So, I’m working on a good old fashioned monster story, and while browsing the internet for some inspiration, I accidentally took a detour down a thirty minute rabbit hole of google image searching.
It turns out, we share the planet with some totally horrifying (and awesome) creatures.
Sure, I guess I knew this. I was a biology major long before I was an English major, and I’ve been peering under rocks since I was big enough to lift one. But “knowing” it and actively exploring it are two different things.
Every once in awhile I think it does a horror writer good to take a peek at the critters that have left their creepy-crawly claw prints all over our genetic memories and shaped our collective fears on an instinctual level.
This first picture is a spiny flower mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergi). Here’s a bug sporting some classic horror tropes. The juxtaposition of danger and beauty. The blurring of categories of life: plant/animal. Plus, even though you know the thing makes its living eating the faces off of other living things, it hard not to be drawn in by its fascinating alien beauty. Classic themes of horror.
How about this fella from the Australian rainforest? It’s commonly called the “skull” caterpillar (go figure) and is the larvae of the pink underwing moth.
It’s creepy, sure. But you could go a philosophical/epistemological route with the horror potential here. Is it just a coincidence that the pattern looks like a human skull? Maybe there’s some malevolent higher power at work here, sending a caterpillar-shaped threat to humankind.
Here’s a personal childhood favorite of mine. The pillbug. Looking at the creature up close, I start to think that maybe there’s a crew of little humanoid aliens piloting it. Doesn’t it look almost mechanical? Perhaps a little dangerous in the “best offense is a good defense” kind of way.
And, here again, we have the utterly inhuman aspect. There’s even something frightening and fascinating in its almost too perfect symmetry. What immortal hand or eye could frame thy armadillidiidae…
I saved my favorite for last. Let’s not forget about the extra-tiny terrors. I give you the tardigrade (aka waterbear):
Yeah. That’s real. They’re out there. There’s probably one crawling in your ear right now in search of your delicious brain.
I’d love to see some links to other natural terrors/wonders. Just post your favorites in the comments!