, but it wasn’t the cheap thrills that kept me coming back for more. It was a distraction from the things that really scared me. The true stories that I had heard about at school, or from my parents, who were trying to instil a sense of danger whenever I went out unsupervised to roam beyond the cul-de-sac on my bike. The eerie, supernatural concepts were so far detached from my own reality that they started to give me some odd form of comfort.
I suddenly felt like I had some control over my fear, as though I could regulate it in by slamming the book shut just as the protagonist ventured into the abandoned mansion, or turning off the TV just as something awful was about to jump out from the shadows. I could make it all go away in an instant, and it felt, in some strange way, powerful.
Now, as an adult, I’m still scared of a lot of things. I’m still that nervous seven year old inside, but I still love the darker aspects of pop culture. I suppose that’s ultimately why I love horror; I’m still addicted to the feeling of knowing that once the book is finished, once the film credits start rolling, I’m safe, back in the living room laughing with my friends, or tucked up in my bed. I can dip my toes into the water and don’t have to be afraid that something is going to pull me under. Each time, I face my fears and make it to the end, and I’m Ieft wanting that feeling again.
Lydia Grace is the co-author of Elizabeth Kennedy; both collaborated together on their debut novel, Five Dead Blondes, which was released in October, 2019.