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Fear

In which we think scary thoughts


We’ve just been watching Nosferatu, the classic silent vampire movie, and one little touch jumped out at me. The menu screen of the DVD shows the cover image, a stylised pastel portrait of the titular vampire, but with one small difference: every couple of minutes, he blinks. The sort of thing that: when you see it, you’re not sure if it really happened.

It got me thinking about the nature of fear; and, particularly, fear of images. When I was younger, I had a book,* full of exciting information for children and suggestions for fun activities. It had everything from face painting and magic tricks, to the colour wheel and the platonic solids.** I loved it – but one page, I was terrified by. The page – well, double-spread – on toxic and dangerous animals. I didn’t really mind the tarantula, and I can’t even remember anything else on the page: but what terrified me was the picture of a piranha down in the corner. It scared me so much that I wouldn’t dare touch it, even though I knew it was only a picture. I’d find a different way to turn that page, without going near the piranha. I can’t explain why I found a picture, essentially a picture of a fish with big teeth, quite so frightening, but I wouldn’t touch that picture for years.

* A pedant writes: as I rarely get rid of books, I still have it, and it’s still on the primary Bedroom Shelves rather than relegated to storage somewhere.

** Tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron, I think. I might have missed one. My favourite part of the book was also the longest: a project to build your own electrical trivia game with questions about the solar system. I never did try to build it.

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