Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Taste of Creepypasta: Afterpeople

The Gist: A seven-year-old boy confined to a hospital keeps stumbling on a show called Afterpeople. But it becomes increasingly clear the program isn't scripted, or may not even be a television program at all.

The Unnecessary Backstory: Okay, I'll say it: Most of the Creepypasta I've consumed is crap. At best, it's a testing ground for writers to flesh out story ideas or hone their talent. At worst, it's a cesspit of people with terrible, lowest-common-denominator taste in horror, as evidenced by the abundance of gag-inducing Slenderman or Jeff the Killer stories. If you're reading this and it hits a nerve, I'm not sorry.

The Takeaway: That said, there are some gems that makes trudging through this literary wasteland worthwhile, and Afterpeople is one of them. It's one of my favorite Creepypastas, right up there with the likes of Candle Cove. The worst you could say about Afterpeople is that Christopher Wolf--better known as Slimebeast, who you also may or may not recognize as the guy with the rule-breaking sideburns in that one scene in that one episode of Dawson's Creek--needed someone to beta-read it, because it reads a bit like a rough first draft. But meh, I'm just niptcking at this point.

What makes Afterpeople so effective is its child narrator. I don't think this story would have worked quite as well without him. His own feelings of loneliness and helplessness parallels that of Nia, the kid whose suffering he's seeing onscreen from his hospital bed. They both feel so disconnected from those trying to help them: The hospital staff barely understand why the boy throws tantrums in pain; the Afterpeople barely understand anything Nia is talking about, period.

Afterpeople shows Slimebeast's command of compelling imagery, proven by the vivid depictions of a post-apocalyptic landscape Nia is forced to navigate. For instance, there's the irony that she's surrounded by ruins that actually seem stable, since they look like they're already "done collapsing"--it's an apt and fresh way of describing a desolate world we've already seen in so many sci-fi and horror renderings.

Another highlight of the story are the episode blurbs from the TV guide the boy is reading: their seemingly innocent (and increasingly vague) descriptions are a great contrast to the show's unsettling content, and only add to the mounting dread when he keeps tuning in. It almost feels like someone is toying with him, tricking him into watching to begin with. There are so many unanswered questions, but they're the kind that may be better left unanswered: Who is transmitting these episodes? Who the fuck is writing these blurbs? Has anyone else been watching? Is the show a product of some fever dream, or a vision from the future? There are hints pointing to the latter, which makes it that much more disturbing. 

Sure, I saw the ending coming. But it's like seeing a car wreck: You know what's going to happen, but it doesn't make the carnage any less cringeworthy, and you watch anyway.

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