Analysis of ‘Re-Animator’

Re-Animator is a 1985 horror-comedy film directed by Stuart Gordon and written by Dennis Paoli, William J. Norris, and Gordon; the film is loosely based on parts of the HP Lovecraft 1922 horror serial novelette, “Herbert West–Reanimator.” The film stars Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, and Barbara Crampton; it costars David Gale and Robert Sampson.

Apart from the basic premise of Lovecraft’s story–namely, a serum that brings the dead back to life, created by the narcissistic young scientist Herbert West (Combs)–not much is taken from the tale and put directly into the film. Dr. Alan Halsey (Sampson), dean of the fictional Miskatonic University medical school, refuses to let West and the narrator (Dan Cain in the film–played by Abbott) do the reanimating experiments on corpses on the campus. The dean himself dies and is reanimated, making him a wild, cannibalistic, zombie-like monster and forcing him to be committed in an asylum.

The above plot elements are from the first two episodes of Lovecraft’s story, while also being updated (by Norris) to the 1980s and expanded to include Halsey’s pretty daughter, Dan Cain’s girlfriend, Megan (Crampton). Another doctor, the middle-aged Carl Hill (Gale), who is decapitated and reanimated by West, seems to be derived from the last two episodes (as is the plot of the first sequel–link in the next paragraph), from a WWI surgeon who is also decapitated and reanimated; and who, as in the story, commands an army, as it were, of reanimated corpses at the climax.

The film spawned a few sequels, 1990’s Bride of Re-Animator and 2003’s Beyond Re-Animator. While the sequels weren’t well-received, the first film was, and it is now considered a cult classic.

A link to quotes from the film can be found here.

During the film’s opening credits, we hear a soundtrack (composed by Richard Band) that is a blatant and intentional rip-off of the opening theme of Psycho. Only a few minor differences and variations are heard, with an original wind melody (bass clarinet?) played over the strings and a drum beat in the background. The film’s obvious campiness–a kind of black comedy whose over-the-top, even humorous violence may remind us of that of Titus Andronicus–inspired Band to make a similarly obvious, campy, and tongue-in-cheek reference to Psycho‘s stereotypical horror film music. Apart from this joke-reason, can we find others to justify the link between Re-Animator and Psycho?

I believe we can find other such reasons. With similar musical themes, we can also find similar motivic themes. Indeed, a careful analysis and comparison of the themes, symbolism, and motifs of both films shows striking similarities. Does all of this justify ripping off Bernard Herrmann‘s music, beyond it being a musical joke? I’ll let you decide, Dear Reader.

In Psycho, after Norman Bates has murdered his mother, in order to rid himself of the unbearable guilt of his crime, he tries to ‘reanimate’ her, in a way–not literally, of course, but in his mind. He uses a number of elaborate methods to convince himself of his delusion that she’s still alive. He robs her corpse and uses taxidermy on it to stave off decomposition as best he can. He dresses in her clothes, including a cheap wig he’s bought, and speaks in her voice. He gives over half of his life to bring her back from the dead.

Similarly, Herbert West deludes himself that his serum will restore life, when all it does is it turns the corpses it’s used on into savage killers…rather like Bates’s mother personality.

Another thematic similarity between the two films is that of invasion of privacy, intrusion, penetration. (See my Psycho analysis to see how I explain these themes in that film.) West intrudes on the world of Dan Cain and Megan, just after they’ve made love, and says he wishes to rent the basement of his house; he meets Dan at the front door of the house when Dan has only a sheet to cover his nakedness.

Later, the couple’s cat, Rufus, dies–did West kill it for use in his macabre experiments? West has the cat’s body in a small refrigerator, the sight of which naturally upsets Dan and Megan, the latter of whom has, in fact, invaded West’s privacy by going into his room without his permission, because she has been looking for her missing cat. Still, West will have to explain why he’s using their dead cat, without their consent, for his experiments.

The injecting of West’s vaccine-like [!] serum into the cat’s corpse, and later into corpses at the university morgue in defiance of Dean Halsey’s express forbidding of it, is further intrusion and unwelcome penetration. Indeed, it’s as if the violent reactions of the revived corpses are a reflection of how they hate the penetrative intrusion of West’s syringe jabs.

The stabbing of West’s needle into the corpses, like the stabbing of Bates’s knife into showering Marion Crane and Detective Arbogast (if in only a symbolic sense), is a projection of West’s psychopathy into the dead, making them as violent to the living as he is to the dead, by making them take on their stabber’s violent traits. Recall that narcissistic West doesn’t actually care about helping humanity with his reanimating; he just wants to play God, amazing all his science colleagues with his brilliance.

He has no respect or empathy for the feelings and rights of others, living or dead. This is why he has no qualms about insulting Dr. Carl Hill to his face, or using pets and human corpses without anyone’s consent in his experiments. West is thought of as a rather weird fellow, but the point is that he’s cold and calculating. Like Bates, West feels no human, emotional connection with others; all that matters to him is the reviving of the dead, as Bates wants a relationship with only his ‘reanimated’ mother.

West, like Bates the ghoul who stole his mother’s corpse, is an example of what Erich Fromm called the necrophilous character in his book, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Fromm wasn’t necessarily, or even primarily, referring to a sexual attraction to dead bodies; he was referring to people who have a morbid fascination with death and destructiveness.

West’s wish to bring the dead back to life mustn’t be confused with Fromm’s notion of biophilia, a love of life; rather, West’s claim to want to give people life is a reaction formation. West is fascinated with death for its own sake. The human body is a soulless machine to him; death just means that the body has broken down, malfunctioned, and reanimation is a repairing of the human machine, which, being soulless in his eyes, is already as dead as a machine, anyway.

Fromm explains: “Necrophilia in the characterological sense can be described as the passionate attraction to all that is dead, decayed, putrid, sickly; it is the passion to transform that which is alive into something unalive; to destroy for the sake of destruction; the exclusive interest in all that is purely mechanical. It is the passion to tear apart living structures. (Fromm, page 369, his emphasis)

West isn’t reviving the dead out of a wish to generate the biophilic joy of living; he is just fascinated in the technique of repairing biological machinery, as he sees it. In describing the necrophilous character, Fromm was referring “…to those individuals whose interest in artifacts has replaced their interest in what is alive and who deal with technical matters in a pedantic and unalive way.” (Fromm, page 382, his emphasis)

To return to a discussion of the intrusion/penetration/invasion-of-privacy theme, the equally narcissistic Dr. Hill enjoys stealing other doctors’ research (hence, West’s contempt for him), and when he tries to steal West’s work, West kills him with a blow to the head with a shovel (reminding us of the ending, a kind of second matricide, of Psycho II, a film made just two years before Re-Animator).

Hill also intrudes on reanimated Halsey’s personal space by lobotomizing him, with the intention of controlling him through telepathy after brain surgery. The ultimate invasion of privacy, however, is when decapitated, reanimated Hill uses zombie-Halsey to abduct his daughter Megan, has Halsey take her while she’s unconscious to the university morgue, has Halsey strip her naked, and ties her to a table so the lecherous doctor can enjoy her.

Hill’s sexual assault on her can be paralleled with the shower scene in Psycho, in which naked Marion is, figuratively speaking, raped by Bates’s penetrating, phallic knife. Hill’s voyeuristic lusting after naked Megan parallels Bates’s lusting after Marion, watching her undress through his peep-hole in the wall.

Yet another point of comparison between Re-Animator and Psycho is, to be put in general terms, the conflict between the older and younger generations, usually understood in a psychoanalytical sense as the Oedipal love-hate relationship a son or daughter has with his or her parents. Bates Oedipally loves…and hates…his emotionally abusive, domineering mother, and her bringing a lover into his house pushes him over the line, making him kill them both with strychnine, which causes them to convulse violently and painfully before they die. West’s serum causes a similarly violent, toxic reaction in those reanimated by it.

Instead of domineering mothers, in Re-Animator we have a domineering father, Megan’s father, the dean, who angrily forbids Dan and West (he is a symbolic father to them) to do their experiments in the university morgue, to the point of threatening to kick them out. The two young scientists’ defiance of Halsey infuriates him, causing an argument between him and Megan in the hospital near the morgue, in which he tells her she’s his daughter and she’ll do as she’s told…just before he’s killed by a reanimated corpse there.

When Bates’s mother-personality forbids him to give Marion any food from their house, he defies ‘her’ by making Marion a sandwich. Since Hill is old enough to be the father of West, Dan, and Megan, and since Hill as a professor of medicine is as much an authority figure over West and Dan as Dean Halsey is, Hill can be seen as another symbolic father (i.e., through transference) to the two young scientists, and maybe even to Megan, too.

When West makes Hill lose face during his medical lesson, West is defying what could easily be a father-transference. West’s breaking of pencils, and later decapitating of Hill with the shovel he’s hit him with, are symbolic castrations, reminding one of Cronus‘ castration and dethroning of his father, Ouranos, and then, according to the interpretations of Freud (page 469), Robert Graves, and John Tzetzes, Zeus’ castration and dethroning of his father, Cronus. West would similarly dethrone Dr. Hill as god of medicine. (Just before the reanimated corpse kills Halsey, it bites off two of his fingers, another symbolic castration.)

Normally, we think of the son being afraid of being castrated by his father, but West symbolically reverses this. West should be afraid of the symbolic father’s wish for revenge, though, especially since West has reanimated him. Bates similarly should fear the revenge of the mother he’s killed and ‘reanimated,’ for by giving her half of his life with the mother-personality, he is being possessed by her internal object, what WRD Fairbairn called the return of repressed bad objects (Fairbairn, page 67). She avenges her murder, as it were, by possessing him as an evil spirit would, dominating him even in death.

Reanimated Hill attempts a similar revenge in death by controlling the lobotomized, reanimated Halsey (who as Megan’s father and Dan’s once-hoped-to-be father-in-law, is thus a double of Hill), and by using the serum and research he’s stolen from West to reanimate all the corpses in the morgue, sicking them all on West, Dan, and the Megan who rejected his advances.

Now, while West’s interest in reanimation is of a necrophilous nature (recall that he shows not even the slightest sexual interest in the sight of the lovely and naked Megan), Dan’s interest in West’s obsession is of a biophilous sort. Dan has a genuine wish to save lives, as seen at the beginning and at the end of the film. First, there’s a dying woman he tries feverishly to save, but his superior, Dr. Harrod (played by Carolyn Purdy-Gordon), tells him to face reality: the woman is dead, and he must give up trying to save her.

At the end of the film, the far more devastating death of a woman is a fear of Dan’s that’s come true. Hill and his army of reanimated zombies have been mostly defeated, but not before one of them has strangled Megan to death. Dan’s attempt to revive her has failed just as it had with the woman at the beginning of the film. Dan does have West’s serum, though, and with her having just freshly died, surely her reanimation will give him her whole personality intact…won’t it?

Her scream, just before the ending credits, raises our doubts.

Analysis of ‘The Third Man’

The Third Man is a 1949 British noir film directed by Carol Reed with a screenplay by Graham Greene, from a novella Greene wrote to flesh out the story, but which wasn’t originally meant to be published. The film stars Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Trevor Howard, and Valli; it costars Wilfred Hyde-White, Paul Hörbiger, Ernst Deutsch, Erich Ponto, and Siegfried Breuer.

The film is noted for its superb cinematography, sometimes inviting comparisons with Citizen Kane (even to the point of making some think mistakenly that Orson Welles was involved with the writing and production), and for its distinctive music, all played on a zither by Anton Karas, its composer. It is regarded as one of the best films of all time.

A link to quotes from the film can be found here.

A recurring theme in The Third Man is the relationship between illusion and reality. The charming zither music gives us a sonic sense of how quaint Europe comes across to American visitors, as we see with Holly Martins (Cotten–“Rollo Martins” in the novella) when he gets off the train, having reached Vienna. Anticipating getting a new job from his old boyhood friend, Harry Lime (Welles), Martins is eager to reunite with him. That zither, however, gets plaintive and gives off a dissonant chromaticism whenever scenes get tense, a sonic shift from pleasant illusion to unpleasant reality.

Similarly, we see all the beautiful sculpture and architecture of Vienna, but it’s juxtaposed with the rubble of destroyed buildings, since this is postwar Vienna, divided into zones controlled by the US, the UK, France, and Soviet Russia. Cold War tensions are in the air. The illusory charms of Europe quickly give way to the reality of WWII horrors.

The illusory pleasantness of Vienna, as symbolically understood through the zither music, is further changed to unpleasant reality when Martins learns that Lime is dead, having been hit by a car…or so we understand. After attending the funeral with such people as Lime’s ex-lover, comedic stage actress Anna Schmidt (Valli), Major Calloway (Howard) of the British Royal Military Police, “Baron” Kurtz (Deutsch), and Dr. Winkel (Ponto), Martins goes with Calloway for drinks in a bar.

Illusions are further broken when Martins learns from Calloway that Lime was involved in one of the worst rackets in Vienna. Drunk Martins doesn’t like to hear Calloway say that his late friend has been responsible for people’s deaths, and that Lime’s own death is the “best thing that ever happened to him,” so Martins tries to punch Calloway, but instead is hit by Sergeant Paine (played by Bernard Lee), who works under Calloway.

Martins begins trying to find out what exactly has happened to Lime, and the first man he talks to about this is Kurtz, an associate of Lime’s who explains how, after Lime was hit by the car, two men carried him off the road (Kurtz and a Romanian named Popescu [Breuer]), Dr. Winkel arrived, and Lime died soon after that.

Martins hears the testimony of others, including Schmidt, who is reluctant to speak about Lime. Karl (Hörbinger), Lime’s porter, however, lets it slip that there was a third man who helped carry Lime’s body. These contradictory accounts make Martins suspicious of foul play, and cause us to see further rifts between illusion and reality.

This sense of suspicion and disorientation that is growing in Martins is symbolized by the extensive use of the Dutch angle in this film. The tilted view of events on the screen suggests not just his looking askance at what people are up to, but also our looking askance at it. What he, and we the audience, see is a distortion of reality, an illusion that alienates him and us, the new visitors of Vienna.

In the novella, Kurtz wears an obvious toupee, and when Martins visits him at his home (pages 2 and 8 of the link to the novella), he sees the toupee in a cupboard, and Kurtz is not bald. Martins surmises that the toupee has been part of a disguise, “useful…on the day of the accident,” another illusion furthering his suspicions of Kurtz.

Testimony about the late Lime that Martins hears, given from the multiple perspectives of Calloway, Kurtz, Schmidt, Dr. Winkel, and Popescu (an American named Cooler in the novella) suggests the influence of Citizen Kane. Indeed, we’ll eventually learn that Lime was…and is!…as unscrupulous and narcissistic a businessman as Kane was.

In the novella, when Martins talks with Dr. Winkel in his home about Lime (page 3), and Martins hears the doctor’s laconic answers, we read a description of the copious examples of religious art and icons the doctor owns. These include a crucifix with Christ’s arms above His head; Winkler explains that this rendering is meant to show how He died, in the Jansenists‘ view, only for the Elect–arms up high to indicate how high are those who merit salvation, as it were. This is representative of the narcissism of those involved in Lime’s racket: only they ‘deserve’ to live.

Karl has been murdered for his loose lips about the third man, and some suspect that Martins, one of the very last people to talk to the porter, is his killer. Those involved in Lime’s racket wish Martins would stop his investigating.

Martins is put in a car and hurriedly driven somewhere. We suspect, as he does, that the driver has been paid to have him killed. This fear soon turns out to be yet another illusion, for the driver is actually taking Martins to the gathering of a literary club, organized by Mr. Crabbin (Hyde-White), where Martins, a novelist himself, is expected to lecture on and answer questions about all things literary.

So Martins, as a writer, is also a creator of illusions. Having a novelist as his story’s protagonist seems to be Greene’s way of making a private commentary on his own illusion-making as a writer. Indeed, the careful reader of Greene’s novella will note that it is a first-person narrative given not by Martins, but by Calloway, who is oddly able to know many of Martins’s private actions and thoughts (Calloway’s having spies follow Martins everywhere, or to have Martins tell him all that’s happened, can’t possibly account for all of the exposition of Martins’s inner thoughts and motives).

Small wonder a writer of Greene’s calibre didn’t originally want the novella published; at the same time, the later publishing of so slightly-revised a narration gives us an interesting commentary on literary illusion-making as illusion.

The literary snobs in Crabbin’s gathering ask Martins, a writer of Westerns, about all kinds of high-brow concepts (stream of consciousness, how to categorize James Joyce‘s work, etc.). Martins’s idea of great writing is Zane Grey, much to the disappointment of Crabbin et al. The illusion that Martins is a writer of their lofty literary ideals has been shattered, since along with Grey as an influence, he cannot answer their questions to their satisfaction, and they leave.

In this scene, we also have an interesting comparison of the illusion-making of authors with that of the racketeers, in the form of Popescu asking Martins about his writing (menacingly implying that he should stop it if he wishes to be safe), with Martins’s bold, defiant answer that his ‘new book’ will be called “The Third Man,” a work based on fact (i.e., the crooked circumstances that have led to Lime’s death), not fiction (his supposedly accidental death on the road).

Popescu’s men then chase Martins out of the room. He goes up a spiral staircase, of which we get an upwards shot. It symbolically suggests Martins’s attempt to escape the hell of the Viennese racketeers (and the pretentious literary types) and up into the heaven of safety. Such heaven and hell symbolism will recur later. “Long is the way/And hard, that out of hell leads up to light.” (Milton, Book II, lines 432-433)

He hides from his pursuers in a dark room, in which he hears a whimpering voice. Assuming it’s somebody scared because of his entry, he says, “It’s all right,” then turns on the light and sees that the voice is coming from a parrot. This chiaroscuro shift from dark to light, or from concealment to revelation, paralleling the relationship between illusion and reality, is an important feature of the expressionist cinematography in this film, something aided well with the black-and-white photography (i.e., without distracting colour). This contrast of dark and light will feature again soon enough.

Martins’s pursuers chase him out of the building, and he goes down a hill of rubble and succeeds in hiding from them. The zither music is heavily chromatic in harmony, to add to the tension. In this hell of Vienna (whose shiny wet cobblestone streets parallel the water in the hellish sewers below–more on them later), one can’t hope just to escape up to heaven, but must confront its evil (i.e., descend into it…the sewers!) in order to defeat it.

Martins sees Calloway again, and indeed, he must confront that evil: Lime, his childhood friend, really has been involved in a despicable racket. An orderly named Harbin, who works for Lime, steals penicillin he finds (available only in military hospitals), then Lime sells it on the black market, diluting it so he and his men can maximize sales; in its diluted state, though, it cannot work as an effective treatment, so patients either get worse (gangrene, exacerbation of pregnant women’s problems when in childbirth, poor physical and mental health in children, etc.) or die.

