Insecurity and Trust

Insecurity and Trust

Sterling silver, once around my neck

lies coiled on the tile

in a serpent arabesque;

double-crossing the cross along its chain,

reminding me again

of the paradox of things,

which are seldom what they seem.

When, at times, words run dry

and actions spill their hollow contents on the floor;

when, at times, you feign a smile

and leave bloody handprints on the door;

words may come and words will go

and someday we might find

that these words we needed most

are the same we left behind.

You’re out of sight

and out of mind,

but only on the surface.

Sight is gone

but thoughts go on,

and thoughts are ever restless.

So, out of sight

and out of eye;

but never out of mind.

You always leave a residue;

a reminder of some kind.

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See You There

See You There

We all just want to be seen.

I want to be proud of my story;

I want to look at the horrible things that have happened,

And even those things I want to love.

It’s the tales with the most traumatic of scenes

That become most beloved of our history.

Why?

Because they mean something.

Women, Wellsprings, and Windmills

Women, Wellsprings, and Windmills

As women, we have great power and responsibility. We are designed to be tools of influence and wellsprings of strength to those around us. Our calling is a divine and beautiful one. Why, then, do we compare ourselves to one another and size each other up by beauty and status? What if we met other women as if we were meeting a kindred spirit or fellow royalty?

What if we treated each other as we would treat the divinity residing inside of them? And what if we actually believed that the selfsame divinity took up residence in us as well?

So many times we choose to embrace the practice of comparison and competition. It happens every time we meet other women; we instantly size each other up and decide which of us are the more appealing individuals. We classify ourselves and organize each other into a hierarchy of worth. Once the hierarchy is established in our minds we begin to immediately seek to steal power from those “above” us in order to increase our own dominance.

We are told at a young age to wait for a Prince Charming who will respect us and care for us the way we deserve. Our entire lives are geared towards attracting a man who will treat us with dignity and respect above all other women. The problem is that we don’t believe we should demonstrate to each other the same respect. We are taught to demand loving attention, and yet we withhold it from our fellow females merely for the sake of competition.

I was watching “Friends” the other day and was highly entertained to see the girls become completely obsessed with a self-help book geared towards empowering women. The book was entitled Be Your Own Windkeeper, and it declared that each woman is a goddess with her own wellspring of “wind”. It encouraged the girls to realize that many men in their lives were simply out to “steal their wind” and were hindering them from becoming the empowered goddesses they should be.

After much discussion, then debate, then realization, the girls are shocked to discover that it isn’t only the men in their lives who are robbing them of their wind. They finally realize that their precious wellspring of wind was being disturbed over and over again by each other! They had lied to, stolen from, cheated, and competed against one another for years without even realizing it.

Society prepares us to remain in constant competition with every other woman we contact. It’s so engrained in our learning as children and teenagers that we rarely even notice it as adults.

As cute and cliché as the “windkeeper” analogy is, there is something under its surface that rings true. We tend to suck the life out of one another in order to appear as though we are more worthy of life.

Women’s power to influence is much like the wind in many ways.

It inspires power and strength when harnessed freely. Without wind, no windmill turns and no power is harnessed. It would make no sense for the wind to hinder itself from the freedom to influence and to move boldly.

Imagine if women began to stand beside one another.

Imagine if we accepted one another as a sister fist and foremost regardless of our beauty, humor, significant other, or education. So much of our anxiety and fear would be absolved in love. We would meet more and more women who are courageous and not insecure. More of our friends would be loyal and not competitors. We would be joyful for each others’ accomplishments rather than jealous and backbiting.

We would be more like the women we wish we were.

To The River

To The River

There, before me, lay the campsite which I would call home these next four months. I had just begun to notice the steadily increasing weight set upon my shoulders by the backpack secured onto them; we’d been hiking for at least two hours and I was not used to such extended periods of exertion.

“We’re here,” Jason announced silently from beside me, re centering his own pack between his shoulders as he spoke. I smiled in response to his verbal reassurance that our hike had finally come to a conclusion.

The campsite rested on the well-worn path we had not dared stray from the entire time we inhabited these woods. As we neared the site, I studied the uneven slopes on either side of the path; they had not changed at all throughout the entire stretch of distance we had covered within the past couple of hours between our previous camp and here. To my right, a jagged, upward slope of uneven forest extended endlessly some fourty feet into the air before leveling off towards the top in a constant shadow of leaves. To my left lay a mirrored image of my right, save for the sole exception of an opposite downward slope some thirty yards in depth. We never dared stray from the dirt-covered path we walked now. Even our last campsite had been confined to the same brown earth as this one was.

