What Is The Worst Death Possible In Horror Fiction?

Posted: March 28, 2014 in Living and Life, Reflections, Scary Stuff, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , ,

question has been bugging me for some time now. What is the worst possible death a character can receive in horror fiction? As death, mayhem and slaughter are common byproducts of the stories told in horror fiction, it’s a question that I think horror writers should consider deeply. And sadly we can’t use old Master Splinter’s opinion: “You die without honor”. Wise words from an anthropomorphic rat, but I’m not sure they can apply in this genre.

I’ve had plenty of possible answers, many of which I’ve discarded because I came up with a good reason why they shouldn’t be the answer or because the answers I came up with just didn’t feel right. A terrifying death? No, that’s too easy. A slow death? By then death is a release. A painful death? Same answer as the last one. A slow and painful death? Death would still be a release. A death that you can see coming from a mile away? As scary as that would be, at the end of it you’d just be relieved.

And then the answer hit me the other day: a death, whether it be slow, or fast, painful or quick, terrifying in its execution or just too unexpected to even process what’s happening, that offers the possibility that nothing happens beyond this world. I mean, isn’t that scary? Many world religions spend years trying to hammer out the details of the afterlife just to assure us of one. But what if all that hammering out was for naught? What if all those near-death experiences were just chemicals in the brain? What if an end to our existence was what came after this existence?

If you ask me, that is the worst sort of death you could have in a horror story, and all that leads up to it is just the beginning or an opening act. At the very least, it makes for some interesting food for thought. And it could help create a new story. Or even help improve one’s writing skills  You never know.

At the risk of being morbid, what is the worst sort of death you could imagine happening in a horror story?

  1. noir-realism says:

    The form you describe would not truly be scary sense if nothing exists beyond then there would be no consciousness to apprehend this nothingness. On the other hand if with death you discovered that one never actually leaves life but that one becomes stranded in that grey zone of in-betweeness that is neither real nor unreal but is an active nothingness without hope or closure or death or escape… just an endless cloud of unknowing. Now that would be a living death without outlet. Darkness visible. Mind without thought: awareness without content. Death as consciousness of nothing and no one. Infinite solitude.

  2. noir-realism says:

    Pushing extreme metaphors to their limits I was reminded of both the ancient Gnostics and those after Hegel of the negation of negation. Having been a fan of Lovecraft, Ligotti, and others I was struck by your question and realized the simplicity of pushing the limit test of the gnosis between fullness and vastation (emptiness). Only two absolutes could answer your question: Absolute positivity or Absolute negativity. Since neuroscience has for the most part begun to show that the Self is a temporary function of the brain processes, then consciousness is itself only awareness. If one is an eleminativist then states (beliefs, emotions, love, hate, rage, etc.) have no substance and do not exist, but are functions of processes that exist below the threshold of consciousness. As my friend R. Scott Bakker the fantasist on his Three Pound Brain blog iterates we are blind to our own origins, we never have knowledge of those processes, and all philosophy is based on false notions of intentionality. Intentionality is illusion. In a post-intentional world or one might call it posthuman multiverse intentions are passe, and we are lived by machinic processes that we have no control over. One could take this as far as one would like… and we can see in our time the neoliberal order is investing heavily in these posthuman and transhuman technologies by the billions. Who knows where such things will lead. I could see posthuman horror as a new subgenre…

    The terror I describe is the notion of an eternity without thought or imagination. Yes, that would be scary to contemplate. The knowledge that one is aware but that consciousness has no object, memory, or self-reflexive feedback.

    • I think you just blew my mind.

      Just one more question: where did you get your doctorate in philosophy?

      • noir-realism says:

        haha… Life!

        I’m a software architect/engineer by trade, but am now retired. I’m just an old school independent thinker who has pushed the limits of my studies to farthest capacity I could in one life on my own.

        One just has to apply one’s on mind to what is already there in the library, archive, discourses surrounding us… just takes time and energy. At the moment my blog is dealing with current new materialisms, speculative realism, posthumanist thought, sciences, etc.

      • I like that attitude to learning and living. Never lose it.

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