Martins’s illusions about Lime have been utterly shattered: Calloway has provided proof that Lime, Martins’s good old friend, was…is…one of the vilest human beings out there. Martins gets drunk again, in a seedy area strewn with prostitutes, but his growing romantic interest in pretty Anna Schmidt means he buys her flowers and goes to see her.

In her apartment, they discuss what he’s learned about Lime. As they’re chatting, a camera moves in on some plants on her balcony; the shot then goes through the plants and out onto the streets below. A man dressed in black hides in the shadows of a doorway, where a cat goes over to his shoes: who is he?

Martins finishes his visit with Schmidt, realizing he hasn’t got a chance to replace Lime and be her man. His illusory hopes are dashed. (Speaking of illusions vs reality, she is an actress only doing comedies, yet she seems to have a permanent frown.) He leaves her apartment and goes out on the streets near where that man is hiding.

The cat’s meowing draws Martins’s attention, and he assumes the man is a spy tailing him. In his drunkenness, Martins shouts at him to come out and reveal himself. His shouting bothers a neighbour up above, who turns her apartment light on; the light shines out and is reflected in the man’s hiding place.

Martins sees guiltily smirking Lime.

Out of the darkness, and into the light; or, out of illusions and into reality. Lime faked his death!

Or, is this revelation just another illusion? Has Martins, in his inebriation, seen a ghost, or had a hallucination? A car shoots between the two men, and after it’s gone, Martins doesn’t see Lime in the shadows of that doorway anymore; that flash of light from the window has disappeared, too–we’ve gone from light back to dark, from reality back to illusion.

Martins hears Lime running down the street, though, and he chases him to a kiosk in the town square, where Lime unaccountably disappears. Martins summons Calloway, and they and Paine go to the kiosk, where Calloway puts two and two together: the kiosk has a secret doorway leading down to the sewers. That’s where Lime went!

The three men go down into the filthy, smelly place, an underground symbolic of hell, which is an appropriate place for our villain to be hiding. Lime’s racket, the selling of diluted (and therefore worthless) penicillin on the black market, is a lawlessness symbolic of the unregulated “free market.” Calloway’s police, combined with the American and French authorities of the Viennese zones, represent postwar, regulated capitalism. The Russians, of course, represent communism.

Because The Third Man is a post-WWII British film, it ideologically represents the centrist, liberal world view, as contrasted with the unregulated, right-wing libertarian capitalism of Lime’s racket on the one side, and the left-wing, Soviet position on the other. Both of these sides are portrayed as evil, due to the Cold War Western biases of the time, as well as the Keynesian, welfare capitalism of the Attlee era.

Accordingly, not only are Lime and his ilk the villains, but also the Russians, seeking to deport Schmidt for her forged immigration papers, are portrayed as politically repressive, when a closer examination of the political predicament of, for example, East Germany, would adequately explain why the communists were sometimes averse to their citizens defecting to the West, and averse to letting fascistic types enter the Soviet Bloc.

Calloway goes to the cemetery and has ‘Lime’s’ body dug up: sure enough, it isn’t Lime’s body, but that of Harbin. The darkness of the grave hid the illusion of Lime’s death, and Harbin’s body, brought up to the light, has revealed the truth.

Martins makes an arrangement to meet Lime at a Ferris wheel. There, Lime, still fittingly wearing a black coat and hat, discusses his racket with Martins, who is horrified at his friend’s unfeeling attitude towards his victims. In the Ferris wheel, they rise up to the top where they can talk in private.

That topmost point is Lime’s narcissistic heaven, where he can feel superior to, and look down at, all the people, those little “dots,” on the ground. He feels no compassion for his victims, and sees the erasure of many of those dots on the ground as expedient for the accumulation of profit, all tax-free.

In this way, it is so fitting that the post-war film takes place in Austria, of all places.

Lime feels little pity for Anna, either, knowing of her grief over his ‘death,’ and her prospects of being deported. Nonetheless, he keeps up the illusion of loving her by drawing a heart with Cupid’s arrow in it, rubbing his finger on the window of their carriage, and writing ‘Anna’ over it.

Just as it is heartbreaking for Martins to learn how low Lime has sunk (recall his refusal to accept the truth when he’s tried to hit Calloway near the beginning of the film), so does the defender of the “free market” experience cognitive dissonance when his illusions of it are shattered upon learning of its ill effects.

The narcissistic highs last only so long, and that topmost point of the Ferris wheel where Lime is standing must come back down. Still, he wants to fancy himself among the top men of the world; so when he and Martins return to the ground, he mentions–in Welles’s famous, improvised line–that the cruelties and violence of the Italy of the Borgias also produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance, while the more humane and democratic Switzerland merely produced the cuckoo clock.

Apparently, psychopathy and narcissism–rather than talent–are what create great things.

Having seen for himself in a hospital the effects on children of Lime’s diluted penicillin, Martins decides to help Calloway catch his old friend. Schmidt, however, doesn’t like knowing Martins plans to betray her former lover. Her sympathy for Lime, as over Martins and those who deserve justice for Lime’s crimes, symbolically suggests how the conditions that have given rise to racketeers like Lime will resurface in the future (see the end of this analysis)…and recall that Anna Schmidt is the sympathetic love interest of the film.

A trap is set for Lime to meet Martins in a café, but when Lime arrives and is warned by Schmidt, he runs off to the sewers again. Calloway and the police are there, though.

Trapped in that filthy underground that reeks of excrement, Lime is in his narcissistic hell, the hell of his True Self, which he hates, as opposed to the illusory heaven of his False Self, which we saw at the top of the Ferris wheel. No longer do we see the smug, smirking villain; now he is visibly scared. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. All he can do is hide in the darkness from which he can’t escape, hoping the shadows will give the illusion of his absence.

But his pursuers know he’s there: no blackness can deny the reality of his being there. He shoots and kills Paine, then Calloway shoots and wounds him, then Martins shoots him dead with Paine’s pistol. It’s with great sadness that Martins must kill his friend, but no reforms can end the capitalist evil that Lime’s racket represents; that end can only be violently forced.

Now, Lime is gone, and a second funeral is held for him; but for all we know, his racket could be continuing, if not by Kurtz, Winkel, and Popescu (who have been arrested), then by someone else. The regulatory force of the British, American, and French authorities can try all they will, but the economic system they defend still creates the want that leads to some racketeers committing such crimes…

…just as the Keynesian/welfare capitalism of 1945-1973 protected the backbone of a system that later would morph into the Lime-like neoliberalism of today, which has produced its own lethal medical frauds.

Along with these problems is the alienation this system creates, an alienation symbolized in Schmidt’s snubbing of Martins at the end of the movie; indeed, he tries to keep alive his illusion that she’ll return his love, and her walking past him replaces illusion with reality once again, with that plaintive zither playing in the background. Greene wanted the happy ending given in his novella, in which Martins and Schmidt walk together; but Reed’s sad ending worked so much better that even Greene had to acknowledge it.

This sad ending implies what needs to be said about all the political circumstances surrounding the story: getting rid of one or two bad apples (be they Lime or, in our day, Trump) isn’t enough to mend our emotional and social wounds; the entire system that causes such division–not just the lines dividing Vienna (or Cold War-era Berlin, for that matter) into zones…and we see a lot of lines, a lot of people divided and isolated, boxed into geometrical shapes, in this film!…but also the lines dividing us into classes–is what must be abolished.

‘Germ,’ a Horror Short Story

[SEXUAL CONTENT]

Vera crouched in the shower stall, trembling in fear as the water sprayed down on her bruised body. In her mind, she replayed the beating she’d got from Bob, her pimp.

“Only two hundred bucks?” he’d said after thumbing through the bills in her bedroom.

“Business was slow tonight,” she’d said in a shaky voice.

“You had at least four men in here today, probably five or six,” he’d said, scowling at her. “You may not be all that great-looking anymore, but you’re good for more customers that this. You’re holding out on me again, aren’t you? Empty your purse!”

She’d done so. There were at least one thousand dollars from that day alone. Now she was really shaking.

“Bitch, you never learn!” he’d said, followed immediately by the first punch, to her jaw on the lower left side.

As she shook remembering each punch to her face, shoulders, and chest, she never noticed a tiny green splat, no bigger than the tip of her index finger, go from a tile next to the shower drain, up her right foot, then her ankle, calf, knee, upper leg, and finally deep inside her vagina.

It never tickled or anything; it felt no different than the water soaking her body.

She did notice, however, and about ten seconds later, a strange, warm, vibrating feeling all over her body. It was surprising, but it felt good, soothing. The pain from her beating faded away.

She looked down at where the bruises had been on her chest, two of them, each just above a breast.

They were gone.

Her breasts were bigger, rounder, and firmer, too. Her hairy pubes were replaced by a landing strip.

“Holy shit,” she whispered.

Now with a new energy, she got up on her feet and quickly began running a lather all over herself. As she’d been soaping up her face, she felt no cut just below her lip on the left.

Once she was clean and rinsed off, she got out of the shower stall, towelled herself off, and ran out of the bathroom to find her bedroom mirror, a tall one giving her a full view of her body, from her head to her toes.

She examined her entire body, turning around and eyeing every inch of her skin. No cuts, no bruises…

…and no imperfections from ageing.

“What…the…hell?” she gasped, with agape eyes.

This 38-year-old woman now had the body of a 22-year-old porn star.

She couldn’t explain it.

She couldn’t stop grinning, either.

*********

All tarted up in a tight-fitting red dress to show off her new figure, Vera was out on the streets again, hoping to make a huge ton of cash all at once, to speed up her savings so she could leave this town and Bob forever.

Maybe she’d even find a good man and never have to hook again.

Someone like Derek.

Over the next several hours, she’d had two johns, a nice one and a bad one, this second one having worn a tacky pink paisley shirt. His attitude towards women was as bad as his taste in clothes, for he’d aggressively fucked her so it hurt inside; he also enjoyed slapping her around as he fucked her.

He left her apartment in a hurry, having never taken off his clothes for the sex. He’d unzipped himself, whipped it out, slipped on a condom, done her, pulled off the condom, zipped himself up, paid her, then ran off.

“Bastard,” she hissed after he’d slammed the door behind him.

All the pain from each of his slaps went away seconds after she got them; her vaginal pain disappeared by the time he’d left, too.

Wow, she thought. What is this super-power I’ve got? Is there an angel above who’s pitying me?

Ten minutes later, she was back on the street and, about twenty minutes after that, she found another john.

“Lookin’ for some action?” she asked him.

“Sure do,” he said, smiling and approaching. “How much for…?”

He was interrupted by a grunting sound coming at them from the side, a shuffling and scraping sound on the sidewalk.

They turned their heads and looked over to where the sounds were coming from…and their eyes and mouths widened.

A man without legs or a right arm was crawling towards Vera, his empty pants legs and pink shirt sleeve sliding behind his ass.

“You…bitch,” he hissed, then a few of his teeth fell out. “What did…you…ungh…” His tongue came off and got stuck in his throat. He coughed it out, then it lay on the pavement beside his cheek.

She screamed, then she and her new john ran away from the crawling man.

“Who was that guy?” the john asked her as they reached her apartment.

“I don’t know,” she lied, for she’d recognized the crawler’s paisley shirt.

*********

In her bedroom again, she danced and stripped for her new customer, proudly displaying her new and improved body.

He gazed in awe at her nakedness.

“Wow, you’re hot,” he panted, unzipping his jeans.

“Thanks,” she said with a grin.

“How much for anal?” he asked.

Her smile vanished. “I…d-don’t do anal.”

“I want anal!” he shouted, then punched her hard in the gut.

She buckled and fell on the bed. He pulled off his T-shirt, jeans, and underwear, then got on the bed with her.

The pain from the punch was gone within seconds, but he got her in position for anal rape too quickly for her to resist him.

He shoved it in raw. She screamed in pain, and though the pain of each ramming went away quickly enough, the relief didn’t amount to anything, for the old pain got replaced by that of a new ramming in each time. After a few minutes of the ordeal, he pulled out and came all over her buttocks.

She lay there on the bed, sobbing.

My daddy did that to me when I was a teen, she thought. “You bastard.”

“That’s what you get for choosing to be a whore, bitch,” he panted, and reached down for his pants and underwear…but, “Ungh!

His dick fell off.

He screamed at the sight of it between his shoes. Then his balls fell off.

“What the fuck?!” he screamed in a soprano voice. “What…germ…did you pass onto me?”

His nose fell off.

Oddly, there was never any blood.

He screamed again. A few teeth fell out.

Her pain was all gone. She wiped his come off her ass with a tissue, sat facing him, and smiled.

His left arm fell off. Now, he was the one sobbing.

She got back into position for anal and spread her buttocks wide open. She looked back at him with a mock-seductive look. “Wanna fuck my ass, baby?”

He glared at her, but just then, his right eye fell out.

She got off the bed and went for his jeans. She pulled out his wallet. “OK,” she said, “how much have you got in here?”

He tried to reach for his wallet, but his lower jaw fell off. “Umph!” he grunted.

She pushed him to the floor. Now, all of his remaining limbs detached from his torso. His head came off, too, and rolled to the other side of the bedroom. Finally, all was still and quiet.

So, she thought as she continued thumbing through his wallet, I guess I know what happened to Mr. Pink Paisley. Fucker got what he deserved.

“What?!” she yelled. “Only twenty-five bucks? No ATM card, either. You were gonna rape me, and not even pay me?! You fucker!!” She stomped on his left arm. The fingers and thumb detached and rolled away. “I’d better get some garbage bags and clean up this mess.”

********

She was back on the streets later that night. It was past midnight. Now, she was almost hoping for nasty customers, so she could see them come to pieces from her new powers.

As she looked around for men to attract, she thought she saw the first john who’d had her since her transformation–the nice one. Same clothes–a white T-shirt and black pants–same brown hair, same skinny build and height–about the same as hers. Same face, too…she thought.

Wow, she thought. He didn’t come apart. He didn’t die, like those two bastards. Is it because he was gentle with me? Is that even him? Looks a lot like him, but I can’t be sure in the dark.

Then she saw Derek.

Speaking of nice guys, she thought. Here comes my man, or so I’d wish him to be. He’s one of the few johns I actually like having sex with.

He approached her with a smile.

“Hi, Derek,” she said, beaming at him.

“Wow, you’re looking the best you ever have,” he said.

“Thanks,” she said, turning around for him with pride. “I’m glad you like it.”

“Not that you had to change your looks at all, of course,” he said. “I’ve always thought you were beautiful just as you are.”

“You are so sweet to me.”

“My pleasure,” he said, offering her his escorting arm. “Shall we?”

“Uh, OK,” she said, and took his arm.

“Why the hesitation?” he asked as they began walking towards her apartment.

I can’t tell him about the Germ, she said. He’ll dump me. But what if he catches it? “I-I had a few nasty johns today,” she said.

“Well, if you don’t feel up to having sex, why are you out here streetwalking?” he asked.

“Because I have to, silly,” she said. “Bob will beat me up if I don’t. You know that.”

“I’d like to beat Bob up.”

“He’s much too big for you to beat him in a fight. He’d kick your ass. Besides, even if you won the fight, he has all his mafia friends who’d kill you.”

“I’ve gotta take you out of this town, far away from him. If only I had the money,” Derek said.

“You have had the money to pay for sex with me, and that’s been on lots of occasions over the months. Why not save your money instead of blowing it all on me?”

“One, because I’m so hot for you, I’ve got to have you as often as possible. Two, because I want you to experience a gentle, considerate john as often as possible, to offset and take away the time from the nasty johns, and to pay you more than they will.”

“Bob just takes the extra money for himself. You’re giving it all to him, not to me.”

“Bastard. Anyway, how’d you get to be so…well, more than usually beautiful today?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “A good makeup job?”

“Come on, it’s much more than cosmetics, Vera. You’re much more shapely than your usual shapely self, like a girl half your age. What did you do?”

“I really don’t know,” she said as they reached the front door of her apartment building.

“Black magic?”

“I don’t know. Strange things have been happening tonight. I can’t explain it.”

“Really?” he said as they got in the elevator. “Anyway, whatever it is, you look really beautiful. Of course, as I said before, you always did look beautiful, makeover or no makeover.”

“Thanks,” she said with a giggle. I really like him, she thought. I wanna make love with him so badly…but I shouldn’t!

They reached her floor and got out of the elevator. As they walked down the hall to her apartment, he said, “I’m burning to make love to you.”

“So am I,” she said, fitting her key into her door. “I’d do it with you for free, you know that, but Bob–“

“Even without the threat of Bob, I’d pay you, to help you make ends meet. If only I could get you away from that piece-of-shit pimp.”

They went inside. “If he were dead, we wouldn’t need to leave,” she said, thinking, Maybe, with this new power of mine, I could coax Bob into a suicide fuck. They went over to her couch and sat together.

“Don’t do anything foolish to get the cops after you,” he said, then he put his arm around her and kissed her on the cheek.

“Wait,” she said, pushing him away. “Not right now.”

“Those two guys before me really shook you up, didn’t they?”

“Yeah. I just need a few minutes.” Or days…or weeks…or years…

“Well, OK,” he said, taking his arm away. “I don’t wanna pressure you into sex. We can sit and talk for a while.”

“Thanks.” You are so sweet, Derek. I wanna have sex with you so badly…yet because you’re so sweet, I can’t have sex with you. If I saw your body falling to pieces the way those two other guys’ bodies did, I’d fall to pieces!

She sat on his lap, delighted with the feeling of his erection under her buttocks…yet terrified of it, too.

“Cuddling will be fine,” she said. They put their arms around each other. She pecked him on the lips. Cradling her in his arms, he slowly rocked her back and forth as they looked into each other’s eyes. “I think I love you.”

“I know I love you,” he said.

“What do you see in an older woman like me, in such damaged goods?”

“Well, maybe it’s because you’re damaged…not in body, but in how you’ve been hurt so much. I see the pain in your eyes. My mom used to have that look. Your pain arouses my wish to help you, to love you.”

Now I know I love you, she thought while smiling at him.

They started with a few pecks on the lips. Within ten seconds, the pecking phased into French kissing. The pleasure he was giving her made her forget, for the moment, all of her worries, and she let him get her out of her dress.

In pink underwear, black stockings, and black high heels, she was allowing his hands to roam all over her skin. She let him unhook her bra, and it slid off with a proud wiggle of her breasts.

“Do you like them?” she asked with a grin.

He looked down at them. “Whoa!” he said while fondling them. “No silicone. How is this possible?”

“I don’t know. I only know that I like it.”

They resumed French kissing. He pulled off her panties to reveal her new landing strip.

“Did you get a waxing?” he asked breathily.

“No,” she sighed between kisses. “As I said,…I can’t…explain it.”

This is really weird, he thought while unzipping his fly. Still, I guess I can’t complain. He got on the floor and lay on his back.

She hesitated before mounting him. Will he die if we fuck? she wondered. Will his dick fall off?

He furrowed his brow at her hesitating. “Still don’t wanna do it?” he asked.

