Last year, I went to the cinema in Nottingham to see It Comes at Night (spoiler: not a great film).
About 10/15 minutes before the end of the film, the screen blacked out. The picture and sound went, but the lights in the room didn’t turn back on. We were in darkness.
We all giggled a bit until a hooded man stood up and made his way to the front, staring at everyone who had their phone light on, and left the room.
He came back and the room fell silent. He didn’t speak to anyone and just went back to sit down while people shouted ‘did you go and get someone to sort it?’ ‘Did they say what’s happened?‘ No answer.
At this point I was pretty much done, and we fled the screening as fast as we could – terrified something a lot bigger than just the film ending prematurely was actually happening.
The glass in the door to the screening was blocked with paper so you couldn’t see out into the foyer. I pushed on the door, pretty sure it was going to be locked, but thankfully it opened right into a member of staff who hadn’t noticed anything strange.
As it was explained to staff that the screen had gone black and a strange man had crept us out a bit, I was already in a state; I’d left the cinema, essentially screaming and crying and panicking.
In that moment my truth was that I didn’t know I was going to survive. I’d lost all ability to even comprehend that there may have just been a power cut or that the man hadn’t heard people asking him questions as he left the room. At that moment I was sure bad things were coming to the people still stuck in the cinema screen.
I clearly looked out of it as strangers gave me glasses of water while the cinema offered me 4 free tickets. I didn’t think I’d be going back to the cinema anytime soon though.
In the mere 20 minutes of all this happening, I was struck. I felt the horrifying urge to call everyone I knew, starting with my parents to tell them that I was okay.
Naturally, it didn’t seem like much to them, but they managed to calm me down.
On Friday I went to see Deadpool 2 with some friends (spoiler: a bloody amazing film).
About half an hour in, the screen went blank and I was launched right back into flashbacks of Nottingham.
I was scared again, and as the announcement called out through the cinema ‘there has been a situation, please make your way to the nearest exit‘, I was on the phone to my mum scared it would be the last time I’d speak to her.
And why? Because despite there being no gun shot or screams or noises; despite everyone around me looking calm and fine, I’m programmed to expect the worst, but not prepared enough to know how to deal with it.
In the end it was a fire alarm somewhere else in the building, but without knowing from the start, I looked to the worst and reacted accordingly.
The truth isn’t that terrorism has beaten me, but that a generation of worst cases thinkers is growing. While it might not haunt every second of our day, or stop us from doing things we enjoy, the moment something goes wrong, there’s that small part of us wondering if this is really it.
And that’s because so far terrorism hasn’t overtaken our lives in the way our enemies had hoped. But for those of us spending our time in large cities, heading to concerts in huge arenas or taking the Tube to work, there’s that tiny switch in the back of our minds which goes untouched until something irregular happens. And at that moment there’s a surge of ‘what next?’, and ‘what if’.
What if I never see my mum again? What if I can’t escape?
Almost instinctively I called my mum. My mum who was going about her everyday life with no thought in her mind about anything bad happening to me while out with friends. And yet, here I am calling her on a Friday night midway through a cinema showing. What’s happened?
And unlike all the other anxieties we might feel while public speaking or meeting up with friends, this anxiety is a very real anxiety. And one that can not be soothed by facing our fears or remembering that friends aren’t scary monsters who hate us (that ones probably just me).
This one is a very current, and very real fear. A fear that we one day might need to use to get out of a bad situation and help others do the same. But until that point, if that point ever even happens – which is unlikely – our guard is down yet ready to spring up as soon as something out of the ordinary happens. Do we get prepared, or do we suppress the idea until we need it?
We’re a generation of worst case thinkers, but it doesn’t ruin our lives. Hell, it might even save our lives one day, but we aren’t beaten by our other anxieties and we won’t be beaten by this one.