Tight Spaces

Hello, from Montana this week.

Posting at night this time, as I am back to traveling with my Player 2 this week and this time to where we will soon be calling home.  We move here in a little over a month and came to set some things up in preparation for our move.  After this week, we have two weeks at home before traveling to Egypt for a little over a week.  The need to travel is ingrained in us.   Below are a few pictures from one of my flights here:

I draw a lot of inspiration from nature and being in places where you are completely unplugged from the world.  Being an avid hiker, I’m very ready for this summer and for the opportunity to hike in some new places and make scenic retreats my office a couple days each week.  I’ll be sure to share pictures from my hikes this summer here.

Today, we took a trip to a town nearby to walk around and ended up stopping at a small café for a treat and a brutal game of chess.  My Player 2 has no mercy.  I’m a tad bit competitive and very lacking in any chess skills.

In our new house before we left, my Player 2 asked me after several clacking sounds if I knew what the noise was.  After putting worries at ease by saying it was the ice maker, I made an Amityville Horror joke that maybe the new neighborhood was on an old burial ground.  Laughing, my Player 2 snapped back with, “Well, better not go into the crawl space then.”

Of course, this got me to thinking, what is it that people don’t like about spaces like that?  What is it that gives us the heebie-jeebies about going down in basements or tight spaces like crawl spaces?

I took my Player 2 with me on a ghost tour at the Stanley Hotel two falls ago and part of the tour briefly went by a space under a building.  The tour guide gave everyone the opportunity to stand closer to the opening and take a look if they wanted.  It was night time and dark, but the space itself was lit up.  Almost no one walked up to it.  I walked up and maybe two others.  I went back to my Player 2’s side and looked around the group.  (I’m a big people watcher.)  Most had this “nope, not happening” look on their face.

For some prone to becoming claustrophobic, small enclosed spaces are a no-go and uncomfortable situation in and of themselves.  But add a paranormal or frightening factor like a monster in a movie and now that tight space is problematic for many more.  I wonder which is worse?  Would you hate running from a ghost in a tight space or a monster in a tight space more?  The one that you can fight back, although with limited movement, or the one that running from it might not help at all?  Hmm.

Take the movie Descent, for example.  We have a group of girlfriends that are out of an exploratory adventure of an unmapped cave system.  Not all the spaces were super tight, but the caves are small in some areas, dark, enclosed, and because it’s unmapped the way out is not super clear.  Once something is chasing after them and they are now spelunking not just for fun, but for survival.  They transform from experienced adventure sportswomen to helpless prey without a clear path out.

Can things be just as scary or scarier in an open space where you can run away?  Oh, I think so.  But follow me here for a second.

Before going to New York a few weeks ago (I know, I’m all over the place right now), a friend told me it makes them claustrophobic because they can’t see for miles like you can living by the mountains in New Mexico.  In a life or death situation in a very tight space, this stress is compounded.  If you are somewhere you can’t see where you are going, you can’t stand all the way up, or are forced to crawl to safety, the anxiety from restricted movement will inevitably feed into the fear already in place while running, or crawling for your life.

Think of what would happen if someone sneaks up behind you at work while you are getting coffee with a quick, “Boo.”  Do you jump?  Even slightly?  Maybe spill a little coffee if they were especially sneaky?  Now, what if you are in a crawl space only 3 feet high, putting away some storage items and minding your own business.  Unexpectedly, a voice from behind you whispers, “Boo,” and a hand lightly taps your ankle.  I’m thinking for a lot of us our muscles would tighten or we would jerk in our movement, some of us would hit our heads trying to jump up and see what it was behind us, and maybe even a few of us would shout out with such fun choice words.  Maybe a couple of you calm and collected samurai keep your cool.  Teach us your ways, sensei.

There’s a comfort in having freedom of movement and in knowing where you are going next.  I think comfort plays a big factor in this type of fear in scary stories.  That opens a whole can of worms though–slimy, mushy worms covered in goop from an old, rotting can.  Let’s talk comfort and creepy crawlies in scary stories next week?  Excellent.  Until next time.

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S.L. Ember

Horror and dark fiction writer.

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