Why Casper the Friendly Ghost and I get on so well

I am not a person who believes in the supernatural. I am a logical, rational being with a brain hard wired to question everything and accept nothing…

…I say to myself in the early hours of the morning, knees trembling as I contemplate the dark expanse of carpet between me and the bathroom. If I could only reach the light switch.

I know. It’s pathetic. OFFICIALLY pathetic. There’s no getting around the fact that an independent twenty year old almost-woman doing a degree should not be scared of monsters. Or ghosts. Or possible alien invasions. The watching of horror movies should not intensify said fear. The first ten minutes of ‘Saw’ should not still be playing on my mind four years after I watch it.

In others words girl, MAN UP.

So I did. I marched across that carpet ocean and waded into the glorious pool of light streaming from the swiftly turned on light bulb as if I hadn’t a care in the world. And then I ran back to my room.

The fact remains that, as a young writer, I feel a part of me has to keep these fears alive, has to hold on tight to the imagination I had as a child and regurgitate it onto a page in whatever form it chooses. Where would we be without a little fear and naivete?

We wouldn’t have Doctor Who without a recognition of the possibility of aliens.

doctor who

There would be no Harry Potter without a belief in magic.

patronus

We wouldn’t even have Casper without acknowledging the existence of ghosts.

Casper2

At the end of the day, who’s to say that something does or does not exist? We’re told time and again that novels come from inspiration, from memories, from reality…but I’ve never been told they come from fear, even though so many are driven by it. Fear of lonliness, fear of loss, fear of the dark, fear of the supernatural – this encompasses the entire Gothic genre for one, as well as touching on many others.

So embrace the little fears we encounter every day. Writers, poets, artists of any form, need a nugget of naivete, a core of imagination to draw on, and declare boldly to the world. Hold on to a belief that you saw the shadow of a ghost in the bathroom mirror as you were brushing your teeth. Rejoice in the independently creaking floorboards that made you jump.

Because nestled somewhere in that blossom of instinctual fear could be your next monumental piece of art.

…And if not, it gives you an excuse to slip on your mittens and a thick pair of socks so that the monsters under your bed won’t get you while you starfish in your sleep.

from: Cedric Hohnstadt Illustration

from: Cedric Hohnstadt Illustration

I am Superman

With all the snow drama, the New Years plans to eat more healthily so as to look like Kate Middleton by June, the muscles worked hard at the gym, the brain stretched to breaking point with work…sometimes we could all do with a TIMEOUT.

timeout

It’s easy to forget how human we are. We multi-task and raise families, entertain friends and bosses, haul our bodies out of bed in the ridiculous hours of the morning, and often it simply slips our mind to sit back and do nothing. To just…be. 

Even the idea of not doing anything makes me instantly fidget. I can understand those people with every second of every day planned out perfectly because I would be lying if I said having a list of objectives and achieving them didn’t make me feel great. When everything gets checked off that list, I feel like Batman’s Robin on his first day of wearing tights.

robin

But for the first time in a long time, I have recently found myself with hours of free time.

Cue the mild sense of panic.

With no assignments, no real chores other than feeding myself, no scheduled social events or appointments, I was thumbing through a backlog of magazines that had been lying around for months, my mind buzzing with boredom at the repetitive articles telling me how to ‘spice up’ my relationship or achieve the ‘smoothest hairstyle’. I needed human interaction…so I ventured out of my comfort zone and, twenty minutes later, was barely able to breathe from laughter.

This is what life is about: PEOPLE. You are never alone even when you think you are. In my case, the relief to my boredom was down a single flight of steps. Suddenly, I was catapulted out of the box I was neatly slotted into and straight into a group of people doing nothing at all, and loving it.  I was relaxing and telling stories and being more ME than I had been in longer than I could remember, laughing at my housemate with a swollen tongue and unfortunate lisp following a tongue piercing as she tried to say ‘Silly Sausages.’ Even the complete stranger emerging silently from the bathroom an hour later, with no explanation as to who he was or how he came to be there was hilarious…albeit a bit odd.

So, even though I’m just another face rabbiting on about how great an experience she had, give it a chance. Take some time out of your day to do nothing, to just be, whether that is alone or with others around you. But let go of the pressures and deadlines. ‘Chillax’ as the cool kids used to say.

Because I’ll tell you what. When I stopped for a second and put my feet up, I no longer felt like Robin.

I was Superman. And I was fantastic.

Superman-Comic

Mummifying Alan

by Chris Phillips

by Chris Phillips

Happy New Year!

It feels like an age since I last wrote a blog, and in all honesty, I can’t say I missed it. Life was busy shuffling by me, past me, and through me with the full frontal force of a battering ram, and although writing is an escape, there was fear of what ugliness would rear up if pen was put to paper.

But here I am now, new year, old me, with a new smile.

Isn’t it odd how the smallest things can lift you up? Motivate you, inspire you, shock you into living again? In my case, this such thing was a tv show.

In desperation, I was browsing through the show listings of 4od (it is glaringly obvious from this just how desperate my situation was) and found a show called ‘Mummifying Alan.’ Curious, I watched it…and over an hour later was staring in shock and disbelief at what I had watched. In gruesome detail, scientists had performed a mummification on a donor body – Alan. At first, I couldn’t understand it. Why on EARTH would you donate your body to scientists and television, putting your family through the trauma of watching your own (significantly slowed down process of) decomposition?! It was a thought too raw for me to handle and so, at the time, I couldn’t understand it.

On reflection however, it became clearer, as it always does with hindsight. What at the time looked ugly, I now perceived as an act of utmost respect. The art of mummification was saved for the kings and Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt; doing the same thing for the man you loved was a message that went further than tv fame. And so, for the first time in a long time, I picked up a pen and began to write.

* * *

Mummifying Alan

A cold grey slab of meat.

Stomach distended.

Cheeks bulbous.

Empty of organs, of blood, of heat,

Of life.

 

Sketched on the page

his outline makes my stomach turn.

Three maggots writhe in his ear,

but decomposition is not your road, my friend.

 

I shall bathe you in salt water.

Submerge you, soak you in tears of grief and joy

for fifty two long, sunless days

before you are reborn again.

You will rise from those waters

as a slippery eel escapes its hunter,

unbeknownst to me,

your forgotten author.

 

Here is where you begin to harden:

grow leather for skin and salt crystals for muscle,

mutating into that eternal agony nestled in me,

shaping the murkiest shadows.

 

Now your cheeks are hollowed,

your flesh softened,

ballooning with the welcoming promise of collapse

like a fresh pillow on a hotel bed.

 

It is beyond wonder that you still resemble you,

as I hack and chop and mould all that makes you human –

though, truly, my eyes have not gazed upon your face for eternity.

 

I must wrap you now,

in strips of rough white linen hugged tight around you,

blossoming as spider web from my quill,

weaving your immortal bed.

 

As I cover your statue-face,

I feel release and a knowledge:

This is right.

For though none else can see it,

the golden crown inked splendidly on your preserved head

is as beautiful in death

as you once were in life.