“Horrors” How I See It
Something dark, slimy, gruesome crawls from below, sharp white teeth bared and ready to snap closed on an unsuspecting victim. Those teeth will easily shred flesh; the jaws can crack bone, disturbingly sexual fleshy red lips seal around jagged shards of bone and draw out the marrow.
This nightmare beast isn’t something from a new horror movie, or a recent novel, it’s that thing inside the reader, that creature reveling in the dark tales of horror. It’s one side of the bloody coin of fear we readers trade in when delving into a novel of terror.
The other side is the cowering thing, the one hiding from the beast, afraid of the darkness, afraid of the words.
When reading that truly terrifying novel and you find yourself turning on every light in the house, or pulling your feet up over the edge of the bed, that’s the cowering thing that has to draw away, to hide in the light.
But you keep reading, crawling ever deeper into the dark pit, searching out that next thing to terrify.
It is in the center of this duality that the reader and writer of horror can most closely examine the human condition and in far more depth, I believe, than any other genre.
In horror fiction the fluff of niceties is often blown away by a throat-ripping scream. Pomp is hacked to pieces like two horny teenagers in a backwoods cabin. You’re left with bleak and nearly hopeless circumstance.
In that circumstance are the dark things and the light things that make us who we are and both can be difficult to look at head on, but when you read about that zombie shuffling toward the now-weaponless hero backed into a corner with nowhere to go, in that moment you are both the zombie and the hero. The dark and the light.
Here the beast delights, savoring the scent of fear exuded by the small thing that hides, turns away, curling toes up beneath the covers. Then that moment has passed, and the reader moves on.
The cowering creature reads on in hopes that the hero wins, and it can come out of hiding. The creature lurking in dread waits silently for the next flash of panic to leap out, claws slashing, hoping to tear something away.
This is horror the way I see it.
Ever since I first read Dean Koontz’ “Phantoms”, or Stephen King’s “The Shining” I’ve had a dark love affair with every nightmare inducing permutation of horror literature. From the splatterpunk ravings of John Skip and Craig Spector, to Shirley Jackson’s dark and brooding “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” to the twisted brilliance of Lovecraft and Poe, I have been darkled by things that claw at the imagination.
Horror, to me, is the one form of literature that shines a blacklight on humanity, revealing those things normally not seen. Then the blades or claws come out, slashing at our perceptions, permitting the reader to view the world with the flesh peeled away, the glistening redness beneath exposing the reality of all that we are and can be, both beast and simpering coward and all that lies between.
John L. Davis, IV is an avid reader who enjoys adding to his ever-expanding home library and talking books with pretty much anyone at any time. John lives in Hannibal, MO, with his books, his wife — Erica, daughters — Astrid and Hannah, and their much-loved pooch — Pixie. He loves to hear from his readers, so stop by and converse about life, love, and the pursuit of zombies. He is the author of the American Revenant series, available at Amazon.com