DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA PART 30: PSYCHOSIS
Whenever I interview Creepypasta authors for this series of features, one question that I ask of all of them is ‘what is YOUR favourite pasta?’ The answers are fairly wide-ranging (as matters of taste often are), but there are some familiar titles that crop up time and time again. One of the most popular of these is the excellent Psychosis.
First published a few years ago on the now-defunct, original Creepypasta.com forum by user M59Gar, it was then featured on the front page of the site in 2008-2009. Sadly the site is no longer active, but the next oldest version of Psychosis was that posted to the new creepypasta.com on 3 November 2010 here: http://www.creepypasta.com/psychosis/
M59Gar’s Psychosis is one of the longer Creepypastas, but it is well worth the time it takes to read it. I thoroughly recommend you do so immediately! The story is actually rather simple, detailing a young programmer who slowly but surely succumbs to his own paranoia as he starts to believe that an insidious evil may have infiltrated his life. To discuss it in any more detail runs the risk of spoiling what is quite rightly regarded as one of the greatest creepypastas of all time.
Currently the fifth highest rated pasta over at creepypasta.com (with a score of 9.2 from a staggering 18,101 votes), and also the third most discussed, it has garnered a huge following.
The reasons for this are all too apparent — it’s exceptionally well-written, cultivating a subtle sense of dread that unnerves far more than the tacky gore of less accomplished pastas. M59Gar tells his story in a fantastically compelling manner, using the more measured, patient pace of the tale to his favour. This means the protagonist never suddenly leaps to any wild conclusions, instead edging ever closer to the abyss of a psychological breakdown.
The story also deals with some weighty and decidedly modern themes, especially of the roles of technology, information and perception in establishing what is truly ‘real’. In an era in which whole lives are lived online, this is a truly contemporary horror story, and one that is utterly thought provoking. I’ve said in the past that horror is as fantastic a mirror of modern society as any other genre. The monsters of each generation speak volumes about the world in which they lived.
From the gigantic, science-made monsters of the Fifties, spawned by a world in which the nuclear bomb had ended World War II, to the faceless slashers of the Seventies and Eighties, themselves a reflection of the monsters among us, serial killers such as Dahmer, Manson and Bundy, horror cinema and literature has always encapsulated the fears of society. That technology, that tool that supposedly unifies the world, is ultimately leaving each of us more isolated than ever before comes as a timely warning from M59Gar.. Or should I say, Matt Dymerski.
For since the publication of Psychosis, M59Gar has started to write under his real name of Matt Dymerski, becoming a successful author in his own right. He has even published Psychosis, along with some of his other short stories, which you can pick up at Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2dZ0DG6. It’s a great book and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
However, even though he is now a published author, Dymerski hasn’t abandoned the internet and still posts regular stories to the internet, via his very own web site, http://mattdymerski.com, and at the r/nosleep subreddit, arguably the greatest source of online horror fiction on the web.
It was over at NoSleep that Dymerski published Eating Disorder on 26 November 2012 (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/13ty8f/eating_disorder/?st=iu5raxdx&sh=1c38d97d). A chilling story of a woman with a mental illness that affects the way she perceives her food as told by her doctor, this was the first in a series of six stories that would later come to be known as the Asylum series.
It was followed on 27 November 2012 by The Bonewalker (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/13w6xo/the_bonewalker/?st=iu5re84o&sh=dbe1b970), then on the following day by The Scholarship (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/13ydz7/the_scholarship/), then each day thereafter by The Friend Zone (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/140rgb/the_friend_zone/), The Escape (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/142ivo/the_escape/) and The Truth (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/144eqc/the_truth/).
The first couple of stories seem like simple, standalone horror stories (albeit very, very good ones). However, as the series progresses, the doctor comes to realise that there may be a larger plot at work… perhaps even that same plot that devastated the life of Psychosis’ protagonist.
More than just a thematic successor to Dymerski’s best-known pasta, with the added length afforded by writing his story as a series, The Asylum really feels like an expansion of the tale.
Featuring all the social commentary, insight and (of course) excellent, descriptive and imaginative story-telling of Psychosis, it’s every bit as rewarding a read. The whole story has since been collected in a free-to-read eBook available via Amazon’s Kindle store: http://amzn.to/294FQjc. That’s right, FREE! Go get it!
Even as both Psychosis and the Asylum series hint at a single antagonist, The Opponent, the story is not yet finished.
