#1 Parasites and Body Horror
I love animals, but I struggle when it comes to parasites, especially internal parasites (although ticks are high on my list of least liked animals).
There’s something about seeing a segment of tape worm crawl out of an animal and wriggle around, searching for another creature to cling to, that both disgusts and terrifies me.
You don’t even have to deep dive into how internal parasites alter their hosts behavior to be frightened. The thought of thousands of spores, cysts, eggs, larvae and adults squirming, feeding and exploding from your flesh is enough to disturb me for days.
#2 Body Snatchers
I was 6 when I first watched the 1950’s version of The Body Snatchers, and 12 when I was introduced to John Carpenter’s The Thing. I LOVED both movies (and still do). The Communist subtext of the first film was lost on me, and it was years before I learned about the AIDS symbolism of the second, but both gave me nightmares for weeks and profoundly changed me.
There is a deep, unsettling truth that underpins each movie about your dearest loved ones, the people you know best, turning out to be monsters. Strip away the aliens, and this has happened to many people in real life. It scares me, because how well do you really know someone?
#3 Losing Yourself
This is like the opposite of #2. While real life body snatchers show their true faces when it is no longer convenient to hide, or they betray you to save themselves, what happens to the fictional person when an alien replaces them?
I am terrified of the thought of my essence, my soul, being eaten away and replaced. That I could be taken over by a time traveler or a shapeshifter and no one would notice. Perhaps they’d even prefer the new me!
The root of this fear is probably from often being treated as invisible, or nothing, because I’m not rich, highly educated or successful in any way. It’s a horrible feeling to see a person’s eyes glaze over and slip from you, as if you no longer existed, when they realize you have nothing of ‘worth’ to offer them. Although, it’s even more frightening when someone who has always treated you this way suddenly acknowledges you because you now are useful to them!
Zombies have terrified me since I first saw Michael Jackson’s Thriller video at a very young age.
As a child I thought vampires stood for loss of humanity through obsession with carnality, werewolves represented the need to overcome inner rage and the call to violence, and zombies were the impersonal, inevitable, inescapable march of mortality.
Werewolves interested me most (because wolves!) as I understood rage, but zombies terrified me, not because I feared death, but because of their impersonal, equalitarian hunger. Like Terminators, they couldn’t be bargained with or reasoned with. They felt no pity or remorse, and they would not stop – ever. It didn’t matter if you were old, young, rich, poor, smart or dumb. Zombies wanted everyone, without actually wanting anything.
Now that I’m older, I’m much more interested in zombies as a metaphor of spiritual death rather than physical. People who appear to have lost their compassion, self respect and ability to love terrify me. How do you reason with someone who seeks to consume and destroy people in order to fill the emptiness in themself?
#5 Being Controlled
Numbers 1-4 can probably be easily summed up in my last scare.
It’s horrible to be lied to and manipulated. People who are good at manipulating you are very good at convincing you that it’s all in your head and they are controlling you because they care about you.
Modern life is full of manipulation and control. Advertising uses psychological tricks to alter your thinking and behavior (a bit like parasites) so that you buy products. Media does it too, and it seems to have become more extreme in the last few years where wonderful technological advances have been abused to spy on us, turn us into commodities and push people into polarizing groups.
Whether it’s fate, or aliens, or marketing gurus pulling the strings, it’s scary to think of yourself as a puppet.
What scares YOU?
Now that I’ve told you some of mine, why don’t you tell me about what scares you? List your fears in the comments. I look forward to reading them.
Naturally all of these scares appear in my novels and short stories. If you are scared by these things too, perhaps you’d like to explore my Books and find something new to read.