As we approached, I noticed a site leader briefing the new arrivals on the most basic of knowledge needed for survival; the same knowledge which kept us on this path and away from the trees on either side.

“I do not wish to alarm you,” he was saying as we passed, “but we have reason to believe that these woods are inhabited by a hostile clan of people. I do not have the authority to present to you the evidence of this discovery, but I am ordered to advise you all that entry into these woods is strictly prohibited for both your individual safety and for the safety of your group. Now the duties here are much like those from your previous site . . . ”

I tuned out the rest of his speech. This was my third relocation, so it already seemed I had heard the exact same briefing a thousand times over. I could probably give it myself if asked, though it would have to be with paper and pen.

Jason and I were shown to our tents, and he stayed with me so that I could use his help to settle in if I needed it. I didn’t, of course, but he stayed until I finished nonetheless.

“I’ll meet you by the post in about fifteen minutes, okay?” he suggested as I surveyed the tent for anything I might have missed. I nodded in reply and gave him a grateful smile. It was times like these when I wished desperately for the ability to speak. I had been mute from birth; unable to even cry as a baby and unable now to express my gratitude with a simple ‘thank you’.

“I know. You’re welcome, Claire,” Jason replied as if he could read my thoughts just as easily as I could understand English. Jason turned and ducked out of the tent, leaving me alone for an uncertain amount of silent minutes.

I pulled the boots from my feet and spread out the lightly padded sleeping bag onto the ground, taking the advantage of rare down-time to rest. The moment my body settled into the bag, my aching muscles instantly relaxed and, before I knew it, I opened my eyes to a darkened tent.

I was up in an instant, recalling everything that had taken place before I’d fallen asleep in a groggy four seconds before becoming overcome with guilt. I hated that, for falling asleep without having met Jason as I had promised, I would not even be allowed to say ‘I’m sorry’.

The darkness of the tent slowly began to cast a faint tint of light at the seems, assuring me that morning was soon approaching. I stretched, pulled on my boots, and slowly made my way to Jason’s tent. I felt like I should be kicking the dirt as I walked, much like a kindergartener would do as they approached their parents after being caught doing something wrong.

I found Jason just outside of his tent, tying a line which would later be used for holding fish if he had any luck that day. He turned at the sound of my approach. I could not tell if it was that he read the look on my face, or if he truly could read my mind, but he again responded exactly to what i was thinking.

“It’s alright, Claire. You needed rest,” he assured me with understanding. I paused, a foot away from him, and then wrapped my arms around his waist. He returned my embrace without reluctance. “I went down to the river yesterday after I checked on you when you were sleeping. We shouldn’t have any trouble catching anything today.” I nodded in reply and then began to help him finish the line he’d been working on. We worked in silence only a few minutes before Jason asked if I was ready to go.

As we made our way down the path, I noticed that it began to widen significantly the farther we continued. The sloping forests on either side, however, remained as steep and foreboding as ever. I soon became completely absorbed in studying the trees as we passed between them and, eventually, I began to notice the slightest movements among them. Every time I found myself open to the outside air on the dirt path, I was careful to remain aware that I was not walking unseen. Now, though, as I studied the movements which arrested my attention, I was more aware of a foreign presence in those woods than I ever had been before.

My hand found Jason’s as I began to remember every rumor ever created which claimed to explain our fear of the forests and whatever may inhabit them. My head turned involuntarily to the right, scanning the trees rapidly in attempt to reconcile movement with mover to no avail. I could have sworn I’d seen something shift through the trees. Jason recognized the fear in my frantic movements and, when my foot caught a stray stone, he was ready to catch me before my body could hit the ground. He held me there, unsure of what had caused my panic though he assured me that everything would be alright nonetheless. I’d believed him. I always believed him.

“Is everything alright?” a voice inquired from somewhere behind us. We turned to see a man approaching from the direction which we had come.

“Yes, everything is just fine,” Jason echoed his reassurances.

Only I could detect that hidden note of defense which tainted his words, and I knew he did not trust this man. I’d never seen him before, but we had just arrived at the new site so there was no way I could have familiarized myself with every face. Still, I instantly understood Jason’s aversion to this man. There was a strangeness to his posture and the way he formed his words; something unfamiliar about the way he walked. He was not like the rest of us. As I had assumed, the man did not recognize the sharp tone of Jason’s reply. Only someone who knew him as I did could pick up on the distrust underlying his polite words. The man approached us slowly as Jason steadied me on my feet.


What concerned me most about this man was not the fear incited by his presence, but rather my attraction towards the mystery surrounding him. I was compelled to understand him while determined to fear him. Another movement from the high slope arrested my attention. This time, Jason was aware of it as well. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed his gaze find the same spot mine rushed to encompass.

