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116 Days of Summer Guests: Sarah and the Safe Word

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Sarah and the Safe Word on Bandcamp

Summer in the Sunlight

I’ve always listened to music when I take long walks, back from the days I needed a bulky CD player, to the days of the iPod, to now when I can just stream music from my phone (I actually owned a portable cassette player before I was a teenager, but I feel queasy going back that far). During my CD player days, one of the albums I kept in constant rotation was The Cure’s Disintegration, and I would replay the track “Lullaby” over and over. It had a creepiness that excited me, like the way you can be excited by horror movies instead of, well, horrified. It’s the first time I can recall music having that effect on me, instead of a TV show or film, and this was in broad daylight during the summer months. I didn’t take long walks at night yet, and didn’t have time during the school year.

There are two important takeaways from that memory for me. The first is that eliciting the horror thrill from music became something of a goal for me—the first story song I ever wrote came from a short urban legend about a cat reclaiming its tail from a hunter who ate it—but the second is that sunlight can be scary. Only a very lazy or dull horror writer sets every tale they write during the nighttime or in darkness. Think about the cliche of the traveler wandering through the desert. They face starvation, dehydration, exhaustion, loneliness, hallucinations, etc. They are in a wide open space, bathed in light where they can see every little thing around them, but they are trapped, helpless, and terrified.

Things that bump in the night don’t disappear in the light. They just hide even better, and sometimes disguise themselves as the things you see every day. Sure it’s a little pithy now, but for a pre-teen it was a massive realization. It taught me something about fear and perception. As the weather across the globe increases in severity, I wonder if we’re going to develop rational fears of heat and sunlight the same way we rationally fear hurricanes, tornadoes, and other storm-related weather features. The water levels are going to rise, but within 50 years we could see temperate areas transform into those wide open deserts, bathed in light that we didn’t learn to be afraid of until it was too late, and we too could end up trapped in that terrifying summer.

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