Close the windows and lock the door. See that apron? Put it on. You’re going to need it. Grab the spines. I’ll hold on to the horns…and let’s carry it to the examination table. We’re going to dissect the embodiment of fear.
Are you wondering what’s going to spill out? Great! So am I.
Anatomy of Fear
- Blood ‘n’ Guts
- Nervous System
- Muscular System
- Skeletal System
As we dig deeper into the heart of fear…who knows what we’ll discover. There’s a reason why people are scared and I’m going to find it…I mean we’re going to find it!
Don’t be afraid. Grab a scalpel. And don’t forget to wash your hands.
Anatomy of Fear: Blood ‘n’ Guts
It’s great you don’t mind getting your hands dirty! You’re a natural. Fear is filled with all sorts of unsightly squishy things. Go ahead. Take a look for yourself.
Let’s put down the scalpel for a moment: Why is this? Why is Fear filled with such an unsightly mash of organs? Because underneath the surface of us all, lies the same; it’s tucked away nice and safe in our bellies. Until it’s not. That’s when we’re reminded of our own mortality—what we’re truly made of.
What is it about our squishy insides that people find gross? Is it the color? Shape? I think it’s something more primal: sympathy.
Imagine you’re the one split open on the road instead of that meandering opossum. What would something like that feel like?
It’s a strange paradox. Blood ‘n’ guts is everywhere, yet at the same time; it’s tucked away out of sight, swept under the carpet of our flesh.
People can become immune to the fear of blood ‘n’ guts with enough exposure. What makes one person faint makes another yawn. This part of fear is the easiest to rely on—the most common expression used in many forms of art that rely on fear, especially these days. You never have to search deep or far to find blood ‘n’ guts.
Look no further than underneath the surface of yourself
That’s why many horror movies / games / literature rely on blood; it’s not difficult to search shallow fear.
I’m sure you’ve seen someone look away during a particular gruesome scene in some generic horror flick, and I’m sure you’ve seen someone look straight at it while gnawing on buttered popcorn.
Blood ‘n’ guts is enough to satisfy a cheap thrill. It’s the go-to, fool-proof, prime fear that plays at our primitive heart-strings. We’re mentally wired to detest or scrutinize the nasty, gross, squishy things that belong inside bodies.
Description is enough to exhume fear from a reader. We all have our own thoughts and experiences when we read. Simply printing ‘blood’ induces a personal history associated with that crimson liquor. It tastes different for everyone, yet at the same time, it tastes the same.
Blood ‘n’ guts reminds us of our mortality—it doesn’t matter who you are. There’s a heart in your chest; a squishy muscle pumping blood through veins.
There’s no better reminder of death than seeing what belongs inside a chest
Still, nonetheless; a little part me winces when I see blood ‘n’ guts. There’s no reason why that roadkill split open on the concrete can’t be me one day, right? (Or you).
This is only the beginning. Clean your hands.
Anatomy of Fear: Blood ‘n’ Guts—Color
I see that your hand is still shaking from our last dissection. Have you lost any sleep yet?
We discovered Fear is filled with all sorts of blood ‘n’ guts, just like ourselves. What is it about the color of blood that ignites the fuse leading into our deepest nightmares?
You’ve been cut before, right? If you’re not careful that scalpel…
Can you recall blood rising to the surface of your skin? Its crimson nature is instinctively recognizable.
Once sighted; the reaction haunts us at the speed of light—an immediate personal connection that revives memories of our own experience with blood.
We’re all born to recognize what’s suppose to be in our veins
Especially if the blood ‘n’ guts are not our own. The color is a visual clue that our own mortality might be at risk: heart beat increases, eyes widen, adrenaline floods the body—we become afraid.
If blood were a different color, would it have the same effect on us?
Is the red absolute to fear itself? Perhaps not. We’re programmed to fear blood. No matter the color. But then again, there’s something about the color red which seizes our attention: roses, sunsets…blood. Would these things be the same if they weren’t red?
The color is merely a gateway into deeper horrors. What lies beneath the blood is something else entirely—things called organs—even inside Fear’s gut.
It serves as a warning; a physiological reaction to those that see it: heart beat elevating, shortness of breath, turning away, fainting, these all are common reactions to the color of blood.
Wait. You’re not squeamish, right? If you need to vomit, please do so away from the presence of my nasal cavity, and don’t let that scalpel slip out of your hand!
The color of blood is the most superficial aspect of fear. Plenty of it, but it suffers from diminishing returns when seen or expressed too often.
I see you’re already getting bored.
Enough exposure makes anyone desensitized. These days blood ‘n’ guts are everywhere: you never have to search very far to find blood, remember? It’s underneath the surface of us all—even you.
No matter the length of exposure or the amount in question; the color is a foreshadowing of deeper horrors that lie beneath.
