Halloween 2020

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Who has never killed an hour? Not casually or without thought, but carefully: a premeditated murder of minutes. The violence comes from a combination of giving up, not caring, and a resignation that getting past it is all you can hope to accomplish. So you kill the hour. You do not work, you do not read, you do not daydream. If you sleep it is not because you need to sleep. And when at last it is over, there is no evidence: no weapon, no blood, and no body. The only clue might be the shadows beneath your eyes or a terribly thin line near the corner of your mouth indicating something has been suffered, that in the privacy of your life you have lost something and the loss is too empty to share.
– House of Leaves

What a strange, strange time we’re living in. As you read previously, the Lilith series was particularly hard to write this year. Halloween (and the rest of 2020’s offerings) weren’t much easier. Like many parents in the throes of the lockdown, I’ve been 24/7 parenting, teaching, and being a supplementary teacher since March of this year. Juggling the responsibilities of work, parenthood, and activism during this dark time has been a challenge, and pushing through the fog of living in Plague Times has compounded the difficulty.

You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.
– the Yellow Wallpaper

There’s also a matter of sensitivity and timing: several scent series had been floated and scrapped because they were too dark, hit too close to the real-life terrors of 2020, or edged precariously into a grey area of bad taste. In the past, I haven’t been shy about timely and relevant updates that take a swipe at real life events, but none of us have ever experienced something like this. All of this. All of this, and all at the same time. Do I create something merry and silly to distract everyone from the pain and fear? Or do I go with my instinct and lean in on the terror-as-catharsis? For most of my life, I’ve been very strong and certain in my decisions and my actions, but that has bent and wobbled as we meander through the trauma of 2020, especially when my actions and my decisions affect others. Our oil releases have always been reactive and relevant; how do we keep doing so in a time like this?

As he crossed the entry hall, he had the feeling that the house was swallowing him alive.
– Hell House

In many ways, life in America is akin to being trapped in a haunted mansion, with the spectres of our country’s malfeasance skulking in every darkened corner. Right now, America is going through one of its darkest nights. We are in the throes of a confluence of political, climate, public health, and moral crises, and all the while the jackboot of authoritarianism is pressing ever-harder on all of our throats. Lately, it can seem like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, little to hope for in the face of such a seemingly insurmountable assembly of terrors. Luckily for us, horror has always been a means by which we can confront and process our fears, both real and imagined.

“It’s horrible,” she said.

He looked at her in surprise. Horrible? Wasn’t that odd? He hadn’t thought that for years. For him the word “horror” had become obsolete. A surfeiting of terror made terror a cliché. To Robert Neville the situation merely existed as natural fact. It had no adjectives.”
– I Am Legend

Horror is political and social commentary, and maybe horror will help strengthen us and get us through this long night. This year, we brought back some old favorites, and two scent series that reflect the sorrow, gloom, and isolation of lockdown. We are all ghosts haunting our own houses right now.

I must have lived years in this place, but I cannot measure the time. Beings must have cared for my needs, yet I cannot recall any person except myself; or anything alive but the noiseless rats and bats and spiders.
– The Outsider

Every day is Halloween. Let’s celebrate the horror of our living twilight together, and try to find good cheer, a few screams, and some camaraderie in the darkness.

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