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Spirit(ed)

The feeling of being afraid can linger for quite a long time, and can also shake from the very foundation of persons in a moment. During October-November each year, the people from eastern Indian Province of West Bengal observe the ‘Bhoot Chaturdashi‘ Festival that is aimed at warding off the evil spirits. Usually, the Bhoot Charturdashi is celebrated just before Diwali, the Festival of Lights in India. Diwali is akin to Hanukkah, a Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd Century BCE. It is also known as the Festival of Lights. During this period of time, the Western World celebrates Halloween, All Souls’ Day, while the Mexicans celebrate The Day of the Dead! The Christians, too, (like the Pagans) dedicate a day to remember the Dead, including Saints (hallows), Martyrs, and all the Departed Souls. In other words, the Global Community believes that they visit this world on a particular day! Honestly, it is very scary.

Bhoot Chaturdashi in India

Marko Pandza, the Toronto-based young Canadian author, illustrator, musician, advertising copywriter and creative director, believes that fear is a momentary feeling, as a glimpse of the unnatural is enough to surprise human beings. This belief encouraged him to pen a book, titled ‘Brief, Horrible Moments‘, in 2017. Interestingly, each story of this book is written in a single sentence! In the suffocating atmosphere of Lockdown in 2021, Pandza published his ‘Brief, Horrible Moments 2‘. In the second volume, all the stories have been written in two sentences. The author also illustrated some confusing pictures for these two publications, which would certainly trigger a chilling effect in readers’ minds.

Marko Pandza

In the introduction of the first one, Pandza explained why he considers fear as a momentary feeling, saying: “Horrible moments are often brief. The realisation. The utterance. The pain. The shock. The news. The accident. The monster. The thing we fear most made real. But the aftermath of horrible moments, for me, is the truly scary part. The part we don’t yet understand. The part we can’t quite fathom.Brief, Horrible Moments has seven chapters… Monsters, demons, creatures and oddities; Murder, death, and the dead; Family, friends, love and relationships; Food and eating; Fear, dread and the unknown; Crime and punishment; Doctors, health and hospitals; and The Human Body. Some of those 242 one-sentence horror stories, published in this book, are:

1) It laid its hands on my shoulders, still staring at me from across the lake.
2) “You can trust me,” whispered the voice of my childhood best friend from deep within the bathtub’s drain.
3) I could tell it was looking at me, even though there wasn’t a single eye in its heads.
4) When I saw those dead eyes staring back at me, I let out an involuntary shriek and slammed the door, for that was the last thing I expected to see in my date’s fridge.
5) The moment her sparkling emerald eyes met mine, I was frozen in place, transfixed by the realisation that everything below my waist had already turned to stone.

It seems that Pandza is highly influenced by the long tradition of literature on unnatural things in the Western world. Pale Man, a child-devouring monster as portrayed in 2006 dark fantasy film ‘Pan’s Labyrinth‘ (directed by Guillermo del Toro), evil Greek monster Medusa and other such characters also had an impact on his mind. While trying to find the source of fear, Pandza has found that it is born from the Unknown or lack of evidence of anything. He has brought this Classical Idea back to his short stories over and over!

For example:
1) The enormous grin stretched from ear to ear and wall to wall.
2) The elevator doors closed on my body, which would have been painless had they not just unhealthed their teeth.
3) His two big, blue eyes stared deeply into mine, but his thousand yellow ones didn’t.

Interestingly, the cause-and-effect is not clear in these three stories. One of the conditions of a horror story is the construction of an atmosphere. Usually, the author starts the journey from a familiar environment, and later gradually introduces the environment to the readers. After a while, the story continues on its own logic. As Pandza has written his stories in one or two sentences, he has to enter the paranormal world directly. Literally, these stories have become feelings of a particular moment. It requires a lot of imagination, and Pandza has successfully proved that. As mentioned earlier, he penned Brief Horrible Moments 2 during worldwide Lockdown (due to COVID-19 Pandemic) in 2020. This time, the author picked up his pen to quell the panic through horror. It is like a poisonous medicine. This publication is divided in two parts: Natural and Supernatural. However, the boundaries between the two are often erased in his writings.

Such as:
1) Noah pulled on his new outfit, finding the fit to be skin tight. The woman’s body had been a few sizes smaller than his, but he knew her skin would stretch out if he kept wearing it.
2) As the roller coaster paused dramatically at the peak of the steep drop, Lachlan noticed the woman beside him repeatedly making the sign of the cross. He laughed to himself, finding the gesture extreme until he too noticed the broken rail.
3) Alonso had been looking forward to dressing his new mannequin in all his designs. Getting the clothes on proved incredibly frustrating, the mannequin crying and struggling all the while.

Undoubtedly, the current of fear that flows through all these two-sentence stories cannot be called unearthly. These stories can be considered as the emergence of unknown instincts that linger in one’s minds. Perhaps, Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was the founding father of this sort of story-telling, as his publications – ‘The Pit and the Pendulum‘ (1842) and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart‘ (1843) – are the best examples of tales of mystery and the macabre. Here, absolute fear comes out of human minds. However, there is a world beyond that… the World of Supernatural. Pandza has certainly made an attempt to describe this world.

Pandza’s illustration

These two books do get to give a chilling sensation in readers’ bones, as it is important for them to have the courage to face the natural and supernatural scares. Pandza has kept in mind his predecessors, who had won the hearts of the readers of Western Horror Literature. His stories prompt readers to remember Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937), Poe, and Stephen Edwin King (b. September 21, 1947)… However, Pandza’s writing style is different from them, mainly because of the length of his stories. It seems that one would require unadulterated courage to enjoy the horrific atmosphere narrated in these two books, and even to get scared.

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