(Male, 40′s) This dream had the feel of a film noir, especially the whole sense of “what have I gotten myself into now?”
I was going through some papers that I think my father left and I discovered a file cabinet full of what appeared to be quite rare stamps. I called someone who worked with my dad who happened to be a stamp expert and he came over to evaluate them.
Next thing I knew, this expert had called someone in to help him. They were bent over this one page from a stamp album. Neither man wanted to say definitely whether the stamps were authentic or fakes.
They came across an address of an office nearby. I said that I’d check out the office because I couldn’t be any help with the stamps. My wife and I went to check out the mysterious address. It was in a college, an old European kind of college where all the buildings look like churches with carved stonework and soaring arches. When we found the office itself, the door was locked but we could see through the windows that it had been ransacked. We tried another door along the side and it was unlocked. We let ourselves into the office where we discovered it wasn’t only ransacked, it had been a crime scene. There was blood caked into the furniture and the walls. Papers were strewn along the floor. And the weirdest detail was that a small, disposable camera hung from the ceiling strung from twine. I took this all in at a glance and I knew I had to call the police. I found a phone in the office and dialed 911. A voice answered that said “This 826-4531 how can I help you?” I asked if this wasn’t the police and the voice said that it was the police but that they were doing some remodeling and he didn’t want to confuse people. I told him that he might want to say that it was the police or 911 or something instead. I started trying to explain what I saw and where I was but I had lost the slip of paper with the address. I tried to describe the crime scene and the buildings in the area. Then I asked why they needed me to tell them all that, couldn’t they just trace the call. The voice said of course they’d already traced the call and he was just trying to keep me on the line until the police arrived to arrest me. I tried to explain again that I was just discovering this scene when a man arrived, highly distraught. He looked vaguely like an undergraduate humanities professor I’d had. His blond hair was wind-blown and his jacket — a dreadful wide plaid of pastel colors — was disheveled. He ran toward me saying “No, no” And that’s when I woke up!
We’re afraid of zombies. Or at least peculiarly fascinated with them at the moment. Add up the zombie-related nightmares that appear on this site, the zombie-related movies and games of recent years, the zombie-flash-mobs that have occurred in Toronto, San Fransisco… heck just about everywhere in North America. Those cold-hearted crypt creepers are hot.
Zombies are the perfect enemy. They don’t have any of those irritating human qualities that real enemies possess. Sure they look human enough but when it comes down to things, they’re dead and they won’t stop until we’re dead too. Don’t waste compassion on them; once they’ve changed they can’t change back. You can’t brainwash a zombie into not craving brains. Nobody seems to question the absolute right of self-protection so we can kill them without a twinge of moral regret. Zombies are the perfect metaphor for “the bad guys” during wartime.
But I don’t think that’s why they’re scary.
We’re afraid of zombies, because we’re afraid the zombies are us. Forgive this rehearsal of obvious information, and these qualities are the same for slow-moving, original style, Pittsburgh zombies (Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead“) or speed-freak, extra crispy zombies (“28 Days Later“):
- zombies are mobs, un-individuated groups;
- zombies consume voraciously, mindlessly;
- zombie-ism has no internal mechanism to limit itself. The “zombie-lifestyle” is excessive and exhaustive. It will not stop until there is nothing left alive;
- zombies have pure desire. It is not complicated by dogma or propaganda. There is no zombie religion; no zombie government.
Looking through the mirror of metaphor at the everyday world, zombies could be seen as a critique of rampant consumerism. We respond to the stimulus to buy, buy, buy quite brainlessly, without much consideration for our own fate or that of anyone else. This lack of limiting concern is NOT a “liberal thing,” either. Zombies can be depicted as a critique of capitalism in general but the brainless consumption portrayed by zombies also runs afoul of the old-time conservative values of thrift and frugality. Fiscal conservatives cringe at the prospect of a generation of folks who max out their credit cards while saving nothing for retirement. Who will cover all that defaulted debt when those self-indulgent hordes grow too old to work at McDonalds? The liberal spin on zombie consumption emphasizes the human degradation of near-cannibalism as mobs of once-humans feast on current humans, leading up to total environmental collapse.
While none of the zombie traits are laudable, perhaps that collection of qualities particularly grates against American values, especially individualism and “puritan” self-restraint. Zombies are post-human masses who seek to wipe out individuality. Americans cherish the notion that somehow maverick individuality is what made us what we are. Zombies threaten that identity, a fate worse than death. Zombies also are non-critically self-indulgent. Whether left-ish or right-ish, Americans tend to distrust indulgence, ironically enough while acting quite self-indulgent and privileged. However, we have elaborate justifications of our indulgences.
