Horrorshow – Normalcy

Posted: July 25, 2019 in Horror, Post-Apocalypse
Tags: , , , , ,

So, now that normalcy is back, I can address the second part of my blog post I started way back here on the Horror genre.

Funny, that word “normalcy”. See, that’s where real horror rears its ugly head. When blessed normalcy is destroyed, it opens tiny breaches in the walls of our lives that let the horrors in. Anyone can tell a gross-out story that’s more like a wrecking ball smashing into the house–yes, it hurts, but unless you’re blind, you can see it coming (and if you are blind, you can probably hear it coming). REAL horror is slow, the cracks in the foundation where water seeps in and undermines the wall that will bring it down without warning. We’re left picking through the pieces, trying to make sense of what happened and not being able to reassemble even a fraction to recreate the life as it was “before” the horror.

Some post-apoc stories address this in a way that embraces Horror – a future of no-holds-barred version of humanity, where civilization and the things we take for granted are memories. Only those willing and able to exert force against others stand a chance for survival, and even then it’s the slimmest line between who wears the white hat, and who wears the black. Anarchy descends, confrontations become brutal and bloody over the dwindling resources. The lucky ones die first.

There’s another kind of aspect with that concept of “normalcy” that has a very odd highlighting event: Chernobyl. While I grew up with it in the news from half a globe away, others faced it as their horrifying reality. Chernobyl still sits among the world’s concerns after decades, not just because of the extensive political corruption, cover-ups, incompetency and lies. No, the real horror ran a lot deeper, faced by those who responded to the disaster and those who lived in what is now known as the “Exclusion Zone”.

For the first responders, they were just doing their jobs, putting out the fires caused by the explosion, all the while being assaulted by a ghost – incapable of being seen, being heard, being felt – that had very real teeth. The bodies of these men began to betray them with that insidious poison, robbing these strong men of their ability, their dignity, even the comfort of human touch, exchanging it all for intense pain and suffering only death can remove it. THAT is horror.

And the normalcy of the people who lived around there, who may or may not have known about the explosion that rendered the countryside unlivable. Those in Pripyat were forced to leave, and leave everything behind, being reassured that they would return in a little while. Others, the people who only knew their farms and patches of land found themselves approached by the soldiers either ripping them from their homes, unable to even take their pets (to be razed, hauled away and buried, with literally nothing but the underlayer of dirt left behind. I will not mention what happened to the pets.) or who warned them of that invisible threat. They couldn’t understand why they couldn’t drink their cow’s milk, eat their hens’ eggs, or the potatoes grown in their gardens. A scientific concept becomes a beast, a vampire that drains the blood of normalcy from a people innocent of any involvement in its cause.

HBO’s Chernobyl has gotten incredibly high ratings for its depiction of the events surrounding the disaster, and while it wasn’t a “horror” show (like that horrid other movie that tried to capitalize on the creepiness of an entirely empty city) it captured that helplessness in the face of such a threat, as innocent people paid for the sins of their government’s corruption and lies. Wolves, politicians, soldiers – all these things the people could see coming, but the threat of radiation… Few armors could keep such a beast at bay, and no weapon – except time – can remove its threat.

THAT is real horror.

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Comments
  1. Greg says:

    I won’t lie, I have always wanted to visit there.

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