The mirror incident came about because of something I forgot to tell you. You know how (in modern films at least), how vampires have a low body temperature? Well, this is actually true. I mean, it’s not massively low: they always exaggerate everything in films. I suppose it’s to make us sound more impressive than we already are. Haha. It’s a matter of a few degrees (about 4 or 5 degrees), but it is enough to make a difference physiologically.
I don’t feel the cold that much, but I am very sensitive to heat. And yet, for some reason, I’m like a little human radiator. I never need to wear gloves – even in the snow. In fact, in snowman building season, I’m always the one people come to when they want to get their (gloved) hands warmed up! They just grab hold of my little furnace-like mitts and thaw them out.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? It was a real nuisance when I was a child, because of course when I was feeling ill, I could have a roaring temperature and the thermometer would say…. Normal. Steam would be practically coming off my eyeballs and Mother would take my temperature and say, “No, you’re fine. Absolutely normal. You can go to school.”
Er, excuse me… I’m standing here with eyes like poached eggs, and you’re telling me that’s normal?
So, as you can imagine, I quickly gained a rather warped view of what constitutes ‘normal’. In the end I had to learn how to fake various illnesses if I really wanted to be treated as ill. That’s another story for another day.
And now, back to the mirrors. Because of the area and time I lived in as a child, we had to be checked for lead poisoning, due to how the water pipes were made in our area (I told you I was old!). Their interesting way of checking us for lead poisoning was to x-ray us. This will make sense in a minute. The temperature thing… This was the problem: if my temperature got too high, I was in trouble. As you can imagine, (high temperature) plus (sensitivity to heat) plus (V12 engine brain) equals… convulsions. Bad ones. I would just have a major neural freakout. This happened every time my temperature went too high. But of course, according to the thermometer, I was perfectly normal. So nobody could quite work out was going on with me. Hence the suspicion of lead poisoning.
This resulted in endless rounds of tests, on top of the lead thing. Everything had to be checked: liver, kidneys, blood, brain… It also led to me having these most horrific eye drops put in which made my eyeballs feel like they were being scrubbed with wire wool (I’m not exactly sure why this was done). They also made my pupils expand so much that my irises would appear to vanish. I have quite large eyes. Not Disney Princess large, but still big enough to give folks a start when I take my glasses off. I guess this is one of the reasons I have light sensitivity.
So where does this tie in with mirrors? One day, on the way back from one such eye-drop test, my father had been asked to go into the butchers and buy some sausages (Mother was always very good at killing as many birds as possible with as few stones as necessary). In this butchers shop hung the most incredibly beautiful mirror I had ever seen. It was full-length (well, full-length to a short 5-year-old) and had the most exquisite frame. It had mermaids and dolphins and seaweed all around it. At the top was that chap with the trident… Poseidon. That’s him. And there were little fish and crabs and waves and all manner of other encrustations. You’d have thought this sort of mirror would be more appropriate in a fishmonger’s, but I never really questioned it…
Anyway, I used to love this mirror and would spend ages staring at each little detail on it. However, on that fateful, post-eye-drop test day, I happened to catch sight of my reflection (yes, I do have one). More importantly, I caught sight of my eyes. Or lack of them, should I say. As I stared into the mirror, a pair of pitch-black animal eyes stared back at me. This caused me to have something of a meltdown, right there in the shop.
I don’t actually remember what happened after that, but apparently it took four men to carry me out of the shop. Even at that young age, I was immensely strong. I have been known to take doors off the hinges. In fact, the other day when I went for a run and stopped by a local bridge to stretch my calf muscles, I almost snapped the handrail of the steps leading up to it. It can be embarrassing.
So, ever since then, I’ve had a phobia of mirrors. Now, I guess that incident alone doesn’t seem enough to cause such an adverse reaction, but there is a little more to it. My big brothers used to make me sit down on a Friday night and watch films with them. Nice? No, not really. One of the TV channels (one of only 3 at the time!) would host a late night Friday creature feature, under the umbrella title of “Appointment With Fear”. Well, when I say ‘late night’, I of course mean it was on after the 10 o’clock news, but that’s really, really late for a little kid to be staying up!
It was the opening sequence that scared the living daylights out of me. There would be this strange and horrible noise in the background and a normal face would appear (turns out it was actually Bride of Frankenstein, but hey, what’s normal anyway?). The seemingly human face would then morph into a monster, and another, and another. It was – to me – far worse than anything in any of the films. (You can check this sequence out for yourself at http://youtu.be/24NiHts3fvU -it’s only the first 15 seconds or so). And then of course, I’d get the standard comment of “That’s you, that is!”
For years afterwards I had a recurring nightmare where I was at a party and when the clock struck midnight, the other guests would force me to sit down in front of a dressing table mirror, and make me watch as I slowly turned into a monster. Very Freudian. No, not Freudian like that! I mean Freudian inasmuch as since then I have tried to lay low, in case people found out what I am. Perhaps this is what made me the Everyday Vampire.
You can probably guess how I got my phobia of spiders…!
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