She was too horny to say no. She rationalized it thus: If he dies, I’ll lose him. But if we never screw, I’ll never enjoy him, which is the same as losing him, because I’ll never have him. Besides, he might dump me for someone else if I hold out too long, and that means losing him, too. I’ll have to take my chances and see if he survives a fuck. “Yes, let’s do it,” she panted.

“You sure?” he asked while putting on a condom.

“Yes!” She took it in, with sighs of rising pitches and loudness.

As she moved up and down on him in the cowgirl position, her mind swung back and forth between fear and desire. Was that brunet in the white T-shirt and black pants really my first john after my beautifying…was he really the nice one? she wondered. Did he survive–if it was him–because he was nice to me, or because this poisonous Germ in me hadn’t taken effect just yet? The answer would seem to be the first one, because the beautifying took effect so much sooner, and because everything about the Germ seems to be working in my favour, like the quick healing. I’m glad those two asshole johns died, and if that guy I saw was the nice john, still alive and healthy, I can be confident that Derek will be OK…but I only think I saw the nice john! I can’t be sure.

Because her pleasure was limited by her worries, she wasn’t as lubricated as she should have been.

In his passion, Derek gave her a hard ram; it felt like a stab against her vaginal walls.

“Oww!” she yelped.

“Sorry,” he panted, then tried to move in more gently.

“It’s OK,” she sighed…or was it? Even if the Germ is benign to me, she thought, would it misinterpret my pain as Derek deliberately hurting me? Is the Germ some kind of alien that doesn’t know the difference between accidentally and intentionally hurting people? If that’s so, I’d better try to enjoy this sex the best I can. It’s too late to stop it, anyway–there’s no turning back. The guy in paisley wore a condom, too, and it didn’t save him from the Germ.

She looked down in his eyes and tried to focus on her love for him. They were getting more and more excited, but he gave her another impassioned, hard ram.

“Oww!” she screamed. Oh please, Germ-alien, or whatever the hell you are, don’t think of Derek as an enemy. Don’t kill him!

“Sorry,” he said again. “I didn’t mean…to do that.”

Did you hear that, Germ-alien? she thought. C’mon, Vera: focus on your desire!

“I’m gonna…blow my load! Oh!” he grunted.

“I’m…almost…there, too. Ah!

They orgasmed at about the same time. He pulled out and removed his condom.

Here it is, she thought, watching him closely. The moment of truth. She got off of him.

He started getting himself off the floor. “Ungh!”

“Oh, my God!” she screamed. “Are you OK?”

“Yeah, sure,” he said, getting to his feet. “I just haven’t put my dick away yet. Silly me. I should’ve done it before.”

As he was putting it in his pants, she watched with a terrible dread. He noted her staring at him.

“I don’t need any help, thank you,” he said with a sneer. “Ooh!”

“What’s wrong?” she fired out in terror.

“Nothing,” he said, zipping himself up. “It’s just really sensitive after a fuck. If I’m not careful with it, I’ll hurt myself.” He saw the look of fear still in her eyes. “Why are you so jumpy tonight? Did my aggressive fucking remind you of those two bastards?”

“Yeah, in a way…not that you’re at all like them, of course.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel that way. I guess I’m just clumsy when I’m horny.”

“Oh, you’re the best lover I’ve ever had,” she said.

“Thanks,” he said while stretching. “Oww!”

“Oh, God! Are you OK?”

“Yeah. I just pulled a muscle in my back, that’s all.” He took his wallet out of his pants pocket.

“Thank God.” So far.

“Why are you so worried about me hurting myself all of a sudden?” He took out a few hundred dollars and paid her.

“N-nothing,” she said, taking his money. “I just…care about you.”

“That’s sweet,” he said, put his wallet back in his pocket, then kissed her on the cheek. As he walked to the door, he said, “I’ll call you tomorrow, late morning or early afternoon.”

“OK.” I sure as fuck hope you do. “Bye.”

“Bye.” He walked out the door and into the hall.

She stood at the open door and watched him approach the elevator. I guess he’s gonna be OK.

“Oomph!” he grunted as his knees buckled.

“Oh, God, no!” she screamed, running out to him.

“I’m fine,” he said with a wincing face. “I just sprained my ankle. What is it? Are you worried you’ve given me a bug or something?”

“Oh, no,” she said with a nervous giggle. “Of course not.”

“Look, two guys sexually assaulted you tonight, so you’re not feeling well. Go to bed and sleep it off. I’d stay and comfort you, but that asshole Bob would charge me for extra hours I cannot afford. Good night–I’ll call you tomorrow.” He kissed her, got in the elevator, and left.

********

Early in the afternoon of the next day, Vera had just about finished with another nasty john, one who’d punched her in the face before receiving a blow job from her.

When he came in her mouth, he noticed the disappearance of the bruise, cut, and blood on her face.

“Wow,” he said. “You heal quickly, bitch. I’ll just have to give you another taste of my fist.” But as soon as he balled up his fist, that arm fell off. He screamed. “What the fuck…?”

He spat a few teeth out.

She got up off her knees, sat on the edge of her bed, and watched him, grinning.

“You bitch!” he screamed, spitting out a few more teeth. “What have you done to m–?”

His lower jaw fell off, then his cock and balls did. She laughed.

He shook his head and groaned.

Then his head fell off.

“I still have the power,” she said, then picked up his body parts and put them in big, black plastic bags, and set them next to those of the night before, which contained the body parts of the man who’d anally raped her. “I was so worried that I’d lost the power after Derek’s survival, which I hope has lasted up to now…wait! He hasn’t called me yet, the way he promised!”

She rushed over to her phone, which was on her coffee table in the living room. She noted the time: already 1:30 in the afternoon. She dialled his number in a near-panic. After an eternity of waiting through six rings of the dial tone, he finally answered it.

“Derek?”

“Yeah?”

“How are you? Are you OK? You said you’d call earlier today, and you didn’t, so I got worried.”

“Yeah, of course I’m OK,” he said. He heard a sigh of relief. “Why wouldn’t I be? I was just too busy with work to call earlier, that’s all. Sorry for making you wait. Anyway, are you gonna tell me why you’re so worried about me getting sick and dying, or whatever your problem is?”

“Yeah, I’ll tell you everything tonight,” she said.

“What about Bob?” Derek asked. “I don’t have any money for another screw tonight. He won’t want me around if I don’t pay.”

“Oh, I’ll take care of Bob, don’t worry.”

“What are you gonna do? Don’t go putting yourself in a situation where he beats you up again.”

“Won’t happen, I promise. See you here tonight.”

She hung up, then texted Bob: I made a lot of money today and last night but Im keeping it all if you have a problem with that come here and tell me CUL8R

When Bob stormed into her apartment, which was no later than ten minutes after receiving her text, he–approaching her wide-open bedroom doorway–found her naked on her bed, on all fours, with her back to him, her ass pointed out at him with both of her holes showing on purpose.

“So, you’re keeping all the money for yourself, are y–? Whoa,” he said once he’d reached her bedroom doorway, and was now checking her out and feeling his jeans’ zipper already straining from his hard-on. “That’s the best you’ve looked in a long time, Vera. If you spent the money on improving your looks, I might forgive you…almost. What did you do to yourself?”

“Oh, I didn’t spend any money on my looks,” she said, looking back at him with an inviting smirk.

“Well, how did you suddenly become so hot-looking? Normally, you look like a dog.”

You bastard, she thought; Derek would never say that to me. “You don’t need to know.”

“Well, I say I do,” he said, approaching the bed. “You’re my product.”

“All you need to know is that you’re not getting your greasy fingers on one penny of my money.”

“Well, in that case,” he said, unzipping his pants and getting on the bed on his knees behind her, “I’ll just have to give you one hell of a hate-fuck.”

Still looking back at him and grinning, she said, “Come and get it, baby.”

My Horror Short Story, ‘Old Nick,’ Published in New Terror Tract Anthology

My horror short story, ‘Old Nick,’ is being published in the new horror anthology by Terror Tract, called HO HO HOLY SH*T! My story is about a little boy who has an eerie feeling that Santa could be Satan, that Old Saint Nick could be Old Nick.

My story is just one of a whole bunch of great horror short stories by these talented writers: Jonathan Lambert, Thomas M. Malafarina, Aaron Lebold, Terry Miller, L.C. Valentine, R.C. Mulhare, Edmund Stone, Derek Austin Johnson, Craig Gerard Ferguson, David Owain Hughes, Eric Kapitan, Josh Davis, Andrew Lennon, Rob Shepherd, Dusty Davis, and C.M. Saunders and Michael McCarty.

The anthology will be published on Amazon Kindle, appropriately, on Christmas Day, so go off and get yourself a copy as soon as it’s out!

‘Succubus,’ a Surreal Erotic Horror Short Story

[SEXUAL CONTENT]

“Oh, no!” Jack Bates said as he looked at an online newspaper article on his phone.

“What?” his friend, Ivy, said while sitting across from him at their table in the food court of a shopping mall.

“Svetlana Sharapova killed herself,” he said, frowning. “She died of a drug overdose, it says, but they think it was suicide, because she’d been depressed for some time.”

“Who’s she?” Ivy asked.

“Who’s Svetlana Sharapova? She’s only my absolute favourite porn star.”

“Oh, you pig,” Ivy said with a sneer.

“I don’t mean to be a perv,” he said. “She just has this…power over me. I can’t describe it. It’s like she compels me to watch her videos. She seems to come right out and touch me. I can’t explain it.”

“What do you need to beat off to internet porn for? With your blond good looks, those baby blue eyes, that manly husky voice of yours, that good-looking plaid dress shirt you have on, your stylish brown leather shoes, and those tight blue jeans, you could get any girl.” I’m right here, she thought, and not bad looking, even if I do say so myself. You never notice me, though. You never pick up on any of my signals, you asshole.

“I’ve done relationships before, and I’m done with them. I don’t want my heart broken again, especially since the last girlfriend I had two months ago. Sometimes a guy just needs the honesty and security of some good porn.”

“‘Honesty? ‘Security’? ‘Good porn’?” She sneered again.

“Well, hey, you’re into ‘Wicca.’ You’re a ‘witch,’ right?” He giggled an annoying falsetto laugh.

“Don’t make fun of my religion, Jack.” Now she was frowning.

“Why don’t you use your ‘magic’ to find me the right girl?” He was smiling at her like a smart-ass.

“Magic doesn’t work that way,” she said. “Besides, I don’t need magic to find you the right girl. All you have to do is open your dumb-ass eyes.”

“OK, well, how does Wiccan magic work?” he asked. “Or, at least, the way you use it?”

She sighed and rolled her eyes. “For me, it involves cycles, like the seasons. One thing rolls into its opposite, then back again.”

“Well, can you roll me from loneliness to its opposite…b-but not back again?”

“I could…but not with magic.”

He just looked stupidly at her, while she frowned in annoyance back at him.

*********

That night, he was in his apartment, half-asleep and sitting in front of his desktop. He wore nothing but a half-opened bathrobe. A box of Kleenex sat to the left of his mouse. He clicked on PornHub, then typed in Svetlana Sharapova in the search engine.

“This meat-beating is in your honour, and in your memory, sweetheart,” he said in yawns. He clicked on a solo video of hers, one he’d enjoyed many times before. “I never get sick of this one, and since I can’t see anything new of hers, I’d might as well enjoy a good classic.”

He yawned again.

“This wank should wake me up.”

She was gloriously naked from her head down to her bare feet, a blonde beauty with eyes even more hypnotically blue than his. Bright makeup painted up her face with purple eye shadow, black mascara and eyeliner, pink blush, and red lipstick. She had her skin tanned a golden brown, and had large, natural breasts, a full Brazilian wax, and a bleached anus. These features, combined with the Photoshopping done to the video, made her body look so fake in its anatomical perfection that what he saw of the real her was so invisible, it was as if she were fully clothed.

She was masturbating with a vibrator. He was playing with himself, too, but his fatigue was making his eyes heavy.

“Oh, your body…is so perfect,” he grunted, halfway between consciousness and unconsciousness. “Oh! Why…did you want…to kill yourself? You don’t know…your power…over men…over me. Unh! You could have…any guy…you wanted. Ah!

At that point, she looked directly at the screen, right into Jack’s barely opened eyes, as if she’d heard his words. He closed his eyes and slumped back into his chair.

“Who’s gonna…free me…from my lust…over you, Svetlana?” he mumbled before nodding off.

“Jack,” she said to him in a sigh.

He was dozing for about half a minute, lightly snoring.

“Jack,” she said louder.

His eyes opened. “Svetlana?” he said. “Did you say my name?”

“Yes,” she sighed. “I want you.”

“Am I dreaming?” he asked with widened eyes. “I thought you were dead. Didn’t you kill yourself by ODing on heroin or something?”

“Yes. I am her spirit, and I want you.” Her Slavic accent alone was getting him hard.

“What are you, some kind of succubus?”

“Something like that. I want us to be together, forever.”

“Why me? I’m nobody special. You could have any guy.”

“I don’t want any guy. I want you.”

“What’s so special about me? You don’t even know me.”

“My spirit scanned the feelings of everyone around the world, just after I died. Nobody cared about my suicide. Not even the abusive family I ran away from in East Europe, when the news came out.” She sobbed a little. “Only you felt anything, not just lust for my body.”

“Really? Only me? That’s awful. I’m sorry, Svetlana.”

“Yes,” she sobbed. “Only you see me as a human being, not just a piece of ass. That’s why I want to be with you.”

“Wow,” he said, then thought, If this were a dream, surely I’d have woken up by now, because I always wake up as soon as I know I’m dreaming. Is Svetlana my Mrs. Right? Did Ivy’s ‘magic’ do this? Oh, come on, Jack! What a ridiculous idea! Why would Ivy want to mate me with Svetlana, even if she could do that? No, this must be a dream…but I’m not waking up.

“Let me climb on top of you,” Svetlana purred. “Then we can make love.”

“How can you come out of my monitor and onto my lap?”

“Spirits have special abilities,” she said, then crawled out of the screen.

“Holy shit!” he said as she, in the bare flesh, crawled onto his lap. “What is this, The Ring? This can’t be real. I must be dreaming. Why am I not waking up?”

His bathrobe fell off of his arms and draped onto the chair. Now he was as naked as she was.

When she sat on his lap, his erection slid into her effortlessly. It was as if both his and her genitalia knew exactly where to be, without needing to aim. The lovers began grinding on that chair, looking into each other’s eyes.

“Oh, the power…you have…over men!” he panted. “Over me.”

“Power?” she sighed with a slight sneer. “What power?”

“Pussy…power,” he grunted. “All men…want you. You control us…you control me. You can have…any man…you want.” He reached up and cupped her breasts.

“All men…wanting me…never made me…feel powerful,” she sighed, fingering his nipples and pinching them. “All men…wanting me…terrifies me.”

“Why?”

“They may…want to rape…me.”

“I’d love…to be…as desirable…as you are. Oh!

“If you think…I get power…from my body,…you have it.”

Suddenly, he felt a strange sensation in his groin area. It didn’t hurt–actually, the sexual pleasure was the same, if not better–but he felt a sudden anatomical loss. Instead of him sliding in and out of her, she was sliding in and out of him…they had traded genitals!

“What?” he said, looking down. His eyes and mouth opened their widest possible. “My dick…is gone! You have it! Unh! And I…have…your pussy? What the fuck?” He was shaking in spasms and jerks.

“What are you…worried about?” she asked as she continued sliding in and out of him. “You have…the ‘power’ now.”

Still with his trembling hands on her chest, he felt her breasts shrinking and flattening. His own chest felt heavier now, jiggling. He looked down: her boobs were on his chest! “Oh, my God!” he gasped. “Why do I have your tits?”

What was more, he felt his body hair disappearing. His fingers, on her torso, felt wisps of hair growing, tickling him. He saw the growing hair on her and recoiled, pulling his hands away.

“Eww!” he groaned with a crack in his voice like that of a pre-teen. “What the fuck is happening to me…and to you?” He looked at her face, which now had his three-day beard.

With her remaining–yet slowly diminishing–feminine features, she looked like a strange merging of his parents…fucking him! It reminded him of a time when he was about four, and he went into their bedroom one night and caught them having sex. His father screamed at him to get out. He could never forget that fright.

Suddenly, all the lights went out. Jack felt his chair disappear; he fell to the floor with a thud. “Oof!” he grunted…in a woman’s voice.

What the hell? he thought. Have I become a she?

Jacqueline, if you will, began running ‘her’ hands all over her skin. All of it was the hairless smoothness of a woman’s curvy, buxom, naked body. Svetlana’s body, or so it felt to ‘Jacqueline.’

Soon, she felt not only her own hands feeling her up, but also the bigger, stronger, and hairier hands of several men, moving all over her naked body. All the men want me, she thought. But I don’t want any of them to want me. ‘Pussy power’ is total bullshit.

Hard phallic objects were being shoved inside her three holes. She whined in pain from the stabbing. Were they cocks or dildos? They certainly weren’t welcome.

The lights came back on with a flashing, blinding brightness. She got the answer to her question: bukkake was raining all over her body. Definitely not dildos. Some of the ejaculation got in her eyes, so she couldn’t see the group of men encircling her. A dozen leather shoes rubbed against her arms, hands, legs, and feet, letting her know how many men were surrounding her.

She wiped her eyes clear, and tried to look around her, but the light was still too bright for her to see easily. Her eyes adjusted to her surroundings in about twenty seconds; she saw a square room with white walls, cameras, and lighting and sound recording equipment.

Six blond men, fully clothed, were operating the equipment. These men, it was safe to assume, were her gang rapists. She couldn’t make out their faces clearly, though she saw lecherous smirks on all of them. They were also dressed identically, wearing plaid dress shirts and blue jeans.

She lay there, as naked as a newborn baby, with only the men’s come for clothing. Suddenly, she was sprayed on with cold water from a hose held by one of the men, all of whom laughed in falsetto giggles at her shocked reaction. After being thoroughly washed clean, she lay there shivering when the hose was turned off.

“I love the way her nipples get erect when she’s cold and wet,” one of the men said in a husky voice.

Still, the men’s faces were all blurry. One of them threw her a towel. She dried herself with it, then hoped to cover her nakedness with it, but the man who’d given it to her snatched it away from her before she could.

“Nope,” he said in that same husky voice, suggesting that all six men had as identical a voice as they had clothing. “No covering yourself. You’re always to be naked. We like seeing every inch of you, all the time.”

All the men giggled another falsetto laugh. Still, she couldn’t get a clear look at their faces.

One hid his behind a camera. “OK, Svetlana,” he said. “Get on all fours, spread your legs, and point your ass at the camera.”

Svetlana? he wondered. I’m Svetlana now?

Trembling, and with the utmost reluctance, she did as she was told. She looked back at the camera in abject terror.

I’m turning these men on, these rapists of mine, she thought. I’m all exposed. They can see everything, and their hunger for another fuck is growing. That hurt like hell the last time; I’m still shaking from it, and they want more, I can feel it. I have no protection, no one to help me. They’re wearing almost identical clothes, all too familiar clothes…what’s that supposed to imply?

