In the Flesh
The tulpa is my absolutely favorite horror theme, hands down. I adore it. I’m not sure what my stance on Slenderman’s take over of the idea; I mean, if Slendy keeps it in the public eye more power to him I guess.
I have a confession to make though; I much prefer the film adaptation of this piece. I’m not sure why, I found the original to be compelling enough. It had that definite Barker weirdness that I adore so much (which is why I keep reading him). The idea of the thoughtform, that which we pump so much energy into that it becomes a reality, is dealt with in a much more direct format-it has to be, if it’s going to do in 30 or 40 pages of read time that an anthology presents as opposed to the several hours of screen time.
Eventually this piece would go on and become a movie called Candyman-which seems to have spawned one of those villains that everyone who has seen him remembers for years after. You have admit, Barker does villains with a certain dark grace. The Forbidden tells the story of Helen, a grad student who sets out to record graffiti for her project on urban legends. She stumbles across odd examples in a labyrinth of decaying apartment buildings.
One of the things that stands out to her is the way that the nonsensical repeats itself throughout these examples, and she comes to realize that there’s more going on than just street art. However, further examination may be dangerous to the entire community as well as herself.
This short stands out to me for several reasons. First, like I’ve already said I’m pretty much going to like anything that involves a thoughtform. A villain literally thought into existence? It appeals to the quasi-postmodernist in me. It’s the hyperreality come to life. Literally. Second, Helen’s struggles with her research ring true to me. It’s not as though everyone in academics act like her colleagues, but research can sometimes be brutal for reasons other than just complexity. I know that’s true for every field, but I did find myself sympathetic towards a fellow sociologist/social scientist.
Lastly, the funeral scene at the end is just creepy as all get out. Barker has taken a tendency that everyone has whether they really want to admit it and shoved it right under our faces. If the mother seems to be enjoying herself a little too much, it’s because she probably is. It’s a detail that seems to get overlooked (probably deliberately) throughout fiction, but people like to be the center of attention. It’s probably the only time this woman will ever be noticed by her community. It makes for a freakish and surreal scene enhanced by the realization that she’s probably just being more honest than a great many other people.