Tuesday, February 9, 2010

For the Snark Was a Boojum, You See

Hey, Space Monkees.

Here's a cautionary tale of what awful effect staying up to 4 AM can have on an overly superstitious mind:

One night, while I was happily in bed, staying up needlessly late for no particular reason.  By this point midnight had long since passed and I was now knee-deep into the true dead of night.  I went over to the Anime Network to watch another episode of the delightfully bizarre psychological cartoon called "Ghost Hound", which regrettably is only available in English subtitles.  Before the episode even began it gave the title.  Typically the title is completely harmless: just references to cutting-edge psychological concepts.  Looking them up makes for very interesting reads.  But this time... it was different.  The title was especially long: "For the Snark Was a Boojum, You See".  Immediately chilling horror poured straight into my veins.

On the surface, it does not seem so scary.  Weird, admitted, but nothing much.  Yet, these words struck some kind of elemental cord straight inside me.  What in God's name was a "Snark" or a "Boojum"?  I did not know, but I could tell these were monsters, either physical of allegorical.  Snarks did not sound like particularly pleasant, yet I would certainly rather see fifty of them over a Boojum.  That word, "Boojum"... It didn't sound frighteningly, actually more silly.  And yet...  Yes, there was something much more sinister about it.  I could envision myself drowning in laughter and suffocating on my own glee if I were to run into it.  Whatever torture was this monster's specialty, it would be enough to make me wish for death before it was over.  No, I would wish I had never been at all.  This was no monster, it was something much worse.  The awful sights that Dante envisioned might be enough to scare chruchmen into piety, but a Boojum would send God himself fleeing into the night.  What an awful thing.

Somehow though, I could see no form for the Boojum or the Snark (though I was certain they were monsters and I would be able to recognize them by sight).  In fact, even though a Snark might occupy physical space, the Boogum was far more eternal.  Perhaps I could escape a Snark, but if it were a Boojum...  Nothing could save me.

No!  These were ridiculous thoughts, the product of a mind with far too much time on its hands.  I needed to see that I was just inventing nonsense, some sign that no such things as a Snark or a Boojum ever could be.  My fears eventually drove me to the computer.  Even though the walk was a short one, I was filled with fear.  It was a cold, dark night.  The only light came from the uncaring glow of the computer and television, making crooked shadows all through the house.  Finally I reached the computer, but I immediately regretted the move.  If only I could have just snuggled up with my blanket and gone to bed, then all this Boojum business could pass, harmlessly.  In my extremely tired feverish mind, for some reason my blanket and its warmth took on a mystical quality.  If only I could just wrap myself up, just maybe I could escape the Boojum's alien powers.  But it was too late, if the Boojum wanted me, I would already be gone before I could reach sanctuary.  All that was left was to learn more.

As I typed in the words into the Google searchbar, I prayed that no result would come up.  I hoped beyond hope that maybe I just misread the episode title and perhaps there was no Boojum or Snark.  It was all to nothing, however.  Before I was done typing the third word of the phrase "the snark was a boojum you see" and then the entire phrase was filled so suddenly I almost fell out of my chair.  The results were not a good sign.  The first was a link to a Wikipedia page of where "Ghost Hound" got the idea:  a Lewis Carroll poem called "The Hunting of the Snark".  If anybody could have tapped into some sort of unconscious current of immortal horror, it was suspected pedophile Victorian poet and mathematician Lewis Carroll.  The man wrote "Jabberwocky" - I was doomed.  The second link was to a PDF document that read out in screaming letters "THE SNARK WAS A BOOJUM!".  In my mind I saw a mind like my own.  Some poor victim of the Boojum's power that had been driven completely insane; now nothing but a lunatic shouting and raving across the Internet.

I was too frightened to open either link.  My God, what sort of evil had I uncovered here?  If I were to read more, the horror would just get worse.  Carroll had found something elemental here, and I did not want to know anything else.  All I wanted was to return to my bed and go to sleep; hoping that the morning light would keep away the demons and Boojums.  Perhaps when I was more awake and my mind less mossy, I could convince myself this entire thing was just some insane trail of thought I conjured up out of an out-of-control imagination and lack of sleep.  But unfortunately, there was one major problem...  I had to go to the bathroom.

Around every corner I imagined the Boojum waiting there for me.  Even though I could imagine no form for it (for nothing was horrible enough to justify this fear), I could still see it waiting there, ready to feed on my soul.  Oh lord, how had things progressed to this point?  What terror!  Though my fear might have been great, the biological imperative to empty my bladder was greater.  I would rather be torn apart by an abstract fear than live up to embarrassment of wetting my bed.  And I went on to the bathroom, once again cursing my fragile human body.  I knew that one day it was going to get me killed... or in this case driven mad by the Boojum.

