Oct 24 2011

#177 “To Serve Man”

From Heidi in Texas

If you’ve never seen the episode of The Twilight Zone entitled “To Serve Man” which was based on the short story of the same name by Damon Knight, please allow me to recommend it to you. It’s one of the greatest episodes in the history of the series and was one of the only episodes in which the fourth wall was broken down and an actor spoke directly to the viewing audience. Besides this, though, the story is cleverly constructed and is just twisted enough to walk that fine line between being disturbing and entertaining.

Here’s the gist of what happens: (1) Aliens come to Earth (2) The aliens are really swell guys and they say that their whole purpose in visiting earth is “to serve man.” (3) The aliens even bring a really neat book on how to serve man, but it’s written in an alien language and no one can translate it. (4) People start moving to the alien planet by the truckload (or spaceship load) in order to become the gods they think they will be treated like when they arrive (5) As all of this is happening, the book finally gets translated, and lo and behold…. It’s a cookbook! Ahhhhhhhhhhh! “To Serve Man.” Get it?

Zing! What a twist!

As cheesy as all of this sounds, the episode delivers a fairly overt admonition for us to keep our pride in check and to use our brains instead of stroking our own egos. Also, at the end of the episode when the actor breaks down the 4th wall, he says, “We’re all of us on the menu… All of us.” The message in this statement is clear: Regardless of how advanced or how intellectual we may become, we’re still a part of the food chain, and when push comes to shove, we may very well be at the mercy of creatures that are more powerful than we are.

Am I a misanthrope who hopes that Mother Nature and her army of animals will repay us for the evil crimes that we have committed against her? Certainly not. But I also don’t think we should become too cocky. Take the illustration above, for example. While the exact circumstances are a bit unclear, one thing that we know definitively know is that a complete role reversal has taken place, and man is now being served in much different way than he is used to.

In the end the choice is yours: Serve others… or be served, yourself.


Sep 3 2011

#126 “Phantasmic”

From a stranger in Madison, Wisconsin

Just in case you can’t decipher the note that is printed at the bottom of this page, I have transcribed it below:

“Super phantasmic wolf of druidic saliva riding jerky out of castle aflame under a most science fictional comet… Keep living your dreams.”

While part of the text that accompanies picture encourages me (and all of us, I suppose) to keep living out my dreams, I cannot deny the fact that this picture reminds me of some of the images that comprised my worst childhood nightmares. Although this wolf picture is very artfully rendered and extremely creative, it brings to mind a wild Etch-A-Sketch of horror and transports me back to short period of time in my adolescence when I was haunted nightly by the illustrations in a series of books simple titled “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” It was not so much the stories that were contained within these books that held me captivated with horror; it was the drawings themselves.

The pictures (a few of which I have copied below) are twisted and disproportionate. They float in and out of the frame in a dizzying blur of grotesqueness. They are simple in their black and white color palette, but each picture seems to bleed with horror and pain as the bland watercolors stain the page and run beyond its borders. Simply put, they give me the creeps…. Even to this very day I have troubling looking at some of them without being whisked back to that tiny bed in a dark corner of my childhood bedroom, my stomach twisted in knots of fear as irrational thoughts of murder and mayhem ran rampant in my brain.

So, to the artist behind this mind-boggling masterpiece, I have this to say: If you were striving for creativity, you have achieved it. If your goal was confusion, you have obtained it. And if you intended to bring about horror, you have surpassed your goal more than you will ever know.

I’ll be sleeping with the lights on tonight for certain.



Aug 23 2011

#115 “I’m gonna to eat your toes while you’re sleeping!”

From a stranger in Nashville, Tennessee

in the back of everyone’s mind is a deap-seated association with something thatĀ unfailingly serves as an impetus for instant fear. Upon examination, the sparks that ignite our individually fearful fires are as varied as the people that make up our world. Everyone’s secret fear is different. For some the catalyst for terror may simply be darkness and the vulnerability it brings, for others it might be the thought or sight of blood and gore. Still others are scared by notions of demon sorcery and witchcraft. Some fear ghosts and spirits while others are terrified by thoughts of monsters and mutants or human fiends such as demented madmen and axe murderers.

For some of us, our greatest fears are more rooted in “reality.” We are afraid of snakes or spiders, things that creep on the ground or live under slimy stones or dry sandy caves. Still, for many of us, our greatest fear lies in the dread of losing a loved one or being alone. Regardless of what it is or where it comes from, we all live with fear.

Personally, I have always been frightened by the molestation or twisting of innocence. The thought of taking something pure and innocent and perverting it into something demonic or evil has always brought a chill to my bones and caused the hair of my neck and arms to stand at attention. Examples of what I’m talking about? Well… the clearest examples that I can think of include movies which feature demented or demonic children. Some of these might include The Shining, Pet Cemetery, Poltergeist, and The Omen. To a lesser degree, things such as clowns and examples such as the movie Child’s Play might fall into this category. As I said, there’s just something about that notion of perverted innocence that sets me on edge. I suppose it might have something to do with a deep-seated black and white worldview that I adopted as a child. Good things were good, and bad things were bad, and anything that blurred these lines or challenged this paradigm was frightening.

Anyway, I believe all this is closely related to why merely glancing at this picture causes my blood pressure to rise, my face to grow wan and pale, and my palms to sweat. The picture in and of itself is innocent enough. It is cartoonish and amusing, but there’s also a crazed look in those offset mismatched eyes. Why can’t I see the rest of the face? What is it that lies just below the frame? A mouth snarling with jagged rows of teeth, dripping blood and human entrails?

And then, to top it off, there’s that creepy and twisted message. Eat my toes? Why?! Why don’t you just devour me whole while I sleep? I can’t handle it! My mind is unwittingly drawn to the image of waking in the middle of the night to discover that something is wrong, something is…. missing. As I peer down towards the end of the bed, the first thing that I notice is a clump of bloody sheets. Then a horrible sight greets my eyes: there they are, the bloody stumps of my feet. All my toes have been removed. Then as my body descends into shock and I begin to lose consciousness, my eye fall upon the crowning pinnacle of terror: just barely poking its head above the surface of the mattress is the face of this demonically twisted yet comically wolf-like creature. The only sounds are the smacking of this jaws and the crunching of the bones of my toes between his teeth.

Someone, please…. make it go away.