Monday, July 24, 2017

Transit Tales of Terror

In the interest of full disclosure, when I traveled to Broolyn last week for the Secret Science Club lecture, the ride from Woodlawn in the Bronx to the 9th St/4th Avenue stop in Brooklyn took over an hour and forty-five minutes. That day, the entire subway system was a mess, a crappy day in what has been dubbed a Summer of Hell. Currently, the state and local officials are engaged in a blame game and the transit situation just seems to worsen.

Coincidentally, my current reading obsession is pulp tales of morlocks/ghouls/deros/CHUDS- those creepy, subterranean people-eaters that seem to crop up periodically in lurid tales from questionable magazines and low-budget movies. One of the best of these 'cannibalistic mole-people' stories is Robert Barbour Johnson's Far Below, which seems to build on one of the most memorable lines in H.P. Lovecraft's ghoulish Pickman's Model:

There was a study called 'Subway Accident,' in which a flock of the vile things were clambering up from some unknown catacomb through a crack in the floor of the Boston Street subway and attacking a crowd of people on the platform.

Far Below elaborates on this theme, chronicling a secret police division tasked with protecting commuters from the hungry creeps which inhabit the tunnels 'far below' the subway system... it also has a nice, shuddersome take on the perils of fighting monsters. The story also serves as a precursor to Clive Barker's The Midnight Meat Train, which also concerns a secret cabal of government operatives working in the subway for arcane purposes.

Counterintuitively, last week, the subway train I rode on at midnight was much more crowded than the 5PM train I rode to Brooklyn. Part of that is due to the fact that fewer trains run at night than during the daylight hours, but it also speaks to the reality of work in this day and age. Far more people are working night shifts than did before- office cleaners, maids, restaurant workers, CNA's and nurses... a lot of the hard work of the city is done between 3PM and midnight, and there is another crowd that starts work at 11PM to midnight. Many of these people live in places like the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. The very idea of a quiet 'midnight meat train' in which shadowy killers can stalk their prey is pretty far-fetched these days... can't have a meat train when everybody is packed in like tinned sardines.

Now, who needs a pulpy mole-man subway horror story? The real horror is the ride itself.


mikey said...

I'm not terribly familiar with this genre - although I AM aware of the basic concept - so my terribly predictable question given my own sets of interests is why don't the humans just eradicate the beasts? Poison, white phospherous, napalm, mines - it seems as if the advantage granted to humans in these stories is not strength or cunning, but intelligence and industrial production.

Much like the zombie canon I have debated for years with my friend who IS a zombie, once you start thinking of the tactics and resources available to the humans at risk, it seems likely to be a brief one-sided battle...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Yeah, seeing as we're the only hominid on the planet, and soon to be the only large mammal on the planet (aside from our domesticated creatures), it is pretty far-fetched.

Sometimes, the Morlocks/Deros have ancient technology left over from Lemuria or Mu, usually their mere presence is unknown or covered up, occasionally the Powers That Be are in cahoots with them.

I've been down a rabbit hole recently, trying to suss out a bibliographical background for the more outré conspiracy theory crowd. A lot of it is rooted in mid 20th century pulp paranoia.

Alex Jones is basically Richard Shaver with a microphone and a legion of gullible followers.

Smut Clyde said...

Have you come across this collection?

-- they included 'Far Below'.

Smut Clyde said...

I am surprised, by the way, that M. Bouffant has not dropped in to link to the obligatory Blue Oyster Cult track. Is he OK?