On 3 August this year, Dymerski published the first chapter of a new series, Our Blind Spot, to r/NoSleep (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/4w11bc/our_blind_spot/). It has since been followed by two more chapters (https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/4w7fp9/our_blind_spot_part_two/ and https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/4y8gu5/our_blind_spot_part_three/) and has yet to conclude. It features themes and even characters from Dymerski’s previous techno-paranoiac stories and is every bit as good as his other hit tales.
With a burgeoning career and having garnered critical AND commercial acclaim, many could forgive Dymerski for leaving the internet Creepypasta community behind, yet he hasn’t. He’s still contributing, still writing for his fans for free, which is an admirable display of commitment to the Creepypasta scene. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the very busy, but still very personable Dymerski recently about his work.
The interview follows below.
UK HORROR SCENE: Thanks so much for agreeing to speak with me. For our first question, how would you describe Psychosis?
MATT DYMERSKI: Psychosis is a story about an intelligent young man who asks questions and follows available data to logical conclusions. It just so happens that fundamental flaws in our way of life have undermined many basic truths, rendering his conclusions terrifying…
UKHS: And, in your own words, tell us a little about the Asylum series?
MD: The Asylum series is a successor series to Psychosis; we follow the investigations of a doctor at an asylum who notices disturbing trends in his patients’ stories. The deeper he delves, the more horrifying questions he uncovers about the apparently malleable natures of reality and perception. Is it possible that an insane person is actually more aware of the Truth than we are?
UKHS: What served as your inspiration for the stories?
MD: Psychosis and Asylum were both inspired by the many-layered existence we’ve built for ourselves as a society. At the root of any discussion is a fact, but between that fact and our belief about it there are numerous layers of distortion, accidental misinformation, and even agenda-driven lies. We have a wealth of information available to us, more than any humans before us, but that just makes us further divorced from the base facts.
How can we determine what is real when our entire lives are based on assumed beliefs? What if we’ve never seen a real fact at all? What if we begin diverging away from the beliefs of those around us?
Psychosis and Asylum both revolve around people who question our constructed reality — and in both cases they find that this construction may not have been innocent. These stories are my odes to the paranoia and confusion I felt when I first grew into adulthood and realized the world of television and the world around me were very, very different.
UKHS: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?
MD: As many probably are, I am hugely influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. He blazed a trail and created an entire genre. I can only hope to approach any level of similar storytelling.
UKHS: Would you say you’re a fan of Creepypasta? If so, what is your favourite Creepypasta by a creator other than yourself?
MD: Hah, yes, I adore Creepypasta, mainly because I was actually on the original Creepypasta forums while it became a much bigger thing than anyone ever expected. Psychosis itself spread out with the herd when the Creepypasta community split into numerous websites and forums. My favorite Creepypasta of all time is THE DAY OF ALL THE BLOOD; its humor is just absolutely so very perfect and far more intricate than most realize (for example, I love that the protagonist continues about his day while blood is apparently erupting everywhere, mirroring many creepypastas where terrible things happen and the protagonist just continues his daily life or even falls asleep so that the story may continue). In terms of horror-focused creepypastas, though, it would have to be The Russian Sleep Experiment. It reminded me very strongly of Beyond The Wall of Sleep, and I love the places those kinds of stories take the reader.
UKHS: Why do you think Creepypasta resonates so well with the fandom?
MD: I believe Creepypasta resonates well with the fandom because the community actually designed it that way. Without realizing it, the format we rapidly evolved on the original site was created to be short, sweet, and viral. In many ways, Creepypastas are the Vines or Tweets of horror. They grab you with a character or situation and hit you with a cool ending in a span of time suited for the internet era; it’s like fast forwarding a Twilight Zone to get to the twist at the end. Even though the Twilight Zone is awesome, we’ve all skipped to the end once or twice, because the much faster pace of our lives today and the way we consume content has made us all far savvier. We don’t need slow builds to establish a believable concept anymore. We want to believe.
UKHS: What do you think the appeal of Psychosis is to fans?
