The Books Of Blood Advent Calendar
The Inhuman Condition
Steve L Clark
The Inhuman Condition
“The thought of a press of people comforted him; from now on he would need a place to hide, wouldn’t he? Men who’d seen miracles did.” – Clive Barker
My first experience with the work of Clive Barker, as is the case with many people, came from the Hellraiser film series. I saw the first two films as an early teenager, and I was particularly fond of the sequel. Beyond the iconic imagery of Pinhead, I knew very little of Barker’s body of work. Years later, my older brother came home with a copy of The Hellbound Heart novella, informed me Hellraiser was based on it, and I dove in. It remains one of my favorite books of all time.
In addition to The Hellbound Heart, my brother also had a copy of Stephen King / Clive Barker – Masters of the Macabre. It was in this book, an overview of both King and Barker’s work up to that time, that I first heard of The Books of Blood. Still, it would be another decade before I actually got my hands on the collection of short stories.
With the age of ebooks in full swing, and being the proud new owner of a Kindle, I started reading more widely, both in the indie scene, as well as tracking down well-known books I missed. Shortly thereafter, I got The Books of Blood and began the journey into the wonders of Barker’s short fiction. For the purposes of this project, I chose to focus on one of my favorites in the series, The Inhuman Condition.
The Inhuman Condition is told from the perspective of a young man named Karney. The story opens with Karney and his three friends in the streets being generally up to no good. They come across a homeless man, and things escalate quickly. One of the friends is more prone to violence than the others and proceeds to attack the vagrant, leaving him beaten and battered in an alley. Many of the man’s possessions end up on the ground, and Karney picks up a curious length of string with intricate knots, taking it with him. Having an interest in puzzles, Karney becomes obsessive in the task of trying to untie the knots. While acting as a lookout for a burglary with his friends, he finally unties the first knot with very unexpected consequences.
In untying the knot, Karney unknowingly unleashes a demon contained inside. The creature, now free from its confines, kills one of Karney’s friends, forcing the rest of them to flee. From there, obsession and desperation lead Karney to untying more knots to the detriment of his friends. He seeks out the homeless man for help, but not all is as it seems. I won’t spoil the conclusion beyond noting it is epic and satisfying.
The Inhuman Condition was published in 1985, one year before The Hellbound Heart. I don’t know which story was written first, but the shared theme of a puzzle releasing demons runs through both, suggesting one could have inspired the other. I think it is this common thread between the two that makes this story resonate so strongly with me. The idea of knowing bad things will come as the result of your actions, but not having the willpower to stop yourself from doing it anyway is relatable in countless ways. Barker explores the notion and spins it into a horrifying tale as only he could. There are many classic tales contained within The Books of Blood, and The Inhuman Condition stands among the very best of them.
Steve J Clark
Steve L Clark is a horror author from southwest Ohio where he lives with his wife and three children. His publication debut, the short story Cold-Blooded, can be found in the anthology Dark Words: Stories of Urban Legends and Folklore. He released his debut collection The Collapse of Ordinary in August of 2021, featuring twelve horror stories ranging from the supernatural, demonic, monsters, and human horror. He is currently working on his debut novella.
The Collapse Of Ordinary
What happens when horror and madness collide with reality?
For most of us, life is a routine of the same chores and responsibilities. We are ordinary people doing ordinary things, unaware of the chaos closing in.
A hotel auditor gets more than he bargained for from a scary story podcast
A trip to the casino turns sinister with more on the line than money
A graveside funeral service spirals into a web of mind-shattering revelations
These horrors and more await you within. Cast aside your doubts, open your mind, and embrace the insanity.
Walk with me into the Collapse of Ordinary.
Horror hides everywhere! That abandoned house down your street, the woods nearby, even your own home. They all have old stories and legends of ghouls, demons and monsters. Throughout time, their stories were handed down around campfires and during sleepovers. Today, those stories will have a fresh take, but with the same DARK WORDS.