“Do you see that?” the man was mumbling from somewhere behind us.

I turned to see him standing on the edge of the path, looking down into the opposite slope as if he had encountered something truly extraordinary. I barely noticed that I had taken an unconscious step forward until a slight rustling of trees brought my gaze back towards the upward slopes. Instead of focusing on the trees this time, my eyes were now fixed on Jason; his back turned towards me as he scanned the treeline. Why hadn’t he turned? Surely he had heard the stranger’s mumbling.

“Claire,” I turned again to see the man waiting for me at the edge of the path. His very position seemed to earn my distrust, yet I could not curtail my curiosity.

I tilted my head to one side, wishing I could ask him how he knew my name. The stranger merely beckoned with one hand, and I realized that I was already moving to join him. Once I reached the path’s edge, he pointed somewhere into the distant drop of ground – towards the point where the earth just began to level out into interlocking patterns of shadow and light. There, I could barely make out the faint silhouette of some unknown object which lay on the forest floor below. I looked up at the stranger and furrowed my brow, but he merely inclined his head towards the very spot in question and I returned my gaze to the shadow below. Suddenly, it shifted, and I knew then exactly what the silhouette belonged to.

A child lay on the forest floor, writhing from some unknown pain. My mouth fell open into a silent gasp. Absolute fear set in, and I immediately turned to the stranger. His eyes were locked onto the child as if nothing on earth could tear them away.

“She needs you,” the stranger prompted me with eerie calm.

My heart throbbed, sprinting at an uncontrollable speed which I feared my pulse could not contain. I needed to call out to Jason. I needed his help desperately, but when I turned to face him I was horrified to find that he stood motionless with his back still offered to me. I opened my mouth to cry out for him to turn around, but could never muster any volume to my voice; even now. I could not understand what evil kept him in his cold and placid stance.

Frustrated and frightened, I approached the ledge as I monitored the girl’s movement below. Glancing back at Jason once, I felt as though I was a child standing at the edge of a busy street and looking over my shoulder to see if I was still beneath the watchful gaze of a protective father; knowing that I was not allowed another step while I considered to do just that. However, with Jason’s refusal to acknowledge my existence, I suddenly felt abandoned and alone.

I threw an accusing glare at the stranger and, suddenly, I was moving. The stark juxtaposition of the harsh dirt of the path and the soft bed of the forest earth was startling. I had already managed to climb down the first ledge and was preparing to attempt the next one before I even realized what I was doing. My balance seemed terribly unsteady, and it took nearly everything in me to keep my concentration in tact.

By the third ledge, I found myself peering over the side at the place where the child had once been. What had begun as intense fear now set in as pure panic seeping into my veins and taking control as I searched for the girl and found nothing. There was no possibility that she could have moved from that spot quickly enough to be lost into the woods again. A maddening thought crossed my mind slowly, churning my blood into sickening whirlpools: had she even been there at all?

Suddenly, the earth gave way beneath me and my foot crashed out from under me, sending my reflexes into immediate action. My leg snapped backwards, away from the crumbling ldge, and came to settle beneath me as I retreated into an abrupt crouching position. Fearful of rising again to my feet, I remained there for an immeasurable moment until a faint sound reached my ears.

Somewhere in the close distance to my left, I could barely make out the noise of pronounced breathing. Slowly, cautiously, I turned my head towards the sound and my eyes widened immediately when they fixed upon its source.

There, no farther than twelve feet from me, rested the most magnificent and beautiful creature I had ever encountered; but for every note of beauty possessed by the animal, an even higher scale of fear arose in my heart as the wolf slowly barred its teeth and produced a low, menacing rubmble from its throat.

My head whipped back around, searching for the place where I had begun my descent, and paused. The stranger was peering at my stance from the safety of the path above me. I pleaded with him through my eyes, willing him to help. As soon as I fixed my eyes upon the stranger, I felt the breath shoot out of me as if I had just fallen from a great height. The pleading helplessness drained from my expression and malice took its place immediately.

“It’s alright,” the beguiler smiled and beckoned me to continue.

I felt confusion wrinkle my forehead as I once again faced the creature whose land I was now defiling. How could this stranger urge me onward in the face of this terrible danger? I scarcely had time to register this thought before the wolf charged. Stunned, I was unable to rise from my knees. My hands remained pressed palms downwards into the earth beneath me. Even as my heart threatened to beat itself free from my chest and blood pulsed violently through my wrists, I was locked into this one position as death fast approached me.