One of the men walked up to her with a little bag of white powder. She shuddered at where his eyes were pointed, though his face overall was blurred enough not to be recognized.

Please, don’t stare at my ass like that, she thought. That sodomizing I got was the most painful of all those intrusions. I’d cover my nakedness with my hands, but I’m afraid they’ll beat me or something.

“Hey, Svetlana,” he said, crouching by her face. “Wanna get high? I have some ketamine here. When you do it, your body won’t care what’s happening to it. C’mon, try some. Live a little.”

“Oh, uh, OK,” she said in a tremulous voice while avoiding his eyes, so she never saw his face. I’d like it if it could kill me.

He chopped a line on a nearby table and she snorted it. She waited for the K to kick in. When it did, the lights turned off again. She lay there in a sea of infinite black. All she could hear was her breathing. She couldn’t see anything, certainly not any of those men: could they still see her?

It felt as if they could see her…yet, nothing happened.

She just waited on the floor, on all fours, with her legs spread and her ass pushed out.

The waiting was unbearable.

What were they about to do?

She soon found out. Intrusions in her vagina, anus, and mouth happened as before, but the dissociation she felt from the K kept them from being physically painful. All the same, the sensations triggered the memory of her previous rape, and she felt no less a terror than the last time.

The lights came on again with the same temporarily blinding flash. Now, she was on her back with her spread legs pushed up and her feet above her ears. The man she’d been sucking off pulled out and rained come on her hair and left ear. He got up, zipped up his tight jeans, and walked away.

The man who was pumping her vagina now bent forward and brought his face close to hers. She could see his face clearly now, and all the eerie familiarity about the men was confirmed for her…the man on top of her was Jack!

Jack’s consciousness, trapped in Svetlana’s body–that is, ‘Jacqueline’–was being fucked by a smiling, panting, and almost drooling Jack Bates! She looked over at the man who came on her…she saw Jack’s smirking face on him, too! Then she looked down at the man who was moving in and out of her ass…she saw Jack’s face a third time!

Svetlana wanted me to go fuck myself, ‘Jacqueline’ thought. Literally.

Jack’s own face was close enough to give her a kiss, laughing and panting as he fucked the female form that the soul of the real Jack was trapped in! All the other Jacks were laughing in that annoying falsetto as female Jack was being degraded in Svetlana’s body. Now ‘Jacqueline’ knew which sex had the power, and which one didn’t.

Her other two rapists came all over her body and showered her with the hose as before. After having her shivering, freezing body towelled off (and again being denied the towel to cover her nakedness), one of the Jacks approached her. She lay on the floor, trembling in the fetal position.

“You must be starting to come down from your K high,” he said. “We have other drugs: heroin, cocaine,…”

“Heroin!” she gasped in that Slavic accent, in frantic desperation. “Lots of it!”

“Will do,” the Jack said, then produced a needle.

Now, there’s a prick that’s welcome in my body, anytime, she thought.

He stuck the needle in her.

She blacked out.

***********

The next thing she knew, she was looking out of what seemed to be a window–one of black borders and infinite blackness surrounding it–looking into Jack’s apartment. He was sitting, slouched in his opened bathrobe on the chair in front of his computer, which she was obviously inside.

His eyes were only ever so slightly open. She heard a faint snoring. He was mumbling something.

“Ivy,” he mumbled. “How can we…free Svetlana? How can I…free myself…of her?”

There is no freeing her, ‘Jacqueline’ thought. There’s no freeing yourself from her, or me from her. We’re trapped in her forever. I know that now. This is at least the third time we’ve passed through this loop, this cycle, now that I finally realize–this is no dream I can hope to wake from. Nevertheless, it’s my turn to have the power now, and after what I just went through, I want it.

“Can’t…your magic…rescue Svetlana…from porn, Ivy?” he slurred.

Ivy’s magic doesn’t work that way, Jacqueline thought as she crawled towards the monitor screen, about to slip out and climb onto his lap. It works this way.

“Jack,” she purred, waking him up.

Analysis of ‘Rear Window’

Rear Window is a 1954 crime/suspense thriller produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by John Michael Hayes, based on the 1942 short story, “It Had to Be Murder,” by Cornell Woolrich. The film stars James Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Thelma Ritter, with Raymond Burr and Wendell Corey.

It is considered not only one of Hitchcock’s best films, but it is also considered one of the best films of all time, placing at #42 on the AFI‘s 100 Years…100 Movies list (it placed #48 on the tenth anniversary edition). It ranked #14 on the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Thrills list.

Here are some quotes:

“The New York State sentence for a Peeping Tom is six months in the work house…They got no windows in the work house. You know, in the old days, they used to put your eyes out with a red-hot poker. Any of those bikini bombshells you’re always watchin’ worth a red-hot poker? Oh dear, we’ve become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. Yes, sir. How’s that for a bit of home-spun philosophy?” –Stella

[Discussing Lisa Fremont] Jeff: No, she’s just not the girl for me.
Stella: Yeah, she’s only perfect.
Jeff: She’s too perfect. She’s too talented, she’s too beautiful. She’s too sophisticated. She’s too everything but what I want.
Stella: Is, um, what you want something you can discuss?
Jeff: Well, it’s very simple, Stella. She belongs to that rarified atmosphere of Park Avenue, you know. Expensive restaurants, literary cocktail parties…Can you imagine her tramping around the world with a camera bum who never has more than a week’s salary in the bank? If she was only ordinary.
Stella: You ever gonna get married?
Jeff: I’ll probably get married one of these days, and when I do, it’s gonna be to someone who thinks of life not just as a new dress, and a lobster dinner, the latest scandal. I need a woman who’s willing…to go anywhere and do anything and love it. So the honest thing for me to do is just to call the whole thing off and let her find somebody else.
Stella: Yeah, I can hear you now. Get out of my life. You’re a perfectly wonderful woman – you’re too good for me.

Jeff: Did you ever get shot at? Did you ever get run over? Did you ever get sandbagged at night because somebody got unfavorable publicity from your camera? Did you ever…those high-heels, they’ll be great in the jungle and the nylons and those six ounce lingerie…
Lisa: Three!
Jeff: All right. Three! They’ll make a big hit in Finland just before you freeze to death.
Lisa: Well, if there’s one thing I know, it’s how to wear the proper clothes.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah. Well try and find a raincoat in Brazil, even when it isn’t raining. Lisa. In this job, you carry one suitcase, your home is the available transportation. You don’t sleep very much, you bathe less, and sometimes the food that you eat is made from things that you couldn’t even look at when they’re alive.
Lisa: Jeff, you don’t have to be deliberately repulsive just to impress me I’m wrong.
Jeff: Deliberately repulsive! I’m just trying to make it sound good. You just have to face it, Lisa, you’re not meant for that kind of a life. Few people are.
Lisa: You’re too stubborn to argue with.
Jeff: I’m not stubborn – I’m just truthful.

Lisa[preparing to leave] I’m in love with you. I don’t care what you do for a living. I’d just like to be part of it somehow. It’s deflating to find out the only way I can be part of it is to take out a subscription to your magazine. I guess I’m not the girl I thought I was.
Jeff: There’s nothing wrong with you, Lisa. You’ve got this town in the palm of your hand.
Lisa: Not quite it seems. Goodbye, Jeff. [She turns and starts for the doorway]
Jeff: You mean, ‘Good night.’
Lisa: I mean what I said.
Jeff: Well, Lisa, couldn’t we just, uh, couldn’t we just keep things status quo?
Lisa: Without any future?
Jeff: Well, when am I gonna see you again?
Lisa: Not for a long time…[pause]…at least not until tomorrow night.

Lisa: How far does a girl have to go before you notice her?
Jeff: Well if she’s pretty enough, she doesn’t have to go anywhere. She just has to be.
Lisa: Well, ain’t I? Pay attention to me.
Jeff: Well, I’m, I’m not exactly on the other side of the room.
Lisa: Your mind is. When I want a man, I want all of you.

Jeff: I’ve seen it through that window. I’ve seen bickering and family quarrels and mysterious trips at night, knives and saws and ropes, and now since last evening, not a sign of the wife. All right, now you tell me where she is…
Lisa: Maybe he’s leaving his wife, I don’t know, I don’t care. Lots of people have knives and saws and ropes around their houses and lots of men don’t speak to their wives all day. Lots of wives nag and men hate them and trouble starts. But very very few of them end up in murder if that’s what you’re thinking.
Jeff: It’s pretty hard for you to keep away from that word isn’t it?
Lisa: You could see all that he did, couldn’t you?
Jeff: Of course, I…
Lisa: You could see because the shades were up and, and he walked along the corridor and the street and the back yard. Oh Jeff, do you think a murderer would let you see all that? That he wouldn’t pull the shades down and hide behind them?
Jeff: Just where he’s being clever. He’s being nonchalant about things…
Lisa: Oh, and that’s where you’re not being clever. A murderer would never parade his crime in front of an open window.
Jeff: Why not?
Lisa[pointing to the newlyweds’ window] Why, for all you know, there’s probably something a lot more sinister going on behind those windows.
Jeff: Where? Oh, no comment.

Lt. Doyle: Didn’t see the killing or the body. How do you know there was a murder?
Jeff: Because everything this fellow’s done has been suspicious: trips at night in the rain, knives, saws, trunks with rope, and now this wife that isn’t there anymore.
Lt. Doyle: I admit it all has a mysterious sound. Could be any number of things – murder’s the least possible.
Jeff: Well, don’t tell me he’s an unemployed magician amusing the neighborhood with his sleight-of-hand. Now don’t tell me that.
Lt. Doyle: It’s too obvious, a stupid way to commit murder in full view of fifty windows? Then sit over there smoking a cigar, waiting for the police to come and pick him up?
Jeff: Officer, go do your duty. Go pick him up!
Lt. Doyle: Jeff, you’ve got a lot to learn about homicide. Why, morons have committed murder so shrewdly it’s taken a hundred trained police minds to catch them. That salesman wouldn’t just knock his wife off after dinner and toss her in the trunk and put her in storage.
Jeff: I’ll bet it’s been done.
Lt. Doyle: Most everything’s been done – under panic. This is a thousand to one shot. He’s still sitting around the apartment. That man’s not panicked.
Jeff: You think I made all this up, huh?

Jeff: [Jeff watching Lt. Doyle staring at Miss Torso dancing in her room] How’s your wife?

Lisa: It doesn’t make sense to me…Women aren’t that unpredictable…A woman has a favorite handbag and it always hangs on her bedpost where she can get at it easily. And then all of a sudden, she goes away on a trip and leaves it behind. Why?
Jeff: Because she didn’t know she was going on a trip. And where she’s going she wouldn’t need the handbag.
Lisa: Yes, but only her husband would know that. And that jewelry. Women don’t keep their jewelry in a purse, getting all twisted and scratched and tangled up.
Jeff: Well, do they hide it in their husbands’ clothes?
Lisa: They do not. And they don’t leave it behind either. Why, a woman going anywhere but the hospital would always take makeup, perfume, and jewelry…That’s basic equipment. And you don’t leave it behind in your husband’s drawer in your favorite handbag.

Jeff: You know, much as I hate to give Thomas J. Doyle too much credit, he might have gotten a hold of something when he said that was pretty private stuff going on out there. I wonder if it is ethical to watch a man with binoculars and a long-focus lens. Do you, do you suppose it’s ethical even if you prove that he didn’t commit a crime?
Lisa: I’m not much on rear-window ethics.
Jeff: Of course, they can do the same thing to me. Watch me like a bug under a glass if they want to.
Lisa: Jeff, you know if someone came in here, they wouldn’t believe what they’d see.
Jeff: What?
Lisa: You and me with long faces, plunged into despair because we find out a man didn’t kill his wife. We’re two of the most frightening ghouls I’ve ever known. You’d think we could be a little bit happier that the poor woman is alive and well. Whatever happened to that old saying: ‘Love thy neighbor’?
Jeff: You know, I think I’ll start reviving that tomorrow. I’ll begin with ‘Miss Torso.’
Lisa: Not if I have to move in to an apartment across the way and do the Dance of the Seven Veils every hour. [She lowers the blinds] The show’s over for tonight. [She picks up her overnight kit of lingerie] Preview of coming attractions.

Thorwald[entering Jeff’s apartment] What do you want from me? Your friend, the girl, could have turned me in. Why didn’t she? What is it you want? A lot of money? I don’t have any money. Say something. Say something. Tell me what you want! Can you get me that ring back?
Jeff: No!
Thorwald: Tell her to bring it back.
Jeff: I can’t. The police have it by now.

The obvious, overarching theme of the film is voyeurism, a recurring trait of Hitchcock’s camera, especially in films like Psycho. In Rear Window, though, this voyeurism is taken to the hilt.

But what is the point of voyeurism here? One is fascinated with other people, how good they look or whatever interesting things they’re doing that catch our attention.

This leads to an understanding of Lacan‘s thoughts on desire, which he said “is the desire of the Other,” that is, a desire to be what the other desires, or to be recognized by other people.

Now, there’s watching those whom we desire, then there’s being watched by others, which causes anxiety, something Lacan regarded as linked with desire. Lacan said that our anxieties spring from not knowing what others want–“the sensation of the desire of the Other…Anxiety is the feeling of the over-proximity of the desire of the Other.”

What both of these emotions have in common (in the Lacanian sense) is the preoccupation that the subject has for the object, or that the self has for the other. People gazing at other people–voyeurs–they’re people looking into metaphorical mirrors; for there is a dialectical unity between the self and other that I’ve explored before.

One desires to be what the other desires, to be as desirable to the other as one desires this other. Such is the feeling all men have for the provocatively dancingMiss Torso” (Georgine Darcy, whose mother suggested, by the way, before she got the part in Rear Window, that she become a stripper for a “fast buck”!). Since she moves her booty around by a huge, open window so all her neighbours, like Mr. L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries (Stewart), can enjoy the show, it’s safe to assume that she, at least unconsciously, wants to be as desired as she desires the company of male admirers (i.e., all those men she dates…while her beau is in the army!)

Then there’s anxiety when one is confronted with the other. Mr. Thorwald (Burr) takes a look around the rear windows of his neighbours just in case any of them is curious about what he’s doing with Mrs. Thorwald. Similarly, Jeff quickly rolls his wheelchair back into the dark whenever Mr. Thorwald looks into his window. When Thorwald confronts Jeff in the dark in his apartment at the end, he asks the voyeur in the wheelchair, “What do you want from me?”

In Woolrich’s short story–in which discussion of the neighbours (page one of the link provided above, in the first paragraph) is limited to the newlyweds and their forgetting to turn off the lights when they leave home, a lonely widow who inspires pity in the first-person narrator, and Mr. Thorwald–there are several examples of Thorwald making sweeping gazes of the entire community of rear windows, from one side to the other. This surveying is a vivid example of anxiety confronting the desires of others far too close to oneself.

And what are the desires of Jeff, the voyeur who is far too curious about the goings-on of the Thorwalds? To know his desires, we must go into his background. He is a professional photographer (i.e., his very job is seeing people and events and taking pictures of them…he was a voyeur of sorts long before he broke his leg). He has been stuck in that wheelchair in that boring apartment with nothing to do, for the past six weeks.

The breaking of his leg is a symbolic castration, a lack giving rise to his desire for something to relieve his boredom, and Thorwald has given him that relief. His beautiful, sophisticated, and fashion-conscious girlfriend, Lisa Fremont (Kelly), would love to marry Jeff, but he’s afraid of commitment, using stories of the danger and discomfort of his job as a traveling photographer (Has he made these stories up?) as excuses to deter her from pressuring him to marry her.

…And here’s where his notion of Thorwald’s killing of his wife comes from, in my interpretation. Jeff wants to project his distaste of marriage, and the guilt he feels over his fear of commitment, onto Thorwald. Whether or not Thorwald is actually guilty of uxoricide is irrelevant as far as Jeff’s psychology is concerned: it’s all about making himself feel less guilty about not wanting to marry Lisa.

So the neighbours on the side opposite to Jeff are metaphorical mirrors, each in different ways, of different aspects of Jeff’s personality. Miss Torso reflects his wish to have a flamboyantly sexy and beautiful lover, those aspects of Lisa that he likes; the newlyweds represent a part of him that would like to commit to Lisa; Miss Lonelyhearts (Judith Evelyn) represents his fears of loneliness if he never marries; and the Thorwalds represent his wish to end his relationship with Lisa.

This mirroring is also an expression of feelings of empathy: Jeff feels sorry for Miss Lonelyhearts, and he can understand Mr. Thorwald’s unhappiness with his marriage, hence his projection of ill intent to his woman onto Thorwald (however repressed Jeff’s own ill intent towards Lisa may be). We, as an audience of voyeurs into his world and those of his neighbours, also feel empathy for Jeff whenever he feels a hard-to-reach itch, then share his relief when he finally scratches it.

Now, just as Thorwald has his anxieties over whatever Jeff could want from him, Jeff too has anxieties over what Lisa wants from him. What is Jeff supposed to be for her? A future husband? The loss of his freedom to travel the world taking photos terrifies him; Lisa as his wife would make him feel as grounded as Thorwald feels with his invalid, bedridden wife (See how the two relationships mirror each other.). Still, what heterosexual man in his right mind would ever refuse a woman of Grace Kelly’s beauty?

Pairings of characters are mirrors to each other. Lisa’s vanity mirrors Jeff’s narcissistic wish to continue being an adventurous, risk-taking, globe-trotting photographer. Thorwald’s apparent wish to knock off his wife reflects Jeff’s conflicted wish to avoid marriage with Lisa.

Elsewhere, Miss Torso’s desirability mirrors how desirable she finds so many men. The newlyweds reflect their passion to each other so intensely that they often have their window coverings down…on days so hot (symbolizing the heat of desire) that one always wants to keep one’s windows open. A piano-playing songwriter’s creativity (envied by Lisa), as well as the creativity of “Miss Hearing Aid,” the sculptress (Jesslyn Fax), reflects Jeff’s artistic talents as a photographer. And Miss Lonelyhearts’s fantasy dinner-date with an imaginary man looking back at her at her dinner table reflects the emptiness in her heart, her feeling of not even existing herself.

People are mirrors of each other in this film–a reflection of how there is much of the self in the other, and vice versa–hence all the gazing and voyeurism, representing a wish to connect with other people, WRD Fairbairn‘s object-seeking libido. That intoxicating shot of Grace Kelly’s face up close when we’re introduced to Lisa–we the audience want to be who Lisa desires, yet she desires smiling Jeff, and she gives him a kiss we’ve wanted to receive from her.

While Jeff eventually manages to get her and Stella (Ritter), the insurance company nurse, to believe his suspicions about Mr. Thorwald; his friend, a New York City Police detective named Tom Doyle (Corey), refuses to believe him until the end of the movie. I’m inclined to side with Doyle.