Study this blackened, oily substance that used to flow through Fear’s veins; its purplish shimmer is like a possessed opal that reflects an inner despair. Slick to the touch, fumes radiate like a deathly vinegar.
Let’s stop for now before I pass out. Wash your hands with hot water and as blood swirls down the drain, take note of its color and the role it plays inside the anatomy of Fear.
Anatomy of Fear: Blood ‘n’ Guts—Shape
You’re early. Must be excited about digging deeper into the gut of Fear. Put on gloves, grab your scalpel and let’s get slicing.
What is it about the shape of organs that make us want to puke?
It’s biological architecture seems otherworldly with such simplistic shapes. For having the responsibility of keeping us alive, it seems like a paradox. You’d expect complex machinery; instead we’re built of fleshy valves, tubes, and sponge-like masses.
Despite this simplistic nature…we’re kept alive. Somehow.
This is what keeps fear alive—our ignorance of how biological inner-plumbing works. As long as it’s tucked out of sight; it’s out of mind.
Until it’s spilled out, delivering a reminder of our ignorance.
The brain is a classic example; it’s a strangely shaped mass of cells and neurons with folds and wrinkles. Yet, it’s the kingdom of consciousness. How can something so squishy be capable of such things?
Its been said we fear what we don’t understand. Blood ‘n’ guts proves this to be true—specifically the guts…more specifically—its shape.
Why stop at the brain? Our intestines are hollow tubes that contract and push food into our stomach; another hollow, fleshy-bag with a very simplistic shape and vitally important function.
Fear’s no different—wedged between unsightly organs; I see a leathery pouch coated in the oily opalescence that is Fear’s blood. Would you like to do the honors?
You’re truly a natural! Place Fear’s stomach on the metal table and try not to puncture it. I wouldn’t want to see what its been eating; the weight placed upon our sanity would permanently fracture our mind.
The heart has a asymmetrical geometry, equipped with tubes and valves that flush our veins with blood. The liver; a formless-thing that absorbs toxins and kidneys with their uncomplicated bean-shaped nature—responsible for a number of important biological functions.
I’m sure you’ve seen your share of blood ‘n’ guts: dead raccoons…eviscerated opossums…the bits of furry matter sprinkled on the pavement coalesce into a sympathetic Fear that urges you to look away before pondering your own mortality.
Don’t ask me about these unidentified masses that are tucked away deep inside Fear’s gut. They serve their own unknown functions that keep Fear alive inside us all. It’s best not to ask questions too early; one can spend a life time splitting these mysterious masses apart…only for it to bleed out more questions.
Let’s move on. Retire your scalpel and disinfect your hands.
As you can see, education keeps you safe from the most superficial layers of Fear. Not everyone is ignorant of our inner guts nor are they squeamish. That doesn’t mean they’re not scared—Fear is just difficult to find. Rest assured we’ll find it.
After all: I see even you are becoming quite comfortable with blood ‘n’ guts.
Take some time and review what we’ve learned about digging inside Fear’s gut. Who knows what we’ll encounter later on. Only your nightmares can guess.
Anatomy of Fear: Nervous System—Touch
I see you already have your scalpel ready.
Good—you’re going to need it. Put on those goggles, black apron, and gloves. Fear is filled with fluids that can dissolve our flesh. Let’s get slicing!
There’s a reason touch is enough to awaken fear.
Touch forces us to physically confront the uncomfortable unknown. Imagine I place a black box in front of you. If I whispered: “Psst..hey listen, stick your hand in this box. Trust me.”
Would you do it? Hell no! (Even if I had a magnificent grin on my face).
Why? Because anything can be in there, right? Worms, spiders, mud…perhaps nothing at all. The only way to find out is to stick your hand in. Motivation may suppress fear under certain conditions. What If I said: “Psst…hey listen. Stick your hand in this box. I’ll give you $1,000,000.”
Now, you’re at least considering it, huh? Don’t lie!
Despite the motivation; it doesn’t mean fear wouldn’t be ascending your spine. I mean, I could be real creative. What if instead of cooked spaghetti, I put shards of broken glass? Not very fun anymore. Not like it matters—you’re a $1,000,000 richer! Stitches are cheap.
Touch forces us to confront that which we find disgusting. You can’t be any closer to fear than having it slither upon your nerves. That’s why people will do anything not to become physically intimate with what scares them. The body sends signals to your brain while a dose of adrenaline summons your inner worst fears.
Touch is our last defense when it comes to perceiving nightmares.
Notice how Fear’s fingers are long, delicate, and twisted into bony spires? That’s so it can rake into the back of our comfort, delivering a personal message you can only understand.
We can dissect the hands of Fear for years and never completely understand its absolute nature. All these intricate and tiny skeletal structures are worthy of study—none of which are defined at the moment.
Throw your gloves in the trash, wash your scalpel and I’ll see you back here when the waxing gibbous moon shines.