I memorized every detail of my attacker in mere seconds, as if the short ticks of the second hand had been long, stretched hours before me. I watched as its muscles coiled and uncoiled beneath its white-stained silver coat, rippling with rage. In the final moment, as the creature took his final stride in attack, I was released from the tethers which locked me to the ground. I threw my arms over my head while my moth opened into a soundless scream.

My entire body was drained of feeling, but I could hear the sound of tearing flesh as the wolf’s claws found immediate purchase into the soft skin of my back. Shortly after the sickening impact, however, my ears picked up on another, more familiar and oddly more comforting sound that I struggled to recognize. Among the snarls and shreds which assaulted my hearing, the sound I could faintly pick out over the violence was entirely human; a voice crying out in frustrate exertion.

Blood began to sting my eyes and I wondered if I had suffered a head wound so profound as to distort my thoughts. It wasn’t until I felt a reassuring grasp fall onto my hand that I realized what had happened. The wolf was suddenly calmed, his body heavy and almost limp with sudden weariness. I was somehow being dragged out from beneath him.


Jason’s voice rose from beside me, urging me to move. I could not comprehend what had allowed him to manage the wolf without he himself being killed in the process. I forced myself to follow him back up to the path, though I was slowly beginning to regain feeling in my body.

With every move I made, I became aware of another wound I had suffered during the attack and it wasn’t long before I realized how badly I had been injured. I looked back at the wolf and was taken aback by what I saw. I could not tell if he was living or dead, nor whether the thick splotches of blood covering its coat were left there by me or if Jason had managed to bloody him with the wolf’s own flesh.

After what seemed to be hours, we finally reached the path and with it, what I expected to be safety. However, as soon as I placed my foot back onto the path, I knew that something was horridly different. There was a deadly silence covering the ground, and every nerve in my body was strung tight; as if each was fitted to a bow and set with an arrow. Through the silence, the forest seemed more alive than ever. I knew that the path we stood on was no longer a safe haven.

“We have to move,” Jason warned.

I stole a glance at his face as he began to pull me along, and I knew that he was quietly taking stock of the events that had just occurred. I was grateful that I hadn’t gotten the chance to look him straight in the eye since I forsook the path. I wasn’t sure if I could bear to see the wrath and rejection I was sure to find in his face.

Another glance backwards sent an automatic intake of air past my lips. Lying in the place of the stranger who had coaxed me to ruin, was a body. More surprising than this was the figure of a woman, dressed in some strange fabric, stooping over the corpse. Jason pulled me more forcefully in the direction he was leading. I could pick out the faint music of moving water now as we walked.

Another curve in the path blocked us from the hideous recent past and I was standing in direct view of the river. The lower slope had gradually risen to the level of the path in order to meet it and provide ample ground for the river to extend into almost dizzying coils and turns before us.

I had never before known anything apart from the familiar path and foreboding trees which encompassed it. I’d never imagined that I could merely brave the endeavor of crossing this river to find a bright, fresh, and new forest completely opposite in design from the others. I wondered if this had always been Jason’s hope in spending so much time around water. If we could get across, I knew there would be more camps in these new woods. We could leave the dreariness of what we were used to behind.

I scanned the bank for anything which could aid our crossing. There were several rafts as well as slender boats docked there. Jason turned to face me, taking both my shoulders into his hands and looking sternly into my face as if I were a child. What I saw in his eyes was nothing what I expected. Instead of anger, accusations, or disgust, I saw an incredible sadness I had never seen before. Jason interrupted me from trying to make sense of my expression by asking me systematically what I thought I was capable of in terms of crossing the river. He was simultaneously taking in my appearance, and I looked at myself for the first time since I was injured.

I immediately felt my stomach churn. I looked just as the wolf had, and could not determine which gory splotches belonged to me and which belonged to my former foe. My head was swimming, and I wondered if I had been thinking clearly at all since the attack. It wasn’t until Jason forced me to look at him again that I realized he was asking me something and pointing to one of the boats. I could only assume he wanted me to go there and I nodded dizzily, but that wasn’t enough for him. The demanding tone of his voice as he spoke again made me realize he had been repeating himself.

“I asked if you could make it to that boat, Claire.”

It was delayed, but the shock of seeing that Jason had escaped the attack unscathed save for a few incisions on his arms alarmed me.

“Oh God,” was all I could say.

I saw myself now – as clearly as anyone would have from the outside looking in. I was drowning in that river; not now, but in the near future. I would never make it across. I couldn’t answer his question truthfully. I would leave out the second half of my answer, and merely nod again, indicating that I could make it to the boat . . . but no farther.

