Dedicated to Justin Decloux and Nate Wilson’s horror film Impossible Horror.
The Scream calls to me.
I’ve spent my entire life, what was left of it, trying to figure out what the Scream was. I wasn’t the only one. There was a team in Toronto, Ontario of sorts. Each one of the hunters, as they called themselves, planned to define the Scream on their terms, or use it to gain achievement in their respective fields. They were varied: a mathematician, a writer, even a cook … among others. The latest hunter was a thwarted short horror filmmaker … well, at least until the end.
What they didn’t realize, any of them, about the Scream until it was relatively too late, is the truth behind it.
I’ve jump-cut a few years into the past, when I still live on residence. I’m just an Undergrad, a freshman now. I study Humanities. My previous self can’t see me. The sweat shirt and hoodie really do wonders. I fancied myself something of a philosopher, back then, with a tangential love for the movies. Even now, I’m not really a film buff: but I’ve learned some of the conventions. I can see how frustrated I used to be: how cramped, and scared of the world I was in my tiny little apartment. It’s just building inside of me, and I don’t even see it. I don’t want to see it. I pass myself a scrap piece of paper, from the shadows, on my old desk when I’m not looking. It tells me to read Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. Only the first volume. I’ll think that I wrote this to myself, and forgot about it.
Then I jump-cut again.
Right. The Scream. The Scream is a primal force. Perhaps even a primordial one. I suspect it’s been here ever since we, humanity, have been in this reality. It is visceral, but so innate that it can’t really be heard so much as felt through different media, different lenses of truth, and understanding. It roars at us, at some of us in particular, through the static of our flat, blank, little lives.
One moment. I just remembered something.
I jump-cut. It’s the end of high school. My friends have moved onto other universities and their careers. Some will start their families. I’m alone. Left behind. I’m drifting around already. My relationship just ended a few days ago, at this time. It won’t take me long to time this right. I’ve read enough poetry to realize that everything has a pulse and a rhythm. A beat.
Yes. At the library that gets closed down in a few more years, I pull out a book from the shelf. Before I learn that what you fear is what you ultimately desire, I have yet to understand that the oldest fear of all is the fear of the unknown. I leave a book of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories to slip out right in front of me, the name already tangentially in my mind,leaving it to ferment there, before letting me and my hooded sweatshirt blend right back into the shadows …
They wanted to stop the Scream. The Scream itself is more powerful than a ghost. Ghosts that just echoes of thoughts, and scattered impulses without grounding. Sometimes they can affect a place, but they only have scraps of the Scream: of the ancient, instinctual urge. But even they, these faint resonances, have to possess some kind of link, or connection to people … and it becomes too much of an effort.
I walk on one side of my friends. Then another. We are friends. We are strangers. Flickering back and forth, I explore the city and it is hard to keep track of where I am, or where I even was.
“Lovely weather, we are having.” I say. In. A. Stilted. Voice. More. Separate. Words. Than. Sentences. “I. Was. The. Person.” I tell someone else, who I grow … grew … will grow close to for a time. “Who talked to you about non-Euclidean geometry.”
That is the moment. The seed from high school grows, watered by the blood of Clive Barker, but I don’t know that part yet, blooms into different micro-filaments more intricate that the film reels the wraiths pull out of the filmmaker’s guts and I follow them through the city.
I stand still as the city grows. Sim City. Civilization. Italo Calvino. Neil Gaiman. The Invisibles. The city is built by the dead built by the living by the dead as it swallows my family, my family doctor, my dentist, my friends, my lovers, my past my future my possibilities the things that happened the things that didn’t my self my life … The City is the Book and the Book is the hungry, beautiful Night that keeps on consuming …
The burning in my gullet from freshman university, from after high school, grows.
At first, I only jump-cut around the people I knew. Day and night became the same to me. I was just there. I realize that I have always just been here.
But isn’t the city. The city isn’t blood and mortar and bones and bad modernist poetry. Non-Euclidean geometry is the architecture of reality, of a gullet, of a constricted throat … and I am about to … about to …
I watch. I’m a student. A scholar. I trace things back to the source. As far as I can go. I’m tired of these clipped sentences that should really be separate words surrounding a larger idea. I know how this supposed to end. I know how it needs to continue.
I stop hunting the Scream that keeps me up at night. That keeps me from sleeping. I don’t go as far as the mathematician that scars himself with arcane symbolic logic and cocoons himself in a girl’s worst nightmares, trying to choke the blackness back, swollen and infected. I watch what it does. I observe. I research.
Writing out my findings, in my blood, makes the jump cut faster. But I’m getting numb. And that’s when I realize it. I realize it faster than the video gamer, and it figures that the video game would be the only survivor — the only hunter left — so far due to her staccato rhythm, but slow enough for the idea to reach its natural pitch.
I’ve grown distant enough that the words in my skin don’t hurt anymore, but it’s harder to hear the words: the ones that matter. Blood grounds the Scream. It feeds it.
It makes it real.
I stop to kill a person. It doesn’t take long. It happened a thousand years ago.
I keep going. Maybe it’s someone different. Or perhaps it’s the same person, over and again. It might even be me. The loneliness inside of me, the last emotion left, keens. It wails. I’m sure it creates its own echoes, scraps of paper through the city. The video gamer rips up the Book, the source, she thinks, and I feel the roar inside me multiplying, no longer carried along by the filmmaker … I thought I needed the Book. But I didn’t. We don’t.
We don’t hunt the Scream, you and I. We take it. We embrace it. And then, like life, we let it go. I remember who I am. I’m a student. A teacher. A teacher wants to spread their knowledge, to disseminate it throughout the world, and into willing minds. I can hear it so clearly now. The Book could make it so easy to jump-cut, but it’s gone. Even so, isn’t that what I’ve been doing? Writing a pastiche? Taking Lovecraft and Barker and piecing it altogether like a ransom note in a family album organized like a jigsaw puzzle of flesh and nightmares like William S. Burroughs?
That is all right. I hear us now. Congratulations, gamer. We are released. Banshees. Scream Queens. Screamers. We feed the Scream with the blood of others. I take a deep breath. The new Book can wait. Instead of swallowing the dark tide, I rip apart the two-dimensional paper of it all, the fake gestures, the empty lives … I follow the tide of the seeds released from the pieces of the Book. Scraps of paper flying scattered throughout space and time. I take off my hoodie. I don’t need it anymore. I throw back my head into the growing Night.
And I Scream.