Concerning Horror and Lions

Shriexers like to write about their experiences. It’s part of the whole package of risking dismemberment or death at the hands of ghosts and monsters. Adriana Priest is no exception; if you were to spot her out in the wild it would probably be in a café or diner, leaning over her laptop, typing away with intense concentration.

Most of Adriana’s writings are locked away deep within the Dark Web, hidden behind onion browsers and multiple password layers. The following piece is one of the rare articles that have surfaced, although it is thought to be a fragment of a longer work. Adriana, as usual, has no comment on the matter.

I have often been asked why, as a rational human being and as female(already an oppressed class with enough to worry about), I would voluntarily place myself in what amounts to an endless series of horror stories by Shriexing at elite levels (or through some of the other crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into). My short answer is that I don’t. I voluntarily keep myself in a state of fear. Not horror. There’s a difference!

I am a fear junkie. That’s why I’ve been able to Shriex for so long without negative effects on my health or mental wellbeing. Fear isn’t a stressor for me, it is energy. It is power. It is wonderful, tingly sparks of motivating force.

I am not a horror junkie. No one is a horror junkie. Not in real life.

What’s the difference, between fear and horror? Let’s consider the following scenario:

You are in Africa, on the Savannah, and as you push your way through the tall grass you hear, only feet ahead of you, the grinding roar of an adult male lion. Then, before you can consider your options, the beast appears, an enraged mass of muscle, claws, and fangs the size of steak knives!

Now, a question: is the emotion you feel in this moment fear, or is it horror?

Unless you are a very sheltered and unworldly person, I believe fear is what you experience. Not horror.

How so? Simple, really. You are afraid of the lion, but not horrified by it, because it is something that is familiar within your world. You know that it is an animal, a mammal, and a species of large cat. It is warm blooded with an endoskeleton. It may tear you apart with its teeth and claws, but that’s because it’s a predator, and that’s what predators do.

In other words, the lion, though a terrible beast it may be, exists firmly within your frame of reference about the world and the things that dwell within it. You may be afraid of the lion, but the painful death you are about to experience should not be entirely unexpected. That the lion is here in the tall grass, the habitat where lions are found, and is about to bite your face and neck until you suffocate, something lions are known to do, should not be blowing your mind right now.

Horror is not a product of things that are familiar, known, or understood. Horror does not originate from within your worldview, but from outside of it…from somewhere distant, cold, foreign… and malevolent.

Horror comes from outside. It tears apart what you think you know. What you believe to be possible. It brings about dark new experience, and through the tatters of your old reality, you see something evil staring back at you.

You are afraid of the lion, not horrified by it. That’s because fear and horror are not the same. Fear is ultimately a positive thing. It warns you of danger. It tries to help you survive by motivating you to get out of the situation that is about to harm you. Fear is your friend, if a brash one.

Horror is not your friend. Horror doesn’t want you to escape from your bad situation. Horror is the wreckage left behind after you’ve already been mauled.

Let’s consider the lion scenario again, but this time from a different angle.

Let’s say that, somehow, you’ve lived your entire life believing that the only cats in existence are the household variety. Your entire frame of reference for the concept of “cat” is one of small, playful balls of fur that love to purr on your lap and that go crazy over balls of string.

Now here you are, in the tall grass, confronted by… by… your mind struggles to process what you are seeing! It is a cat, obviously a cat… but it can’t be, because cats are wonderful little house companions, and this beast is huge, the size of a small car. Cats are harmless, but this one is about to rip your abdomen open and fling your guts about the primordial soil like a plate of spilled spaghetti!

Photo by Harshil Gudka on Unsplash

Are you feeling horror now? I’d think you were a very strange person indeed if you didn’t! A giant murder cat was never a possibility in the world you lived in your entire life up until this moment. Your world has tipped upside down.

Here’s the thing: when I Shriex, I am always afraid, to some extent… but I rarely feel horror. Familiaritybreeds… well, not contempt, per se, but a certain understanding about the world that doesn’t lend itself to feelings of existential dread. When I go into a level X haunted house, a place so malevolent that it has sunk below casual human perception, should I be shocked to find a walking cadaver there with stitched-together rats for a face (yes, I’ve seen that)? Of course not. My worldview easily supports such things.

Horror should be a rare occurrence, a once- or never-in-a-lifetime type of thing. Personally, the only time I felt true, wrenching,worldview-shattering horror was during my first ever encounter with the supernatural, and that one event was so profound that it knocked me onto the strange, shadowed path where I now walk.

I suppose the opposite of horror must be wonder. Something that pushes into your life from the outside; but instead of showing you darkness, it permits you to bear witness to something bright and amazing. If I were to sum up what drives me so relentlessly, it is this: I ride waves of fear so that I may one day transform my experience with horror into wonder.

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