Why Did You Write... Crawl?
S P Oldham
Why Did You Write… Crawl?
This one comes from a very vivid memory of my childhood. I should say a collection of memories, really. Whether this was a combination of nightmares and imagination I don’t know, but it has stayed with me all this time. I reasoned that if it was enough to unsettle me, then perhaps it might unsettle others, too (share the love and all that.)
I used to share a room with two of my sisters. The breast of the chimney ran up through this room. It was painted white, in keeping with the rest of the walls. Being the youngest child, it was often the case that I was alone in this room while my sisters were out at night. It might even have been the case that they had left home, and I had a room to myself.
I woke in the early hours once, to see (or I thought I saw) a white shape hovering at the top of this chimney breast. My bed lay parallel to the breast, immediately in front of it. As I looked on in horror, this white shape slid down the length of the chimney breast until it drew level with the foot of my bed, when it raced up the length of my body to hover over me. At least, I imagined it did. By this point, I was cowering under my candlewick bed cover (it was the late 70’s/early 80’s) and holding my breath, willing whatever it was to go and leave me alone.
It felt as if I hid beneath those covers for an age. The air grew hot and dry from my fevered breath. When I could stand it no longer, I drew the covers back for a breath of cooler air, to find I was, thankfully, alone in the room.
In Crawl I also added another weird element from my childhood. We lived in an old council house. In the spring and summer months, we could hear an odd ticking sound coming from within the walls. Seeing it frightened me, (I have mention before what an overactive imagination I had as a child) my mother would reassure me that it was “just the tick beetle in the walls.”
Beetle or not, this fed into my imagination mightily. I didn’t really find her explanation very satisfactory*, though I never said as much. I borrowed this memory from my childhood to use in Crawl. I have probably used it in other stories too. This is what I mean when I say that writing has a cathartic, even therapeutic element to it. If you can get it down on paper, you are also getting it out of your head. Of course, that you have had first-hand experience – real or imagined – of these things makes it so much easier to write about, too.
I am not saying for one minute that any of these supernatural things happened to me. I am only saying that as a child, I believed they did. The memory of the fear and dread these things evoked in me is what has stayed into adulthood, and it is that which feeds into my writing.
*An interesting little footnote to the ‘tick beetle’ story. There is indeed a wood-boring beetle that inhabits old buildings. The ‘ticking’ noise is the sound it makes to attract mates. However, it does not go by the name ‘tick beetle’ but by the rather more disconcerting title of ‘Deathwatch Beetle.’ My mum, no doubt knowing what an overly-sensitive, highly imaginative and somewhat nervous child she had on her hands, refrained from giving me this name, for obvious reasons. Thanks mum!