31 October 2013
This is at the house on Marigold Street. I'm fifteen or sixteen and it is October, but not quite Halloween yet, but it is dark early and I am sitting in the living room in my dad's recliner watching a spooky movie on the TV. My sisters Anne and Carla are on the couch to my left transfixed by the evil doings in a dungeon. Vincent Price is in the movie and I'm pretty sure it is "The Pit and the Pendulum" adapted from a story by Poe.
I can't remember much of the movie, but I read the short story, once, and knew there was a big pit and a clockwork pendulum with a sharp crescent blade that creeps closer, with each pass, to the victim tied to an altar, threatening to eventually cut him in two bloody pieces.
My mom is out shopping and nobody else is home except for my dad, and he announces from the kitchen doorway that he is headed down to Fred Meyers for some brass screws for the screen door hinge. I nod and go back to watching and hear the door to the garage open and close.
"Odd" I remember thinking at the time.
Price is wearing a cape and hood, I think. though I may be confusing this with one of his other Poe films. He just doesn't seem as menacing here. The movie is just not that scary, not like "The Night of the Living Dead", but I am holding out to see the big pendulum scene, and I have no homework, to do, so why not?
The movie changes settings from the dungeon to some other activities in the castle so there is a pause...and then I notice something out of the corner of my left eye and I turn and see my dad on the deck outside. He is moving slowly, taking his time. He sees me looking at him and holds his finger to his lips and shakes his head. I quickly look away, back to the TV set.
I am looking in the direction of the TV but my mind is racing and my eyes aren't really focused. My dad is about to pull one of his pranks. I thought it was odd that he would tell us where he was going. He never does that. And my mom has the car with her. So how was he going to get to the store for his screws? And how did he get to the deck? It is on the main level with a daylight basement beneath and there are no stairs to it on the outside. The only entrance is through the sliding glass door behind me. He must have gotten a ladder from the garage.
It is ten minutes since he left, so he is being really patient and stealthy.
The big picture window looking out on the deck is behind the couch where my sisters are sitting, so he must be creeping up to get behind them, but I don't dare look. I keep my gaze rigidly on the movie.
Again, the scene has changed back to the pit and the the altar and it is gloomier and the music is starting out low and slowly building.
I wonder what is happening out there on the deck. Dad must be in position by now. What is he waiting for? And sub-consciously I let my eyes drift to the window and my dad perched at the glass like a coiled cobra. He is waiting for the tension to build, for the perfect moment to strike.
Anne sees me looking out the glass at something just behind and over her head and as she turns to see for herself my father, with his hands like claws, rattles the window pane and screams like a banshee burning in brimstone. It startles even me, and I know he is there and what he is doing.
Anne and Carla both cry out and cover and roll off the couch onto the floor like they are avoiding some taloned fuliginous flying pterodactyl from hell...
Or are responding to a nuclear strike drill at school and looking for a desk to hide under.
They get up, indignant, and I open the sliding door to let the demon in. We settle back in and finish the movie. There is only about ten more minutes of it left. Vincent was OK, and the so was the big swinging scimitar, but the scariest thing that night was definitely my dad.