By the time I flushed the toilet I realized I had made a huge mistake.  Closing the door out of an automatic habit of modesty was certainly not the smartest move.  The Boojum, seizing the opportunity to corner me thanks to my fatal blunder was certainly standing there right behind the thin wooden door.  Its eyes (now I was certain it had eyes, maybe not a face or a head, but there were eyes) were fixed solidly at the bathroom; waiting feindishly for me to move out and then rip me to pieces.  No... I would not be ripped to pieces, this was no beast - it was far worse.  It did not have claws or fangs or poison barbs, no tentacles or armor or breath.  It was far too elemental to be just a mere monster.  I could not even say that it was evil, no this thing surpassed evil.  The Boojum was the most horrible thing ever devised.  The entire universe, all meaning, everything was in the mercy of this creature.

Words cannot describe the despair I felt as I opened that door.  Soon it would all be over.  The only thought that came into my mind was "would I even get a scream out before it finished me off?"  Somehow I prayed that I would at least get that mercy, that at least some little tangible sign of my evisceration could escape and reach everybody else in the house so they would know that a terrible fate had befallen me.  Otherwise, there would be nothing left.  The Boojum would lick my blood off the bathroom tiles, leaving no trace of my demise for my loved ones to find.

And now came the moment of my judgment.  There was nothing left, I left myself up to fate.  But then, behind the door, there was--

...nothing!  Not a thing at all but an empty wall.  If anybody or anything had been there, even if it were my own mother, I would have gone mad from fright.  But instead it seems that the Boojum and the Snark it was pretending to be instead had other plans for me.  They had decided to give mercy to me, why I had no idea.  So I did not tempt fate by doing anything else that night.  I went straight to bed, and forced myself to sleep.  Despite my brush with mortality, the sleep came easily, and there were no dreams.

By morning, the entire incident seemed very silly to me.  "What kind of lunatic must I be, coming up with such a wild story based upon a single line?  There was no Snark, and no Boojum.  If there were such things, they certainly weren't forces of pure malevolence from another dimension, or whatever I was imagining them to be that night."  I had a good laugh about it, feeling invincible now that the Sun was up, forcing away all paranoid delusions.  But yet, curiosity still nagged at me.  There was a Lewis Carroll poem to read!  Its never a bad decision to enjoy some work from my old friend Carroll.  The poem was okay, as silly and incomprehensible as the more famous "Jabberwocky".  Even so, something still felt a little different about this work.  Something a tad bit off...

Then the fear came crashing back to me like an anvil smashing into the head of Wile E. Coyote.  I read the final verse, and knew that all my fears were very real.  The Boojum was real, and just as awful as I imagined:

"In the midst of the word he was trying to say
         In the midst of his laughter and glee
He had softly and suddenly vanished away
         For the Snark was a Boojum, you see."

I could not stop screaming.


  1. O_O I was up till 4AM last night too... don't give me nightmares! >_<

  2. Due to this, I ended up googling "For the snark was a boojum, you see." And am now tempted to read Through The Looking Glass.

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  4. They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care;
    They pursued it with forks and hope;
    They threatened its life with a railway-share;
    They charmed it with smiles and soap.

  5. This reminds me of something out of a Gregory Corso poem.

  6. @MundaneJester

    If I've made you tempted to read some Lewis Caroll, then this entire crazy fable has suceeded beyond my wildest dreams.

    1. Besides reading Lewis Carroll's Snark, looking at Henry Holiday's Snark can be an interesting experience too.

  7. "Boojum" is the term Jasper Fforde uses in the Thursday Next books to refer to someone who gets stuck in the void between books

  8. I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who imagines formless horrers from beyond the frayed edges of madness lurking around every corner of a darkened home.

  9. I start doing that at about 2 in the morning...

  10. By the way, I was awake the other night when the mild earthquake hit Chicago, and I live in Lombard which is a nearby suburb. I felt it and heard it, and the first thing that came to my mind was this. O_O

  11. I just rented 'The Hunting of the Snark' from my public library. Along with a bunch of other works by Lewis Carroll. Damn you Blue, you've got me hooked!

  12. I know two words which should still have the very NATION trembling. Midgar. Zolom.

  13. For something really chilling, try reading House of Leaves. There's one bit realatively early in the book where the annotator (the in-universe authorship of the book is a bit complicated) invites you to imagine some formless horror just out of view. I tried it, and you would not believe the chills it gave me.