Zombies might be so scary because they’re what we see in the mirror.
Â The website Instructibles features step by step instructions on doing and building all sorts of practical things. But imagine my rapture and bliss when the other day instructions appeared for something both blissfully impractical as well as somewhat nightmare-related.Â Follow these instruction to make a blood spurting device from an old “swiffer.”Â The instructions also contain a recipe for fake blood.
Mrs. Gnome and I treked to Toronto last weekend to see “Evil Dead: The Musical.” We had the best seats in the house — centre, just barely behind the “Splatter Zone” — though not far enough to keep us entirely splatter free.Â I’d like to say that we got tickets free because we’re big-time nightmare-bloggers but…Â hey, for all you know that’s true, right? Naw, we paid for them and all tolled, they were worth every penny.
FULL-DISCLOSURE SOAPBOX: I’m NOT a fan of musicals in general and, to be honest, I’m not even too crazy about the whole Evil Dead franchise. I admit there’s some fun in “Army of Darkness” but I just can’t get past what smells like teen misogyny. Who cares if your girlfriend has turned into a Candarian demon, there’s NO excuse for violence against women. It’s juvenile because Ash seems mostly afraid of growing up, let alone of making a commitment… but all of those quibbles are SO far beside the point…
Because the musical is LOTS of good clean fun — if by “good” you mean stupid puns and blue-streak cussing (for instance, after their girlfriends turn into demons, Ash and Scott sing “What the F%*ck Was That?”) and by “clean” you include a literal bloodshower for a climax. The tunes are demonically catchy — I’m still humming them and I think I will until I hire an exorcist. So what if I would have preferred a live band and a musical style closer to, say, Rob Zombie or the Misfits. Fans of the movies will feel smug when they recognize favorite lines woven into the script of the musical.
And I’m still not conveying how much I enjoyed thing. Let’s just leave it at this: The run has been extended until August. See it. Or at least get the soundtrack.
(Male) I had this one just last night. I woke up with tears in my eyes.
Two of my friends came along with me as I stopped at a funeral parlor for some errand. We went into a moderately large room where the funeral director was. He said my friends could look around while we did business and he told me to sit down. My friends looked at one of the coffins but it already had someone in it. They joked with the director “You do good work” which was a joke because the guy in the coffin was horribly burned on one side of his face. The director explained “He was in a terrible car crash.”
The director got down to business with me. “Have you considered the funeral?”
“Oh, yes I consider them very important. It’s like my chance to say good bye to everyone. And I’d like to plan it in more detail but not now of course.
“Of course.” He replied.
“I mean there’ll be plenty of time for that.”
He had wheeled over a tray with many things on it. “How do you see yourself?” (by which I took him to mean how did I want to appear at the funeral.) I told him I didn’t know. He said sometimes it helps people to look at themselves in a reflection. He handed me something that looked like a stainless steel crow bar, polished to a great shine. “Look at yourself in that.”
I did but the reflection was distorted. I held it close up to my face to get a better look. Then I started to cry. “Take it away. Take it away! It’s a trochor. It’s what you use to… Get it away from me.” The funeral director didn’t want to make me upset but he called his assistant to talk to me. By the time she appeared I had stood up and was near the doors. She put her arms out and grabbed me by the shoulders. “You don’t understand,” she said “You have to stay here now.” She was treating me like I was dead. I didn’t know why my friends hadn’t come to my aid during my struggle but they couldn’t seem to hear me. I pretended to go along with the assistant, hoping she would take her hands off me long enough for me to make a run for the door. But soon two other assistants arrived, large bouncer-types in black suits. One of them had a large heavy metallic circle they were going use to weight down my legs. I stood up and started wrestling with them. I lost any sense of dignity and I cried and I begged like a child. I thought it was interesting how I was starting life and ending it as crying infant. I tried to bargain. I tried everything. I didn’t want to be dead.
(Male) I was in a car, a normal four-door sedan, nothing special. I think the interior was burgundy. It didn’t feel like it was my car like for one thing it was messier than any car I’ve ever had. Not like spills, but things like bits of trash on the floor. I’m not a clean-freak but I don’t usually leave that kind of stuff around. But I also didn’t exactly feel like I had the right to throw away any of the stuff. I drove the car alone. I had all these errands to do. I drove it from one stop to the next, parked it, ran in someplace and hopped back in the car. I can’t remember what the errands were but I don’t think they were very important.