At least I couldn’t tell the truth if I had wanted to. The mute make excellent liars. My response satisfied him, and he took my hand to lead me to the boat, the river, my drowning, and his survival.

—-End

Rembryn Gate

Rembryn Gate

Introduction:

There is a house far from town, and no one knows to whom it belongs. I’ve often wondered what it looks like, though I imagine it must resemble the iron gates that surround its property. In fact, I’ve wondered how anyone knows a house exists beyond those gates. No one seems to know and, oddly, no one seems to care. Perhaps it’s my childish curiosity that keeps me wondering.

Still, it is my childish curiosity that drew me towards that house one evening. Though the events that followed may have been prolonged had I chosen not to go, they could not have been avoided.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Pencil to Paper→

Chapter 2: Speak to Me →

Chapter 3: Jocelynne →

Chapter 4: Houses and Shadow →

Chapter 5 (in progress)

Lucidity and The X-Files

Lucidity and The X-Files

According to David Punter, gothic works such as the episode of The X-Files entitled “Chimera” remain ambiguous in their attempt to make lucid comments on our culture and the society in which we live. “Chimera” exhibits attributes of paranoia, barbarism, and taboo that are typical of a work of gothic literature. These elements combine to highlight inconsistencies within social structure, and bring to light what is collectively feared by the human race. It is not the practice of Gothicism to leave much of anything satisfactorily resolved and neatly explained; Gothicism’s uneasiness thrives on the practice of forcing its audience to engage in the entertainment of complex and fearsome comparisons while leaving enough to ruminate over long afterwards. The show certainly leaves open ended many questions that arise within the course of the story; the elements of the supernatural, the subtle challenging of reality, and the uneasy representations of the characters all leave the viewer with more than enough to turn over and analyze. However, this practice does not necessarily mean “Chimera” is incapable of creating a lucid commentary on society to the comparison of the suburbs and the dark workings of the underworld.

Through the use of symbolism, the episode successfully compares both the underworld and the suburban community in order to allow the viewer to understand that although the cultures of the underworld and of the suburban utopia are different in appearance, what lies beneath both is ultimately human nature. Therefore, both are equally vulnerable to evil. The only difference between them is the type of evil, and the presentation. The most significant elements of symbolism through which the episode operates are that of the ravens, the mirrors, and the chimera creature; each is used to depict themes of barbarism, taboo, and paranoia through the scope of the paranormal. Nevertheless, despite the lucid commentary these symbols create, they reserve the final scene to once again promote ambiguity and maintain their complexity.

The complex symbol of the raven is left broadly open-ended, save for Mulder’s over-simplified summary of its connotations; he merely states their association with deception, evil, and companionship to evildoers. This, in turn, translates to Punter’s idea of paranoia. “Chimera” allows the viewer to share in “a situation of ambiguity . . . in which the attribution of persecution remains uncertain and the [viewer] is invited to share in the doubts and uncertainties which pervade the” characters (Punter 405). Paranoia is defined as “a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance”. It is often linked to personality disorders, such as the anomaly present in Ellen.

The RavenThe ravens seem to act as Ellen’s companions, being present at any significant emotional state throughout her life. They also act as a symbol of her cognitive process in which her transformation into the chimera is triggered. They appear in connection with Martha, Jenny, the skeleton key, and finally the mental hospital. Each of these entities is a direct source of jealousy, persecution, and is an enemy to what is most important to Ellen. Directly after Ellen’s discovery of the skeleton key, the raven ushers in the chimera’s image behind Ellen’s human reflection in the mirror. The image of the chimera is only available to her through reflections, and previously had completely replaced her own image in Martha’s mirror and in the car window. By presenting the creature as a separate entity in the mirror and portraying Ellen as an object of the creature’s pursuit, this scene solidifies Ellen’s belief of her victimized state and serves as a visual manifestation of her paranoia.

This inward evil, created by Ellen’s growing paranoia, can be linked to a single source: the taboo nature of her society. It is the “presence of highly stereotypical characters” (Punter 1) that allow questions “of relations between sexes” to mingle with “taboos associated with man’s supposed place in the hierarchy of natural and divine life” to be so thoroughly explored throughout the episode (Punter 405). The second symbol to be explored is linked to this concept, as mirrors embody connotations of inward perception among other things. Mulder offers an even more sparse explanation for the phenomenon of the broken mirrors as he supplied for the significance of the ravens. However, he does not overlook their importance. He urges Phil to understand that “mirrors are considered items of enchantment; a broken one means something.” Phil goes to the mirror and stares deeply into his reflection right after his affair is revealed. It is as though he is confronting all of his sins merely by beholding the mirror’s reflection. There is a sense that a mirror sees private events that no one else is able to witness.

