Gregory and Samuel were smoking marijuana at the latter’s house, lying down on its lightly sloped roof to which Samuel’s bedroom window provides easy access. Towards the middle of that chilly November night, Samuel asked Gregory what his favorite scary movie was.
“I don’t know,” replied Gregory.
“Have you seen The Conjuring?” Samuel asked. “It was really good. It scared the hell out of me.”
“I have, actually. It was; but I don’t know. I don’t care much for scary movies these days. Maybe when I was a kid the jumpscares and all were fun, but not so much now. It’s possibly because now that I’m about to turn 26, it’s easy to see past the special effects, or possibly because I’ve grown aware of things that are much, much scarier to me than ghosts or zombies—such as the lack of self-fulfillment, or an eternal loneliness, or even just the feeling of that.”
Samuel wrinkled his thick brow. “What are you talking about, man? Don’t think too much about it. Just name a movie.” Gregory did not respond, only looking closer at the embers of what they had been smoking, and saw it was all done.
The night sky was particularly light-polluted then, so that, as they looked up at it in a quasi-contemplative attitude, a dull solid coat of dark-blue looked down on them. A couple of minutes passed before Gregory motioned to Samuel that he was heading back home.
On his walk homewards, which consists of crossing four streets to the north, Gregory resumed the answer to the aforementioned question, stating his sentiments aloud to himself in the following way.
“Scary movies don’t do it for me. Why? Well, because they are dishonest. They do not frighten the audience; they merely surprise them. In a hushed theater, how would an old door banging shut not surprise anyone? It would not be a bad idea to rename the ‘horror’ genre, therefore, as the ‘adrenaline’ genre, as nothing more than that do loud and unexpected sounds excite.”
“Then, let us consider that scary movies are horribly ineffective. People are not seriously frightened by murderous psychopaths. Stop a stranger in the street and ask her or him what is frightening; nine times out of ten, it’s a broken heart, public humiliation or parental disapproval what you will hear.”
“And if I myself look inward, what do I see waking me up in the middle of the night in an icy sweat, but my seventh-grade crush never having noticed me, or (if we move to the present) my lack of courage to halt an injustice happening before my eyes? —No, when compared to the fears, both retrospective and current, that crawl in the nooks and cranies of my psyche, what’s a haunted house to me?”
These last words were pronounced just as Gregory arrived home. When he noticed the brown, bulky spider keeping watch on the coat rack in the foyer, he screamed in the way a departing steam-powered train does, and ran as far away as possible from the long-legged creature, which seemed to have hardly noticed how quickly it put to rout its mortal roommate.