Though it’s assumed at the end that Thorwald is indeed guilty of murdering his wife (and of course he probably is), technically speaking, we see and hear nothing more than circumstantial evidence throughout the film. Mrs. Thorwald’s body is never produced, and we only assume that she never really went upstate on vacation. (Actually, there’s a scene–at night, when Jeff is sleeping–with Mr. Thorwald leaving his apartment with a woman: is this a mistress? The more natural interpretation is that this is simply Mrs. Thorwald.)

Whatever crime Thorwald confesses to is never explicitly stated as him having killed his wife; a detective at the end only tells Doyle that Thorwald will take them “on a tour of the East River,” which presumably will lead to finding his wife’s body (there’s incriminating evidence, which the dog was digging up in the flower bed, and is now in a hat box in Thorwald’s apartment; we never explicitly hear what it is), or it could refer to a different crime, one Jeff has known nothing about, but which could be what Thorwald has referred to by mentioning how Lisa could’ve turned him in, but didn’t.

Thorwald’s attempted murder of Jeff may be for either this suspicion of another crime, or for a fear that Jeff is going to blackmail him with something else (i.e., Jeff’s note about whatever Thorwald has “done with her,” and Jeff’s remark on the phone about Thorwald’s “late wife” could have been interpreted by the confused receiver of the note and phone call as a threat other than knowing about an uxoricide…perhaps a threat to kill his actually still-living wife). Thorwald could simply be a man with a nervous disposition, with as vivid an imagination as Jeff has for dreaming up threats against himself (making him all the more a mirror reflection of overly-imaginative Jeff!), and Thorwald’s resulting fear would be enough to drive him to want to kill Jeff.

Granted, my own devil’s-advocate, speculative reinterpretation of Thorwald’s motives is probably even more far-fetched than Jeff’s suspicions seem to Doyle, but my point is that–even allowing for Jeff to be perfectly correct about Thorwald–Jeff’s suspicions have less to do with him being right than they do (from the point of view of theme) with him projecting his wish to avoid marriage onto Thorwald. In fact, Thorwald’s attempted murder of Jeff turns projection into projective identification, which is a manipulation of the one on whom projections are hung into being the very embodiment of such projections…hence, Jeff’s suspicions become a self-fulfilling prophecy, goading Thorwald into being the very murderer Jeff has fantasized that he is.

What’s more, Lisa’s belief that Jeff is right about Thorwald stems in large part from her noticing how his wife has left the apartment without her handbag or jewellery; this, too, seems to be a projection of Lisa’s own preoccupation with having such things available to her at all times. Again, who knows what possible reason Mrs. Thorwald could have had for not taking them? Just because we don’t have an available alternative explanation doesn’t mean no such explanation can exist.

To return to the theme of desire, we should consider Lacan’s dictum that “there’s no such thing as a sexual relationship,” meaning that feelings of romantic love between two people are an illusion, right from the beginning of courtship. Jeff can intuit this, so in spite of his physical attraction to Lisa, he knows their love will decay. Similarly, Stella knows such decay will apply to Miss Torso, who she says will “wind up fat, alcoholic, and miserable.”

We see the illusion of romance manifested among all the neighbours, in one form or another. Obviously, the romance died a long time ago (among other things, it seems) with the Thorwalds. The songwriter dreams up illusory expressions of love at the piano. The middle-aged couple that sleep outside show more affection to their dog than to each other. Miss Lonelyhearts is constantly frustrated in her efforts to find love (with her imaginary date, with the young man who attempts a sexual assault on her…and though her time in the songwriter’s apartment, listening to his new song, gives us hope for her, we have no guarantees things will work out for her afterwards).

Furthermore, Miss Torso is unfaithful to her short army boyfriend, yet she also has to fight off a lecherous date at her door. Doyle is married, yet he ogles Miss Torso, giving Jeff an opportunity to project his own fear of commitment onto the police lieutenant. Finally, even the newlyweds–whom we’ve assumed to be so happy and deliriously in love–have an argument when the wife realizes her husband has quit his job.

Oneself is afraid of losing the other, but one doesn’t want to be entangled with the other, either. Hence Jeff’s mixed feelings about Lisa, and whatever problems there have been with the Thorwalds.

This love/hate relationship we have with each other is a projection of the love/hate relationship we have with ourselves. As a man stuck in a wheelchair and unable to go outside, Jeff is dependant on others to give his life meaning…yet he’s afraid of commitment to Lisa! External, social alienation comes from inner, psychological fragmentation, which is symbolized by Jeff’s broken leg(s).

Rear Window may feature a murder, but the film in its essence is about relationships, the jolts of attraction and repulsion that exist between the sexes. Woolrich’s story, lacking the girlfriend for the protagonist/narrator, and without the variety of neighbours and their idiosyncrasies, is just about solving a murder that is proven to have happened.

Hitchcock’s film expands the murder case into a study of the dialectical paradoxes of human relationships: we attract and repel each other; we love and hate each other; we’re lonely, yet afraid of losing our free solitude; the self and other are dialectical reflections of each other, reflections expressed through mutual projection and introjection.

Speaking of dialectical paradoxes, another one is that between light and darkness, something exploited in Woolrich’s story, too. This opposition is sublated in the climax when Thorwald, trying to approach Jeff, is blinded by the flashes of Jeff’s camera. The villain emerges from the darkness only to be put in deeper darkness from the light of the flashes.

What makes Rear Window such a great film–in my opinion, for what that’s worth–is this interplay of unified opposites: love/hate, attraction/repulsion, self/other, loneliness/entanglement with others, and light/darkness. As I concluded in Un Chien Andalou, the union of opposites is a universal quality, and greatness in art comes from universality.

Analysis of ‘The Birds’

The Birds is a 1963 natural horror film produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by Evan Hunter, based on the horror short story by Daphne du Maurier. The film stars Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor, and costars Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright, and Suzanne Pleshette.

The film is so completely different from the short story that the only two things they have in common are the title and the premise of birds violently attacking people, the attacks being interrupted by pauses, rests of several hours each. Everything else–the setting, characters, and the incidents–are completely reworked to the point of the film being an utterly different story from du Maurier’s version.

In 2016, The Birds was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the United States Library of Congress, and selected for preservation in its National Film Registry.

Here are some quotes:

Melanie: Have you ever seen so many seagulls? What do you suppose it is?
Mrs. MacGruder: Well, there must be a storm at sea. That can drive them inland, you know.

Mitch[deliberately mistaking Melanie for a sales clerk] I wonder if you could help me?
Melanie: Just what is it you’re looking for, sir?
Mitch: Lovebirds.
Melanie: Lovebirds, sir?
Mitch: Yes, I understand there are different varieties. Is that true?
Melanie: Oh yes, there are.
Mitch: Well, these are for my sister, for her birthday, see, and uh, as she’s only going to be eleven, I, I wouldn’t want a pair of birds that were too demonstrative.
Melanie: I understand completely.
Mitch: At the same time, I wouldn’t want them to be too aloof either.
Melanie: No, of course not.
Mitch: Do you happen to have a pair of birds that are just friendly?

Mitch: Doesn’t this make you feel awful… having all these poor little innocent creatures caged up like this?
Melanie: Well, we can’t just let them fly around the shop, you know.

Mitch: We met in court… I’ll rephrase it. I saw you in court… Don’t you remember one of your practical jokes that resulted in the smashing of a plate-glass window?
Melanie: I didn’t break that window. What are you, a policeman?
Mitch: No, but your little prank did. The judge should have put you behind bars. I merely believe in the law, Miss Daniels… I just thought you might like to know what it’s like to be on the other end of a gag. What do ya think of that?
Melanie: I think you’re a louse.
Mitch: I am.

Mitch: Well, small world…How do you know Annie?
Melanie: We went to school together – college…
Mitch: So you came up to see Annie, huh?
Melanie: Yes.
Mitch: I think you came up to see me.
Melanie: Now why would I want to see you of all people?
Mitch: I don’t know. You must have gone to a lot of trouble to find out who I was and where I lived.
Melanie: No, it was no trouble at all. I simply called my father’s newspaper. Besides, I was coming up anyway. I’ve already told you that.
Mitch: You really like me, huh?
Melanie: I loathe you. You have no manners, you’re arrogant, and conceited, and I wrote you a letter about it, in fact. But I tore it up.

“I’m neither poor nor innocent.” –Melanie

Annie[after birds attack the children at a party] That makes three times.
Melanie: Mitch, this isn’t usual, is it? The gull when I was in the boat yesterday. The one at Annie’s last night, and now…
Mitch: Last night? What do you mean?
Melanie: A gull smashed into Annie’s front door. Mitch – what’s happening?

“I wish I were a stronger person. I lost my husband four years ago, you know. It’s terrible how you, you depend on someone else for strength and then suddenly all the strength is gone and you’re alone. I’d love to be able to relax sometime.” –Lydia

“Oh Daddy, there were hundreds of them… Just now, not fifteen minutes ago… at the school… the birds didn’t attack until the children were outside the school… crows, I think… Oh, I don’t know, Daddy, is there a difference between crows and blackbirds?… I think these were crows, hundreds of them… Yes, they attacked the children. Attacked them!” –Melanie, on the phone

“Birds have been on this planet, Miss Daniels, since Archaeopteryx, a hundred and forty million years ago. Doesn’t it seem odd that they’d wait all that time to start a…a war against humanity.” –Mrs. Bundy

“It’s the end of the world.” –drunk

“I think we’re in real trouble. I don’t know how this started or why, but I know it’s here and we’d be crazy to ignore it… The bird war, the bird attack, plague – call it what you like. They’re amassing out there someplace and they’ll be back. You can count on it.” –Mitch

“Look at the gas, that man’s lighting a cigar!” –Melanie, as she sees a man lighting his cigar as gasoline is leaking around him

“Why are they doing this? Why are they doing this? They said when you got here, the whole thing started. Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from? I think you’re the cause of all this. I think you’re evil. EVIL!” –mother in diner, to Melanie

Cathy: Mitch, can I bring the lovebirds in here?
Lydia: No!
Cathy: But Mom, they’re in a cage!
Lydia: They’re birds, aren’t they?
Mitch: Let’s leave them in the kitchen, huh, honey?

Cathy: Mitch, why are they doing this, the birds?
Mitch: We don’t know, honey.
Cathy: Why are they trying to kill people?
Mitch: I wish I could say.
Cathy: I-I’m sick, Melanie.

There is no apparent reason for birds of all kinds to be suddenly swooping down on and attacking people, pecking and clawing at them. I find the best way to find meaning in these attacks is to see them as symbolic of something else…a different attacker from the skies.

To determine what, or who, this other attacker could be, I recommend a reading of du Maurier’s short story. Hints can be found in such things as the different setting. In her story, the bird attacks occur not in California, but in England; they also occur not in the early 1960s, but just after WWII.

When one considers the destruction Nazi Germany’s bombings of England caused, as well as the trauma they caused the survivors, we can see how du Maurier’s The Birds can be seen as a near pun on the Blitz, and therefore also be symbolic of it.

So the birds, in her story and–by extension–Hitchcock’s film, can be seen to symbolize bomber planes. Nat Hocken, the farmer and protagonist of the short story, believes it’s the colder weather that’s making the birds so aggressive. Later on in the story, a farmer claims it’s “the Russians” who have somehow incited the birds to attack by poisoning them (page 9 from the above link). Mrs. Trigg, the wife of his boss, wonders if the cold weather is coming from Russia (page 4).

Given that du Maurier’s story takes place shortly after the end of the Second World War, and therefore at the beginning of the Cold War, we can now see what the colder weather and reference to Russians are hinting at: the attacking birds represent a paranoid fear of a Soviet invasion.

A few bird attacks on Nat, a WWII veteran, would trigger PTSD responses in him, making him fantasize about bird attacks happening all over England, symbolic of airstrikes. Since the story is essentially–though not exclusively–from his point of view (even though it isn’t a first-person narration), we can easily view the story as a hallucinatory fantasy in his mind.

With these insights from the short story, we can gain an understanding of what’s going on in the film. Hitchcock spoke of how the birds are getting revenge on man for taking nature for granted; instead of birds being caged, they force people to cage themselves in houses, restaurants, telephone booths, etc.

The changing of the setting to California (in the coastal town of Bodega Bay, about an hour-and-25-minute drive from San Francisco) is instructive in this regard of birds’ revenge on man. If their attacks symbolize aerial bombardments (kamikaze-like in the short story, with birds dying upon hitting the ground), we could see this revenge as symbolizing that of those countries the US had so far bombed: Japan and North Korea; also, there was the US-supported coup in Guatemala in 1954, which included air bombings of Guatemala City and the threat of a US invasion. The birds’ attacks thus can be said to symbolize a fear of other nations bombing the US in revenge for having been bombed.

This theme of revenge first appears right at about the beginning of the movie, when Mitch Brenner (Taylor) enters a pet store where birds are sold on the second floor, and pretends that he thinks Melanie Daniels (Hedren)–who has played a practical joke leading to a broken window and a legal case that he, a lawyer, knows of–works in the store. He plays this trick on her in retaliation for her practical joke, which caused such annoyance to those affected by it.

He asks her about buying a pair of lovebirds as a gift for his younger sister, eleven-year-old Cathy Brenner (Cartwright). Annoyed at the comeuppance she’s received, yet also finding him attractive, Melanie wants to spite Mitch by, on the one hand, delivering a pair of green lovebirds to his home personally, and on the other, writing a note to him that she hopes the birds would “help [his] personality”…though she tears up the letter.

It’s interesting in this connection to note that, for pretty much the remainder of the film, she is dressed in a distinctive green outfit. A green ‘bird’ is giving Mitch green birds. This ‘bird’ also played a practical joke resulting in a broken window, just like the many broken windows caused by the bird attacks, which have begun since her arrival, in that green outfit, in Bodega Bay. Indeed, a hysterical mother in a diner blames Melanie for bringing the bird attacks to the town.

So we shift from lovebirds to violent ones, suggesting a dialectical relationship between love and hostility. This dialectical tension is sublated in how Mitch and Melanie are themselves two lovebirds who, in spite of how annoyed they are with each other at first, are attracted to each other.

Film critic and historian Andrew Sarris noted how complacent and self-absorbed the main characters are: Mitch, Melanie, Annie, and Lydia. Such self-absorption and egotism suggest the effects of alienation in a capitalist society, one about to be attacked in symbolic revenge for the attacks of imperialism on other countries. One manifestation of contradiction in dialectics is that of attack vs. counterattack, or revenge; another such manifestation is action vs. passivity, or resting. In the short story, Nat speculates that the birds attack at high tide (thesis), and at low tide (antithesis), the birds rest (page 12 of the above link).

The first major bird attack and the climactic last one are on Melanie (the bird nips at Mitch’s fingers and ankle at the very end are so brief as not to count for much). This is her karma–birds attacking a bird, the dialectic of attack vs. counterattack.

Another thing to remember about Melanie is that she is a bourgeois. Her father owns a newspaper, and she drives into Bodega Bay wearing a luxurious fur coat over that green outfit. So as the deliverer of the green lovebirds to Mitch and Cathy, Melanie–as an embodiment of capitalism and a personification of the birds–is symbolically bringing the avian aerial bombardment on the town. This linking of capitalism with aerial bombing is brought to you courtesy of imperialism. The hysterical mother in the diner is right to blame Melanie for all the mayhem.

The US bombed Japan and North Korea. Due to racist immigration policies, only limited numbers of Asians had been allowed to live in California by the time of the filming of The Birds. Melanie tells Mitch her family is sponsoring a Korean boy, but her charity won’t come near to compensating for the imperialist destruction she personifies, or the racism of the government that supports her class interests: those bird attacks are symbolic of, in part, an Asian, avian revenge.

This 1963 film came out at the height of the Cold War, just a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world came inches close to nuclear war. During the previous decade, there had been the McCarthyist Red Scare, the fear of which I dealt with in my analysis of The Manchurian Candidate.

The bird attacks can thus be seen to represent a repressed fear of a communist invasion, a revenge bombing for all the American imperialist bombings and coups that went on between the end of WWII and the early 60s. Now, what is repressed will return to consciousness, though in a new, unrecognizable form: thus, bomber planes resurface in the conscious mind in the form of birds.

This is the fear of a socialist revenge on capitalism, a repressed fear, since bourgeois Hitchcock would never have seen it as such in his own film; he’d instead speak of caged birds getting revenge on man, their cagers and polluters of the air. Recall the amateur orinthologist, Mrs. Bundy (played by Ethel Griffies), speaking of how peaceful birds usually are, and that it’s man who makes life unliveable for all. Those who have a historical materialist understanding of the world can easily translate “man” as ‘the capitalist.’

Now, just as capitalism (personified here in rich bitch Melanie Daniels) destroys everything around it (symbolized in her arrival in Bodega Bay with the lovebirds, followed soon after by the bird attacks), so will capitalism ultimately crumble under its own contradictions, as Marx predicted in Capital, Vol. 3, in his discussion of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (in the film, symbolized by the birds attacking Melanie, ‘the bird,’ at the end, almost killing her).

Another issue capitalism raises is alienation, shown symbolically in the film through the love/hate relationship of not only Mitch and Melanie, but also that of him and his mother (Tandy), who sabotaged his relationship with Annie Hayworth (Pleshette), his previous girlfriend. On top of this is Melanie’s estrangement from her mother, who ran off with another man.

To get back to Lydia, who disapproves also of her son’s budding relationship with Melanie and tries to sabotage it by telling him of a scandal involving Melanie falling naked into a fountain, his mother fears his commitment to a woman will result in him abandoning his mother. Mitch’s father died several years before the beginning of the film, so Lydia is afraid of having to carry on life alone.

This fear of loneliness, coupled with difficulties forming healthy relationships, is often a consequence of alienation under capitalism. Dialectically speaking, this clinging love of Lydia’s, which spoils Mitch’s love life, is another sublation of the film’s theme of the love/hate opposition, which is symbolized by the green lovebirds and Melanie in her green outfit on the one hand, and the attacking birds on the other.

One interesting contrast between the short story and the film is how, in the former, the first of the bird attacks happens on page two of the link provided above, but in the latter, we must wait about fifty minutes until a group of birds attacks children at Cathy’s birthday party. Prior to that attack, there’s only the one gull that hits Melanie on the head, the one that crashes into Annie’s front door, and the ominous hovering and resting of birds on several occasions throughout the film.

Because all that matters to imperialists is the controlling of other countries, the ruling class gives not a second of thought to how their bombs not only kill people, but also traumatize and disrupt the lives of the survivors. The lengthy process of developing the main characters, prior to the birds’ first major attacks, humanizes them for us in a way that the East Asian or, more recently, Middle Eastern victims of bombings are never humanized.

