Filtering by Tag: sci-fi

The Strangest Thing

In Episode 3 of Stranger Things 2, Will Byers finds himself in the Upside-Down. The shadowy, multi-limbed monster, later known as “The Mind Flayer”, rises high above the school. 

Will sprints from the monster, but then he stops. He remembers the story Bob Newby, his mother’s boyfriend, told him about standing up to someone he was scared of as a young boy.

“I said, ‘Go away!’” Bob told Will. 

And the thing Bob was scared of disappeared. 

Will decides to take Bob’s advice. He looks up at the monster and screams. “Go away!”

The Mind Flayer nears.

He screams again. “Go away!” Tears now in his eyes. 

The Flayer’s pace quickens. Even closer. 

“GO AWAY!” He screams with everything inside of him. 

But the Mind Flayer refuses. It surrounds him.

And then, it takes him.  

II

As a child, there’s a moment where you realize there are monsters in the world, and sometimes, the monsters win.

You come to understand that not only is there evil in the world, but that on occasion, it gets its shit together and lands some decent punches.

And when that happens, you wake up in this unknown space — this nothingness — where the once-solid ground gives way, and without warning, you’re in free fall. 

The question, then…is “What next?”

III

When the Mind Flayer takes over Will, it’s akin to the physical/spiritual possession of Regan McNeil in The Exorcist (1973).

In that film, it’s up to Father Merrin to cast out the demon. Here, it’s up to Joyce, Jonathan, Nancy…and a red hot poker. 

However, whereas in The Exorcist we’re not shown the moment of possession, Stranger Things 2 makes it the climax of Episode 3. And it’s horrific.

The Mind Flayer thrusts tentacles into Will’s eyes, ears and mouth. It fully possesses him down to the core of his being. It is, for me, the single-most terrifying scene of Stranger Things yet.

The physical possession of Will Byers is reminiscent of both old sci-fi possession stories such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), as well as the more intense body-horror sub-genre, which includes Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), as well as two David Cronenberg films: Videodrome (1983) and The Fly (1986). The films are linked by a common idea of foreign/uncategorized entities overtaking a human body and using it as a host. 

Thankfully, Stranger Things avoids some of the more graphic elements (chest-bursting, decomposition, metamorphosis, etc.), but in doing so, it sets its sight on far more fragile, and frightening ground.

Will’s emotions. His memories. If the Mind Flayer can control Will’s emotions and memories, then it’s found the perfect host. 

IV

This is how Will Byers arrives to the knowledge that monsters exist:

He witnesses the monster’s power. 

He stands up to the monster’s power.

And then he loses.

And here, perhaps, a difficult lesson: Just because you’re brave doesn’t mean good things will happen to you. However, just because good things don’t always happen, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be brave. 

It means you’re going to lose something you love. Or someone.

V

It’s precisely because of their bravery — because they’ve chosen to stand for something — that’s why it’s a certainty they’re going to experience trauma.

And the kids of Stranger Things exhibit this bravery, this wounding, and this continued courage. They are all wounded at some point — all challenged to give up the fight.

But just because they’ve lost, it doesn’t mean they stop. If anything, it means they fight harder.

Sci-fi is best when it places ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and the more Stranger Things digs into its characters, the better it’ll be. 

I have no idea what the Duffer Brothers have in store for Season 3, and I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. I’ll be watching, that’s for sure. 

Stranger Things 2 delves more into childhood trauma and PTSD far more than I thought it would — and for that, it has my respect, fandom and admiration. 

So much so, I might even forgive it for “The Lost Sister.” 

Almost.

 

FICTION: STATION MANAGER

Esmerelda leaned against the inside of the doors; she felt her shoulders flush against the wood. Her eyes looked right down the center aisle, trained on Christ at the far end of the room. Another sweltering day. Another fan-less, breeze-less day. 

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, the maker of Heaven and Earth.”

The sun began to scale the stained-glass on Ezzie's left. Stations One through Six. Stations like the radio. The radio, like music. Music, like Jazz.

Christ, Jazz.

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, the maker of Heaven and Earth and Jazz.”

A figure interrupted the light, near station three. She saw his shadow, and she heard his voice. “Hello? Is anyone in there? Hello? Hello?”

Station Three. Jesus falls for the first time.

"Jesus, the cross you have been carrying is very heavy. You are becoming weak and almost ready to faint, and you fall down.”

"Hello? Please! Anyone at all!”

Station Three, thought Ezzie. Oldies. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. “Tracks of my Tears.” “Second That Emotion. “Tears of a Clown.”

Now if there's a smile upon my face
it's only there trying to fool the public
but when it comes down to fooling you
now honey that's quite a diff'rent subject

That could’ve been Christ in the garden, thought Ezzie. Christ might’ve been all smiles and ‘love thy neighbor’, but he knew he’d have to die. He could feel the sin and the shit of the world, and He knew there’d need to be an accounting. 

He knew his time was coming.

The shadow knocked on the glass of the third station. Ezzie hushed him.

“Quiet! They’ll hear.”
“I wasn’t followed. I swear. I swear. Please let me in.”

It’d been forty-eight days since the dead broke the soil at St. Timothy’s on Third Street. Ezzie had been holed up in the church for the past eleven.  

When the stone rolled away, it was a miracle. This time, however, it meant no more jazz or Smokey Robinson. The thought of her past life filled Ezzie with grief, and she wanted so dearly to cry. But If Jesus could sweat blood at Gethsemane and still not escape his punishment, thought Ezzie, then what good would crying about the lack of Motown do her?

Nothing. No amount of Gethsemane Sweat would bring back Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, The Four Tops, the Supremes, or The Temptations. 

The shadow knocked once more. And once more, Ezzie hushed him.

“Asshole! Quiet.”
“Like I said, no one followed me. And watch your language.”

Ezzie stopped. Her eyes went back to Christ for a moment.

“Just between you and me,” she thought, “I hope this guy goes next.”