Face at the Window

Supposing… The face at the window is coming to get you

Charlie Brooker, The Guardian, Friday 12 May 2006

It’s late at night, pitch black outside, and you’re in the house alone. You switch off the television. All is quiet. It’s bedtime. You walk to the window to draw the curtains. And there it is!

Face at the window! Aaaaarrgh! A scraggy-haired lunatic with googly eyes! Maybe he’s glaring, maybe he’s grinning - whatever he’s doing, this isn’t good news. Because he’s either actually there, in which case he’s about to burst in, hack your face off and use it as a hanky, or you’re hallucinating, in which case you’ve lost your mind, and you’ll have to spend the rest of your life wandering shirtless into traffic, screaming about MI5 and geese and phantoms.

It’s childish I know, but the terror of the face at the window plays on my mind whenever I draw the curtains at night. I even worry I’ve somehow jinxed myself by simply thinking about it in the first place: that since I’ve got the thought lodged in my head now, I might go crazy and imagine he’s there.

How long does it take to go crazy anyway? Do you need a bit of a run-up, or is it possible to snap your mind in a nanosecond? And surely, once you’ve seen the face at the window, there’s no going back. You don’t just rub your eyes and forget about it.

And then I think: hang on, the fact that you’re even having this debate in your head proves you’ve gone mad already. Seeing the face is simply the next logical phase. You’ll DEFINITELY see it now! Argh!

So to safeguard myself, I end up drawing the curtains with my eyes shut. Which is the sort of thing a crazy person might do. I can’t win - the face wins, whether it’s there or not.

I’m not the only one. The other day, I was telling someone about my face-at-the-window paranoia, and she squealed and confessed that she often felt precisely the same. And then she said, “You know what’s worse? Face in the mirror. The lurking suspicion that you’ll nonchalantly glance in the mirror one night, but it’s become haunted or something, and there’s a scary man there, staring back at you.”

I wish she hadn’t said that. There’s a giant mirror lining one wall of my bathroom. Going for a piss in the middle of the night has become a heart-stopping trial of nerves. My life’s turning into an MR James story.

But then, that’s the trouble with internal dialogue: it can send you round the twist. I once had an idea for a TV competition in which ordinary members of the public are hooked up to a futuristic computer, which reads their thoughts and displays them, in real time, on a monitor in front of them.

The contestants have to read their own thoughts aloud as they appear. So initially they’d read something like, “I wonder if this is going to work?”, shortly followed by, “Bloody hell, it does!”, and before long they’d be locked into a sort of consciousness feedback loop, reading aloud their own thoughts about reading their own thoughts aloud. The last one to fall to the ground in a twitching, frothing heap is the winner.

And the host? There’s only one candidate. A face at a window. Well, that or Chris Tarrant. Depends who’s available.

Now go open your curtains.

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