We see the traumatized reaction of Lydia when she sees her neighbour’s eyeless corpse, and we sympathize with her. We rarely contemplate the trauma of the surviving Japanese after the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We imagine North Koreans to be neurotically servile to the ruling Kim family; we never consider how the North Koreans’ collective trauma, after the US bombed their whole country, drove them to look up to the strength of the Kims to ensure that such a bombing will never happen again.

We see the terror of the children attacked by the birds at Cathy’s party, then later as they run from their school. We seldom consider, for example, the Yemeni children killed in a school bus after being hit by an airstrike. The only way many of us in the West can contemplate such horrors is if they’re inflicted on us, but with the bombs replaced with birds. Recall how, in the diner scene, the bird attacks are sometimes referred to as a “war” being waged against man.

Speaking of the diner scene, a tense discussion of the bird attacks there brings up responses as varied as the denials of Mrs. Bundy, the hysterics of the mother of two children, and a drunk Irishman proclaiming doomsday. His insistence on it being “the end of the world” makes me think of Biblical allusions other than his to Ezekiel, though.

Recall how this all more or less started not only with Melanie’s buying a pair of lovebirds, but also, just before her entrance into the pet store, hearing a boy on the sidewalk whistling at her, all while we hear the cawing of a huge flock of black birds in the sky; the boy’s and birds’ sounds are similar enough to suggest that the whistling may not have been from him, but may have actually been one of the birds screeching. It’s as if the birds were the ones making the pass at her.

These associations symbolically suggest the sons of God in Genesis 6:1-4, who are sometimes identified as angels (i.e., winged ones!), looking down from heaven onto the daughters of men (e.g., Melanie) and wishing to mate with them. This unnatural love union led to the sinfulness of the world that led, in turn, to the Great Flood, another ending of the world. Here again we see the birds’ dialectical linking of love and violence. (Recall also how Nat, from the short story, theorized that the birds’ attacks coincided with the high tide, a rising of water that can be associated with the Flood.)

Another way the bird attacks suggest “the end of the world” is how they symbolize avenging angels, coming down to earth with Christ’s return and bringing about Armageddon (Matthew 16:27).

To return to the airstrike symbolism, a closer linking of the birds with bomber planes is suggested when–after a bird attacks a man at a gas station and causes him to drop the fuel dispenser of a gas pump, spilling gasoline all over the ground–a man parks his car by the spillage and, unaware of the gas, lights a cigar. His dropping of a match causes an explosion, killing him and causing a huge fire in the area. Bird-bombers, as it were, have caused explosions and a fire, however indirectly.

The disruption of people’s lives continues when we learn that Annie, Mitch’s original flame, has been killed by the birds, her corpse lying out by the stairs in front of her porch and traumatizing poor Cathy, who looks on from inside Annie’s house. We rarely think, however, of how bombings cause the same kind of suffering in those countries victimized by imperialism.

The self-absorption and narcissism we have seen in the main characters, especially in Melanie, have abated now that the terror of the birds has forced everyone to work together, help each other, and sympathize with each other. Since bourgeois Melanie–bringer of the lovebirds and, symbolically, the bird attacks–represents capitalism, her subsequent helpfulness should be seen to represent how capitalism sometimes tries to make accommodations to appease the working class, as was seen in the welfare state from 1945-1973. Nonetheless, accommodations to the labour aristocracy of the First World are never good enough to compensate for the wrongs done to the Third World.

Holed up in the Brenners’ house, Mitch, Melanie, Lydia, and Cathy are safe for the moment. Cathy would like to bring her lovebirds into the living room, but Lydia won’t tolerate even those birds, as harmless as they are in their cage. These two birds are the dialectical opposite of the violent ones, though, so there’s no need to fear them.

No one knows why the birds are trying to kill people; neither, I imagine, do many of the poor people in the humble, provincial villages of the Third World understand why drones fly over them and kill innocent civilians there. Especially ignorant of the reasons for this violence against them are their children…just like Cathy.

More bird attacks come, even after Mitch’s efforts to board up the windows. Melanie goes up to the attic, and she experiences the climactic bird attack. Just as she’s learned “what it’s like to be on the other end of a gag,” now she learns what it’s like to experience an extreme, life-threatening bird attack, just as eyeless Dan, Lydia’s neighbour, and Annie have. Luckily, though, she barely survives.

Imperialists sometimes treat their bombing atrocities as if they were as trivial as practical jokes, the way Hillary Clinton cackled at the brutal murder of Muammar Gaddafi. Sooner or later, though, all empires fall, as the American one is expected to do within the next ten to fifteen years or so. Just as birds attack Melanie, so will the ‘practical joker’ US/NATO one day get their comeuppance, perhaps in the form of a bombing.

If and when that happens, it truly will be the end of the world…the world of capitalism, that is, since many have speculated that the latest economic collapse could very well be the self-destruction of capitalism that Marx predicted, symbolized in the film by the near-fatal attack of birds on the green-suited bird.

After the attack on her, the birds are at rest. Now would be a good chance to get Melanie to a hospital in San Francisco; Mitch and the others would be putting themselves at great risk of being exposed in their car to another bird attack, but Melanie’s injuries are so severe that her life depends on getting her to a doctor.

As Mitch gets the car ready for Melanie, Lydia, and Cathy, he hears a radio newscast mentioning the possibility of involving the military. Naturally: the bird attacks symbolize a foreign aerial invasion. Indeed, as Melanie, Lydia, and Cathy get into the car, we see the tense enveloping of the area with resting birds. The sight of so many birds suggests the occupation of a foreign army…or air force. In this symbolic sense, Americans can get an inkling of what other countries must feel when they have US military bases in them.

So the ending of the film is an ambiguous one: how much longer will the bird attacks continue? The short story’s ending seems more pessimistic, as we find Nat smoking a cigarette–like a man condemned to a firing squad–as he awaits the next bird attack. He seems resigned to his fate. Many victims of US imperialism must feel the same resignation when confronted with endless air strikes.

The hope that Mitch et al must feel, as they drive Melanie to a San Francisco hospital, would symbolically reflect the Western hope of reviving from a vulnerability that other countries have felt, courtesy of the US/NATO alliance. As we witness the geopolitical shift from a unipolar world to a multipolar one, Westerners may find their hopes dwindling.

‘Want,’ a Horror Short Story

“I can’t believe you just did that, you humongous animal!” Dr. Will Cameron shouted in sobs as he looked up and watched his gigantic colleague, Dr. John Gula, licking human blood off his fingertips. “How could you just…pick up…Dr. Sanders and…eat her?”

“I was hungry,” thirty-foot-high Dr. Gula said, then belched. 

“You were hungry?” Cameron said. “That’s all you can say, you cannibalistic monster!”

“It must be one of the bizarre side effects of Aggrandizin, the drug we were going to test on the diseased fish around this island…”

“And you’re still hungry, after all those apes you ate,” Cameron said, looking up at Gula in horror. “Making you grow to that monstrous size.”

“Another…surprising…side effect of the drug,” Gula said, pulling up the tarpaulin he had wrapped around his waist to cover his nakedness. “And you know I had to eat the drugged apes, to stop them from eating us. One of them almost got you.”

“I’d rather we were eaten by the apes then to see this nightmare as it’s unfolding! I keep hoping I’ll wake up from a nightmare, but this…insane…moment seems all too real!”

“I find it as hard to believe as you do, Cameron.”

“We were only supposed to dose marine animals with the Aggrandizin, to speed up their ability to heal wounds and recover from disease, after the exposure to the pollution and toxic chemicals surrounding the island. How did this simple experiment turn into such a nightmare?”

“That baby shark grew in size, and hunger. It bit Sanders, she bumped into me, and I accidentally injected myself with the drug. I already explained that to both of you.”

“How much of the drug did you dose yourself with? Ten times the amount we gave that shark?”

“It must have been at least about ten times the amount we were going to dose the fish with,” Gula said, without a trace of emotion.

“And you ate all those apes!”

“It was either that, or they were going to eat us. We saw how ravenous they got after they, it’s more than safe to assume, broke into the phials of Aggrandizin in the boat, and how they grew like me, each time after they ate something. We saw how insatiable their hunger got, like mine, even to the point of eating what no animal of their species would normally ever eat, including flesh. We saw how they ate most of the plant and animal life here…”

“And you ate the rest, and Dr. Sanders, just now!”

“I couldn’t help myself, Cameron! Try to understand! I’m not any happier about it than you are.”

“You don’t seem to give a shit, John!”

“You don’t know the hunger that Aggrandizin causes!”

“I don’t wanna know!” Cameron bawled. “How could this have happened? How could we have gotten this drug so horribly wrong? This is like something out of a B science fiction movie. How could a mere drug cause someone to grow into a giant, of all things, and to hunger so much, that he’d eat apes, and another human being?”

Speaking of hunger, Gula was looking down at Cameron and licking his lips.

“John, don’t look at me like that,” Cameron said, backing up a few steps, with trembling legs.

“I can’t help it.” Gula was drooling as his eyes explored Cameron’s meaty body.

“John, only I can fit into the boat to go back out and get help for you. There’s no more food for you to eat here.”

“I’ll go fishing by hand in the ocean after I eat you.”

“The massive pollution in the water surrounding this island means that you won’t be able to eat any edible marine life here,” Cameron insisted. “That’s why we chose this island to do our experiments: to dose the sick fish, and hopefully save them from the poisons in the water. You can’t eat the marine life here. You’ll get sick.”

“The drug dose I took should be strong enough to repel any toxins from the dead fish near here.” He licked his lips again at Cameron, who shuddered at the sight.

“The toxic chemicals dumped in the water are so poisonous that even your Aggrandizin dosage, as excessive as it was, surely won’t be strong enough to counteract the toxicity of any dead fish floating around here.”

“You don’t know that for sure. You’re only saying that because you want to believe it. But even if what you say is right, I’ll go further out into the water. I’m getting larger and larger. I could conceivably wade far enough, with my gigantic size, to get past the polluted part.”

“You can’t swim, by your own admission, and the toxic chemicals are already spread out so far into the ocean around here that, even at your size, you won’t be able to wade out far enough to get past the pollution surrounding the island. The ring of pollution is like a thick donut, and this island is like the small hole in the centre, there’s so much donut out there.”

Gula licked his lips and said, “Donut.”

“OK, bad comparison,” Cameron said, shaking spastically at how Gula’s eyes were staring at him, appraising his tastiness. “Look, you need me alive to sail the boat back to the African mainland and get help. Just hang on, be patient, control your hunger, for God’s sake.”

Gula’s hand reached down to pick up Cameron, who dodged the huge fingers and started running away. “You can’t catch me; how can you expect to catch any fish by hand in the ocean?”

“I’ll practice and get better.” He reached for running Cameron and missed again.

“If you eat me,…you’ll have…no food left.” Cameron raced for the leafless trees that Gula and the apes had already fed on. “What will you do…after eating me…eat yourself? You eat, you grow…and only get hungrier. Aaaah!

Gula grabbed him and picked him up.

“The tarp is slipping off your waist!” Cameron said, hoping to distract Gula and make him let go.

“So what?” Gula said as he brought Cameron up to his face. “Nobody else is here to see me with my cock and balls hanging out.”

“After you eat me, the tarp won’t…be big enough…to cover you! You’ll rip out of it…the way you…ripped out…of your clothes…after eating…those apes!”

“Nobody will be here to see me.” 

“Exactly!” Cameron shouted. “Without me, you’ll have…no one to help you! You’ll be trapped…alone…on this island! With no more food!”

Gula opened his mouth wide enough to bite off Cameron’s head. Cameron put his hands on Gula’s upper lip, pushing away to keep from going in his mouth.

“Only I…can help you…find food!” Cameron shouted while kicking at Gula’s chin and swinging away from his mouth. “The water’s…toxicity…will damage…your skin…if you wade out…to find fish. The Aggrandizin…won’t be strong enough…to heal you. If you eat me, you’ll die!

“Yeah, I probably will.”

“Then, why won’t…you resist…the temptation…to eat me? Unh!

“I can’t help it,” Gula said, grabbing Cameron’s legs and aiming the feet at his mouth. “It’s in my nature to keep eating. I’m the scorpion, and you’re the frog, like in that old fable.”

He put Cameron’s legs in his mouth, up to his thighs. Cameron was screaming and kicking at Gula’s uvula, and at the roof of his mouth.

“No! John, don’t!

He felt Gula’s sharp incisors bite through his waist, cutting through his skin and muscles, and cracking the bones. He screamed as he saw the blood spraying everywhere. His now-separated upper half hung loose and shook; his eyes and mouth were wide open in horrific disbelief. He passed out.

Gula was chewing, cracking the bones and sighing with relief that his hunger was being satisfied…for the moment. He felt his body vibrating, as it always did whenever he ate something since his Aggrandizin dosage. He grew by about a foot.

He looked down. Cameron was right. The tarpaulin had fallen from his waist and onto the sand on the beach. A breeze was caressing his balls.

He gulped down Cameron’s masticated bottom half, licked the blood from his lips, and belched out loud.

“Goodbye, Cameron. Sorry about this.”

His mouth was now big enough to stuff in, with the greatest of ease, all of the upper half of Cameron’s body, so he did.

Crunch! Crunch! Crunch!

Blood splattered all over his face. The bald head of the chubby man looked like that of a giant baby’s having eaten tomato sauce and soaked red all over his cheeks. The white tarpaulin would be his diaper. How appropriate.

Gulp. Burp!

He wiped the blood off his face and licked his hand. To see the day when he would actually find cannibalism to be appetizing…what a shock. His body vibrated again, and he grew another foot or so.

He picked up the tarp and wrapped it around his waist. “You were wrong about one thing, Cameron. It’s still large enough to cover my dick and ass.”

Then, he felt another pang of hunger.

“Oh, shit. What do I do now?”

He walked over to the edge of the shore, where the filthy water washed up pieces of plastic and dead fish. The water was a mix of blue and yellow from all the toxic waste in it.

“Eww,” he groaned at the sight of the dead fish’s unnatural colours. As hungry as I am, he thought, there’s no way in hell that I’m eating any of those.

He looked far out to sea. Cameron was right again: the pollution went so far out that Gula couldn’t see any pure blue water anywhere beyond the filth. Even at his enlarged size, he still couldn’t see far enough.

I wonder if I can see the shark out there, he thought, straining his eyes. I’ll bet it’s gotten really huge by now. If I were to see it, I might consider going out there, trying to swim and risking drowning, then eating it if I caught it…or letting it eat me, even. I can’t imagine wanting to continue living like this. A part of me actually wouldn’t mind drowning or being eaten by the shark.

His stomach was growling.

To think, that shark was a baby, swimming just outside the periphery of the ring of pollution. We caught it in a net, Sarah Sanders held its wiggling body, and I stuck the needle of Aggrandizin in its side. I dosed it with a generous amount. Then it bit her on the arm.

The hunger in his gut was getting painful.

She screamed and jerked her arm. Her elbow nudged my arm, and I stabbed the needle into my left wrist. I accidentally pushed the plunger all the way in and injected a huge dose of the drug into my arm. Neither she nor Cameron noticed what I’d done, they were so busy fussing with the shaking, growing shark and throwing it back into the water, then worrying about treating her bite wound. Cameron said the baby shark had already grown to almost twice its size, just from the one bite.

Another stomach growl.

Back in the water, it caught a fish in its teeth and ate it. It grew some more. We saw it eat a few more fish; now it had grown to about the size of a great white shark…and like at the end of that old Spielberg movie, it attacked our boat.

Another hunger pang.

Cameron got out his binoculars, and after about half a minute of frantically searching for somewhere we could go to save ourselves from the shark, he spotted this island. Getting here would have been the fastest way to get to safety from the shark, which we saw eating more and more fish, and growing and growing, and trying to ram a hole in the side of our boat. We turned on the motor and raced over here. We’d already eaten all of the food on the boat, so I was holding back as best I could…as I am now—oh, this is getting difficult! Anyway, when we got here, I ran over to the trees and wolfed down as many of the leaves as I could stuff into my mouth. Cameron and Sanders were shocked at my behaviour. They left the boat and ran into the woods with me. Some apes must have gotten into our boat, found the phials of Aggrandizin, broke the glass, and drank from it; because soon after, they were growing and eating like the baby shark and me.

His hunger was getting unbearable.

As I, grabbing at leaves and grass to eat, was being chased by Cameron and Sanders, the apes that must have had the drug ran back into the woods with us. They ran around eating leaves and other animals, too. We ended up eating all the leaves off the trees on this tiny island. I was ripping out of my clothes. One of the enlarged, ravenous apes jumped on Cameron; in its new taste for flesh-eating, it would have eaten him, but I grabbed it and ate it. Again, Cameron and Sanders were shocked at my behaviour. I fought off the other attacking apes, and ate them.

Another stomach growl. “Unh!” he grunted.

After having feasted on the rest of the island’s apes, plants and insects, Gula continued in his thoughts, I’d grown so big, I ripped out of my clothes. Sanders gave me the tarpaulin to cover myself with, then…I…ate her. How could I have done that? But…how could I not have…

Oh, the hunger

He was shaking…gasping and wheezing…

“Aaaaaah!” he screamed, running into the water. It was slimy and disgusting. He grabbed a large shark’s corpse and tried eating it out of desperation. It tasted so awful, he spat it out within a second. He waded out as far as he could go. The…liquid…more like piss than water, had reached his chin. Waves splashed on his face. Then he remembered: “I…can’t…swim.”

He turned around and rushed back, plodding in the water and almost falling into it, till he finally got back onto the land, soaking in caustic filth and sobbing in despair. The Aggrandizin managed to heal his skin reasonably well, but his stomach was growling so much, it was like having a huge second mouth…or many little mouths…in his belly. 

“For God’s sake,” he said in gasps and sobs. “We made Aggrandizin…to make animals stronger, more immune…to disease and injury, not to make them…become giant gluttons!” We didn’t see any of these side effects during the lab experiments on the rats, he thought. Granted, we gave them very small doses, unlike with the baby shark (or me, for that matter). We weren’t in charge of feeding them afterwards, and we came out here quickly after what seemed successful experiments. I guess I was too proud to wait and see if there would be any undesirable after-effects. I just saw quick healing, and we all jumped to conclusions. There was an email or two from the people in the lab; we never got around to reading them—maybe the messages were a warning about such after-effects. I don’t know—it’s too late for me now.

He looked down at his arms.

They looked tasty.

He was salivating. 

“Come on, John,” he said. “You can’t be serious.”

The growing happens only after eating, he thought as he looked at that meaty flesh. My powers of healing, particularly strong after my large dose, could compensate for the bite wounds, at least to enough of an extent that, if a boat comes by, I can be taken away and saved.

His stomach growled again. He was shaking.

“I can’t take this anymore. It’s crazy, but I have to do it.”

He bit off a huge chunk off of his left forearm. Blood sprayed everywhere.

“Aaaaah!” he screamed in clenched teeth as he began chewing.

The pain was excruciating, but the delicious flesh was satisfying in a way that made him forget the throbbing. 

