In talking with several people over the course of the past few months I have been asked, "Since you are on the autism spectrum does that mean you can't imagine anything?" I wish that were the case, I really do, but there is an imagination and it can run wild.
The first thing you need to know about my imagination is that it is very logical. I can't envision a world with elves and dragons, but I can take realistic events and places and create situations or envision what could happen.
As a child I had a near impossible time pretending to be something that couldn't possibly be. However, even when I was in the 1st grade or so, my anxiety would peak when I would hear a special report intro on television. As some people have referred to it on the internet, NBC's "Chimes of Death" http://www.blogger.com/www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPcepBSrC9 evokes such a fear in me and it's all due to my imagination.
I can't pretend or imagine things that just simply can't be, but when I hear the special report music I instantly imagine every possible situation that could happen in this world. When I have to momentarily fill in the blanks I do so to the worst case scenario. The "Chimes of Death" are so powerful that I don't need to go see a horror film to scare me, but all I have to do is pull that video up and I am scared.
Traditional horror films do not scare me as they don't leave anything to the imagination. However, in 1994 there was a made for television movie that had me scared for a decade. The film was called Without Warning and it was a fictional account of three meteors hitting Earth. The film started with what appeared to be the start of a different unrelated film, but then the fake film got interrupted by the real film that was a fake news story. The entire movie was done from the aspect of watching the events unfold around the world from watching this fake news story. To further the realism of it the main news anchor was Sander Vanocur.
Without Warning was later compared to Orsen Welles 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in that it was so real and believable. The plot of Without Warning ends with Earth being obliterated by thousands of meteors and the reason why the aliens in the film did this remained unanswered. Many plot lines were left like this and it is in the unknown that I get scared.
10 years after the airing of that film I found it on Amazon.com and I had to buy. I remembered the original airing back in 1994 and I had to see it. Oddly enough, when I watched it as I was older, my fears from the original air subsided. Why this is I don't know, but I am glad it did.
Sticking with the movie theme, the film that scared me the most to the point that I could not look was M. Night Shyamalan's Signs. Many people I have talked to said that movie didn't scare them one bit, but none of them have the imagination I do.
What Signs did was make the viewer imagine what was going on. What was lurking out in the corn? The camera shots used left the viewer wondering who, or rather what, was terrorizing this family and Earth. Was it dogs, or was it aliens from a far off land. The movie also used tidbits of news items much like would happen if such an event occurred, and from that the a rare suspended belief happened to me and I was overwhelmed.
Had the movie just straight up showed the goons from space I would not have been scared, but I was so terrorized I actually, embarrassing enough, wedged my face in my girlfriend's shoulder as to have her protect me. Not one of my proudest moments to say the least!
What I am getting at with such extreme examples is that it is the realistic unknown that can create havoc for a person on the spectrum. My mind must know what's going on, and if I don't I will have to fill in the blanks. Most the time my possible scenarios are far off from what is actually going on, but I still, regardless of the fact that I am almost always wrong, will still think to the extreme.
These thoughts are fast and unrelenting. There is a lot to process as there are an infinite amount of possibilities to any situation. I gave theatrical example here, but if someone tells me that they want to, "catch up with me later" or "we need to talk" I panic. My imagination will play out all the possible reasons as to why someone would want to talk and most of my examples are extreme and negative for me. Did I make them mad? Did I offend them?
Leaving comments open-ended is very much like the corn fields that M. Night Shyamalan created in his movie. What's out there? What's the meaning of the comment? Is it something good, or will the reason for the conversation be comparable to goons from outer space? Unless I am given the reason ahead of time I will be hunkered down awaiting the goons, frightened, and scared. Oh, how I loathe my imagination when it is in play!