by Lee Cross
What makes a scary line…well, a scary line?
For me, it’s the feeling that I’ve been deceived. Knowing that a story has gotten away from me while it was right under my nose. That pause and the catch in my throat I get when I realise the currents below have silently grabbed my legs and are dragging me under…
I’m probably not explaining myself clearly, so I’ve picked out a few lines, written by greater minds than my own, to do the talking for me.
“We shall meet in a place where there is no darkness.”
George Orwell, 1984
Even reading that now I’m like – Wow! What a great freaking line!
I could pick a dozen from Eighty-Four that highlight what I mean about scary but this is the best of them. My first time reading those words I had no idea what they meant but I knew it something scary and I wasn’t just afraid for Winston Smith… I was afraid for myself.
“How long is forever… …sometimes just one second.”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
It’s a great line and, recurring theme, it’s one of many I could have chosen from Alice. Why does this one rate as scary? Well, it’s a book loved by both children and adults alike; is there a scarier moment in your life than the one where you come face-to-face with mortality?
That’s when this line grabs you when you realise you never understood it clearly before.
“It rubs the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever it’s told.”
Thomas Harries, The Silence of the Lambs
So you know how Silence is a book about Hannibal Lecter? Are you sure about that? Because I’m a shite sight more scared of Buffalo Bill than I am of the good Doctor, seriously what the fuck is wrong with that guy?! At least Lecter is crazy in a cool way, Jame Gumb is just a nut job who [spoiler] [spoiler] [spoiler].
Need I say anymore.
“Is evil something you are or is it something you do?”
Brett Easton Ellis, American Psycho
Patrick Bateman. Patrick Bateman. Patrick Bateman. A truly evil son of a bitch if ever there was one…or was he? Seriously I’m asking, was he that evil or was he just a victim of circumstance, upbringing and environment. Is that why he was so devoid of morality and capable of committing unutterably evil acts?
Honestly, I don’t know – I’ve read Psycho half a dozen times and I really don’t know. I think that might be what’s scariest thing about this one line… that I really don’t know what, or even if, there is an answer.
“Listen to them, the children of the night. What sweet music they make!”
Bram Stoker, Dracula
Last and by no means least – Bram the man. Count Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, the archetypical vampire; he might not be the original child of the night but he surely must hold the title of ‘creepiest creature ever to be born of a pen’.
The ‘children of the night’ line is great because it lets you know that while the count may be the same shape as you (at least then), he really is something very different on the inside… terrifyingly so.