It’s Alive!

This Weeks Prompt:64. Identity—reconstruction of personality—man makes duplicate of himself.

The Resulting Story: A Certain Preponderances of Witnesses

The creation of an another form of life is a pursuit that humanity has pursued for a long time. While the intentional creation of a doppleganger is not well known—such things tend to form by chance or anomaly when they occur, and grim visions at that—the idea of continuing on or creating something without a partner is not novel. The horror that can come from these often alchemical projects is vast as well, especially as some are horrific or humorous folklore tales.

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The most common example of the formed individual is the alchemical homonculus. The creation of life in this manner was the goal of alchemists as much as the philosopher stone was; in fact, in the Middle East it superseded transmutation as the primary great work. The Western version, found in Parceleus, seeks to create a new living man by use of an artificial womb—specifically a horses womb. After forty weeks, the child is born and can be fed blood to bring it to the fullness of life, albeit diminutive life. The significance of such an event has been noted by other researchers as an attempt at the recreation of life as done in Genesis.

The creation of life from clay has the additional version in the mode of the golem. The golem is a creature of Jewish folklore, formed of clay and enlivened by commands through its mouth. As mighty beings of clay, the golem was a staunch defender of the community if a silent one. The golem in the most famous narrative, Prauge, turns out in its own time to be a danger when it turns against the community—reasons vary from rejection to simple murderous impulse to violation of the Sabbath. Either way, the golem is ended by the hand that created it by removing its scrolls or altering the script on its head that gave it life.

GolemofPrauge

A recreation of the Golem of Prauge.

The horror genre has of course a parallel with the golem, shared as part of the origin of science fiction: Frankenstien’s monster. The monster, like the golem, is a recreation of the forming of life that starts out benevolent—to the farm family at least, if not to the creator himself who has fled. Eventually he turns on his creator, and the rest is as they say history.

There are more modern uses that, like Frankenstein, employ electricity. The New Motive Power was an attempt to create a messianic figure out of electricity and metal. Its creator, John Spear, communed with an electrical host of spirits. Intended as one of many inventions—including airships and mass telepathy communication networks—the mecha-messiah was ritually conceived and born to no avail. In many ways, this ritual creation of life resembles that Babalon Working by a pair of occultists a century later. Neither attempt succeeded, to the despair of horror authors.

This physical recreation had influence for a significant amount of time among scientific thought. In the pre-genetics age, it was believed that the sperm carried a miniature version of the eventual human that would be born of it, and if placed in the right conditions it would form the person without need for another partner. Preformatism had some proponents that placed the miniature in the egg instead of sperm. Irregardless, the theory proposed in essence that humanity had been entirely contained in its original parents, a scientific notion that has a resemblance to mystical notions of Adam as the first man.

Then there are more esoteric notions of life creation or duplication. The Finnish for instance had a tradition of guardian spirits that resembled their shamans, going ahead of them and doing as they do. The Buddha was capable of generating replicas of himself in meditation, illuminating the universe. Boddhistavas, as they approach their state, gain the power of multiple bodies to send forth and convert or exhort more individuals. The Monkey King, Sun Wukong, multiplied himself in battle and trickery on many occasions. The ability to create many bodies can be found among the rddhi in the Oxford dictionary, allowing for many of the dopplegangers so far referenced.

SunWukonFightsALion

Sadly, I could not find an image with Sun Wukong’s self-duplication. However, this fine print was found at http://www.yoshitoshi.net/alpha.html.

With all this in mind, there is another question to be answered: Why? Why is our nameless man trying to create another version of himself? Many reasons for making artificial life are given in folklore. Expressions of enlightenment, need for protection, divine emulation, want for a bride, want for a child. All of these have a history at some point in the history of popular media. However, I think the version here suggests that the source is self-centered. What we have here is not just a creation of life but a recreation of the self. The use of such bodies to cheat death is a surprisingly common trope in media for the mad scientist: The illustrious Doctor Doom has used it after a fashion, as did M. Bison, Rick Sanchez, and a host of others.

