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Fridge Horror / Literature

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  • In Vorkosigan Saga, Miles notes that the Cetagandans had planned to unleash a biological agent that would selectively kill all humans on the planet and nothing else. This relates to the fact that the haut women had even worse biological weapons, and that if they wanted to, they could completely annihilate them. The trope is namechecked as Jole notes all of the adults were experiencing terror, once removed.
  • There are several disturbing aspects to stories where characters are able to transport themselves into the universes that are, from their point of view, works of fiction — sometimes ones they wrote themselves. There's the "World as a Myth" novels of Robert A. Heinlein, Greer Gilman's Moonwise, and the Harold Shea stories of L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, just to give a few examples. Heinlein managed to catch one of these disturbing aspects, namely that if fictional universes are real, the author is an awful person for writing a story that isn't set in a utopia. One other extremely disturbing implication, however, is that there have been a sizable amount of authors who hold racist beliefs, and let this influence their work. That means that if all works of fiction exist in some parallel universe somewhere, there must be thousands, if not millions of universes, where racist beliefs are empirically correct. There are universes where The Birth of a Nation (1915) is a documentary. The same goes for all sorts of other bigoted, intolerant beliefs. If anyone who held those beliefs ever wrote a story, that means that somewhere out there is a parallel universe where all their hateful beliefs are right.
    • Peanuts compared to a universe where I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream is non-fiction. Frankly, the notion that any piece of fiction exists as a reality somewhere is frightening enough — racist worlds are really small fry compared to some of the other things people have written.
      • ...wrote the Troper, on the Internet. And there are plenty of people who say they would actually like to live in those universes. It also leaves the possibility that this universe is fictional.
    • The horrors of writing worlds into existence is touched upon in the Myst novels; which, come to think of it, would be fridge horror itself, if not for the necessity of special magical letters for the process to work.
      • How so? I thought they made it clear that the writers only created access to already existing worlds? (Even though that doesn't explain how they were able to change certain parts of them later) But even so, what's so scary about writing a world?
      • What if you erased something? Also, there's Comes Great Responsibility in the mix. Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Bronze Pen illustrates this pretty well.
    • Luckily, this one is easily disproven: If it was actually true that every story is real somewhere, then some story containing dimension-hopping apocalypse mosnters would have already become true. Unless we're the one world nobody ever goes, which, given a by definition infinite amount of monster universes, is rather unlikely.
      • Wrote a story about a race of dimension-traveling creatures whose sole purpose in life is to give bags of gold to their author to test this theory. Didn't work. It's safe to go back to writing, everyone.
      • I just wrote a story about a universe where people write stories about a race of dimension-traveling creatures whose sole purpose in life is to give bags of gold to their author, who fail to see their creations appear and continue creating universes full of horrible nightmarescapes, thinking they're writing safely.
      • Actually, being the one world where no one ever goes is, by the definition of infinite, just as likely as being a world filled with interdimensional monsters.
      • …Or what if the dimension-hopping monsters do exist, but they just haven't come here yet?
  • There exists a book intended for kids around 9-10 years old, Journey in August by Gudrun Pausewang ("The Final Journey" in English) about a little Jewish girl living in Germany in WWII. She and her family are sent to a concentration camp, and the book is mainly about their time in the cattle cars. At the end of the story, they reach their destination, and the girl is sent with her mother and other women and children to the showers. She is completely overjoyed to have a chance to get clean again, and the book ends with her raising her hands in anticipation, waiting for the shower to start. This in itself is pretty grim, until you realize that the protagonist is a very young girl, her mother is described as very frail, and they're surrounded by children. Just... think about that for a minute.
  • In-story in a German legend. A rider is on a journey through southern Germany / northern Switzerland, during a very cold winter. He's crossing a big, flat plain. He thinks nothing about it, he just wonders why there's absolutely no sign of human settlement. Finally, he reaches a village. There, he asks a woman how far Lake Constance is. She's astonished and tells him that he came right from the lake's shore. Then it dawns him that he actually rode over the frozen lake and was damn close to a cold death... in fact, the shock immediately kills him.

  • Anthony Horowitz (author of the Alex Rider series) wrote two collections of short stories entitled Horowitz Horror. In one of the stories, Bath Night, the main character's parents buy a new bath, which turns out to be haunted by the ghost of a serial killer who used to butcher his victims in it. This, coupled with the fact that the story ends with the girl being assumed crazy and taken away, and her father lying in the bath thinking about how he could get rid of annoying people, is all horrifying enough as a child. An older reader will pick up on two things. Number one; someone who kidnaps and murders women is not unlikely to have done something else to them as well, and leading on from that, number two; the ghost only terrorises the main character. Who is a twelve year old girl. While she is in the bath.
    • The novel explicitly mentions Jach the Ripper, who killed prostitutes. It is also strongly implied that the women were killed while taking a bath. A child thinks nothing of it, but what kind of woman would take a bath in a man's house during that time period? This gives the series of murder a whole different meaning: he didn't kidnap random women from the street, drag them to the bathtub and kill them there - he invited them for sex and he killed them when they took a bath (probably by his suggestion). This makes his interaction with the heroine (and the fact that he doesn't terrorize her mother, for example) all the more disturbing.
    • Oh, the ending isn't just about the father considering how to get rid of annoying people. He's explicitly thinking about his wife and daughter, who he thinks are unnecessarily causing stress in his life and are making him look bad. Now, tie that in to the implications up above, about who the previous victims likely would have been, and what was done to them. Now, consider the father doing that to his wife and daughter. Fun!
      • He's ALSO thinking about annoying students at the all-boys school where he teaches. Tie that in with the heroine's earlier jibe about homosexuality at boys' schools ... Oh dear.
