"Whoa, whoa," says the little cat trying to sit on my arm. "You're looking a little stressed."
"I am, Newton," I reply.
He curls up on my lap. I try to push him away, because that is where my computer is - but he is kitten, and knows that my powers are useless against him.
"Wanna talk about it?"
"Not really, Newt," I say. "Here, listen. Super cute and all, but I've got to get this blog post done, and then I have to work on my query letter because I have a fresh list of agents to try and - "
"Oh, there it is." He sits up and starts fastidiously cleaning between his toes. "Wanna massage?"
I consider this. "Yeah."
He begins to knead on my shoulder. Not a very good massage, but he's a kitten and doing the best he can.
"So what's wrong with the letter?"
"I don't know," I sigh. "I think I've rewritten it too many times."
"The book is fun, but the letter is starting to sound bitter. Tired, you know?"
"No," he reminds me. "I'm a kitten. You have other projects on the go, commit to them for a while."
I give him a little scratch on the head. "Thanks, Newt."
"No prob. That will be a salmon for the massage and council."
"A whole salmon!"
He shrugs. "One of us has to get paid a living wage."
John enters the living room, buttoning the top button of his shirt. When he looks up, he raises an eyebrow. "Were you arguing wtih the cat?"
"No," I say.
"Meow," says Newt.
As I frequently do in times of stress, I went to see a horror film last night. I did not actually realise that this was a habit of mine until a couple years ago whilst sinking into the never-ending quagmire that is the American Immigration system and I went to see the "Carrie" remake alone. I had been binge-reading Stephen King, and rewatching all of my favourite Halloween movies since June. It should have been clear to me that I was trying to externalize my anxiety, but that's self-reflection for you. I like horror even when I am not losing sleep over one thing or another, but oh, man, if I have a deadline coming up, or forms to fill in of any kind (I. Hate. Filling. Forms) you can you can set your watch and warrant on the likelihood that "The Shining" will be playing on loop in the background.
Last night was a good one. Robert Eggers' debut writer/director movie "The Witch." It was, I felt, exactly the sort of well-concieved, thoughtful, and nightmarish film we need more of, and I encourage everyone to go see it. What struck me the most was how it relied so much on the very familiar, but was able to take those well-versed images and make them new and horrifying again.
The trope of the witch is, of course, one of the oldest monsters the general public has ever known. Hell, aside from the vampire the witchmight be the oldest monster going. But because of that, we've forgotten how scary she can be. Mention the word witch today and you'll likely conjure up an image of a green-faced snaggle-toothed hag flapping listlessly on the inside of a screen door by the light of a grinning jack-o'-lantern. Something for trick-or-treaters to dutifully ignore on their quest for tiny chocolate and mini-chips that will be by the time they reach home flavour dust, grease and broken dreams. On their march to this delicious, high-fructose bounty, they might trip a sensor (if the home-owner has been so enterprising), activating a cackle and mild threats to the effect of "Ooooo, look at the little children. You look good enought to eat! Eee hee hee hee hee hee heeee!" "Raisins!" the robot, Buzz Lightyear, Space Princess and Hippie cry indignantly when they inspect their haul back on the street, indifferent to the cartoon witch's assurances that she will, in effect, try to kidnap and boil them alive (Eeee hee hee hee!).
But when you actually put those threats into action, really think about those tired old jokes as something sinister . . . It's pretty dark in the woods after all.
Above all, The Witch was a great movie, with layers and enough meat their to really chew on it for hours after viewing. And some bones to pick your teeth with afterwards.