Friday, December 6, 2013

Shriek of the Skin Walker...

I just got my copy of Eden Royce's horror anthology "In the Bloodstream."  My contribution is the short story "Blood of the Chosen," which I hope will bring an enjoyable chill to someone's evening.

I've only had time to read the first story in the collection so far:  Kierce Sevren's deliciously spooky short "The Skin Thief."  Without giving away too much, it's the story of a single mom and her two kids on a dark night in a typical suburban home.  There may or may not be someone or something lurking in the front yard.  The little girl may or may not be imagining things when she thinks she sees a face at the window.  Good, suspenseful moments in the dark, with which we can all identify.  It reminded me a lot of the "Paranormal" movie series.  The best kind of horror is the kind that starts in a familiar setting with ominous calm and builds.  What's hiding in the familiar darkness of your quiet house at night?  (You're home; no place to retreat to.  It's coming for you as you sleep.)

The monster Kierce uses is one that's becoming increasingly visible and popular in horror tales and monster lore:  the skin-walker.  In native American (particularly Navaho) folklore, skin-walkers were powerful and evil witches who had the power to take animal forms.  Most cultures have their own version of the concept.  Werewolves, shape-shifters.     Based on what little research I've done on the subject, skin-walkers are supposed to have started out as the most powerful and holy of witches, like high priests, or whatever the correct term is.  But, they turn to the evil path by killing, eating human flesh or doing something equally horrible.  Basically, they're people who want to do evil.

All similar human-like mythological monsters, skin-walkers, shifters, ghouls, vampires, etc. are, I guess, just splinters of the same primal fear:  Fear of the evil within all of us.  A hunger to do evil, or at least an animal hunger for something more natural, absent any barrier of empathy or civilization to hold it in check.  People in every culture, from the aboriginal camp 'round the fire to medieval Christendom sheltering behind its slightly safer castle walls, through the centuries have feared that hungry howl in the night by the chill light of the moon.  Even we, who (God knows) have plenty to fear from tangible enemies both foreign and domestic, continue to feel the nagging fear of the unseen thing lurking in that dark, cluttered closet or in the cellar, or on the lower floor, or rustling in the trees at the edge of the yard.  The ancient fears show no sign of abating.  Quite the opposite.  Maybe that's why our entertainment-- books, movies and TV-- seems to turn increasingly to stories of witches, monsters and demons.

Maybe because deep down, we know we can't lock out all the evil.  Some of it is always there, inside us.

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