Scary Genre History Lesson: Weird Horror
I was 17 when I discovered the genre known as Weird Horror. I was getting ready to head off to college in the land of sunshine and celebrity. But at the moment, I was confined to my basement bedroom in the stereotype of suburbia, called Murray, UT.
Murray is five minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. It's flanked on the East and West by massive mountains that I would eventually grow to miss, but at the time, I saw them as looming giants restricting my evolution.
Utah is a theocracy controlled by the Mormon religion. Or, at least, it was in the early 2000s. This constrictive culture meant that each person had to fit themselves into one of two camps. The faithfuls or the crazies. I was a crazy. And I knew that if I stayed in Utah any longer, I would truly go insane.
And so I got into a community college out west and was preparing to leave.
The summer's are hot and dry in Utah, but the air conditioning is blisteringly cold. If you aren't getting the picture, there wasn't a lot of compromise or middle ground in the early odds of the century. I guess there still isn't.
I found weird horror through the daddy of the subgenre, H.P. Lovecraft (A racist, sexist, anti-Semitic dickwad). Within his writing sat worlds and monsters that hit me like an asteroid to the face. His opening paragraph from "Call of Cthulhu" is one of the most prescient bits of horror writing ever crafted.
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.
Told you. With those words I fell into an abyss of angsty thought. I wanted to rage. I tried my best to rage. But there's only so much raging one can do when they are within the digestive track of society. A little ex-Mormon only has so far to operate. And so I consumed. Masticated the intricacies of monsters the size of planets and horrors beyond the limits of time and space. Soon, the world around me began to take on a different form. It molded, twisted, formed and deformed. The walls boiled and melted away. Utah opened up to the caverns of space and things started to make sense.
Weird Horror gave me my own gods. Those I could craft within my mind's eye. Tentacled beasts who could demolish worlds with the whip of a limb. The valleys below and the mountains above were shifting creatures idling in their own passivity. Anything could end everything and the people who sat within the glaze were sentimentalists who didn't perceive the real world.
It was comforting to know the truth. It quieted my anxieties. And it brought me closer to the people who I had cohabitated with for so long. I understood what faith felt like. I understood the feeling of certainty. Of course, they were wrong. They had grasped little fragments of a broken whole. They shaped their God to reflect them. He was jealous and loving and cared deeply for all that they did. They created a peaceful dream from ancient myths of a co-dependent God who monitored all. It sounded pleasant.
But it was not the truth.
The truth was simple, uncomplicated, the truth lingered in the shadows of our thoughts. Waiting to be discovered. The truth was that the universe was made up of uncaring monsters that acted not from sentience, but from animalistic survival. They fed, and procreated, and drank from the well of humanity without thought, because no thought was demanded of them. They were undisturbed. The ocean of existence had shown them nothing other than continued existence. We were their lamb who they unconsciously readied for slaughter.
But that would inevitably end.
I knew then of the war that must come. Humans expand, it is woven within their nature. I realized that it would become impossible for the great beasts to stay hidden. Soon they would be disturbed and we would pay the price. We would travel into the expanse and be consumed.
Then a second truth came before me: what was there to do?
I was seventeen. I had knowledge, I had truth, but those are subservient to the great dictator: Faith. It took hundreds of years for humans to accept that the Earth cycled around the Sun. To accept that the sun was a creature capable of celestial obliteration would take a level of open-mindedness not common for those humans in a position to act. And so I sat back. I prepared to grow up. I prepared to enjoy the fleeting moments I had left.
I was nearly eighteen. I would no longer be a child, so it was worthless to have childish ideals. As the hot days crashed around me like endless waves I packed my things and I left the valley I had always known. And when I arrived in my new life I did my best to forget the old one. To dwell was too sickening, to persevere was human. It was what I was programmed to do.
In the end, perseverance will be our death. But right now, it is my salvation.