Last week, I chose to talk about a human monster, Obadiah Slope, a character from Trollope that I love to hate, but this week, I'm going to talk about a subset of monsters that give me the creeps, and, when I was a child, scared me an awful lot: alien parasites.
The first of these type of monsters I ever came across was in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a 1956 horror movie in which the residents of a small town begin acting strangely one by one, losing their emotions. Along with this, strange pods are appearing, and eventually, the local doctor begins to work out a connection between the strange behaviour and the pods. The townsfolk are being replaced by alien pod people. The pods are left under their beds and the pod person absorbs them, becoming them. It's this idea that truly horrified me as a child, and I spent the next few years looking under my bed every night, not like most kids, for the boogie man, but for a pod! ;P
Pod people scared me when I was a kid, but there's another version of this alien parasite that still gives me the creeps as an adult, and I can't watch the movie all the way through - that is The Thing. Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by an alien that assumes the shape of those it kills. This sounds so unimposing written down, but on screen, as the creature absorbs the bodies of those it kills and can even split itself up so that at one point what had once been someone's head sprouts legs and heads off like a spider, makes my stomach churn, and not just from how gruesome the spectacle is. It makes me shudder just thinking about it.
And I don't think these kinds of science fiction parasites would be nearly so scary if it wasn't for the fact they exist in real life. Parasitic wasps lay their eggs inside caterpillars and they are consumed from the inside out. There are also parasites that take control of their hosts. A wasp again, lays its egg on a spider, this time on the outside of the spider's abdomen. The spider continues its life for a few weeks with the larva attached, apparently unaware it is being drained of its equivalent of blood. Yet, this isn't the worst part. Once the larva is full grown, it needs to pupate, and it wants a strong, safe place to do this. However, a spider's web isn't all that strong, so it injects a chemical into the spider which causes it to alter its behaviour, spinning a tough little web that is perfect for the pupating larva. The spider then just sits in the centre of the web, allowing the larva to kill it and consume everything before the larva then pupates. ::shudder::
So, you see, nature can beat science fiction for scares, hands down!
What monsters give you the skin-crawling creeps?
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