Anatomy of Fear: Nervous System—Sight
Now we’re getting real nasty.
Sight plays a horrifically vital role in the anatomy of Fear. Go on. Don’t mind the parasitic things swimming in green pus. They never seen the light before. Until now. The visually displeasing can shiver a spine at the speed of light, and then haunt our lateral geniculate nucleus— the special place that processes and delivers fearful images deep into our brain.
Time to put that scalpel of yours to use: slice an eye open and let’s see what oozes out.
Damn…I didn’t expect that. Excuse me while I go puke in a bucket.
Alright—time to sift through the nightmares. It’s not simply what is seen, but the personal connection involved with what’s invoking fear. There’s a reason why a particular horror resonates with us. Everyone has their own reason why this connection is forged. Sometimes it’s only natural.
Sight takes away all the guess work, dissolving imagination into cold reality
Fear becomes physically defined: claws, teeth, stingers, tentacles. They have a shape; a tangible actuality. It all begins with sight and possibility ends in blood. Vision is one of our senses that keep us safe from all the possible nasties lounging in shadows.
This is why the eyes of Fear are filled with such grotesque unmentionables; an accumulation of all that it has witnessed—bound in a fleshy prison. Glade you’re wearing that mask and apron, aren’t you?
Sight protects us from predators that love to eat bi-pedal mammals. Humans can spot a potential threat many yards away, synthesizing fear at 186,000 miles a second. That’s fast enough to commence a successful retreat before anything with a tooth or claw can bite your ass. We’re visually tuned to spot predators, which is inevitably tuned to our fear.
Otherwise, we’d be complacent creatures mindlessly foraging for berries, and lazily tossing spears at mastodons. I don’t think we’d last very long without fear whispering in our ear: you’re going to die. What greater motivation does one need? Humanity would have gone extinct without fear.
Here—dig around in Fear’s eye socket with your scalpel.
See that? I was afraid we’d encounter it; that’s the optic nerve. It plugs directly into the lateral geniculate nucleus, a visual processing region that allowed the outside world to seep into Fear’s brain. We are not any different. Our visual interpretation of the world is chained to our brain. This relationship allows fear to constantly monitor the world for anything with a mouth full of teeth.
I advise washing your hands before leaving. Who knows what kind of minuscule foulness is crawling upon them…and to be safe: boil your scalpel.
Anatomy of Fear: Nervous System—Hearing
I see the color in your face has grown pale the last time we met. Shadows linger around those eyes of yours like a gathering storm. Let’s prepare ourselves, shall we? Grab that apron hung on the wall and don’t forget your gas mask—you’ll need it.
Oh! Grab your scalpel.
Listen carefully: Apply even pressure with the edge of your scalpel along the outer ear, and don’t be afraid to slice too deeply; the inner biology is intricate with a web of robust veins. Who knows what will spill out if you lacerate one of those? Cut with care.
There’s something absolute about a sound that awakens the fear inside us. Perhaps it’s personal. Perhaps you were just born to shudder at certain noises. Sound is a primitive defense that allows humankind to perceive a threat before it can be localized in space.
The snapping of a twig in the dark…friction of metal as a round is loaded into the chamber of a gun….a disembodied growl emanating from a shaking bush—all of these sounds induce a physiological response that settles in our psyche like a splinter. Sound waves convert into an electrical language that’s interpreted by our brain as a possible threat to our mortality.
Here…pull back that layer of flesh; the congealed mass inside the ear canal needs to be scrapped away.
I’m sure you’re familiar with that waxy substance inside the sanctum of your ear? Fear is no different: Except the substance in its ear is a tangible manifestation of sounds—not some type of matter that’s designed to imprison worldly debris.
Let’s dig further, shall we?
Here. Take this clamp and eviscerate the ear canal. What? You look worried. Don’t worry! You’ll know when to stop. Once the clamp can’t venture any further, squeeze down on the handle, retract…and don’t be worried at what comes out.
…You’ll have to pull harder than that.
See? Take a moment to look away if you must. I won’t hold it against you. That’s not some rotting nerve exposed to the air; the delicate structure is the eardrum of Fear. Simplistic…yet effective in reflecting auditory horror into its own brain.
Behind the glisten of blood is a structure like a blooming flower; open to the world with petals of sweet grotesqueness.
Have you noticed that certain sounds haunt us more than others? Perhaps it’s the squeal of a knife grinding against a porcelain plate, or an annoying, high-pitched scream. What about the type of noise that only affects us on a personal level? Such as a traumatized veteran flinching at the sound of a book dropped to the ground; an echo that dislodges a landslide memory containing the smell of gun powder and death. What was once simply a noise is now a physiological response dredged from the heart of fear.
Sound is a reminder of what we’re running away from
Were almost done: Take the clamp and get to work on the other ear. Don’t slip on the bloody floor! It hasn’t dried yet.
