“Here we are again //
Someone find the cure ‘cause //
You know me and you know I’m not well //
I always knew //
I’d eventually hurt you.”
- “A.C.D (Abcessive Compulsive Disorder)”, Nothing
There are times when I feel inhuman. How could something so abhorrent as I ever blink into existence, only to eke out a few decades of life before being snuffed out? Human beings seem to be an evolutionary anomaly at times — something that was the result of a few key mutations here and there. In my more glum moments, I tend to consider the feasibility of shedding my outer layer of humanity, stretching outward into the midday sun, and disintegrating into countless molecules that will eventually spread across the universe.
I picture a forest, thick with overgrown pines and a ceaseless fog that hovers overhead. The wind is nowhere to be felt, only minor rustlings ever so often. I lumber through the trees, frightened of the oncoming night as light fades away quicker and quicker; a cave, a place where I can build a small fire and shelter for refuge from the unending darkness. Every so often I hear a low growl in every direction, a flash of brightness from some creature’s eyes, and I know I am not safe for long. Lost in the woods, fearful of any passing sound. It’s only a matter of time before they find me — they never come, and I cower in the pitch black, waiting for the first light of day to hit my eyes.
Monsters exist in this place, as they do in all places, and they do not sleep; how could they, when there is so much to consume?
Is this a bleak outlook? Yes, absolutely, but stick with me for a second.
Monsters are not always an abhorrence, some bastardisation of the natural workings of the universe; they are borne of the same stuff as we are, so we are not so different. There is no one way to be a monster, just as there is no one way to…to really be an anything. Life is made of infinite forms, beautiful and terrifying, and genetics, environment, and a multitude of other maladies can leave unknowable scars.
A monster can have smooth contours, shimmering and bright and awe-inspiring as it devours you whole. A shining light, pure energy that radiates out of every pore and orifice so bright that you succumb before you even know it. Its jaw opens wide and a deafening roar unlike anything else razes everything in its path. We sing its praises and construct great monuments and temples to its glory, only for it to completely absorb us into its blinding power. Finally, peace.
A monster lurks at the back of damp, shivering caves deep within the bellowing body of the earth, slogging about as it looks for food on stalagmites dripping with blood and decay. Think Grendel, the first great monster of Western literature. His inner being torn between misanthropy and horror at his own existence, and the desire to step out of the shadows of his equally monstrous mother to join the world of men.
i understand that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears. i understood that, finally and absolutely, i alone exist. all the rest, i saw, is merely what pushes me, or what i push against, blindly – as blindly as all that is not myself pushes back. i create the whole universe, blink by blink.
-John Gardner, Grendel
A monster takes the form of a patchwork man in an ill-fitting suit, slouched over as it struggles to fit its hulking form into a too-small host. You can see the edges of its mouth poke out of the flesh bag it inhabits as it forces vowels and sounds out. Bulbous lesions protrude and occasionally small bits of pus ooze out. The monster has the skin of a dried animal pelt left far too long in the sun, an unhealthy hue of bright orange; stray bits of grey and blonde hairs jammed into its cranium; it howls and screeches at anything in its path, simply because it can. It saunters through this world with no one thought on its mind — a dizzying series of half-thoughts and basal wants, it is ego made corporeal. It knows it wants to consume, it must to survive the ordeal of being alive.
Monsters embed themselves in ones and zeroes, behind the technological veneer of the future, bleeped and blooped out of double amplifiers straight into the unsuspecting eardrums of ravers and IDM-babble. Aphex Twin malevolently grinning on the cover of Richard D. James Album, silently mumbling to himself the demonic incantations of his purely mechanical and computerised monsters. Selected Ambient Works II (SAW II), his glimmering masterpiece on the mountain, hides its darker nature behind piano flourishes and automated windings.
There are vast digital landscapes of buildings hollowed-out by drone bombs and mortar fire in Vatican Shadow’s industrial dronings, smoke and burning corpses rise to a blackened sky above the Euphrates River, in the centre of Baghdad. Horror beyond comprehension as mothers wail up to heaven in Iraq, in Kosovo, in Guatemala and Chechnya, clutching their dead children. Against a backdrop of electronic buzzing and mania-inducing noise, sleek and chromatic, the untold stories of the post-9/11 world are manifested as sinister dirges.
“Sticky Drama” by Oneohtrix Point Never conjures beasts made of bright sludge, glossy and amorphous. Sounds apparate from the ether, briefly shout into the void, and just as quickly dissolve into a thin film of slime. I’ve written about the body horror-esque soundscape of this track and others on Garden of Delete and its uncanny ability to create artificial beasts that extend into the “real world” — shrouded in nostalgia and deification of the glorious past, when things were bright and hopeful.
Is there any kind of solace in this hostile existence?
To say “man is a wolf to man” would state the obvious in a manner I find boring. No one disagrees with the time-tried evidence showing that, given several different factors, humans will destroy the shit out of one another. You don’t have to look far, or even very hard, to see its trademark monstrosity.
At the expense of regurgitating oft-cited clichés, the “War on Terror” unleashed an era of one horror after another, truly unlike nothing witnessed in recent history. Any single act of mass slaughter pales in comparison to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and no sustained effort of genocide can square up against the Holocaust; the program of the colonial powers of the Americas to systematically wipe out the indigenous people that once numbered in the tens of millions, across complex societies and lands; and countless other examples I couldn’t begin to list here.
Monsters exist in all of us and in all things, biotic and abiotic. We create monsters, in literature and cybernetics and artificial intelligence research and genetic modification and geopolitics and acts of terror and etcetera. We are not our monsters — quite the contrary, we are so much more, but we cannot deny this aspect of ourselves.
The problem of monstrosity won’t be solved in this shitpost of a blog, nor can it really be effectively reduced to a set number of characteristics that can be checked off. It can’t really be solved.