Monday, September 14, 2015

Sleepovers, Monopoly And The Dark.

The feeling of nostalgia can have a powerful influence on the past... especially when your memories are filled with an atmosphere of wonder and eeriness. One such memory immediately pops into my mind. While the content isn't necessarily spooky in itself, the mood surrounding it sure is to me. I'll try to invoke it as best as possible.

The year was 1994.

When I was young, I always looked forward to sleepovers with my cousin Dale. He was a guy I looked up to. Cool, confident, talented, great at playing Nintendo. He was my partner in crime for many years. In many ways, he was like the older brother I never had. Sometimes I'd get the opportunity to stay over at his place, which I always eagerly anticipated. His basement was set up perfectly -- a giant television to play video games on, tons of Nintendo cartridges, plenty of room to crash and go to sleep, a little chilly but not damp. It was both inviting and a little creepy at the same time, especially when the lights were turned down low. Being able to stay there was one of the highlights of my youth. I remember those sleepovers with nothing but admiration.

On one such sleepover, there were more than just the two of us. His sister Ashley and our mutual cousin Jessica were there as well. We were all fairly close in age, so we could easily relate to one another. That night, we decided to play Monopoly until the wee hours of the morning. All of the lights in the house were turned low and candles were lit for a truly spectral ambiance. We'd rented a movie (remember VHS tapes and video stores?) to play on the living room television. It was a little known horror movie from 1993 called The Dark. This movie was your basic creature feature -- a monstrous rodent tunnels below a cemetery to consume the recently deceased. Within the film, a cop is trying to kill the monster, while a scientist is trying to save it. Why? The rat monster apparently secretes a powerful healing slime. No... I'm not making that plot up. It was a Canadian horror movie starring a pre-Party of Five Neve Campbell in one of her first roles -- go figure.

The Dark - a movie so bad, it's still not on DVD.

Anyway, we popped the tape in at some point after we had started to play Monopoly. I can recall how the atmosphere in the house progressively became so macabre. The combination of the dim lights, candles and the horror movie made the evening all the more memorable. I was young; just a teenager with all of my life ahead of me. There we were -- staying up way past our bedtime and living our lives to the fullest.

Sure, Monopoly and a horror movie doesn't seem like a very edgy experience, but I was thirteen years old and away from home. It was about as edgy as I got at the time.

I think back to that night often. It's not like anything special happened. We were just kids playing a board game and watching a horror movie. But, maybe that's the point. The mood from that evening was far more important than anything else. Teenage angst and anticipation were in the air. On that evening, the membrane separating the real world from the phantasmal was just a little bit thinner. We were vulnerable. We were turning into adults.

Every time I think about that night, I get goosebumps. I can still feel how I felt that night -- a little bit scared, a little bit restless.

We never finished the game of Monopoly. By the time early morning rolled around, we each started to doze off. One by one, we all retreated to our beds for the night. Just before I went to bed, I can recall standing there in the living room alone and turning the lights off; the last to go to sleep. One by one, the candles went out. Down to the basement I went, with only the orange glow of a bathroom light to guide my way past the stairs. The memory falls into darkness.

If you're reading this Dale, I hope you're well. I miss the time we spent together. Though us growing up seemed to get in the way, you'll always be someone I looked up to. Thanks for that.

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