We had just finished watching Paranormal Activity, letting the credits roll as we sat in a stunned, jittery silence. Someone gasped as the words “We would like to thank the Police department in [Hicks Ville] for this footage” appeared on the screen. “So how do you think they got hold of that footage then?” a guy whispered earnestly next to me. I giggled, one of those awkward ones that clings to your throat if you try to force it too hard, and ends up sounding like a croak. That was a joke, right? I mean, obviously the film isn’t real; I’ve read an article about how it was made, and you can just tell from the sophisticated frames that this wasn’t some amateur video. Oh yeah, and of course, I don’t believe in ghosts.
We still hadn’t turned the light on; my flatmate swore under her breath. “This kind of stuff is just so creepy. I mean, you just don’t know where these kind of forces come from”. Err. I’m going to go with an overactive imagination. But I guess she has grounds to be a bit freaked out. After all, our flatmate did tell her that the last flatmate told the other flatmate who was here two years ago – that there was a ghost in her wardrobe. The guy continued; “You just have to be so mentally strong to able to deal with one of these hauntings. And you have to be so careful not to piss off whatever it is that’s making itself be felt. I mean, these people (he points fervently at the screen) should have called in a demonologist way earlier. And they certainly shouldn‘t have got that Ouija board” (I fondly recalled when me and my friends at school tried to makeshift one and ended up in a fit of laughter.) My flatmate nodded furiously; “When I was a child, I tried to contact a ghost and… a plate exploded.” The guy shook his head; like a stern teacher whose student had failed to do their homework on time.
It’s at this point I feel the need to add that my two companions aren’t freaks at all. They don’t bathe in pig’s blood, log onto Satanist forums; nor did either of them do anything special on witch burning night (a big holiday here in the Czech Republic, though mostly as it provides yet another excuse for people to get drunk). They aren’t like the girl I met at a party who chose to forego the spliff being passed around in favour of sampling some other “more spiritual” herb she had had shipped out from India especially in time for Witching Hour. (Which, incidentally, is also on the same night Hitler died. Coincidence?) My friends, by contrast, just happen to have a lot of time for conspiracy theories and nonsense spewed by nutters. One of the first things the guy said to me was “Well, obviously, we know for sure that Obama’s a Mason. The question is, what is it that the Masons actually want?” (To harness malicious paranormal activity, perhaps…?) Meanwhile, my flatmate’s saving up to have her body frozen at the ripe old age of 40 so she can be reawakened in the 30th century.
And they are by far not the only people in their 20s I’ve met who profess a deep loathing for/ ingrained fear of something or other that of course plays an inherent role in all of our lives. And at least these two express whichever bizarre phobia they are harbouring at any given moment in a coherent manner. Many a time have I sat through a rant in some grotty old Žižkov pub in which the person sitting next to me has simply launched on a tirade about some malicious behaviour without bothering to let me know who or what they were bitching about. I rarely argue back, instead I stare vacantly into the distance with a sort of half smirk on my face, as I bask in my own, apparently unique faculty of rational thought. (Though rationality isn’t something that has come naturally, mind. I spent the first 10 years of my life talking to ghosts and avoiding parts of the house in which the bad ones lurked. And I still wake up in the middle of night and mistake a pile of clothes for a malevolent being – I even whacked my chair once and screamed at it to go away. But time has taught me that I’m not psychic, I’m just an idiot.)
Over here, I’m the logical thinker amongst all these crazies. Clearly everyone I know here is just suffering from some post communist hangover, which means they feel the need to question everything, all the time. That and of course the permissive attitude towards drugs has obviously made them all go a bit loopy. Or perhaps I’m in the wrong; who’s to say Obama isn’t a Mason, and that the “media” doesn’t inject 3rd world children with heroin whilst teaching them how to lap dance for a living? (Ok… I made that one up) And maybe I was once a fish. But hang on a second; if there’s another thing I’ve noticed about living with Czechs, is that are also really funny (watch the Czech film “Cosy Dens”, or read some Hrabal and you’ll begin to get a feel for their singular sense of humour.) Maybe they’re are pulling my leg, maybe that they don’t believe all this crazy stuff – and instead they just make me believe they believe it so that when I’m laughing at them in my head, they’re really all laughing at me in their collective conscience? Maybe I’m at the heart of some great big conspiracy???
Toto, let’s go home.