He swallowed. He felt the flesh enter his stomach, filling in the void.

“Aaaaah!” he sighed. Thanks to the Aggrandizin, the pain was subsiding, the blood clotted faster, and he felt every encouragement that the wound would soon just be a crater in his arm. He felt those familiar vibrations, and grew a tiny bit.

He enjoyed a few fleeting minutes of relief from his hunger. The pain in his arm disappeared.

“Wow,” he said. “That was a fast recovery.”

Then he felt another hunger pang.

“And that was fast, too,” he said. “Fuck!” I can’t just keep taking bites out of myself…but what else am I going to eat? My shit when I crap? (Funny thing: I’ve eaten so much, yet I never piss or shit…why is that? Is it another side effect of the Aggrandizin? What kind of bizarre voodoo drug did we synthesize in that lab?) “Am I drugged, or possessed of a devil?”

He looked at his left arm, where the freshly healed crater was. Then he looked at the flesh right next to it, just before his elbow.

Maybe a huge ship will sail by and find me here, he thought. Hope, hope.

Another pang…a sharp, stinging one.

He opened his mouth wide, and his head dove onto that arm.

“Unh!” he grunted as he sank his teeth into that coveted arm-flesh. His teeth dug deep enough to reach the bone, several square inches of which were exposed after his ripping the flesh off, spraying blood all over the place and making him groan muffled whimpers of pain as he chewed.

Again, when the flesh hit his stomach, the more important pain was gone…for the moment.

He trembled, then grew another tiny bit.

With my growing size, I should be more visible to ships, he thought, massaging his throbbing arm as it healed. Then again, I’m not growing as much as I was before. It must be because I’m eating myself instead of eating other living things.

Speaking of eating, he wanted more flesh. He felt like a pregnant woman whose belly was a womb with half a dozen hungry fetuses aching for food.

“I’m getting used to the pain,” he said as he looked at his upper left arm. “If only I could get used to the hunger.”

He bit off the bicep; again, the bite went all the way to the bone. His face was red with blood. He grunted in pain, but indeed, he found it more and more bearable.

His want of flesh continued to grow.

He looked over at his right arm now…and he coveted the flesh he saw.

All I do is want, want, want! he thought. I always want more! I only want more! I can never stop wanting! I’m wanting of flesh on my arms, and I only want to eat more. I have a surplus of want, and a lack of anything to eat other than myself! This is madness!

He bit off a chunk from his right forearm. He was so used to the pain now that he easily ignored it. His body wasn’t growing anymore, though.

The only thing growing now was his hunger. He now felt as though his, so to speak, belly-womb was housing a dozen so-to-speak hungry fetuses instead of half a dozen.

The moments of relief were getting shorter and shorter. Within an hour, he’d ripped off and eaten all of the flesh on his arms. He’d chewed off the flesh on his hands and fingers. All that was left of them were bone and ligaments.

The sharp ends of his finger-bones were useful; he could use them to rip off flesh on parts of his body that he couldn’t reach with his head. 

Now that his arm flesh was all gone, he looked down at his legs.

He licked his lips.

Oh, so much meat, he thought.

Without even hesitating anymore, he dug his bony fingers deep into his upper right leg flesh, tore off a huge chunk, right down to the bone, and didn’t seem aware of any pain in his leg as he brought the meat up to his grinning face. He munched on it with manic glee.

No sooner did he gulp it down and feel it hit his thankful stomach, but he felt more hunger pangs.

I’m slowly killing myself, he thought, but I can’t help it. It’s my nature. I’m the scorpion on the scorpion. I’m sitting on my own back, crossing the river and stinging myself.

He tore off a chunk of flesh from his upper left leg and stuffed the bloody mass into his greedy mouth. He chomped on it with a gory grin.

“Mmm!” He swallowed and belched.

Next, he ripped off his left calf and stuffed it in.

I am so high in protein! he thought, then let out a macabre laugh.

He shrank a little.

He ripped off his right calf and ate it. His hunger went on in an unbroken line—no more brief moments of relief, not even for a few seconds. He dug his fingers into the remaining flesh on his legs, tore it all off, and ate it. He shrank some more.

Within another hour, all four of his limbs were just bone and ligaments. His hunger, the only thing growing, was growing far faster than he was shrinking.

He dug his fingers into his cheeks, ripped them off, and ate them. The sight of all of his teeth, in what would have looked like a perpetual grin (were he to have looked at his reflection in the water), made no difference in terms of his facial expression; for if that cheek and lip flesh were to have remained on his face, he’d still have been grinning from ear to ear, his teeth just as fully exposed, he was enjoying his ghoulish meal so much.

The healing effects of the Aggrandizin were still working just enough to keep him alive, but they were abating, fading away little by little. Though his healing was slower, his growing urge to eat overshadowed the pain from the wounds so much that he seemed numb everywhere except in his stomach.

He ripped all the skin off of his face. After eating that, he felt himself shrinking again. He was now just slightly larger than his original size.

He looked out to sea; he saw no ships anywhere.

His stomach was growling, louder and louder, like a thousand voices inside, whining for food. 

He felt his energy beginning to wane, too.

With effort, he ripped off the flesh on his chest and ate it. In his skeletal hands, he cupped the blood, as best he could, to stop it from dripping on the sand, then he drank it. 

Still, he just got hungrier and hungrier.

He tore the flesh off his neck, all the way around from the front to the back. His neck bone, larynx, and esophagus were showing. He ate the flesh, chewing with lethargic slowness.

He looked down at his chest, where his upper ribcage was showing. Though he’d shrunk all the way back to his original size, his stomach was bloated with all the rest of his eaten body. Instead of being rotund, though, it oddly had a number of bumps on it.

Yet still, his stomach felt as if empty.

He ripped the flesh off of his buttocks and ate it. Then, amazingly, his cock and balls became appetizing, so he tore them off and ate them, his hunger so severe that he gave no thought to how disturbing it would be to lose them. There is no castration anxiety when one is as famished as he was, apparently.

He was sitting in a lake of reddened sand. All that was left of his body were his skull-like face, with his eyeballs showing because he’d ripped off and eaten his eyelids, his exposed skeleton—his ribcage being the only cover of his heart and lungs—and the skin on his back.

He couldn’t bear the sight of his lower body. He’d have shuddered to think what his face must have looked like in the reflection in the water. What have I reduced myself to? he wondered. And the Aggrandizin is still keeping me alive…how?…even though I can feel my life slowly fading away. My energy is draining from me, little by little. The only energy I seem to have in large amounts is in my guts. 

He looked out to the polluted sea…still, no ships to be seen anywhere out there.

He looked back down at his bloody, mutilated body, at the protrusions in his belly.

“There is nothing good to see, anywhere,” he said. “And still, I’m hungry.” His bony index fingers stabbed into his eyes. “Unghh!” He pulled them out of their sockets, each pull making a popping sound, then he popped them into his mouth.

He wanted to sob, but he had only blood for tears pouring out of the sockets.

His stomach felt about to burst, it was so stuffed.

Still, he hungered.

He began scratching his back for more flesh to eat, his diminishing strength making those scratches slower and shallower. As he stuffed his bony face with the bloody flesh, he felt the strain on his stomach.

And he was still hungry.

After ripping off all the flesh he could reach on his back and eating it, he tore into his guts, ripped out his pancreas, bits of intestine, and his kidneys. He stuffed the meat in his mouth. It tasted awful, but it gave some relief—not much—to his hunger.

How am I still alive? he wondered. I can feel myself slowly weakening, slowly dying, but I should have already been dead long ago. Was the dose I gave myself really so strong as to sustain me in this extremity?

His hunger pangs continued to grow, even as his energy was fading away.

I don’t wanna live anymore, he thought. That’s for sure. Maybe I can speed up my death. Destroying my vitals should do it. The apes that had the Aggrandizin died soon enough when I ate them; surely I can die soon enough if I keep eating myself, right to the bone. Surely the Aggrandizin won’t keep me going forever.

He dug his hand under and behind his ribcage and tore out a lung. He ate it. Fantastically, he was still conscious and breathing. He tore out and ate the other lung: he still lived. He couldn’t believe it—the drug apparently made breathing unnecessary to live. He ripped out his heart and ate it. The Aggrandizin was, to some extent, counteracting all of these mutilations, though his life was ever so slowly fading away.

Has the drug made me immortal? Am I hallucinating in my fading consciousness? Is that how these impossibilities are possible?

He felt a jiggling of those protrusions in his stomach—not the rumblings of hunger so much as the sensation of what seemed to be small living beings in there.

Am I immortal, or are there immortal beings inside me? Has the drug resurrected and regenerated all the bits of flesh that I’ve digested? Is Aggrandizin making us all immortal, me and those inside me? Or, in my delirium, am I hallucinating their existence?

With his energy level so low now, he couldn’t lift his arms to rip off any more body parts to stuff into his mouth. Yet his hunger kept growing…especially the hunger of whatever had awoken and was growing and fidgeting around inside his belly.

Those things were poking bubbly bumps against his belly, making wavelike movements along the surface of his skin there. After a while of this continued pressure, one of the things poked a hole in his belly, spitting blood out of the opening.

It kept pushing, ripping a larger hole and spraying out more blood. The rest of his body lay still and, finally, he was dead. The thing pushed its way out of the hole, followed by all of the others, one by one, until the bloody belly lay empty on the soaking red sand.

Those things, kept alive by the Aggrandizin that they all shared, were blood-covered blobs, lumpy but basically spherical, with mouths that had serrated, teeth-like protrusions all along the edges. They looked like gruesome, deformed 3-D Pac-men, each about the size of a tennis ball. They rolled out over the sand in a blind search for food, their mouths flapping open and shut without ever tiring, while making grotesque grunting sounds: “Ngah-ngah-ngah-ngah!…” They quickly turned beige as more and more sand grains stuck to the blood on them.

Some rolled out to sea, eating the plastic and dead fish. They would die of food poisoning minutes after their exposure to the impurities in the water. Others rolled into the woods, eating the few remaining blades of grass and leaves on the trees. As they ate, they grew somewhat.

By the time they’d eaten everything alive on the island, they too found their energy waning as their insatiability only strengthened. Instinctively, as they had sensed while hibernating inside Gula’s guts, they knew that eating each other was futile. Each of them about the size of a medicine ball now, they just lay on the ground, rocking from side to side as their mouths faced the sky, as if babies wishing to cry out to their mother for something to eat.

All of them were in the middle of the leafless forest, hidden by the trunks of the trees. Night was falling. They were saving what little energy they had left for any possible food that chance might provide. They didn’t make the slightest sound.

Within an hour, the stars and moon offered the only light. A large, lost boat came ashore, filled with about twenty people—adults, elderly, and children.

“Where are we?” a ten-year-old boy among them said as they began disembarking.

“I don’t know,” his mother said. “It stinks here. Pollution in the water…Do I smell blood?

Everyone got off the boat after a few minutes. Some of them, those who hadn’t smelled the blood, wandered into the woods.

The eating blobs felt the vibrations from all the footsteps. Their mouths curled up into smiles.

My Body Horror Short Story, ‘Blue,’ Published in the July Issue of the Terror Tract E-zine

I originally published ‘Blue’ here on my blog, but now that it’s appearing in the July issue of the Terror Tract e-zine (check the table of contents to see “Blue” listed there), I’ve returned my story as published here to ‘draft’ status.

My story is about a blue, gelatinous substance from outer space landing on a tree in a park not too far away from the home of the protagonist, who gets a splattering of the blue on his skin. Over time, the blue takes over more and more of his body.

Apart from my short story, the July e-zine also has stories from such writers as Jack Rollins and John Barackman, as well as Jim Merwin, Jay Seate, Alfred Gremsly, Isaac Cooper, Kelly Evans, Ryan Woods, Becky Narron, Terry Miller, Matt Scott, and Anthony D Redden. There’s also an interview with Stefan Lear.

Please go out and get a copy of the e-zine. If you like horror fiction, you’ll love Terror Tract! 🙂

‘Blue,’ A Body Horror Short Story

Paul Bellow winced when he felt the small splat on his forehead as he was walking by the park near his apartment that night.

“Eww!” he grunted, wiping the gunk off of his forehead with a plain, white handkerchief. “Bird shit?” He hurried over to a streetlight to stand under and see. The spot on his handkerchief wasn’t brown.

It was blue.

“Well, whatever it is, at least it isn’t bird shit,” he said.

***********

Back in his apartment ten minutes later, he washed his face. He looked at himself in the bathroom mirror on the medicine cabinet. Most of the gunk was gone from his forehead, except for tiny little dots of blue embedded in the pores where the gunk had made impact.

“That isn’t me, whatever it is,” he whispered.

He took out his handkerchief, which now oddly had lost its softness and smoothness, yet was also brittle. In his hand, instead of being its original white, with a blue spot in the middle, it was all grey, and it crumbled into what looked and felt like broken-off pieces of rock, pebble, and ashes.

“What the hell?” His eyes and mouth were agape. “I guess I’ll have to buy a new handkerchief.”

***********

The next morning, he got out of bed and, still half-asleep, plodded his way into the bathroom.

As he walked through the bathroom doorway, he mumbled something unintelligible even to himself: “Mmmbzemplibmbizum.”

“His head pricked up a bit after making that meaningless noise.

“Mmm?”

He stood before the toilet, pulled his underwear below and behind his balls, took a deep breath, and waited for his piss to start pouring out.

It did.

It was blue.

“What the fuck?!” he shouted.

It continued to come out all blue, never yellow.

“I don’t believe it.”

He finished his piss, flushed the toilet, then went back to the medicine cabinet mirror.

There was a huge blue spot covering most of his forehead. It looked like a birthmark, like a port-wine stain, only a blue one.

“Oh, fuck me!” he said in a trembling voice. “That may not have been bird shit, but…was it alien shit?”

He rubbed his forehead. The blue spot didn’t hurt, but it didn’t feel like skin, either. It felt rather like soft plastic, if it did feel like anything from Earth. 

“How the hell am I supposed to go to work looking like this?”

************

He went to the office wearing a baseball cap, the stiff bill pulled down at the front to cover the blue spot as best he could. 

This was no casually-dressed office; everyone else in the office, wearing suits and ties like him, or skirt-suits for the ladies, looked askance at him in that cap as he approached his desk.

“Why’s Paul wearing a baseball cap?” a woman whispered to another female colleague.

“He always was weird,” the second woman said. “Who knows what his problem is now.”

He sat at his cubicle, hoping no one would want to chat with him much. Then Craig Whittaker, that bullying piece of shit from the other side of the office, walked up to him.

“Hey, Bellow,” he said. “What’s with the cap?”

“None o’ your business,” Paul said. “Leave me alone.”

“Leemee alone,” Craig said in the whining, mocking tone of a teenager. He snatched the hat off of Paul’s head.

Paul put his hand over his forehead and got up, reaching for the hat that Craig held up too high for him to get. Paul punched him in the gut and grabbed the hat. He quickly put it back on.

“Jesus, Bellow,” Craig grunted as he held his gut. “What’s your problem? I saw some blue on your fore-“

“Fuck you, Whittaker!” Paul shouted. “What’s your problem? Why can’t you mind your own goddamn business?!”

“Hey, what’s with all the noise out there?!” their boss, Ms. Kramer, shouted from the doorway of her office.

“Bellow punched me,” Craig said. “Is wearing baseball caps allo-“

“I’m not surprised he hit you,” she said. “You pick on him enough, which by the way, I don’t pay you for. I do pay you, however, to work. Now, stop fighting and get back to it!”

“Asshole,” Craig whispered to Paul as he returned to his desk.

“And as for you, Muhammad Ali, which sport do you prefer, boxing or baseball?” she asked Paul.

“Please, Ms. Kramer,” he asked her, as if she were his mother. “May I keep the cap on? There’s an embarrassing mark on my head, and-“

“OK, whatever,” she said. “Just get back to work.”

************

That night, back in his apartment, Paul was feeling strange. Not in pain, not uncomfortable, just different. 

There was something inside his body that he knew was not him. Again, it didn’t hurt, it just felt like something other than him…and it seemed to be growing.

He’d kept the cap on, even at home, for he was afraid to see if that blue spot had gotten any worse…any bigger…any uglier. He avoided looking at himself in mirrors.

A local news story on the TV mentioned a blue slime that had been found on the leaves of a tree at the side of the park he’d passed by the night before. No biologist studying the slime had any idea where it had come from. Nothing known on Earth was like it. But it was spreading all over the tree, and seemed to be about to spread throughout the park, so wooden boards were being put around it to stop people from entering, to stop the slime from spreading.

“An alien slime,” Paul said in that trembling voice. “on me and in me.”

Suddenly, in his nervousness, he needed to take a shit.

“Mmzmplitzk,” he mumbled as he hurried from his living room to the bathroom. “Why do I keep mumbling nonsense like that?”

He raced in, avoiding seeing his reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror, pulled his pants down, and sat on the toilet.

As the crap came out like an avalanche, making strange slurping noises as it squeezed out of his asshole, he noticed how it felt even stranger. Again, it didn’t hurt, it didn’t feel uncomfortable, but it didn’t feel like normal turds, diarrhea, or anything in between, either. He could describe the feeling only as…alien.

He finished and wiped his ass. He slowly moved the toilet paper, with a great feeling of expectant dread, to come within his field of vision.

Please, he thought. Just be a brown streak.

It was blue.

“Jesus fuck!” he said, his voice cracking like a pre-teen’s.

He got up, pulled up his pants, and looked down at what he’d left in the toilet bowl.

He saw what looked like blue sponges.

“What the hell is happening to me?” he almost sobbed.

He flushed the toilet, hearing each of the blue things slip through the hole with that slurping sound. Then he went over to the mirror.

He took off the baseball cap and raised his eyes with the utmost reluctance to see his head.

“Oh, my God!”

**************

He went to work with a hood over his head, gloves that tightly covered his swollen fingers, and a scarf around his face, covering as much of his skin as he could. Sunglasses covered his eyes.

He got to his desk without anyone saying anything to him, but lots of people looking at him strangely and whispering to each other.

Please, everyone, he thought, just leave me alone.

Then Craig walked over.

“Alright, Bellow,” he said with a chuckle. “What’s going on—?”

He pulled the hood off, and yanked the scarf away before Paul could react.

“Jesus Christ!” Craig screamed, backing away.

Paul got up and took off the sunglasses, then stared hard into Craig’s eyes. “Here, Whittaker! Get a good look, you’re so fucking curious!”

A woman’s scream was heard from the other side of the office, followed by gasps and groans of “Oh, my God!”

Not only was the blue covering most of Paul’s face, there were bulges on his forehead, cheeks, his right eyelid, and his chin. These protrusions looked like giant blue warts.

Paul stepped towards ever-retreating Craig.

“Are you satisfied, Craig?” Paul shouted. “You wanted to see the freak-show, now you get to see!—NOT ENOUGH BODY,” he suddenly said in a bass, buzzing voice, then his voice went back to normal—“Come on, Craig, get an up-close look! Why are you backing away?”