MD: I think Psychosis takes an interesting niche among the range of Creepypastas. I haven’t kept up on the whole continuum of stories, but for a long time Psychosis was definitely the longest Creepypasta out there. I believe the idea at the core of it is too complex to explain in a shorter tale, while the setup is very similar to many of the reader’s demographic (college aged male) and common experiences we’re increasingly having with media / the internet. So Creepypasta readers got into it, signed up for the ride so to speak, and rode the inevitable tailspin into seeming madness like a rollercoaster. In that way — being a Creepypasta, but being so unlike most of them at the same time — I believe Psychosis slotted itself into a permanent role in the roster.
UKHS: And what do you think is the appeal of the Asylum series?
MD: The feedback I got from the Asylum series as I wrote it definitely helped direct it. Here the protagonist questions not only our social reality, but also the realities of individuals, including himself. When we undermine faith in the system as we are told it is, we undermine our own position and everything we know about ourselves.
Are we really who we think we are? Or are we just fulfilling the role others expect of us? It was questions like these that many commenters and messagers spoke of, and I was happy to dive into that with each new chapter. Body image issues, caffeine addiction, pressures to perform in school and work, relationship pressures, and more were all tackled through a lens of Reality vs Expectations.
UKHS: What work of your own are you most proud of?
MD: Certain chapters of the multiverse series I am currently writing rank among my favorites. I relive these intense chapters in my memories as if I watched them in a movie theater, and I’m just so glad I was able to get there and make those moments real in writing. I especially identify with the non-heroes in my stories; the men and women who aren’t important, aren’t heroic, and are just trying to understand their place in an uncaring universe.
UKHS: I read the full Asylum series by downloading the eBook from Amazon (http://amzn.to/294FQjc). What inspired you to collect the chapters and release them in this way? What challenges did it present?
MD: I’ve been working for quite some time on self-publishing and publishing other authors as a profession. I’ve been doing that and writing for about seven years now, and my own books (such as the Asylum) result from my learning process. At the time, Amazon’s system was pretty bad, and I actually had to edit HTML directly to make the formatting work. They’ve come a long way since then, but I’ll always remember coding my book like a program just to make it readable. It’s surreal, absurd, and a little hilarious.
UKHS: The fans are very passionate about these stories. Are there any examples of fan art for either story that really impresses you?
MD: I actually did have a couple links saved, but my computer died recently and I lost them. Mostly what I immediately thought of were the numerous videos and narrations that fans have done for Psychosis. I always recommend Chilling Tales for Dark Nights’ rendition of Psychosis, narrated by Jeff Clement (https://www.chillingtalesfordarknights.com/2014/01/17/psychosis-matt-dymerski-narrated-jeff-clement-feat-c-lake-otis-jiry/) . It’s awesome.
UKHS: You’re a prolific writer, regularly releasing stories to your sub-reddit (r/M59Gar) and over at r/nosleep. How do you keep the creative juices flowing? Is writing a process that you enjoy or is it more about getting your stories out there to an audience?
MD: I’m glad you mentioned that, because I really hope to get this point out to prospective authors: if you write what you love writing, it’s easy and fulfilling. I have taken my work in numerous crazy directions because I was seeking a flow I completely enjoyed; feedback and engagement from readers helps, but the stories come to me because I’m actually interested in the characters, the adventure, and the format doesn’t hold me back. Nothing has ever been so difficult as trying to write for someone else’s format when I don’t really know what I’m doing — that’s when you’ll get the ‘writer’s block’ feeling of frustration and blankness.
So if you’re having trouble creating a story, I recommend you try to figure out what it is you really want to be writing. The answer might surprise you.
UKHS: Will you ever return to the story of Asylum or Psychosis in the future? And what else can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead?
MD: Absolutely. We are always closer to the stories of Psychosis and the Asylum than we know, and Our Blind Spot is a current series touching upon that world. I will be spiraling toward the truth of that reality over several future series.
UKHS: Finally, are there any links to which you’d like me to send my readers to see more of your work?
MD: Just the standard links are fine:
My blog (http://mattdymerski.com)
My subreddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/m59gar)
Matt Dymerski on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Matt-Dymerski/e/B00A82LSW4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1473293594&sr=8-1)
UKHS: Thank you again!
It’s so refreshing to see such talented individuals still committed to their fans and the reddit community that made their name. In the hands of writers like Dymerski, authors prepared to challenge the perception of Creepypasta and continue to raise the bar with weightier, compelling themes, the genre is sure to grow and grow.
Come back next week for another fascinating example of web horror, one that revisits one of the most infamous and chilling stories I’ve covered here before.