SOME weeks ago, a friend of mine called me late at night to inform me there was a murderer in her shower.
Alarmed, I said something to the effect that that was unfortunate and disappointing, and asked how she knew. She explained, in the voice pitched just below the audible range for murderers, that she had come home to find her window open and her shower curtain closed - as she had left them - and that her apartment was basically full to brimming of psychopaths as a result. Just to be sure, however, she had tested by throwing a wooden doorstop over the curtain rod. It had made the exact sound a doorstop makes when it hits a murderer or something the size and consistency of a murderer.
She had managed to escape the house and now she needed a murderer-free place to sleep until all the murderers or murderer-like objects had cleared out. Naturally, faced with a friend in such obvious distress, I made a series of sarcastic comments and then laughed heartily at them.
Then, unable to convince her to double check again with more doorstops or her eyes or whatever, I volunteered my couch.
It turned out the next day that the shower was empty, the only reasonable explanation being that either the murderer, crestfallen after having spent hours in the shower with no one to chainsaw, had given up and left, or - and this is the option I favoured - the doorstop had destroyed him. Her cat, miraculously, had also survived the night.
In the end, this episode clearly worked out well for everybody involved. My friend, through caution and quick thinking, had avoided a grisly demise at the hands of a patient but not particularly skilled and possibly nonexistent homicidal maniac, and I, by virtue of having someone to mock, felt better about myself.
I felt better, I say, because I secretly completely understood where she was coming from.
As someone who lives alone, I know what it feels like to realize something is lurking somewhere in your home with the clear intention of in some way getting you. The difference is that I'm not so foolish as to imagine it's living murderers.
Let me pause here to clarify that I'm not a man given easily to the heebie jeebies. Take all the common phobias you want - spiders, snakes, marriage, whatever - pile them into the most poorly ventilated elevator you can find and suspended high over a chasm filled with public speaking and I would be fine. Well, "fine" might be an exaggeration. Given the choice, I would probably wait for the next elevator.
But by and large those things individually don't bother me.
Even a lot of stuff that should worry me doesn't, really. Cardiovascular disease, for instance. The fact that by age 40 most people in my family have arteries that could scratch diamonds should make heart health a serious cause for concern, but the reality is I rarely wake up in a cold sweat wondering if I eat too many Baconators. At the end of the day, it's not cardiovascular disease that, late at night, is going to jump out of my linen closet.
For me, rather, as a longtime fan of the horror genre, the most obvious and immediate threat to my wellbeing when I'm alone is the undead.
As an adult male of reasonable size who, finding himself in a situation demanding courageous action, is not unafraid to kick someone in the gonads and run away, I figure I have at least a fighting chance against human attackers. But I know, as a rational person, there's one thing I can't defend myself against: magic.
One of these moments occurred shortly after my friend's visit. Late one night, having just viewed a particularly unsettling movie trailer in which Katie Holmes or whoever moved into a very poorly selected Victorian home, I was brushing my teeth when I got to wondering if there might be something supernatural - in this instance, I believe, my best guess was those spooky little twins from The Shining - somewhere nearby. In my mind, I ran through the places in my residence where one or possibly as many as two undead little girls might hide, and I quickly established that the most obvious candidate was, yes, the shower.
Unable to stop myself, I yanked aside the curtain - fast enough, I hoped, to startle them and possibly even scare them off - and found it empty.
Afterwards, I felt like an idiot. Obviously, pulling aside the covering of a shower that could, for all I knew, be packed shoulder to shoulder with the spawn of hell is just plain shortsighted. I would have been within easy soul-sucking distance of them with nothing but my hands, a toothbrush and a nominal amount of tartar control Colgate with which to defend myself.
Standing there, looking at an empty shower, and reflecting on my friend's ridiculous episode of a couple of weeks before, the obvious thought occurred to me:
I should really invest in a doorstop.