Apr 2, 2022 • 1M

Midnight Confessions #38: Planet of the Cockatoos

On Terrifying Animals

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Mara Wilson
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Hello again! It’s been a while. Sorry for not updating, I was prepping for surgery, then I was recovering from surgery, which took quite a while. I do not recommend having endometriosis!

Giant birds are basically dinosaurs, and as cool as they may be in the museum, they’re not something you want to be around in real life. Although I remember seeing a Twilight Zone episode where some kind of mad scientist with a pet parrot decided to make all the “evil people of the world” two feet tall but then, get this, at the end of the episode, he also becomes two feet tall!!! Or maybe it’s just him that becomes two feet tall? They never explained that, nor did they explain how he managed to shrink everybody “evil” down to two feet tall. Anyway, at the end, his pet bird TOWERS over him, and he’s shown being terrified, but I just laughed and laughed. A domesticated parrot is just not that scary, even when big. I was probably about nine, and just a little over four feet tall, so I was a bit underwhelmed by that twist in general. Anna was a toddler at the time and probably only a little over two feet tall, and she still managed to break into the fridge to grab a block of solid cheddar cheese she’d leave little bites in. I told my brother Jon how dumb I thought it was, and he pointed out that this had been made in the early ‘60s, and “People were simpler back then.” Maybe that’s what people think now, when they look at how shocked we were at the ending of The Sixth Sense. (Jon has always said that he saw that twist coming.)

Anyway, surgical recovery has meant I’ve had a lot of time to think about animals that scare me. I didn’t think I would develop any fears as an adult, or if I did, they would be standard adult fears like losing people I love or forgetting to pay my taxes. I didn’t expect I would become afraid of moose. But I did. They’re terrifying to me. Any videos I see of them scare me so much. They’re huge! Though I guess it’s mostly because they’re unfamiliar to me. If I had grown up in Alaska or Maine or rural Canada, I’d probably have seen a moose or two, and I’d probably still find them a bit intimidating, but not break-into-a-cold-sweat scary. I’d probably live in a town that had some kind of local candy or pastry in the shape of a moose, and there’d be little moose fobs they’d sell to put on your keyring or something.

It’s all relative. I mean, Australia has some of the most terrifying animals in the world, but I’ve never met an Australian who was bothered about any of them. They pretty much only have horror stories about magpies in swooping season. But if you mention bears to some Australians, their eyes will get large and they’ll shake their head, like they can’t think of anything more frightening. I’m not especially afraid of bears. I wouldn’t want to be followed by one in a forest, but I know what they look like and what they’re capable of. Moose, or box jellyfish? Yeah, I have no idea what they’re capable of.

There’s really only one kind of animal that I find scarier than moose these days, and it’s… well, I was going to say one kind of sea animal, but actually, there are many sea animals that terrify me. This may be controversial, but I kind of hate the ocean. I went on a few cruises as a kid, but now I have repeat nightmares where I’m trapped in the middle of the ocean. It’s a strange, surreal place, and the life down there is probably the closest we get to extraterrestrial on this planet. There’s all kinds of weird things down there that creep me out, like anglerfish and hagfish, but I’m not above a simple fear of sharks. I still haven’t seen Jaws, and even reading the Wikipedia synopsis scares me.

Objectively speaking, though, sharks are nowhere near as scary as dolphins. Dolphins are smart as hell, and can beat the shit out of a shark. I remember learning this when I was eight years old and doing a project on blue whales (we had to choose an ocean animal, and while blue whales are unsettlingly huge, I liked that they were referred to in every single book as “gentle giants”), and being startled by such a cute animal’s violence. This was around that time in the ‘90s when dolphins were the cool animal. Remember Vivica A. Fox getting proposed to with a dolphin ring in Independence Day? Axl Rose swimming with dolphins in that one terrible music video? Free Willy, and the Flipper remakes? In the’90s, every horse girl was also a dolphin girl. Hell, I was a dolphin girl for a while: I saw Free Willy with my friends on my sixth birthday. I even fed dolphins in the Bahamas during one of the aforementioned cruises! I had to hold a tiny fish in my mouth so the dolphin would grab it, which was disgusting, but still kind of cool. Dolphins were all over t-shirts and Lisa Frank binders, but eventually people caught on to the fact that like most other intelligent species on this planet, dolphins are also huge assholes. And orcas are even more terrifying, they’re basically just three bottlenose dolphins in one.

It really isn’t fair to judge other animals by human standards. But is it more fair to judge them by our standards when they are as smart or smarter than we are? Still probably not. I still find dolphins beautiful and majestic on some level, and am far more terrified of orcas, but I think if we leave them alone, they’ll leave us alone.

Also, do you know what orcas have been known to eat? That’s right, moose!

Fake BBC Show Of the Week: Mum’s Moggies

Stuff I Did Recently: I had a blast at ‘90s Con in Hartford! I got to hang out with some old friends, make some new ones, meet some lovely fans, and just generally have a wonderful time! I hope I can come back next year!

I’m also happy to announce that a wonderful YA book I narrated, One For All by Lillie Lainoff, is out now! You can get the audiobook on Libro.fm or on Audible, it’s a gender-swapped retelling of Three Musketeers, and there’s a character with POTS! I was honored to record this book!