Thursday, February 24, 2011

That Severed Head Makes a Good Point


I like to think I have an adventurous spirit. I don't let discouraging talk get in the way of having a good time. After all, when Steve talked about how expensive this hiking vacation would be, traveling into the woods to an abandoned colonial settlement so we could spend a night in the infamous Borley House... I told him it was worth it. And when that strange smell like the burning of incense filled the parlor, I was the one who said we should investigate it while many of you argued the contrary.

But you don't just see a severed head every day, especially one which talks. And the severed head in the corner is starting to make a lot of sense.

I don't necessarily think it has our best interests at heart, mind you. After all, when it told us we would watch each other die one by one through the night, it laughed a bit, like that sort of thing was amusing. So it's not a friend. And even though it's Steve's head, I don't recall Steve ever speaking with that kind of stilted diction, as if he came from an earlier century. Still maybe the severed head knows something we don't.

Steve was always the sensible one, though he was a bit of a wet blanket. And I like to think if Steve's head were inhabited by some kind of undead hell-creature that made it cackle with glee as its eyes rolled in its sockets... it still might have Steve's practical attitude somewhere in there. I believe maybe we should listen to it and "flee from the opening of the Underworld."

There's another side, of course. Some things we might never learn if we leave now. Like, where did the rest of Steve's body go? And just who or what is making that sound like the giggling of a dozen children upstairs? I like solving a good mystery as much as the next guy. Every day you learn something, right? Still, I've gotta go with the head here. Seems like the smart play.

Especially now that the pus is coming out of it, and it has become bathed in unholy light from an unknown source. Yep. That's one sharp noggin'. Good advice.

Let's go ahead and get the fuck out now.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Memo to File: Re: Existential Horror and Frank's Porn



Interoffice Memorandum


To: File
From: Frank Rust, sort of
Subject: Mental health(?)

I've decided to keep a journal of sorts. I'd thought about therapy, but rejected the idea. For some reason I want to clear my head by keeping a complete record of what happened, day by day, since my spores colonized Frank's brain, and I became him. I'm using my home computer, but the memo template makes me feel more... comfortable. It's what I'm used to. And there's very little I'm used to.

Of course, when I say I'd thought of therapy, I really mean Frank -- or old Frank -- thought of it. And his emotions about it are my own. He had a vague idea that when something is wrong, when you're unhappy, lonely, anxious, and you can't sleep at night... that you might go get treatment, and there would be a couch or a soft chair, and someone with a gentle but professional bearing, their voice comforting the way your mom's hands were comforting as she felt you for a fever when you were sick as a child. Someone who knows what to do about what's wrong with you.

But Frank did not go to therapy, because of a number of reasons. He told himself it felt indulgent, and that maybe he would spend days and days talking to someone and not getting anywhere. But there was also the feeling that his mind held doors he didn't want to open, and that by talking to someone with the kind of X-ray vision you get with a degree in psychiatry, he would not be able to keep them shut. Like a great basement in a large building, a huge warren of hallways and hidden spaces. And the therapist would run through it all, cracking each lock, until all the monsters could roam free. Instead he decided he would begin to write about himself, and little by little, he would reveal what he wanted. He never got around to it either, of course. And it was a project he'd been meaning to do. A notion in his mind. Something I inherited.

I inherited it all. Every memory. Every impulse. The scramble of dark thoughts that chase him in the early morning chase me as well. I am obsessed with an admissions interview for Northwestern University more than twenty years ago. Sometimes I go over it in my head, go over the questions, rehearsing answers I should have given. All the things I'll never say.

Christ, I know what's on that guy's browser history without looking. And part of me wants to throw this computer into a dumpster and get a new one, because it will never be clean. But of course, I'm into the same sick shit that Frank likes.

I eat Hot Pockets and wash them down with Pepsi until I can feel the grease in every pore. I like the Mets. There is a beautiful red-haired woman in sales named Kendra, and everyone in the office is in love with her. I am in love with her secretary who has dark hair, and is a little overweight and self-conscious about it. I will never really talk to either of them.

I don't remember too much of my life before Frank. I don't remember coming down from another planet like the beginning of that movie. In fact, when I try to remember myself as a plant, it's only as a thought in Frank's head. He was sick that last weekend, the sheets were soaked with sweat, and he couldn't even move. His breathing was slowing down, and the room seemed darker, and that's when he thought of that strange creeping vine or fungus or whatever the fuck it was that he noticed while stealing his office supplies. He considered it, considered me, and that's the only memory I have of myself, the point where Frank and I looked at each other.

Frank is the house that I haunt. Frank haunts his life -- his network of roles and relationships -- and I haunt Frank, owning his thoughts. But there's no me down here in the middle of it. People think they exist as a little version of themselves buried in their own minds. Beneath your coffee and cigarette addictions and your memories and your emotions, you're certain you're you. But you're not. Frank wasn't. And now that I've taken him over and killed him, I realize that it's Frank who has swallowed me. There is only the house. All the ghosts are invisible. And they pass right through the walls, and barely make a whisper.

Sometimes I feel so... strange. Even for something that began as a fungus in a ventilation shaft. I'm not even sure I'm a pod person after all. Maybe I'm Frank, and the fever and the terrible strain has made me feel strange to myself. How would I know?

