There was a time in my life when I was afraid of the dark… I was a complete baby about everything, always needing to sleep with a light on. After an overly scary episode of Scooby Doo, I would practially wet my pants running to my parents bedroom, in need of a cuddle…
I would like to say this fear of the dark went away as I aged, but it didn’t. When I got married, my husband (Erin) said to me one morning… “Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night, and you sit up in bed and cry out for your mother in complete terror. I try to wake you, but it’s like you’re in a trance. It’s kind of discombobulating. Do you realize you’re doing that?”
It’s a good thing we didn’t live together before we were married, I doubt the marriage would’ve taken place if we had. Would you have agreed to marry a person who had never been to war, but suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because they watched POLTERGEIST when they were too young for it?
I’m glad to say, though… That after having a baby, nothing scares me.
Here is the cold hard truth: You can watch every scary movie on earth… Go to every haunted house in the world… And you will know nothing of fear until you’ve stood awake at two AM staring into the contents of a sick baby’s diaper, frantically googling the different colors and consistensies of poop, to determine if a trip to the Emergency Room is in order. Is it White? Yellow? Green? The dreaded Coffee Ground consistency????
Oh… I KNOW FEAR… My Baby 411 book is worn out from midnight panic searches. Zombies and monsters are no match for a good dose of Mommy Fear…
Which brings me to this Halloween Tale of Terror that I like to call, MOMMIES OF THE CORN.
It happened last Tuesday evening as the sun descended into the mountains surrounding the San Fernando Valley.
For those who don’t know… The San Fernando Valley is located in Los Angeles. It is a labrynth of strip malls and fruit stands, of Latin markets and the occasional gentleman’s club. In the middle of the San Fernando Valley, in an area known as Woodland Hills, which is a stones throw from the famous Spahn Ranch, the land occupied by Charles Manson and his bald murder-groupies the summer they all went on a killing spree… Nestled within Woodland Hills, is a local community school known as Pierce College, where, every Halloween, there is a giant cornfield. It is a famous staple of the west valley. Unspeakable horrors come to life within this haunt known as CREATURES OF THE CORN.
Cornfields are a symbol of horror…. Take any number of movies… The aliens that rise up from the cornfields in the movie SIGNS… The evil moster children from the CHILDREN OF THE CORN movies…Corn is a plant that grows in abundance throughout America and shouldn’t be frightening in-and-of-itself…
Some of the products derived from the corn are scary… Corn syrup… That’s a scary product. Go on a tour of Monsanto, and be terrified. Take a walk through the McDonalds factory, and see the loads of corn syrup and their impact on childhood obesity and watch your skin crawl…
But oddly… No one is all that scared of corn syrup. We are really only scared of the cornfield.
So… In true Halloween style, Erin and I took Harper to the pumpkin patch at Pierce College and Erin dared me to go into the corn maze alone.
“Sure, I’ll go,” I said, completely unfazed by it.
“No, you won’t,” he said, remembering the many nights he’d heard me shout “MOMMY” from our marriage bed… “You walked out of the Blair Witch Project… That’s the least frightening horror movie ever made.”
“That’s before I had a baby,” I told him. “I’m not scared of that stuff anymore. I’ll go in by myself.”
In truth, I had no other choice but to go in by myself. I certainly wouldn’t drag Harper into CREATURES OF THE CORN. And Erin and I couldn’t leave Harp to roam the night with the Carnies… So I marched up to the ticket booth, bought one for myself and headed into the dark.
As I entered the cornfield, the darkness enfolding me… What should’ve been a terrifying and lonely feeling just felt like a nice walk to me.
As the light grew dim, and I was surrounded by cornstalks… I remembered the first advice the pediatrician gave me because it sounded like the instructions a person might be given when taught to survive a Zombie Apocolypse… “Your baby is small,” the doctor said. “It’s important she not get sick these first three months… So please, don’t go to malls or churches. Anywhere there are large groups of people. Try to go to the grocery store without her… But if you must take her with you, only go to the store at night.”
No malls or churches? Only go out under cover of night? Am I new mother or is this a scene from The Walking Dead?
I walked deeper into the corn. I’d encountered nothing so far. I looked to the side and observed a scarecrow, hunched over in the midst of some corn. When slowly, the scarecrow made eye contact with me, took off a black cloth to reveal terrible Zombie eyes. The scrarecrow was alive….
Just like in a scene from 28 Days Later, this movement signaled other movement, and within a matter of seconds I was surrounded by Zombies from all sides… Their skin was the color of grayed and rotten flesh… Some with only half-faces… Making the moans and chortles of hungry creatures in agony… All of them death rattling around me… Getting close… Right in my face.
There was a time when this would’ve terrified me. That was before my five-month old baby started projectile vomiting for no reason… And it wasn’t like any vomiting I’d ever seen… She would make a kind of choking noise and move her head back and forth like a cat releasing a fur ball.
“DID SHE PICK UP A COIN OFF THE FLOOR?” I remember my husband and I frantically asking each other. She kept making this gagging sound… So at 1 AM… Because, like a haunted house… These things ALWAYS happen in he middle of the night… I shouted in complete hysterics.. “I THINK MY BABY IS CHOKING!!!!!” I was wearing cat pajama pants and a sweat shirt. I grabbed the closest shoes I could find… A pair of 6 inch stilletos.. And with no makeup and my hair completely unbrushed, I ran for my Toyota like a person escaping a disaster movie.
The diagnosis in the ER after a three hour wait? Basic flu. No prescription. Just pick up Pedialyte and feed it to her constantly (not an easy task, ask anyone).
I hurried on past the initial zombie attack completley unfazed, then made my way toward an old shack in the center of the corn. As I entered the shack, I observed, hanging from the ceiling, twenty-or-so pig carcasses just swinging there in the wind.
There was a time when this would’ve really gotten to me, I thought, as a large pig creature emmerged from among the dead swine and lunged toward me with a rake…. But that was before I was alone one afternoon, and my baby fell hard into the edge of a coffee table. She began to scream, and I could see a large bump developing on her head… This, I would learn, was a good sign… But at the time… I thought it signaled brain swelling and I called 9-1-1. After three vehicles from the fire department showed up at my house, I had an informative conversation in my living room with a Fire Chief who told me, it’s usually an emergency when a baby loses consciousness. Otherwise, I could drive the baby to the doctor myself… Still, we boarded the ambulance and found out everything was normal after seven hours in the ER and a skull x-ray.
“You don’t scare me, Piggy Pie!” I said to him smiling before exiting the Swine Shack.
There were a few more uneventful zombie attacks before a masked man with a chainsaw emerged.
I could tell that during another time, this would be the part where I would run screaming from the field and laugh with my teen friends before we all made-out in cars and ate funnel cakes.
But that would not be happening that night.
Instead… I slowed down and stood next to him. The loud sound, which is, by-the-way, not nearly as loud as a colicy baby wailing into the night, didn’t really bother me.
“RUN!” The man shouted, holding his chainsaw in the air, as he ushered me along. “Get out!”
I walked slowly from the corn, only coming in contact with one final creature. A sweet soul of a zombie… A woman with long hair and a filthy dress. She had skin the color of mud and her eyes were dark… She fell to the ground as I walked out and she begged, “HELP ME… HELP ME…”
Been there. Done that.
“You remind me of myself when I was a new mom,” I told her before I walked out. “I never slept and I think I had that same dress.”
I stepped comfortably from the corn, listening only to the gentle sounds of the chainsaw and the screaming of teenagers.