Ginger Nuts of Horror
BY DANI BROWN
Delirious June 2009, too sick to know the date, but after the 21st.
I don’t care how sick you are, get out of bed and put on Sky News. That was an actual text I received when the news broke that childhood tormentor of my dreams had died. I didn’t know that until I dragged my feverish, aching body from the bed.
The text seemed important. It was from a journalism contact of mine. I was too sick to wonder if some sort of terrible event had been unfolding in the outside world. It wasn’t time for more medicine and whatever the strongest painkillers nursing mums are allowed to take (they didn’t work by the way, neither did the medicine).
I somehow found myself in front of a TV with a baby monitor in my shaky, feverish hands. I remember the baby monitor clearly. I brought that thing with me every time I left the bed. Being sick with a new born creates a very special mother/baby bond. I left my phone in the other room. It wasn’t as important as the baby monitor. I switched on the news.
Someone had died. Michael Jackson. I went back to bed until it was time to feed the baby. I’m not sure if I felt anything.
I used to be terrified of him as a child. As an adult, I still find him creepy. These days, if one of his songs comes on the radio or someone’s playlist (certainly not mine), I’m in a foul mood for the rest of the day. It doesn’t leave me diving under my Troll bedding for cover though (I miss that Troll bedding).
I don’t know what came first, the fear of some random popstar or the dislike of his screeching vocals and crouch grabbing. All I know is that at some point before I could remember, I started to fear Michael Jackson. As a kid, he was the monster under the bed.
I don’t think Michael Jackson has seeped into my writing or art in any way. One thing that has is The Wizard of Oz. Why, Grandma, why did you make me watch that? I have never read the book. I have no intention of doing so. It seems like something I would like, but I still have nightmares of the Lollipop Kids on PTS-free nights (although they have to share with the Cold War). The only time I’ve seen the entire film was that one time my American Grandmother put it on.
The set for Munchkin Land sticks out in my mind. It was awful and plastic and bright. All except the house falling on the witch and her feet curling up when the shoes were taken away. That was dark.
I went to a slumber party a few years after having the most horrifying film known to humanity inflicted upon me. Apparently, I was saying flying monkeys in my sleep. That’s when I knew it would never go away.
I’ve heard the beginning of The Wizard of Oz goes nicely with a joint and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall. I can’t remember which as I was never able to try it due to the terror. It would be just my luck that while high on some super-strength hallucinogenic weed (that I don’t think existed way back in my teen years when I used to get high), the characters in The Wizard of Oz transform to have Michael Jackson’s face and dance moves, all set in the landscape of a nuclear holocaust from Cold War era propaganda that I can’t remember. With giant plastic flowers with Michael Jackson singing in them while dressed as Munchkins.
Lollipop Kids and Flying Monkeys have never crossed the threshold into my Cold War themed nightmares. I was born in 1984. I don’t have any vivid memories of anything Cold War related, but for whatever reason, this stuff has played out in my nightmares since childhood. I suck at history, even when it concerns stuff that people only a few years older than me would remember. I might take it in, in some way my conscious mind can’t recall but it gets distorted by my subconscious.
The first nightmare I recall that I put in the nuclear holocaust/Cold War category involved a bomb shelter with a bead curtain. Maybe the beads had some sort of special lead? I don’t think it would have protected against a nuke. It defied gravity though. The shelter in my dream was set into the floor with the bead curtain covering it. It was well-stocked with Doritos and my mother’s friends. This might actually be a reoccurring nightmare. As I type this more details come back, like the hard wood floors surrounding where it was set into the floor. And the metal shelves set onto the concrete of the shelter.
I don’t recall spending my early days scared of nuclear bombs and nuclear power. I probably had no clue what they were, until it came time for sleep. Daylight hours were consumed trying to avoid Michael Jackson, Lollipop Kids, Flying Monkeys and dinosaurs. Yes, dinosaurs. And playing with Sylvanian Families (my go-to toy until Trolls re-entered in the market).