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The use of clones as back up has a number of interesting implications from a metaphysical perspective—after all, it confirms a belief on the one hand of a consciousness that can be transferred between material bodies without much difficulty, while at the same time an avoidance or refusal to be restrained to that purely incorporeal state. Or, put another way, such a transfer only seems possible if there is something like a soul—whether as the softward that the brain ‘runs’ or pyscho power or something similiar—but an aversion to taking on that immateriality fully. There is an implicit lingering fear in the creation of a second body—that the soul or minds fate will not be a happy one.

An attempt at immortality then seems the ideal one here. Creating a version of yourself that will presist after your gone, perhaps as vengance against your killers or to torment them? Or just to escape fires eternal? Either way, I think we are again more in the land of mystery. Which means…well, half of the idea has been spoiled by writing this article. We’ve given away the means and most of the motive—although their might be more to it then simply avoiding death.

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The Devil’s Playthings

Devilsplaythings

Credit to Jim Silvia, found here: http://jimvsilva.com/

 

This Week’s Prompt:7. Horror Story. The sculptured hand—or other artificial hand—which strangles its creator.

The Research:Idle Hands

I’ve known Jeffery for years. He was a nice old codger, living in his families dying home. It goes back to before that nasty business, must be at least two hundred years old by now. Jeffery Ruven spent days whittling, molding, and sculpting on the porch. Wood, bone, stone, it didn’t matter. He’d make something useful out of it. When he was younger they were toys, for children on holidays or birthdays. Sometimes he’d make tools, small forks or decorative stands for older folks who wanted to look rich.

And then the Great War came, a scar across the nation. Jeffery went off to those forbidding fields of Flanders, under Major Clapham , rifle in hand. He was one of the senior men, sure, but he would fight as hard as the rest of them. Of course, hard boiled will-to-fight didn’t matter much when compared to rifles and gas. Landmines and tanks didn’t give a damn if you really wanted the win. And so he ended up in a hospital, a puzzle missing some of the pieces. Most important, his left hand had been mauled by bayonets when he was sent back, a bloody stump of a hand.

Now, Ruven knew what to do. There was a medic in the company, a Mr. West, that had done wonders stitching men back together. If some doctor could do it, he could manage something like repairs. He’d built things all his life, he’d build some more.

Hours were spent carving, crafting, shaping his new left hand from. His first was a simple one, mean for grasping the wooden end of another hand. It had no nails, barely any markings of fingers. But it served its purpose and he was able to continue on to his second hand. A stone carving, a fist of marble for grasping as well, this one for the local pub, in case he needed to swing as well as take a swig.

His third was wooden, with fine detailing, for shaking hands and gesturing about town. After all a man needs such things. He even war his family ring on the skeletal wooden grasp. His fourth was a replacement for the first, with joints that could be carefully positioned in order to hold pen or pencil. His fifth was an ornate punching hand, his sixth little more than a ghastly claw he made in the night in case of Germans on his shore, his seventh was for Sundays, a beautiful oak hand shaped to pray.

Jeffrey was never the most social man, but as the wheel time turned round, he came out less and less. He bought food from the general store, and there wowed others with the wonders of his hands. Oh, yes, sometimes they were still toys and tools. But he’d taken up other work as well. Back during that madness, he made a piece of majesty, this wonderful crown of wooden digits. He had statues of the Hands of Glory, to hold candles by. Some northerners or foreigners bought them as novelties, but mostly they lined his lawn to ‘keep the devil at bay’.

The ultimate triumph, which how he made I still don’t know, was this strange little hand. It had smooth, lithe fingers, plated in gold leaf. How he could afford that I don’t know. I don’t guess. The joints creaked a little, made this horrible scratching sound at times if he waved too fast. He explained that he’d made them using some steel he’d bought and cut and bolted together. When he wanted, by some machinery I’d guess, he could grip like a gator.

