Copyright 2010 by Gary L. Pullman
Eyes with vertical slits for pupils. Red irises. A third eye. Eyes in the back of one’s head. Eyes instead of nipples. An eye inside a navel. Eyes in kneecaps.
Eyes that don’t belong.
Fangs instead of teeth. Steel incisors among the enamel ivories. Teeth that glow in the dark. Extracted teeth.
Teeth that don’t belong.
Claws instead of fingernails or toenails. Elongated or serrated claws. Talons. Claws along the arm or leg.
Nails that don’t belong.
Although these are examples so extreme as to be unlikely, real-life counterparts do exist, such as supernumerary body parts (extra breasts or nipples, additional ribs, two penises, a set of both male and female genitals, additional teeth, an extra head, an extra arm or leg, more than two testicles, a third kidney, webbed digits, double vaginal canals or uteri).
Although, fortunately, the public’s attitude toward such “freaks” (actually individuals unfortunate enough to have suffered a deformity as the result of a genetic abnormality, a birth defect, or a disease) has greatly improved since such conditions were regarded as proof of the devil or the wrath of God (see my article on “Teratology”] , horror maestros, both of print and film, continue to use them, both as sideshow performers or, more often, in cameo-style appearances which focus upon their oddities rather than their personalities.
Depending upon their visibility and their extremeness, such “extras” may horrify us because they don’t belong. They are out of place. They defy the neat categories of existence and of understanding. They challenge the world as we know it, which is the world as it is supposed to be.
They are signs of chaos, signs of the unraveling of the universe’s order, signs of the end, my friend.
As children, we played a game, circling the one object that did not belong among the others of a set. Hence, we might circle the fish among the fowl or the mammal among the reptiles or the amphibians. The odd man out was odd; therefore, he was out, whether a carp among hens, an ape among frogs, or a troll among the Danes.
That which doesn’t belong is horrific; it must be cast out, and it must be kept out. If it finds a way in, among us, there will be suffering, and there will be death.
This is one of the basic principles of horror. Carrie White is an outcast who tries to get “in,” to become accepted by, if not popular among, the peers who reject her. Before she is admired by the prince, Cinderella is rejected by her stepmother and her stepsisters. Grendel attacks, kills, and devours the Danish warriors of Heorot hall because he envies them their camaraderie, which is denied to him, the ostracized son of Cain.
If you’re in need of something monstrous for your next short story, novel, or film, seek that which is lost, and give it a home among those who have banished, exiled, evicted, or dispossessed it.
Then, things will get interesting.