This particular organ is much different compared to the other; it’s a sadistically shaped, geometric cochlea, seemingly acquired from the seashore of Hell. The blackened ribbon is an auditory nerve, which acts as a highway that connects it to whatever sits in the center of Fear’s skull.
A voice…screech of car tires…police sirens…deep moan of a leopard—these sounds are without shape—yet are able to cut deeper than any edge, leaving a permanent scar upon our soul. For those stricken with mortality: sound embodies what we fear.
Allow my steady hands to guide a scalpel along the length of the eardrum for a moment. Take note of the lack of blood and sponge-like structure…possibly used as an echo-chamber to constantly terrorize the inner sanctum of Fear. You know what they say—there’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.
Alright, let’s put our scalpels to rest. Burn your apron and gas mask. We’ll continue the dissection after we give our sanity a moment of peace.
Anatomy of Fear: Nervous System—Taste
You returned early. What’s wrong? Your hands are shaking…oh. I see. You’re just impatient. Once the trip into the dark has begun; it’s difficult to turn your back on it. You’ll begin to crave it, as if an addict wanting to climb the heights above normality. I don’t need to tell you this. I’m sure when you gaze into your reflection; the gaunt shallowness of your face tells you everything you need to hear.
You know the drill: grab an apron, mask and scalpel. Don’t forget your eye protection.
Death has a way of not wanting to let go. Rigor mortise fortifies Death’s intent by cementing the blood. So…we’ll have to abandon our subtle ways: Do me a favor; hold Fear’s head steady. Don’t worry—my aim is dead on.
He lifted the crowbar above his head and drove it through the mouth of Fear; the jaw cracked, releasing a final gasp.
…Alright, sorry for the interruption. Now the real fun begins: Come over here and place pressure along the edge of the jaw, that way it won’t close. Keep your fingers out of the way! Trust me.
He dredged through the mouth of Fear with his hand. The grey bulbous matter extended inches away from shards of teeth. He bisected Fear’s tongue with scissors, and then placed it upon a silvered tray.
I would have allowed you to do the honors, but your hands are preoccupied. Feel free to let go of the jaw. Now…let’s examine this dark treasure: What is it about taste that has a way of awakening fear inside us? Everyone dislikes a particular food or texture. The reasons are inherently personal; unless something is wrong with the integrity of what we’re consuming.
The puke-inducing sourness of milk serves to protect us from ingesting potential sickness. Harmful bacteria have the desire to start a war inside of us. So we search for the nearest sink and spit out what triggers this intestinal battle. Our sense of taste is the last form of defense when it comes to preserving our mortality.
What would it be like if humankind never evolved this particular sense? I don’t think we would be here to philosophize about it; a species with a sensitive stomach wouldn’t last long if a sewer tasted like sugar. The monstrous diseases that fester in such an environment has no problem wiping out our well being—if given the chance.
What we don’t like, we spit out.
I’d put on those goggles if I were you.
A moment of thought was considered before he rested the scalpel on Fear’s tongue. I don’t know what he could have possibly told himself to continue the dissection, but he did. The scalpel’s blade bit into the tongue while he sawed back and forth—a substance from the incision sprung forth like a damnable geyser—which splattered upon our goggles an unsightly color.
See? I warned you…the taste of fear is beyond bittersweet. Gross.
Hmmm…I don’t know what to make of this structure; the connective tissue are heinously sinewy, yet are soft to the touch. Bumps and other deformities scour the inside surface as if fear tastes from the inside-out. No matter what fear consumes; the constant aftertaste of rotten elements keeps it despaired with a longing drool…if it were alive.
Our sense of smell and taste are highly correlated. I’m sure you inhaled all sorts of distasteful aromas that made you doubt if you should take another breath. These are the only two senses that work in tandem when painting a reality we can’t see or hear.
A distasteful aroma can ride the wind for miles before it reaches the entrance of our nasal cavity. And when it does the inevitable path it takes leads directly to the back of our throat, which condenses into a taste that warns us of what lurks beyond the horizon.
The burning of a house…smell of rotting matter…smother of pollution…all of these can be perceived with a nose and tongue before any other sense has a chance to react.
I thought the dissection was over, but I was wrong: he continued to saw into fear’s tongue with his scalpel as a calm smirk soothed my need to look away. He took his crowbar and surgically impaled it through the mouth of fear. The jaw wrenched open until it dislocated with a heart-stuttering crunch. His smirk tapered into a toothy grin as he reached and pulled out a length of tongue until it came apart into muscled thread.
I’m going to need a smoke after this. Did we make a mistake? I feel like we’re the ones being dissected…don’t you? Let’s sanitize our hands and burn any reminder that this session took place. Next time I’ll have suitable equipment for the job.
TO BE CONTINUED…