“The Inhuman Condition” by Clive Barker (Pocket Books, 2001)

The Dark Weaveworld of Clive Barker,
Part 1 of 3: “The Inhuman Condition”

The Inhuman Conditionstarstarstar

In the mid-to-late eighties, after the first three successful installments of the Books of Blood, the next three in the series were released under the same title.  Earlier this year, these three books were re-released in paperback from Pocket books.  The Books of Blood IV and V were published under the names of the first short story in each respective book: The Inhuman Condition and In the FleshThe Books of Blood VI was published differently: joined with the novel Cabal, the four stories are added on after the novel, providing a very nice anthology for fans of Clive Barker.

“The Inhuman Condition”: Two thieves decide to vent their anger on a hapless hobo, while the other sees little use in this and decides to wait at the side while the other two reduce the vagabond to a bloody pulp.  Karney, while he impatiently waits, finds a piece of rope with three knots in it, belonging to the now bloody hobo.  Taking the line of knots home, he furiously begins to attempt to untie one.  It takes him days, but finally it is complete and a supernatural beast is released.

The same occurs with the other two knots.  However, the hobo wants the knots and its beasts back, for they are very much a part of him in a way that the reader cannot possibly imagine.

“The Body Politic”: A story where one’s hands attain their independence and seek out a way to separate themselves from the unwanted body they are connected to.  Like some nightmarish disease, this spreads to many people, and scenes are revealed in amazing imagery by Barker’s skilled pen, of hands detaching themselves from their respective bodies and then strangling and strangling until there is not longer any movement in the husk that the hands were once connected to.

Only one man is able to devise a plan that will lead to the extinction of this army of protesting hands, though he carries it out at the sacrifice of his own life.  Nevertheless, the world is safe again, for the moment.  In another place, a new horror animates itself in rebellion.

“Revelations”: Two of the characters in this story have been dead for twenty years (he from a bullet shot by his wife for cheating on her; she from the electric chair after being tried and convicted for the murder of her husband).  They return to the scene of the crime in an effort to understand what went wrong.

At the same time there is another couple, he an annoying Bible-thumping evangelist, she submissive and unquestioning.  But this night will be different.  This time she will no longer submit to his whim and that of God; she will stick up for herself for the first time.  It will end in bloodshed and death, in a grand finale where shots will be fired.  The end is already determined.  And then again, not.

“Down, Satan!”: A man loses his belief in God, his new plan is to find Satan and deny him, proving to God how faithful he is.  To bring Satan to him, the billionaire creates a pseudo-Hell in North Africa: “There were ovens large enough to cremate familiars; pools deep enough to drown generations.  The new Hell was an atrocity waiting to happen; a celebration of inhumanity that only lacked its first cause.”  Though he is unsuccessful in ensnaring Satan, the many pain-inflicting tools of this New Hell begin to work, seemingly of their own accord.

“The Age of Desire”: A new drug has been invented, one which turns on the libido to its full potential and lets it rule the body over the brain and the heart.  The first time it is administered to a human, he rapes and kills the doctor then escapes.  The other doctor disappears into hiding.  The police arrive and pick up the pieces and try to understand what is going on.  Meanwhile the infected human, possessed by what he considers an all-consuming fire on his skin, attacks the nearest person (be they male or female) and proceeds to abuse them in every sexual way possible.  His desires rise to such a crescendo that he proceeds to find a sexual interest in inanimate objects, such as brick and stone.

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Originally published on September 10th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.