The Land Before Time is not an innocent children’s film. There’s huge dinosaurs which could come back and step on my house. I woke up one-night screaming. My mother had to remove all the dinosaur toys (and anything that remotely resembled a Flying Monkey) from my bedroom, otherwise I wouldn’t sleep. The dinosaurs could have come out of the TV.
Luckily, I was older when Jurassic Park came out. I don’t care about DNA breaking down, I’ve convinced myself that it could happen and there’s probably some seedy scientist in an old lab with active small pox sitting on a dusty shelf messing around with dinosaur DNA. I’m too much of a wimp to google Jurassic Park 3D to see if that’s a real thing. I’m going to assume it is and then assume the makers of that will be bringing us The Wizard of Oz 3D and Michael Jackson holograms.
I’m not about to speculate on the reality of a nuclear war. Apart from that, rational, adult, waking me, understands the rest of the stuff can’t happen. There are three very real things that can and those are bees, wasps and hornets. I saw a wasp today. I know they’re real. I know I’m going to have nightmares about wasps tonight unless I fall asleep while listening to Ultravox’s Greatest Hits.
Melissophobia and Spheksophobia are very real. I remember when it started. I was camping with my mother and sister and stepfather (and possibly little brother) in Rhode Island. There were bees, according to my mother, killer bees. I saw the bees a few days before everyone else and told my mother, but she wasn’t listening (story of my life). I had nightmares about the bees until someone with more credibility than a child said there were bees and convinced my mother they were Africanised bees (I was never able to confirm if they were). My mother said to me, “why didn’t you tell me about the bees?”. I did tell her about the goddamn bees. By this point, I was waking up screaming in the night about bees. Every night. Michael Jackson, Munchkins, the Cold War and dinosaurs had nothing on them.
After that, we went back to England for a few weeks. Possibly the following summer, possibly not. I lived in Western Massachusetts, hot enough to need air conditioning in the summer months. We had the air conditioners that would hang out of windows. No one wanted to reinstall the air conditioners upon our return. Me and my sister had to share a room and we were forced to go to sleep in the middle of the afternoon upon our return. I couldn’t sleep. Wasps had built a nest close to the window. It was too hot to not have it open. There was a hole in the screen. They were coming in.
As my mother’s mental health declined, she used my fear of bees, wasps and hornets to manipulate me. It gradually became worse and started to incorporate hummingbirds (they’re hornets in reverse) and scorpions (I don’t know what they’re meant to be). It ended up at a point where I was scared to leave the house in the summer or open the windows. I’m not that bad now, but I won’t wear perfume in the summer and I keep my hair tied up (incase one gets caught in my hair). There’s a can of Raid within arm’s reach.
This is a fear that carried over from early childhood into adulthood. I still have nightmares about the other things, but they aren’t real. Bees, wasps and hornets are very real. I’m here alone. If I have a nightmare of the wasp I saw earlier, there’s no one to comfort me. She was there, on the wet pavement. I can’t even step on them because I’m that scared. I wish I did.
One day, I might be able to. I’m going to go listen to Ultravox now. Nuclear holocaust is the only way to ensure there won’t be a wasp.
Suitably labelled “The Queen of Filth”, extremist author Dani Brown’s style of dark and twisted writing and deeply disturbing stories has amassed a worrying sized cult following featuring horrifying tales such as “My Lovely Wife”, “Toenails” and the hugely popular “Night of the Penguins”. Merging eroticism with horror, torture and other areas that most authors wouldn’t dare, each of Dani’s titles will crawl under your skin, burrow inside you, and make you question why you are coming back for more.
Dani Brown’s latest book, and first self-published book, is out now.
Dani Brown's second person experimental piece you've been waiting years for. Witness first hand as a fiction author breaks the list of writing rules (or a list, there are many of these things). You wake up. Your day doesn't get much better after that. Dive into your mind as your body releases every bit of fluid it had and then more. When your mind is done with you, it is your body's turn. Is there any hope for you?