The only thing I do know is what lies behind all those locked doors Frank was so afraid of opening. Just empty rooms. Nothing worth hiding. Nothing at all.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What's Wrong With Us?


When I was little I read that the Archduke Francis Ferdinand was a very vain man. He liked his uniforms to lie flat on his body, with sharp, smart creases. And sometimes, to look this neat, he’d actually have himself stitched into his clothes. They’d have to pull all the stitches out before he could get undressed. It was quite a process. Because of this, when he was shot in Sarajevo in 1914 the surgeons couldn’t tear open his clothes quickly enough to reach the wounds. He bled to death under that nice, neat shirt. And the 10 million people killed in World War I… they died partly because of the Archduke’s unfortunate sense of fashion.

In seventh grade I was in love with this girl named Jessica. I wrote her a note in lunch and passed it to someone who opened it instead of giving it to her. They told all their friends, and within twenty minutes everyone was making fun of Jessica and me. They were making fun of Jessica more, because it was much more embarrassing for her to be connected to me than for me to be connected to her. Even now that’s slightly hard to say.
But when we got back to class, Jessica, pissed as I’ve ever seen her, threw the note at me, and said “You’re crazy if you think for one minute that I would ever go out with you.” She said it loud enough for everyone to hear and did it dramatically enough for everyone to see. It was almost a ritualistic act. She was showing everyone who knew us that they shouldn’t connect the two of us together, and that if there were any embarrassment to come from this, it should come to me. Everyone laughed.

I did the only thing I could do. I closed my eyes, put my head on my desk, and acted like I was asleep. I closed my eyes and made the world go away. They were all looking at me, and I was just trying not to see them looking at me. Sometimes that’s all I have. Sometimes it isn’t enough.
On the wall of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo painted Christ coming down from the heavens to judge the living and the dead. And around him are all the angels, prophets, and martyrs of the church. One of the martyrs is St. Bartholomew – flayed alive for his faith. But in this painting, he has been completely healed. He stands next to Christ, holding the skin they cut off from him – a deflated human being, hanging like a towel from his hand. The face painted on the skin is not Bartholomew’s, however. You can tell that Bartholomew’s new face and the old deflated face are from two different people. Michelangelo painted his own face onto Bartholomew’s deflated skin as a way of… what? Signing his work? Showing how proud he was of this scene? Showing remorse at his sinful nature?
We look at it and it becomes different things to us. It’s always been that way. We live by looking. We live to be looked at. A cat puffs itself up. A male bird spreads its brightly colored feathers. Insects have the patterns of their movement to share information, show status and position. Two businesspeople will shake hands to show they have no weapons. I will wear a jacket and trousers cut from matching cloth to show that you can trust me with your money, your credit card number, or your personal information.

And sometimes – a lot of the time – the things that you can show people don’t fit with how you want to be seen. How you feel you should be seen. Sometimes – a lot of the time – you just don’t know how people see you. They look at you, and they don’t show anything. And in that moment, you’re not sure yourself.

Who do I look like? Am I coming down from the sky showing my wounds to the world? Am I the face drawn in the margins that could mean any one of a number of contradictory things? Or am I the man in uniform, well-pressed and presentable, except for the neat couple of holes… holding everything I have together while everyone around looks for a way to open me up and see what’s the matter. Holding everything together as well as I can, growing a little lightheaded with the effort. Before lying back because I can do no more…
Closing my eyes finally and letting the lights go out all over the world?

Reckoning


Do you not know that we will judge angels? Then why not everyday matters?
– 1 Corinthians 6:3

My life’s so common it disappears.
– Paul Simon

Do you ever read something in the newspaper that makes you mad enough to kill? You’re probably not going to admit it. But think about this: Some animal murders his ex-girlfriend after stalking her for years. Everyone sees it coming, but all she can do is take out restraining orders. Like that would do anything. You’ve read something like that, haven’t you? She hasn’t done anyone any harm. He goes to jail, and she’s terrified of what he’ll do to her when he gets out. And he always gets out, because the people who are supposed to put him away don't do their jobs. Come on, now – come clean with me, here. She can’t protect herself – can’t go after the man or the cops will catch her right away. Cops are protecting the wrong people all the time, and you know it. She has to wait until it’s too late. You read a report like this, and you think how easy it would have been for someone completely random – from another area, with no connection – to just do that lady a simple, anonymous favor, and save her life. Yes, you do.

Now maybe it isn’t someone in the paper. Maybe it’s someone from a long time ago. But still, someone you know about. And you’re sure that right now, he’s making life hell for an innocent woman. He is evil, and dangerous, and it would actually be a good deed – nothing to be ashamed of – to go out, find him, stop him, and come home like nothing’s happened.

It isn’t crazy, is it? It isn’t crazy at all.

Well, I knew someone like that. And I did what I had to do.

Classic Movie Gimmicks at Zombos'



Zombos' Closet has an excellent post on gimmicks that movie theaters of yesteryear used during horror movies. My favorite was Percepto, a buzzer system installed in seats that would zap patrons during the show. It was featured in The Tingler, a 1959 film starring Vincent Price. Above is the introduction to the film. As you can see, the filmmakers are getting people all keyed up to respond to the buzzers.

"The buzzers were small surplus vibrators left over from World War II," according to Zombo.

Which makes me think there was a side to World War II that the History Channel completely overlooked. A really, really awesome side.
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