The mirrors in “Chimera” could have told the entire story without need for investigation, had they been granted the ability to talk. Mulder makes reference to the idea that mirrors are doorways used to summon evil, but the conclusion reveals that he is wrong; the mirrors act not as doors, but as windows to the taboos of suburbia. First of all, Phil’s affair with Martha and Jenny is what causes the turmoil from the beginning. Interestingly, the rooms in which the affair is conducted are decorated with mirrored ceilings. This lends to the function of sight that the mirrors fulfill. Secondly, “Chimera” upsets the notion that the man is the head of the household.

It appears as though the women exercise a significant amount of control over the suburban men in a manner that is degrading and eerie. However, they try to hide behind the appearance that their men are in control the entire time. Early on, Howard refuses to return home and to take part in the family structure at all. When Martha is taken out of the picture, it is obvious that her husband is no significant part of his household. He seems out of place among the decoration of the house, and he is at a complete loss as to how to care for his child in the absence of her mother. Ellen makes elaborate meals, noting that it is because sharing those meals is the only time she is allotted with her husband. Philip even claims coldly that his wife’s pregnancy deliberately “locked [him] up good”. Furthermore, when Phil tells Jenny that they can no longer see each other, Jenny thinks nothing of it. She effortlessly convinces him to continue the affair.

All of this is suppressed for the sake of appearance, and this suppression is made manifest in the chimera creature. The creature is a product of the community’s suppressed taboo. She is well aware of the affair, keeping it repressed into her subconscious, and tells Mulder that she even immerses herself into perfecting her home because the housework gives her the illusion of being in control. Ellen does not wish to see the truth; therefore the mirrors break upon revealing it. It isn’t until she looks into a mirror that cannot break (the water into which she submerges the FBI agent) that she is able to experience and come to terms with the chimera and to control her suppressed fears and desires.

The ChimeraThe juxtaposition between Ellen and her chimera is an excellent metaphor for Punter’s idea of barbarism. Centered on the theme of barbarism is the “fear of aristocracy, which provides the basis for “monsters with aristocratic qualities (Punter 405). Gothic literature employs these monsters in order to compare and contrast “good” and “evil”. Gothicism brings its audience to the fine line between the civilized and the barbaric to “demonstrate . . . the relative nature of ethical and behavioral codes” and brings it to a place “in which these codes do not operate, or operate only in distorted forms” (Punter 405). The innocent Ellen provides the monster with the aristocratic connotations found in most gothic literature. The blending also allows for the comparison and subversion of elements regarding the upper class and the “underworld” of society. Agents Mulder and Scully act as patrons of each.

Scully complains constantly about her degraded condition while Mulder visits the seemingly perfect town in the suburbs. However, Mulder soon begins to understand that something even ranker that what Scully is experiencing is going on within this small community. Despite Martha’s “perfect” home, the beautiful Easter celebration, and the close friendship between Martha and Ellen, the chimera proves to turn suburbia into something more terrible than the underworld can muster for Scully. Mulder even assures his partner that the view in suburbia is not any different than the one she sees through her telescope; it’s just dressed up a little nicer. Even the beautiful Easter egg hunt is tainted with the presence of evil, and a member of the underworld wrecks Ellen’s home. Furthermore, it is not a member of the underworld who taints Martha’s home, though Phil certainly acts identically to one. Jenny reminds Ellen that they all have more in common than they realize.

"Ellen"Although Martha vehemently attempts to separate herself from Jenny, it cannot be denied that their sins are transparently identical. Ellen, too, is not blameless in the murders she has committed in reaction to those sins. The chimera goes as far as to plant Martha’s body in her own rose garden, further mingling the horrid sins of the underworld with the placidity of utopia by stating literally “you’ve made your bed; now lie in it”. This blurs the lines between the two worlds and emphasizes the evil in Ellen’s. When the murderer’s identity is realized, Ellen is revealed as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The transformation of suburbia into the underworld is complete, and the evil residing there cannot be hidden any longer. Ironically, at the same time as Mulder uncovers the truth about utopia, Scully realizes the opposite in her own case. Rather than a wolf in sheep’s clothing, she discovers that her case is that of a “sheep in wolf’s clothing”.

This complete reversal of underworld to utopia gives the impression that it was the underworld all along that was good and suburbia that was evil. However, when further analyzed, the implications of good are still present in the suburban environment while the implications of evil remain as well within the world of Scully’s stakeout. Mulder had been warmly received and cared for by Ellen, while Scully experienced sights that would forever leave an unpleasant scar on her memory. There still existed a genuine love between Martha and Ellen before the affairs, and there was still a need for Scully’s suspect to use deception in order to bestow kindness upon the prostitutes to whom he was ministering. Therefore, the show implies neither that the two worlds are exactly the same, nor that they are two opposing ends of a pole. However, it does imply that the two worlds exist atop the same underlying plane of human nature.

