I2 Commentary: Body Horror

In I2: Ten Thousand Earthworms Dan gives the reader a closer look at the Teeth that Shriek. The last time we saw the teeth, I explained that they represent panic and anxiety. Today Dan consumes himself with terrible teeth in some sort of psychotic breakdown. On psychoactive, hallucinogenic centipede-dust, this breakdown manifests as a living nightmare.

I have a history with horror. As a kid I watched horror movies knowing that the scary images would be burned into my mind. I knew I’d lie awake imagining monsters in my closet. And yet, I couldn’t look away. Nowadays I enjoy watching horror movies, especially surreal flicks like David Lynch’s Eraserhead and practical-effect masterpieces like John Carpenter’s The Thing. If a scene lingers in my mind, that’s just the mark of a well-made movie.

A common thread in many of those movies is body horror. The Thing mutilates people and shape-shifts into awful monsters. Eraserhead‘s supposedly human child is an inhuman shape inspiring morbid curiosity. As humans, we have a mind-map of our body. The idea of altering that mind-map is disturbing. The thought of uncontrollably becoming something wretched is terror of a fundamental sort. Compare to Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

Torture-porn movies like the Saw franchise try to ground this terror in reality (sort of). I prefer abstracting that terror to the rules of the subconscious. In David Cronenburg’s Videodrome, the main character’s firearm is fused with his flesh; in deciding to kill, he binds himself irrevocably with the concept of killing. Tetsuo the Iron Man has a character’s penis mutated into a power-drill which kills his girlfriend.

Now, in Akayama DanJay, Dan turns into a ball of nerves and gums consumed by his own teeth. He is like a “cramping gonad” and grows an impacted narwhal tusk, tying the scene to masculine sexual imagery. It’s obviously an unpleasant experience.

Then he manages to pull himself together. As a person with anxiety, Dan has probably practiced breathing exercises before; he seems to use the technique to withdraw the teeth. With concerted effort Dan is able to retrieve even the narwhal tusk and subsume it back into his form.

Then he melts into earthworms. I’ve previously mentioned that earthworms are the souls of sentient beings; death forces humans to be humble, so it only fits that our souls are disgusting, wriggling piles. The earthworms that were Dan squirm in a puddle combining into bigger and bigger worms. When all of them have combined, the worm-thing tries to escape into the desert.

What must it look like, this worm-thing? My crude artwork notwithstanding, I imagine it to look like a human brain: a ridged, pink mass. This pink mass rejects the Mountain even though half the characters in Akayama DanJay seem to worship the Mountain as Heaven and God rolled into one. The worm-thing seeks only darkness in cool, damp soil. Even when humans know better, we seek sensory pleasure above all else.

But Faith the white fox catches the worm-thing before it can go. The Heart of the Mountain told her to take it to Anihilato in the last section, so she whisks the worms into the desert.

Anihilato eats earthworms. Is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing? We’ll have to wait and see. Thank you for reading!

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