That Frightening, Burning Sensation

Hot chilies

One of the things that happens when you begin to develop a taste for spicy food is that you become addicted to the edge. Usually, food titillate you only along the axis of taste, texture, and aroma. But once you add heat, there is an entire dimension of intensity that never existed before. That intensity can be unpleasant, even downright agonizing. Many people avoid it for just this reason, and think that people who do indulge are insane. But once you’ve acclimated to the pain, normal foods begin to lack thrill.

Sure, they might taste good, but they don’t excite you. They don’t force a reaction. Eating spicy foods is a struggle, a competition between you and the angry, volatile beast on your plate that snarls up at you with challenging contempt. When you shove the last bite past your seared tongue and down your blistered throat, the cry of triumph that follows feels well deserved.

There is a similar situation going on with horror. I’ve talked quite a bit here about the fact that I’m in the throes of a horror obsession. It just won’t let me go. But one of the things I’ve discovered about horror is that it adds a level of intensity to watching and reading that just isn’t there otherwise. Horror feels threatening. It’s supposed to. The entire time you watch a scary movie or read a scary book, you are kept on edge. The adrenaline doesn’t let up. You can’t relax. The thrill is intoxicating.

In the midst of this obsession, I still like the same kind of stories I always have. I love amnesia. I dig a tight but expansive mythos. I like teenagers and shape shifters and unnecessarily elaborate plotlines. Only now, I want them to freak me out. I want to cringe, or wretch, or doubt my own sanity. I want the words in front of me to feel dangerous.

Otherwise, everything is just white rice. Without even any soy sauce.

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