“Stay away from me, you disgusting, deformed, ugly bastard!” Craig said, his back bumping into a wall. “I don’t want to catch your germs!”

“Then you should’ve minded your own goddamned business, as I told you to do yesterday, but you just couldn’t let it go, could you?!” Paul shouted. “Now, I’m—NOT ENOUGH BODY—gonna give the blue to you!” Paul removed a glove, revealing what looked like blue plantar’s warts dotting all of his fingers and thumb.

“Keep away from me!” Craig shouted, balling up his fist to punch Paul.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Paul said, his ungloved hand coming within millimetres of Craig’s wincing face. “You hit the monster, you turn into the monster!” Paul laughed like the villain of a cheesy movie.

Ms. Kramer stormed out of her office. “All right, what the hell’s with all of the noise out—oh, my God!” she yelled. “Paul, what the hell happened to you?”

“Did he get that blue shit from the tree in that park on him?” a female colleague asked. “I saw it on the news last night.”

“He lives near that park, Queen’s Park, doesn’t he?” Craig said, trying to dodge Paul’s finger. “Get him away from me!”

“I don’t want to touch him any more than you want to, Craig!” Ms. Kramer said. “Someone call an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Paul, why haven’t you been to a doctor?”

“On my salary?” Paul said. “I can’t afford a doctor! And what doctor can fix this?

“Paul, leave,” she said. “Don’t come back until you’re better.”

“I won’t get better—NOT ENOUGH BODY,” he said, the second part always in a buzzing, alien voice, as if he had a split personality.

“Then don’t come back at all!” she shouted. “Get out of here! You’re fired!”

As Paul took his things and hurried out of the office—with his hood, sunglasses, and gloves all on—everyone getting out of his way like the parting of the Red Sea, Kramer shouted, “Has anyone called an ambulance for him? Don’t let him go home freely. He must be quarantined!”

******************

Paul rushed out of the office building and bumped into a number of people on the way before he got to his car. 

“Hey, watch it!” one man shouted.

“What’s his problem?” a woman he bumped into also said. “And why is he dressed like that, in this warm weather?”

You don’t want to know, lady, he thought as he reached his car. Really, you don’t.

He drove home, which was on the other side of town.

He parked in his apartment basement, went up the elevator, and went down the hall of the fifth floor to his apartment. As he rushed there, the last room on the right side, he passed a mother and her ten-year-old son.

“Hey, who’s that freak, Mom?” he asked.

“Honey, don’t be rude,” she said.

“But some of his skin is blue,” he said.

“Oh, don’t talk nonsense,” she said. “Get in the elevator.”

********************

Two paramedics wearing decontamination suits arrived in the office.

“Someone called about a man with blue skin?” one of them said.

“Yes,” Ms. Kramer said. “We think he may have been infected by that blue stuff found on that tree in Queen’s Park. Did you hear about that on the news?”

“Oh, yeah,” the other paramedic said. “Nobody knows where the blue slime came from, but we do know it’s extremely contagious.”

“That whole park has been walled off so no one can get inside,” the first paramedic said. “The blue slime feeds off of living things. When it’s completely absorbed one living thing, it quickly looks for others, or else it will die.”

“How do you know it will die if it doesn’t pass itself onto another living thing?” a female employee asked the paramedics.

“The tree is no longer blue,” the first paramedic said. “It’s all grey…and dead.”

“Anyway, Paul Bellow is the man you’re looking for,” Ms. Kramer said. “You just missed him, actually. He probably drove home, which probably isn’t far from Queen’s Park.”

“Do you have his home address?” the first paramedic asked.

“Well, uh…, just a second,” Ms. Kramer said, then went into her office to find her employee file on Paul. She sifted through some papers and found his file. She looked it over. “Oh, shit. We have only his old address, which wasn’t in this city. He moved here about a year ago, but he didn’t tell us his new address.”

“Is his address anywhere to be found online?” the second paramedic asked.

“Bellow doesn’t like people, and the feeling is mutual,” Craig said. “So I doubt he’d ever want to reveal that information. Besides, who’d want to go to his home?”

“Well, we do,” the second paramedic said. “We’ve got to find him and quarantine him before he infects anyone else. If he lives near the park, we can ask neighbours there if they’ve seen a strange-looking man.” The two paramedics left the office.

When he poked his finger at me, he got really close, Craig thought with a shudder. He didn’t touch me, did he? Would getting really close be enough to infect someone?

“OK, folks, the show is over,” Ms. Kramer said, then looked at dazed Whittaker. “Go on, Craig, get back to it.”

He mumbled something she couldn’t make out as he walked over to his desk.

*******************

Paul locked the door to his apartment, went into his bedroom, and stripped down to his boxer shorts. He looked at himself in his bedroom mirror, which reflected him from head to toe.

“That isn’t me,” he whispered in a raspy voice. “So much of that is not me at all.”

The blue had spread all over his body in polka-dots of varying sizes, from the ‘plantar’s wart,’ smallest kind, to large lumps on his arms, chest, left shoulder (which made him look almost like a hunchback), and legs. A particularly large lump was on his belly, just to the right of his navel. Several medium-sized lumps were on his back. Many of the ‘plantar’s wart’ variety were on his ass, dick, and scrotum.

He could feel the alien substance in many places inside his body, that almost plastic presence: in his gut, lungs, and especially, in his brain.

“RUNNING OUT OF BODY,” his mouth was forced to utter in that buzzing, monotone, bass vocal fry that had to be an alien’s speech. He sounded like a robot talking at those moments.

“Who keeps making me say things like that?” Paul said, trying to draw the alien intelligence taking him over into a conversation. “First, it was mumbled nonsense, now it’s talk about ‘not enough body,’ as if the aliens have learned how to speak English. Who are you, that’s inside me? What do you want?”

“WE ARE USING YOU TO NOURISH US,” the alien presence buzzed through Paul’s mouth. “WHEN YOU ARE NO MORE, WE WILL FIND ANOTHER LIFE FORM AND DO THE SAME TO IT.”

“You’re killing me.”

“CORRECT.”

“What did I do to you to deserve this?” Paul asked in sobs.

“NOTHING.”

“Then why are you doing this? You’re hurting me. You’re destroying my life.”

“WE MUST DO THIS TO SURVIVE AND GROW.”

“But I need to survive, too!”

“NO, YOU DON’T.”

“Yes, I do!

“NO. ONLY OUR NEEDS MATTER.”

“When you’ve made me all blue, and I die, you won’t have any living things here to latch onto. My apartment has less life in it than Eraserhead’s did.”

“YES, THE LACK OF LIFE HERE IS A PROBLEM. NOT ENOUGH BODY. WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF BODY.”

“So you will die, too.”

NOT NECESSARILY. WE CAN FIND A WAY TO GET YOU OUTSIDE, OR GET LIFE FORMS LIKE YOURS IN HERE.”

“Good luck with that. No one likes me.”

“OUR ARRIVAL ON YOUR PLANET HAS BEEN NOTED BY THOSE LIVING HERE. THEY KNOW WE ARE IN YOUR BODY. THEY WILL WANT TO FIND YOU, AND THEY WILL PROBABLY TRACK YOU TO HERE. WHEN THEY ARRIVE AND YOU ARE DEAD, WE CAN ATTACH OURSELF TO THEM, AND RESUME NOURISHING OURSELF.”

“You’re crazy. Eventually, you will run out of life on this Earth, and you’ll die here.”

“THEN WE WILL FIND ANOTHER PLANET WITH LIFE, AND WE’LL RESUME OUR NOURISHING PROCESS.”

“You survive only by killing others,” Paul noted with horror. “You’re crazy.”

“NO, WE’RE RATIONAL. WE THRIVE. WE PROSPER. WE GROW. LIFE LIVES BY KILLING OFF OTHERS. YOUR EARTH SPECIES SHOULD KNOW THAT ALREADY.”

*****************

The paramedics drove their ambulance to a parking lot just a few blocks away from the walled-off park. They got out and started walking in the direction of the park.

“This is stupid,” the first of them said. “We have no idea how to find this guy’s home. We’re just going to go around asking about this…Paul Bellow?”

“It may not be as hard as you think,” the second paramedic said. “We’re talking about a guy with freakish blue blotches on his skin, a guy in warm spring weather, covering up all of his body in a hood, a scarf, long sleeves, and gloves. He should be strange-looking enough that someone in this area might have seen him.”

“He probably drove home, barely spotted by anyone!”

“Look, we’ve got to try, OK? We can’t let him go around without being quarantined. The police are looking for him, too. We’re just gonna have to try our best. In any case, I have a hunch, I don’t know why, but I have a strange feeling we’re going to find this guy sooner than it seems.”

“Great, we’re counting on your hunches.”

Then they saw a man at a newsstand on a street corner just across from the park. “Him,” the second paramedic said. “Let’s ask him if he’s seen anyone strange looking.”

*****************

Paul just sat in front of the bedroom mirror, watching his body continue to deteriorate. The spreading of the lumpy blue was accelerating; the tiny ‘plantar’s warts’ were growing into big bulges. His hands were so disfigured now that they were no longer usable. His fingers were fusing together, as were his toes.

“RUNNING OUT OF BODY,” his mouth, blue and grotesquely bloated, buzzed over and over again.

Paul no longer spoke; he barely thought his own thoughts anymore. He barely even existed. His eyes, the irises of which were originally brown, but were now blue, just stared at the monstrosity in the mirror reflection with a look of nothing other than despair. 

“RUNNING OUT OF BODY. RUNNING OUT OF BODY.”

His nose had rounded and enlarged into a blue bulge like all the others on his body, including other rounded, wart-like bulges on his face that so resembled what his nose had morphed into, one wouldn’t be able to decide if he had five deformed noses, or no nose at all, but rather five bulbous blue growths instead.

“RUNNING OUT OF BODY. RUNNING OUT OF BODY.”

Indeed, very little of his body wasn’t blue now. Only his left ear, his eyeballs and pupils, a few tufts of hair on the back and sides of his head, a few spots of peach on his face, arms, legs, back and chest, and his right nipple didn’t have that bright, pure blue of the rest of his body, as well as almost three quarters of the plant life in Queen’s Park, the other quarter being grey and dead.

Speaking of the growing blue in Queen’s Park, the blue taking over Paul’s body was working out a solution to the problem of…”RUNNING OUT OF BODY.”

A message was being sent out from Paul’s blue brain, through psychic vibrations, out of his apartment to the blue in the park, which returned such vibrations to the blue brain, in an alien conversation.

Paul’s fat blue mouth buzzed, “GET PARAMEDICS TO PARK. GET BOY AND MOTHER TO PARK. DIRECT PARAMEDICS TO THIS ROOM. THEN TAKE OVER THEIR BODIES. MUST KEEP FEEDING. RUNNING OUT OF BODY.”

The blue in the park sent back a message, vibrating that the paramedics, mother, and boy were already being psychically influenced to meet by the park.

**************

The man at the newsstand didn’t know anything about Paul, so the paramedics continued down the street across from Queen’s Park. A fruit vendor was halfway down that block, and Paul’s neighbours—that woman and her son—were buying some fruit there.

The paramedics stopped there. “Excuse me,” the first of them said. “You haven’t by chance seen a man with strange blue blotches on his skin, have you? He’d be trying to hide his deformity in a hood, with a scarf and sunglasses to cover his face, gloves,…”

“Sorry, I haven’t seen anyone looking like that,” the fruit seller said.

“Mom, that guy we saw in the hall of our apartment,” the boy said. “That freak—“

“Oh, yeah, him,” the boy’s mother said.

“Wait…you two saw him?” the second paramedic asked.

“Oh, yeah,” the boy said. “He covered himself all up so no one could see how ugly he is.”

“Ron!” his mother said.

“I don’t think you’d like it if you were infected by those plants in the park over there, and kids were calling you ‘ugly’ and ‘freak,” the second paramedic said.

“That’s right,” the boy’s mother said. “Show some compassion! That poor man…Do you think some of that blue on the trees got on his skin?”

“It must have been that,” the first paramedic said. “If he lives in your apartment, do you know which room he’s in?”

“Well, no,” she said, “but we saw him on the fifth floor of the Maynard Gardens Building, our apartment building on 36 Bay Street, just down that way.” She pointed in the direction opposite of the way the paramedics had been going. “I’m sorry I can’t take you there now because my son and I have to catch the 11:00 train, and…oh-oh, that’s in ten minutes.”

“Well, where is he on the fifth floor?” the second paramedic asked.

“We live in Room 506,” she said. “We saw him rush past our home, so that leaves a few rooms before the end of the hall. That’s as close as I can narrow it down for you.”

“And that’ll be good enough,” the second paramedic said. “Thanks! Let’s go.”

“You’re welcome,” she said. “C’mon, Ron! We gotta go!” 

Both pairs rushed off in opposite directions.

******************

Paul was little more than a large clump of blue lying on his bedroom floor in front of that mirror. His arms and legs were absorbed into the clump. There was no distinction between a head and a torso anymore, either. There was no hair, no nose, and there were no ears. All that was visibly left of him were his mouth and eyes…and that mouth was essentially only a moving hole. 

He was a blue blob with eyes and a maw that said…

“ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST OUT OF BODY!”

As for his brain, he barely had a consciousness that was his individual own. What little he had of a mind, mused and wallowed in despair.

So, this is how I’ll die, that vestige of a human mind thought. I thought I’d just die a lonely old man, but that at least I’d die with a human body.

Those blue eyes, now lacking pupils or whites in which blue irises might be distinguished, stared at that mirror. They were Paul’s only sensory connection with the world outside of the blue blob that had consumed his body.

Look at me, he thought. I’m a monster. An alien. A disgusting, inhuman, unlovable thing. I’m a giant blue turd.

“ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST OUT OF BODY!”

I never had friends as a kid at school, or as an adult at work, he thought. My older brothers bullied me, no girl ever liked me…and look at me now. I’m a huge lump of blue shit.

“ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST OUT OF BODY!”

I never was worth anything…now I’m really worthless. I’m just a mess somebody will need to clean up.

His sight grew blurry, then darker. Slowly but surely, what he saw grew less clear, with less and less light, little by little…

“ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST OUT OF BODY!”

After ten minutes, his eyes disappeared, absorbed into the blue mass, which was drying and losing its blue brightness.

Well, at least I don’t have to see myself anymore, he thought, his consciousness beginning to fade. It felt like drifting off to sleep.

To die, to sleep, no more, he thought. And by a sleep to say…

“ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST OUT OF BODY!” that hole uttered in the same, buzzing tone, the only indication of any kind, however vague, that that blue blob housed life.

A duller and duller blue.

Drying.

Greying.

*****************

The paramedics reached the fifth floor and got out of the elevator. They saw a sign on a wall with an arrow pointing to Rooms 500-510.

“That way,” the second paramedic said, pointing to their right. “Let’s go.” They raced down the hall.

When they reached Room 506, they stopped.

“OK, so what are we going to do now?” the first paramedic asked. “Knock on each door after this one and ask, ‘Excuse me, but do you have blue skin?”

“Shut up and put on your decontamination mask and cap,” the second one said while putting on his. The first one put on his. “Let’s just poke around the remaining rooms and try to find anything unusual about them.”

They went past Room 506, moving as quietly as possible, listening for any unusual noises. When they reached Room 509, they heard this frantic chanting, over and over again:

“ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST OUT OF BODY! ALMOST…OUT OF…BO…DY…”

“I’ve got a hunch we’ve found him,” the first paramedic said. He knocked on the door. “Hello?”

“AL…MOST…OUT…OF…BODY…AL…MOST…OUT…OF…BO…DY…”

“Hello?” the first one said again. “Can you open the door?”

“He’s ‘almost out of body’,” the second one said. “I don’t think he can.”

“We’d better kick the door open,” the first one said. “It sounds like he’s dying.”

Both men took turns kicking at the door. The door barely budged.

“Let’s kick together,” the second of them said.

After over a dozen kicks, between each of which they could hear, weaker and weaker, softer and softer, “AL…MOST…OUT…OF…BO…DY…OUT…OF…BO…DY…OUT…OF…BO…DY…OUT…OF…BO…,” they finally kicked the door open.

They rushed inside and first checked the living room, then the kitchen, then the bathroom. Then they paused to listen.

Silence.

“The chanting stopped,” the first paramedic said.

“Yeah,” the second said. “Let’s check the bedroom.”

They went in. Apart from the usual things seen in a bedroom, they saw a dry hill of what looked like grey ash. White boxer shorts were wrapped around the middle of it.

“That must have been him,” the second of them said. “Shit.”

“Well, at least the blue hasn’t spread to anyone else,” the first said. 

“Not so far as we know.”

“The park has been walled off.”

“With only wood panels, which can be easily broken into. I wish they’d used something stronger.”

“It’ll be broken into only if someone’s stupid enough to do that,” the first paramedic said. “Anyway, if anyone else has been infected, we surely would have known about it by now.”

**************

Two nights later, Ron and three of his friends were riding their bikes by Queen’s Park. They read the sign on the wall: KEEP OUT! CONTAGIOUS AND DEADLY!

Their bikes were parked at that section of the wall separating the boys from the tree that had infected Paul.

“So, this is where all that alien blue shit is, eh?” one of Ron’s friends said.

“Yeah,” Ron said. “My neighbour got that shit on his face.”

“I wonder what it looks like in there,” another of his friends said. 

“We should find out,” the third of his friends said.

“No way!” Ron said. “That’d be stupid.”

“You’re just a chicken,” the third said.

“Well, if you’re so fuckin’ brave, you ride your bike through the wall,” Ron said.

“Wait,” the second boy said. He took out a box of toothpicks from his jacket pocket. He took four toothpicks from the box, put them behind his back, broke one of them in half, then presented them to the others. “We’ll draw straws.”

“OK,” the first friend said.

They drew the toothpicks, and Ron got stuck with the short one. “Oh, fuck me.” He was shaking.

“Come on, Ron,” the third friend said. “You agreed to it, now ride your bike through the wall so we can see inside.”

Ron remembered the blue he saw on his ‘freak’ neighbour.

He shook some more.

“Ron’s such a pussy,” the third friend said.

“I am not!” Ron shouted.

“Then, DO IT!” all three of his friends shouted back at him.

“OK, OK,” Ron said, then backed up his bike. The other boys backed up as well, even farther away from the park.

Shaking all over, Ron nonetheless charged at the wall, breaking through the wood and plunging his entire body and his bike into a huge blob of blue slime. He was completely engulfed in it. An avalanche of blue fell out onto the road. Grey ashes of the original, infected tree powdered the blue slime as it poured out.

“Holy shit!” the first friend shouted. All three boys rode away.

I’m such a fucking idiot, Ron thought as the blue seeped into his pores.

After a few minutes of unintelligible mumbling, a buzzing voice could be heard from the hill of blue:

“VERY LITTLE BODY! VERY LITTLE BODY!”