Recently I have been revisiting my near-obsessive self-question what scares me? because I’m back to reading recent “horror” fiction and feeling the recrudescence of my childhood dream of one day becoming the next Edgar Allan Poe (which I had very early, attended by the thought well, if I can’t make them like me, maybe I can figure out how to scare them).
What scares me?
The first thing that occurred to me, in this recent bout with the question … and this may betray my attraction to what is often called “body horror” (though I want to qualify that word “attraction” … I just don’t know how), was being turned inside out.
You know, which is what happens to you if you are on a swingset and you go over the top. Everyone knows that, right? ;^)
But there is a specific source for this fear. And it’s slightly embarrassing. In junior high school, my science teacher — for motivations I simply can’t recall — played us a track from an anthology LP of what I believe were radio scripts by Arch Oboler. The record was called Drop Dead! and featured the original of “The Chicken Heart” and other treasures — the track my science teacher chose to play for us was called “The Dark” and featured an evil black mist that would pour up from a hole in a closet floor and — yep, you guessed it — turn people inside out! The best things about the track, and the most unnerving, I guess, were the sound effects for human bodies being turned inside out, and the queasy revelation at one point that the first victim discovered by the paramedics (who later meet their own squidgy end) is still alive. Ewwww.
There are countless holes in this premise, of course: what could the creature (presuming it is a living thing) gain from turning people inside out? what evolutionary advantage would there be for such an ability? how could someone who’d been subjected to this horrid procedure possibly still be alive — the infection would quickly get you, if nothing else did.
None of that mattered in the 7th grade of course — that track really creeped me out, just as Oboler suggested it would in his spoken introduction, and I later bought a copy of the LP so I could listen to it (and “The Chicken Heart”) over and over.
But then I began to think. Hmm — topologically speaking, humans are donuts: we have a hole all the way through us. Can a donut really be turned inside out? At first, I thought not, but then I considered a detached shirt sleeve (or any similar tube): this, too, is topologically identical to a donut, and yet I do think of turning such a tube inside out. So …
Perhaps the mathematical sense and the intuitive sense clash, here. I will have to think about it further. Either way, I’d rather not be … altered like the humans in that oh gosh it’s so silly radio play were. No sirree.