What was strange though was that every time I got back in the car there was a little more crap on the floor. It wasn’t happening fast enough for me to notice really but for instance, one time I got back in and there was stuff coating the whole floor. Pretty soon there was stuff on the seat too: books, crumpled up paper, candy wrappers, dirt… Eventually it became difficult for me to get into the car. But I had to keep making these errands.
Finally though I was entirely trapped inside this car. The weight of the junk on top and beside and around me was too heavy for me to move my limbs. I was somehow able to keep driving though. I started hearing this strange little sound a bit between a tinkling bell and a sizzle. I didn’t think much about it until I saw something move out of the crner of my eye. It was small and furry like a mouse or a shrew. It was angry at me, threatened by me being in its lair. It also wasn’t alone; there were several of these little creatures mixed in the garbage all around me. I felt something bite me and it was a weird bite, like a sting and an electrical shock mixed together. The one up by my face kept squealing at me like it was yelling at me while I was getting bitten in random places all over my body. I really, really didn’t want to be bitten in the face but I couldn’t move to avoid the creature. And that’s when I woke up.
When vampires and werewolves seem a bit stale and tame, check out the catalog of real world horrors at Dismal World.com. Particularly striking is the “Must See” area and in particular “Unforgettable Photos.” There are also competently written essays about many topics of social and political horror. This cavalcade of atrocities was enough, perversely, to make me feel extremely fortunate, if even just for the moment.
Artist Deanna Molinaro dreams up slightly troubling bedtime tales and publishes them both on her website in .pdf format as well as in limited edition hardcopies.Â Her website also has snaps of her deliciously demented sculptures and drawings.Â Â Personally, I’m sending her some cash for a copy of “The Lonely Sea Monster.”
The artist Michael Paulus has used standard anatomical proportions to sketch out the skeletons that are implied by various classic cartoon characters. The effect is rather innocently eerie and bizarrely charming. My personal favorite is Charlie Brown whose grinning skull is downright unnerving.
(Male, late 30′s) I was visiting the church that I attended while growing up. I was there with my wife but it wasn’t a Sunday morning. It was a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday afternoon. We were in the basement which was traditionally used as a large recreational area. It was entirely dark. On the floor every foot or so were piles of fabric which we figured were child-sized sleeping bags — probably hundreds of them. We figured the church youth group had a sleep over. But where was everyone? Most of the sleeping bags seemed empty but the room was also filled with that hushed sound of slow breathing, like all around us, people were sleeping. We tiptoed through the area and gradually came to an area where there were adults. They were mostly very old and very awake and for that matter, pretty mean. They said “Who are you?” “We don’t recognize you” and “You don’t look Methodist to me.” I explained how I had attended this church as a child, how my father had been the choir director but they must have called the police. As we were leaving, a police car arrived. I raised my hands and turned to face the policeman and I saw he had a rifle aimed at me. He must have been startled when I turned because he shot a bullet clean through the palm of my left hand. I looked over at it and thought to myself, “That son of bitch just shot me” and while and I looked at the blood coming out of my hand, the police man shot me again in my right hand. I don’t remember the pain so much as the force of the impact and then the sense of the tissues giving way and being torn aside by the bullet. Finally, the policeman shot me in my belly and I woke up.
by Elsa L.
This weekend found me caught in the spell of the Korean horror film, A Tale of Two Sisters (Janghwa, Hongryeon: 2003) The film stretches our American expectations of a horror film while conjuring an impressive sense of imminent and inexplicable danger as well as an effectively melancholy mood.
The story begins with the return of the two sisters to their family home after a stay in the hospital. When they are greeted frightening enthusiasm by their stepmom, we remember that underlying rule of horror films: things aren’t always what they seem. Could this parental figure possibly be as evil as she appears to be?
The family tensions play out further during the dinner scene: the cold and distant father, the out-of-control stepmom, the close bond between the teenage sisters. Bedtime finds us leaning forward in anticipation; we know something bad is going to happen or maybe already has. We just don’t yet know what.
The dark mood of the film is underscored by the large but darkly imposing house; the family is comfortable, maybe even wealthy, but still not safe. The camera convinces us that there is something frightening in the William Morris patterned wallpaper. We don’t know exactly what we are looking for, but we know that something scary lurks in this house.
