It was way back when I was around seven or eight years old I think. I was at a swimming pool. I think it was a party or something. Anyway, that doesn't matter. What does matter is that I was there. If I hadn't been, IT wouldn't have happened. And by IT, I mean THIS:
This is not something I did on purpose. I did not actively seek out the experience of drowning. And I would advise anyone against doing so. But I did it. Drowned. Properly.
Somehow (pushed, slipped, not sure) I ended up in the pool out of my depth. I was, by all accounts, dragged out by a life guard, pumped of water, and given the kiss of life. Brought back to the land of the living I guess.
I have no recollection of this event. I know what happened because of witnesses, a notable one being my aunt, who's lovely and also crazy. I asked her a few months ago what it was like, what actually happened. I'm never asking again: it was clearly terrifying. Oh, my mother was there, too. But she can't remember it at all. I guess seeing your child dragged out of a pool and given mouth-to-mouth is something most folk would want to blank from their memory.
Suffice to say, from that moment onwards, I hated water. I had a serious phobia. I would panic entering leisure centres. Not the pool itself - just the place in which it was contained. At school I would do anything to get out of swimming lessons, more often than not spending an hour in the observer deck watching everyone else have a great time.
I didn't learn to swim properly until I was 29. Yeah, you read that right: 29. I was married. I would be a dad sooner rather than later. And I wasn't going to be the weirdo father who couldn't go swimming with his kids. So, by way of motivation, I gave myself a target: join the Royal Marine Reserves. And it worked. I learnt to swim. Within a couple of months, I went from abject terror to swimming a mile, fully clothed. I didn't get into the RMR, but I did learn to swim.
I look back on this and wonder if my love of horror is linked to this event in my life. I come from a church background. I struggle with what I do and don't believe. And I have, it seems, done something few people ever have - died and come back again.
I wish I had a tale to tell of that moment of death. One that contained within it tales of tunnels and spirits and entities and messages from the long dead to the living. But I don't. I have nothing. Just what I've been told and a crazy water phobia. I have wondered about investigating it further, doing some kind of regression therapy to find out what happened, but I might just leave it well alone.
Horror changes us. Through events that can be anything from mildly troubling to truly, abnormally horrific, we as people change. By engaging with what horror fiction and film has to offer, we explore all the possibilities available. We put humanity to the test, push it to the limit and beyond. We see what happens when things don't go to plan, when bad things happen to good people, when evil wins. Not because we're sick and twisted, but because we are fascinated by human nature, and amazed by its endless courage and strength in the face of impossible odds.
I died once, and that in itself is an astonishing thing. My whole life from that point on changed because I survived. I touched the void, went to the darkness and returned. Occasionally though, just occasionally, I do wonder if I brought something back with me...