Warning: Exposure to Cthulhu Causes OCD

Monster Monday: I’m going to attempt to post about monsters (my favorite topic) each Monday. Today we’re talking the mac daddy of all monsters, Cthulhu. Not familiar? It’s hard to sum up in a few lines. He’s a mythical god, older than the pantheons of Greece or the Vikings, that lives in another dimension. He’s part of the Old Ones that ruled Earth aeons ago. They sleep now, but continually seek a way into our world again. To rule and to feed.

The brainchild of author H. P. Lovecraft, Cthulhu and other creepy netherworld critters attempted to scare the life out of various folk in his stories. A recurring theme in his work is that of madness. Imagine actually seeing a god. Coming face to face with one. Not Zeus with his fluffy white beard and lightning bolt. I mean a literal force of nature. Awe inspiring doesn’t cut it. Lovecraft felt that the human mind couldn’t handle such an experience. The typical result was madness.

As a fan of Stephen King, I’ve read two of the stories he’s written that touch on Lovecraftian ideas. One is Crouch End from Nightmares & Dreamscapes. It’s a tremendously creepy tale about a couple of Yanks getting lost on the deserted streets of London. Only one makes it back, though she has lost her sanity.

A more recent story I’ve read is N from Just After Sunset. N refers to the name of an accountant who visits a shrink. The poor fellow developed a crippling case of obsessive compulsive disorder after witnessing a thin spot in the world. Stephen King has written about this sort of thing before. Other worlds border our own and sometimes the fabric that separates the two wears thing. The character N found such a place and was infected by OCD.

Insanity has always been associated with Lovecraft, but this was the first time I’ve read about the madness manifesting as a compulsive disorder. N must count things, and the numbers must always be even. Six is a fix. Eight makes it straight. He also arranges objects in diagonals and circles. He says it’s to save the world. And in this story, he isn’t being metaphorical. Can you imagine, compelled to count and arrange to keep monstrous slimy things out of our world? This story is well worth a read. It has a surprise ending that I won’t spoil, but it’s good enough that I sought it out again to read.

I had forgotten the name and had to listen to nearly all my King audio books until finding it. That’s an obsession. Uh oh. Perhaps I’ve caught N’s compulsion. I better start counting.

(There are 458 words in this post. That’s even. A good number.)

Tim Kane

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9 comments on “Warning: Exposure to Cthulhu Causes OCD

  1. N going all OCD after seeing something he couldn’t wrap his head around makes perfect sense. His belief systems were shattered and the OCD was his way of *trying* to maintain control over his fragile world. For similar reasons, we as a culture need monsters–especially of the classic movie types–because we can manage them. After all, those monsters are defeated in every story. Focusing on them protects us from acknowledging there might be greater unknowns in the universe, which can be pretty darn scary. If you think about them. 😉

  2. Unrelated, but isn’t that Yog’saron?

  3. Also, if you haven’t read Stephen King’s IT–I don’t want to spoil anything (although you hardly can), but Pennywise (especially near the end of the book) is very Lovecraftian.

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