Is there a ghost or something supernatural haunting the sisters or it is something more like rage and jealousy? I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot while at the same time acknowledging that the story is one that you’ll want to try to figure out. Many horror films offer a few “disposable characters” bumped off early in the film, but there are no such expendable victims here. We are drawn into caring about the sisters and their welfare. Like Su-Yuon, the older sister, we wait for the truth to be revealed. We depend on her to get to the bottom of matters.
Su-Yuon is our closest connection in the story but she proves to be an unreliable narrator– a device that catches me of guard every time in movies or literature. I want to believe what I’m seeing and hearing, and to trust that the characters and the filmmaker are showing the true story to me. The film offers a lesson in trust to the characters and views both.
A horror film or a foreign film asks the viewer to puzzle out meaning. A foreign horror film challenges us twice as much perhaps. A Tale of Two Sisters crosses the cultural divide in ways that will fascinate, mystify and haunt you after the film is over.
We had survived a shipwreck, me and two other people. We were just floating in the middle of the ocean, all alone, with no wreckage or raft or anything to hold on to. We faced each other to keep from getting freaked out by the fact that we were in the middle of the ocean, miles from anything. But we each knew that if we looked out onto the horizon we’d go crazy thinking how far away it was, about how slim our chances of survival were. We suspected there were sharks underneath us but no one mentioned that possibility.
Our skin was very pale, nearly white, like a cave salamander or maybe like flight suits. It almost glowed under the water. And each of us held onto something that we had rescued from the ship before it went down. Like I had this small parcel that some how was supposed to be used for navigation but none of us knew how to use it. It also wouldn’t have been very much use to know WHERE we were if we didn’t have the ability to move anywhere else.
So there we were, treading water, all of us on the verge of insanity, waiting to drown. We knew how it would happen. One of us would not be able to take it any longer, either from exhaustion or from fear or craziness from the waves constantly hitting against our chests and heads. The one who goes crazy will start to freak out, and grab on to the others. We’ll struggle, wrestle in the waves, gulp water. It’ll be easy for us all to be pulled under, for us all to drown. We’re just waiting. Watching each other. Putting it off.
At this point, I’m hoping this was a dream. I was laying down for a nap the other day in a relatively bright bedroom. I’d pulled the window shades but there was still plenty of sunlight coming through. But I saw a shadow — or something — walk in front of a window. I didn’t think much of it. I figured it was a cloud in front of the sun or something.
But then I lied down for my nap, stretched out and tried to sleep. Just as I was falling asleep, it felt like someone had sat down on the edge of the bed where my feet were. The mattress compressed underneath my feet, like it was sitting on my feet. I tried moving my feet and I couldn’t.
And yes of course I’m familiar with the whole waking dream phenomenon, where there’s dream paralysis and everything. But I wasn’t entirely paralyzed, just my feet. And I wasn’t really scared; I just didn’t think that I was alone.
And the kicker was when I woke up. I would have swore I heard someone in the next room so I called out. No one replied but I distinctly heard the sound of papers shuffling. I don’t believe in ghosts so I’m ready to chalk all this stuff up as dream-related. They weren’t really scary so I hesitate to call them nightmares. Maybe just ghost dreams. Very indistinct.
(Male, 40′s) There were zombies everywhere but they seemed to be relatively fragile and explosive. One good hit with my flame thrower and they popped like a balloon filled with hydrogen. Imagine human sized Zeppelins. They didn’t seem to have a very good sense of direction either, that is, they didn’t know where I was, so I waited for one floor of the warehouse to fill up with zombies, then I pulled myself up through a hatch to the second floor and ignited the zombies I could see. The flames spread through the whole first floor. But the flames also attracted more zombies. I lured them up floor by floor and then I ran down the fire escape and burned the whole building. This was very strange, especially because my flame-thrower looked like a vacuum cleaner. The handle was a hollow tube and the bag was filled with some kind of combustible gas or liquid. I would compress the bag, like a bag-pipe, I guess and flames would shoot out of the tube.
So now I was down on the ground floor of this grimy, bombed out city, one infested with zombies. And this parade of other survivors starts making its way down the street. We all have weapons that are about as insane as my vacuum-cleaner-flame-thrower. We carefully walk down a few blocks and we gain a few folks with every building we pass. But then it occurs to me that some of the folks who are joining our parade don’t look much like survivors. They look more like zombies. In fact, once I start tallying up the number of zombies to survivors, even in our parade, they’ve got us outnumbered. And they’ve got us surrounded. The other survivors were starting to realize this as well and just as the zombies got ready to attack us, I woke up.