editorial

The Carouser

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 7/14/21

Why do we tell stories that make us feel afraid?

We tell them for entertainment. We tell them because the terrifying is also interesting. But what place does the fear they inspire have in our …

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editorial

The Carouser

Posted

Why do we tell stories that make us feel afraid?

We tell them for entertainment. We tell them because the terrifying is also interesting. But what place does the fear they inspire have in our day-to-day lives?

Let’s ask the question in a different way.

How do we warn children about the river?

Two siblings swim out 10 feet from shore. One looks away. When he looks back, his brother has vanished.

A man wails a wordless, senseless cry, and it signals without the possibility of doubt that someone is dead.

The river is calm and quiet and five people have drowned below the surface, and those things don’t go together.

How do we tell children about that kind of death? It’s unnatural, right? Young, healthy people don’t just drown. How can a child understand that?

A child requires some explanation, something beyond the natural at play.

Call it the Carouser.

Pretend it sleeps beneath the water, hungry.

Say it’s the ghost of a camper from the ’70s or a monster of knotweed and kelp or a serial killer back for revenge—it doesn’t matter which. The story will change as it passes from person to person; it doesn’t matter how it starts.

Say the Carouser swims quicker than a speedboat. Say it moves as silent as a lake on a windless day. Say it attacks with the force of a waterfall, falling a thousand feet to batter against the rocks and the river at the bottom. Use whatever metaphor you want, just let them know it is dangerous.

Let them know they can never tell when the Carouser is nearby until they’re in its arms and dragged down to the bottom of the river. Still water or shaky, clear or calamitous skies, the Carouser will find them.

Let them know that life jackets have special magic, that while a jacket is buckled tight around their chest and mid-section, the Carouser cannot reach them. You can also tell them the truth, if they are old enough to understand — the current and the water conditions are a killer, unless you’re wearing a properly fitted life jacket. No matter how well you swim.

Why do we tell stories that make us feel afraid? They let us know what to fear when we can’t comprehend the reason why. We tell stories to prevent these things from happening again, to honor that they’ve happened too many times already.

Spread the story of the Carouser around the campfire. Give the river a supernatural menace.

Or turn to page two, if that seems childish to you, and read about the fifth drowning in the Upper Delaware in the past month.

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