How it got round his neck, I didn’t know. We found him like that, pinned in place by his hands. His stone hands lay across his chest, his wooden hands held to his wrists, and that golden wonder gripped his throat, while that damnable claw rested on his head, holding it back against the post.

It had eagle talons of stone, that hand, and its joints were stiff and useless. Jeffrey’s next of kin, Malcolm, ask us to take the lot of them. Wanted nothing to do with those things, thought they were damned creepy. Ernest took it home that day, thought it’d make a good show piece. He was found carved up that night by something vicious. I told them the hand did it, and we buried the cursed thing in the fields around the house. Ripped up all those hands of glory, tossed them in for good measure as well.

Next day, Warner, oh God Warner was found with the golden hand stuffed down his throat. So we buried that one. Then the stone ones feel on Lincoln and his wife’s head, smashed them clean. How the hell they got in that house, I don’t want to guess. They were good people, Lincoln and Warner. From good, honest families too.

The wooden hands we burned when we found them again. They’d made there way into my sons play things, and I’m not an idiot. I think I’m working my way down to the last few. But last night, last night Malcolm was checking the grounds. Someone’s gone and dug up those old hands. He saw them at night, he swears, crawling about the yard, rolling about. But worse, worse he swears he saw a group of men gripping them in the darkness, using them instead of their real hands. The lot of them looked to be in poor shape, bloated with malnourishment and bleeding from their back and limbs. They stared at him from the fields, and went on.

I told him it was nonsense. Just the fields hands mocking him. But the next day, he’d been burned by those hands of glory. That just leaves me, the last honest man in town with some heritage to be proud of. Let’em come. I’m not afraid. I know where I’m going when I die, and I know where there from. Let’em come.

Apologies for the delay, but this particular ghost was hard to draw from the depths. Perhaps you had better luck, and would like to share your lost technique? In the mean time, I believe I have found Mr. Lovecraft’s eventual story here. I have also gathered more research from fellows in the field of horror on Frankenstien’s monster here, and another story of living dead here.

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Idle Hands

Idle Hands.png

This Weeks Prompt: 7. Horror Story. The sculptured hand—or other artificial hand—which strangles its creator.

The Resulting Story:The Devil’s Playthings

This prompt tells us right off we are in a horror story. So, a horror story we shall plan. The key thing with this piece is the nature of the hand. Hands are interesting item to focus on, as the phrase “Right hand man” and “Not tell the left hand what the right hand is doing” all belie. Hands are typically servants (the hands of the King) or signifies of will (the hand of God). From a literary point of view, the hand betraying its creator is…well, there’s a lot to read in there.

And part of that is the tendency, well, for creations to turn on their creator. We, in our illustrious modern age, take this with the Robot uprising. Robots are, until the introduction of some AI, treated as sort of perfect servants. The analogy to human’s as the minds to robot hands was drawn by the wonderful Aaron Diaz, who’s work takes a more positive view of trans-humanism then we must. Horror is, sadly, reactionary to some degree when it comes to technology.

Earlier ages enjoyed the rebellion of Adam, whether in Frankenstein or Paradise Lost. In this case, the metaphor for playing god is more literal than modern automaton revolts imply. Frankenstein goes further and draws from the golem legend, where the act of Genesis is almost totally redone. In the Golem of Prauge, however, the Golem grows and grows, becoming hungry and unmanageable.

All of this traces back further still to that age of Greek and Roman myth. The Prometheus story, the invention that the gods forbid and the subject of the all-mighty who rebelled. But the horror of this story is not necessarily its ancient roots.

Playing god is dangerous, but there is something unnerving about the object of our labor, which we have poured our time and soul into, coming to life against our will. Worse, pursuing and assaulting us. It is best, the object of obsession. The work that consumes the life of its creator, both metaphorically and literally. Now, that is perhaps a bit cliché. A bit on the nose. But it is something to keep in mind.

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