Just as most of the literature of the genre, “Chimera” only resolves what is necessary in order for the audience to have sufficient material to consider possible implications derived from the ambiguity of the text. Having paved the way for lucid commentary up to a certain point, the raven is reintroduced into the final scene for a fresh dose of gothic ambiguity. As the now-enlightened Ellen looks upon her dark companion with acceptance in her eyes and the absence of fear, no explanation of this scene is provided. Ellen’s strange final encounter with the raven and her own paranoia seem to symbolize something far deeper than the previously lucid implications of the show. It deals with the definition of evil, and poses questions as to how that evil is somehow connected to human nature in a way that it becomes almost synonymous with a society built around humanity. The cage out of which Ellen gazes seems to both trap and free her simultaneously, and the raven remains out of her reach yet perfectly accessible. It seems as though all of the symbolism has converged into this final scene, and that now only two remaining symbols are the raven and the cage. The raven now seems to embody evil, and the cage society. However, the implications are unnerving and unclear.

Though the show is far more complex than can be wrapped up and completely explained after this final encounter, lucid commentary is present throughout and can be clearly seen through its symbolism. Punter may have been correct about the three areas of taboo, barbarism, and paranoia, but he was not entirely correct about Gothicism’s inability to make lucid commentary about objects of fear. As demonstrated by “Chimera”, Gothicism possesses a wonderful ability to both clarify and subvert. Punter was correct in his assertion that Gothicism thrives on the ambiguous, but he underestimated the genre’s ability to also provide equally lucid material. Although “Chimera” leaves with the viewer a final scene pregnant with ambiguous meaning, the symbolism throughout the show does well to clearly define lucid commentary that reveals much about society and collective fear.

Continue reading “Lucidity and The X-Files”

Is What you Perceive Actually What Is?

Is What you Perceive Actually What Is?

               What is it that makes the genre of horror and fantasy so compelling and frightful? One could argue that paraxis is the cause for fear in such a genre, as it penetrates deeply into the minds of its audience. This phenomenon is experienced repeatedly by viewers of the TV show The Twilight Zone, and is especially prominent in the episode “Spur of the Moment”. The doubling of both the future and past manifestations of the protagonist in “Spur of the Moment” act as the two opposing mirrors of mise en abyme, subverting any and all values to which it can be applied and acting as the source of the episode’s paraxis.

“Spur of the Moment” is an excellent manifestation of doubling in order to create paraxis within fantasy. The story is elegant in its simplicity, and wildly complex when examined to any depth. During this episode, Anne encounters herself as a double, which succeeds in “break[ing] the boundaries separating self from other”, and leaves Anne prey to a “radical open-endedness of being (Jackson 86). As Anne encounters her future self, and vice versa, one is forced to wonder which representation of the protagonist is the “real” one. Is Anne chasing her past, or being chased by her future? Both manifestations are absolutely convinced that she is the one experiencing the phenomenon, but logic dictates that only one is real and the other must be a ghost. However, the mere idea of the existence of a ghost defies all logic in the first place. The very existence of the doubles is illogical, and yet we desperately work to apply some form of logic upon them in attempt to make sense of the uncanny episode. How are these doubles able to interact? How are they able to exist within the constant loop in which they seem to be trapped? When did this loop begin, how does it end, and where does it exist? There is an empty gap where these questions are formed, and this space only grows as logic attempts to fill it.

Paraxis is the undefinable and empty space between a perceived image and the object from where the image came (Jackson 19). This idea of paraxis can also be described in a work of fantasy as the “uncanny” or the “strange”. Jackson claims that “by attempting to make visible that which is culturally invisible . . . [fantasy] introduces absences” (Jackson 69) in order to subvert cultural ideas. Paraxis exists in spaces that become nothing, and is defined as “undefinable”. Just as déjà vu can never be truly deemed as real or imagined, paraxis exists somewhere between real and unreal. The viewer of  “Spur of the Moment” is sent through an ongoing loop of logic in attempt to understand the curious events centered on Anne. Paraxis is created as the viewer attempts to organize the cause-and-effect relationships between Anne’s actions. The young woman first chose to run away and to ruin her life. However, she then returned to warn herself of the consequences of running and caused herself to make the life-ruining decision in the first place. This, in turn, caused her to attempt the warning all over again, only to repeatedly embrace the same decision. It is this constant loop that keeps the viewer as far from a conclusion as possible. This constant grasping for an answer that does not exist begins to wear on the mind of the viewer, and creates a potently unsettling string of questions that lead to equally unsettling absences of answers. It is this lack of finality, this lack of knowing, and this idea of the unknowable that is paraxis. Since the inception of the popular TV series, the title of The Twilight Zone itself has become a term that is commonly used to refer to the same ideas from which paraxis is created. It is for this reason that, often times, one will hum the theme song of this television show in the midst of an unsettling and sometimes mildly laughable situation.

