Ask Dr. Eldritch

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Don't fall victim to vampires! Don't get slashed by a psycho! Don't get stuck, ASK DR. ELDRITCH!

Dear Dr. Eldritch,
Ask Dr. Eldritch Closet Monster     I've been frightening sleeping children for centuries, but it's no fun anymore.

Officially I'm "Nightmare Creature #513," but my friends call me Todd. I'm one of the horrible things that shows up in bad dreams; sometimes a monster with huge fangs, or a mecha-dinosaur or a slimy thing with tentacles. I'm particularly good at realistic dreams where I'm a shadowy figure in their closet or under their bed, you know, so even when they wake up, they're sure I'm still there. I used to be really proud of how they'd spend the rest of the night huddled under the blankets, too scared to go back to sleep.

The problem is, I don't care any more! There was a time that I worked hard to be as frightening as possible. For the last hundred years or so, I've just been phoning it in. The other guys try out new ideas, but I stick with the scary-dream basics; glowing eyes in the darkness, grabbing a foot that's sticking out from under the covers, or continually chasing after the kid no matter where they run or hide. I mean, what difference does it really make whether they're wet-the-bed terrified or just kinda scared? I'm not even sure why we do this, anyway. It's not like we're getting paid or anything. It's just what we do.

How can I get excited about scaring kids again?

-- Todd, from the Nightmares of Children

Dear Todd,
    Until you mentioned it, I never thought about why there are dream creatures to scare sleeping children. I suspect you're a holdover from Paleolithic times, when early humans were justifiably worried about having something huge with fangs eating them in their sleep. The odds of that happening today are much smaller, if one locks the bedroom windows, of course.

Your situation is intriguing! "Job Satisfaction" is rarely an issue for the otherworldly set. For example, Jack Frost, who has been painting plants and windows with ice crystals for millennia, is still as cheerful as ever. He doesn't wonder why, he just figures it must be done and he's the one to do it. Don't get him talking about it, though; he can go on for days about proper swirling techniques and the importance of layering. I've seen people who can tolerate British cinema try to eat their own heads to escape the tedium.

Fortunately, most Manifestation of Natural Forces (like Time, Fate, or Sports-Watching) carry out their duties without becoming burned-out from the routine or questioning their purpose. What if Death really did take a holiday? Would you want to see him on a bus tour, wearing baggy shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, photographing every old fountain or church, and complaining about the food? I thought not.

But I digress. I don't think you'll find satisfaction in frightening children any more; you've ruined yourself for that. Rather than just carrying out your purpose in life, you've been thinking about it. That's not good. Introspection is the bane of existence; as some ancient philosopher once said "The examined life is not worth living." (Socrates changed it around a bit, and got the credit for that quote.) The point is, once you've started wondering about your purpose, you can't put the genie back in the toothpaste tube.

Your current job is obviously not doing it for you. Perhaps you'd be happier warning antisocial misers that they're on a path to grief and sorrow? That's typically a job for spirits, like the Ghosts-of-Christmas Team, but your specialized frightening skills could translate very well. Instead of pointlessly terrifying children, you could scare the selfish into becoming community-oriented philanthropists. Not only will you be helping these hard-hearted tightwads, but also those who benefit from the ex-skinflints' new-found generosity. That should satisfy your desire for a sense of meaningful purpose.

If that doesn't work, buy an expensive sports car and date women who are too young for you. That's what humans do.

Good luck, and let me know how it comes out!

-Dr. Eldritch

 
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