She used to love old black and white films: especially the horror ones, produced in the late thirties and forties. By the time they were released for television, the sound was slow and eerie and the character movements were jerky and mechanical. The most intriguing, scary aspect of these films was the interaction among the various ranges of the colour spectrum – from white to grey to black. All these traits were precisely part of the attraction. When the production worked most effectively, with hovering, menacing shadows and piercing shrieks that penetrated her entire nervous system, she would grab onto her father with one hand and shield her eyes with the other. It was this unexpected thrill of fear that kept her body glued to the sofa and her eyes to the television set.
Saturday afternoons were the best time for watching these movies. For one thing, prowling, creeping silhouettes were not as foreboding in daylight. For another, her father was a willing partner, ready to humour her. He too enjoyed haunting movies. He was a connoisseur of the works of such actors as the Hungarian Lugosi Béla, most notably famous for his portrayal of Dracula. He admitted, however, to draw the line on watching the 1922 silent film Nosferatu. That one, he was confident, slithered from the energy of another world.
A highpoint of their comradery in this venture was that her father knew her triggers – those delicate moments when she was most vulnerable to be spooked. “Watch out!” He would yell. Afterwards they would laugh and laugh about the absurdity of a harmless scare – until their sides were near to bursting.
But that was then… another lifetime ago. There came a day when she could no longer watch any film that included ghostly, frightening themes. Even the idea of watching one worried her; she could not deal with the possibility of having a nightmare resulting from a monster movie. She had enough nightmares already. These were strange dreams that intertwined from slivers of images or experiences she had encountered.
They were often of daunting women trying to subject her to suffering. Sometimes the dreams were about searching for a place and sometimes about almost getting there – but something always blocked the entrance.
And yet, for whatever enigmatic reason, her life-work was about mythology and superstition: probing the various folk tales ˗ often dark tales – from different cultures and identifying their root beginnings and ongoing influences.
Against her father’s persuasion, she was convinced she was called to this field of study, by some force she couldn’t decipher.
Perhaps it was Malcolm’s influence that lead her to this domain. “Look for the essence of the thing” he had instructed. That had also become her philosophy. From the moment they met, she grasped that the two of them had a connection. The eerie part of her intuition was that she also understood they had known each other ˗ forever. She clung to him as her rock, whenever her life shifted. Where was he now? Not knowing was her darkest fear.