Anne’s life is both completed and destroyed by this loop created from the meeting of her doubles. The future holds Anne’s real fears, while the past holds her unconscious desires. The 40-year-old Anne embodies her unconscious fears, while the 18-year-old Anne hints at her repressed desires. Anne’s life is simultaneously made complete and broken down by the meeting of these doubled and contradictory symbols. Her life is completed in the sense that her past and her future come together as two pieces of a horrifying puzzle. However, setting Anne on a repeated loop for eternity simultaneously destroys it. Since the past and the future cannot exist within the same dimension, they consume each other after completing one another. This can similarly be represented by a simple math equation: negative one plus positive one equals zero. “Spur of the Moment” succeeds in the “replacing of presence by absence”, creating the motif of “signifier without signified” (Jackson 69). This motif of “signifier without signified” is the very source of subversion, and also the idea of death. Ultimately, “Spur of the Moment” forces its viewers to ask the daunting question: “Does Anne even exist at all?” It is a question not easily answered, and one that leads down a dark path. Eventually, the reader is forced to confront the ultimate question: “Do I even exist?” Logically, the intermingling of past and future cannot take place at all, and so they are both subverted and destroyed.

The heavy foundations of paraxis laid down by Anne’s double are essential to the systematic subversion that this episode achieves. The uncanny loop that the viewer is forced to sort through paired with the ultimate question of existence is employed for the purpose of unsettling the viewer. If subversion is to be achieved, “the presentation of impossibility is not by itself a radical activity” enough to uphold it, and the text will “subvert only if the reader is disturbed” by the content (Jackson 23). Ultimately, the doubling of the protagonist will subvert all cultural values with which this story comes into contact. This is because “Spur of the Moment” successfully “subverts dominant philosophical assumptions which uphold as ‘reality’” (Jackson 48). The two most prominent cultural ideas that can be ascribed to this tale contradict one another, and yet they still deconstruct upon being applied to the story. The first is the idea of marrying for love, which has been a highly romanticized and praised notion since the inception of Romanticism itself. The second is the idea of marriage as a business transaction, which has generally been viewed as the most logical and most levelheaded decision a person could make when it comes to choosing a life partner. Both ideas are deeply embedded into the culture of this episode, and both are simultaneously praised and scorned in their own ways. Anne did choose to marry for love, and the future of that decision clearly shows that it was a mistake. Though her fate seems to warn against the value of choosing love over money, one must wonder whether or not Anne would have been any happier with the wealthier man. He certainly would have taken better care of the estate, but who can argue that Bob would have acted as a better husband figure than David proved to be? He behaves just the same as Anne’s manipulative father, and even has the audacity to treat Anne’s mother as if she were a child. Furthermore, Anne was unhappy enough with Bob that she was wildly compelled to run away with David instead. This suggests that Bob was poisonous to her already, before the marriage had a chance to begin. If Anne’s future was so seemingly secure with Bob, why does she become so aggressively defensive when he jokingly suggests that the woman in black was warning her against marrying him? If both men prove to be disastrous to the fate of our protagonist, what value does the episode uphold? “Spur of the Moment” certainly cannot uphold the idea of marrying for love with such a fate as Anne’s. However, the episode suggests an equally dark fate as a result of marrying for money. Ascribe any cultural value to this tale in the same manner, and the result will always end in the subversion of that value.

These final questions, forged from the destructive qualities of subversion, are exactly what feeds the unnerving phenomenon of paraxis and consumes “Spur of the Moment” until there is nothing left to analyze. The doubling of the protagonist both defies logic and yet upholds it in strange ways. This simultaneous support and destruction of logic allows that empty space to become a black hole of subversion, and that is the source of the unsettling nature of The Twilight Zone.

Works Cited

Jackson, R. Fantasy, the literature of subversion. London, England: Psychology Press, 1981. Print.

“Spur of the Moment.” Writ. Richard Matheson, and Dir. Elliot Silverstein. The Twilight Zone. 1964. Television.   <http://www.hulu.com/watch/440890>.