    • There is a MUCH worse case of that in a different story in that book: there is a camera possessed by a demon which destroys anything it photographs. At the end of the story, before the main character can tell his family, his brother takes a picture of London from a hill overlooking the whole thing. This could have been much, much worse. How? Think about what might have happened if someone had accidentally pointed the thing into the sky and taken a picture of the Sun.
    • In one of Horowitz's short stories called Harriet's Horrible Dream, a girl's parents run out of money, so they sell their daughter to be eaten at a restaurant catering to cannibals. It's made clear that the restaurant is hidden away in a back alley and known only to a small, wealthy, exclusive clientele. Years later the author wrote a Spiritual Sequel where another girl's parents run out of money, so they sell her on a human auction site. The bidders are a group of research scientists who want to dissect her, a couple who want to feed her to their fostered tiger cubs, a coven of witches looking for a human sacrifice ... and the restaurant. How bad must things have got in the time between the stories that the restaurant can now operate openly?
  • Ray Nelson's "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" is about reptilian aliens who had taken over the world and controlled humanity through a mass hypnosis that made humans see the aliens as other humans. Now, the main character somehow wakes up from this hypnosis and, after being effectively sentenced to death, decides to go on a rampage and overthrow the alien overlords. Okay. But, the hypnotised humans see the aliens as other humans. The hero's girlfriend is horrified to see him kill a "neighbor" she still sees as human even after it's dead. Now, some of the aliens he kill are very young. Going to the neighbor's apartment, George finds half-eaten (actual) human bodies, then sees floating slugs in a tank, realizes they're children and kills them all. Connect the dots. (Fortunately he's alone when he does this).
  • Enid Blyton wrote a story called "House-At-The-Corner" about a family who have an Austrian maid, Greta. The story makes several references to Greta's family being lost, and also mentions that she used to have a twin. The book was written in 1947. Greta's family were killed by the Nazis.
  • In Toaru Majutsu No Index Volume 4, everyone in the world is switched with someone else - but they think they are that someone else and so does everyone else around them. Only the protagonist Kamijou sees through this. The girl Index replaces Kamijou's mother (and believes herself to be his mother), and everyone sees her as the mother - including Kamijou's father. So when the dad starts getting frisky, Kamijou has to keep them apart the whole night, as Index is actually fourteen. Kamijou succeeds of course - but wait. The entire world has been switched around. Think about it for a minute.
  • Freaky Friday: Early in the book thirteen-year-old Annabel, in her mother's body and with everyone else thinking she's her mother, makes plans to go with her father to see a "pretty dirty" movie. Fortunately for ALL concerned, Annabel's mother re-inhabits the body before this takes place. Annabel was naively only imagining this as a chance to see a movie she'd never otherwise have a chance to see, but imagine her father coming home from seeing a sexually explicit film with the woman he thinks is his wife.
    • The Japanese film Himitsu (remade as The Secret in 2007) has a similar premise, and is not for kids.
  • The Clique: The horrible realizations about the characters in these books. Alicia is implied to have breast implants, Dylan has a budding eating disorder, Massie is a sociopath, and Claire's living a lie. They are all in middle school.
  • Jacqueline Wilson books have this, if you've read them as a child and then look back on them. For example, Tracy Beaker's mum was a porn star.
    • When reading Vicky Angel as a child, it seems like a fun ghost story. Re-reading it as an adult, it's clear that Jade is mentally ill and hallucinating Vicky's ghost. This becomes clearer when "Vicky" becomes more controlling and begins to sabotage Jade's friendships (although there is an element of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane when "Vicky" ostensibly saves Jade from being hit by a car.
      • Jade's father is hinted to have been attracted to Vicky.
    • Violet's brother Will from Midnight is clearly a sociopath. He also plays 'games' with her that she finds very upsetting and frightening, which their parents know nothing about, and she even describes him waiting until after they've both been put to bed to punish her for things she's done.
    • Lily from Lily Alone mentions feeling uncomfortable with the way her former stepfather stared at her and made comments about how pretty she looked. It's subtle enough that the target audience probably wouldn't pick up on it, but re-reading it ...
    • A similar example to Vicky Angel above is Wilson's early novel The Other Side about a girl who believes that she can astrally project. It's clear to an adult that her fantastic dream sequences are a sign of mental illness, possibly inherited from her mother who is taken to hospital after a psychiatric breakdown at the beginning of the book. At one point, Allison's father and stepmother save her from launching out of a window when she believed she could fly; on the surface, it's presented as perfectly reasonable to her that she could do it, but the implications when re-reading are horrific.
  • In Guus Kuiper's Polleke series, the titular heroine, a (then) 12 years old girl, is approached by a driver on her way home. The driver says her father had a terrible accident and that he can drive her to the place. Polleke gets in, and only then does she remember that her father is in Nepal at the moment and (an In-Universe example) realises the man is a child molester. When the car gets stuck in traffic, she makes a run for it and escapes. This by itself is devastating to her and horrifying to the reader. But then you remember that just about six months ago, her father was a homeless drug addict, living in the same city with her. Had the man approached her then, she probably wouldn't realise it's a trap until way too late.
  • Come Back, Lucy by Pamela Sykes is a story about a girl discovering that she can travel back in time to be with her friend, the ghost of a Victorian girl who lived in the house a hundred years previously. She cannot control her time travel and has to make excuses to her adoptive family to cover her absence. A child reader would not realize at first glance that her guardians might have been worried about more than ghosts when a ten-year-old girl is disappearing at night.
  • A Safety Town book called Poisons Make You Sick follows the story of a young girl named Tammy who got sick after eating nearly half a bottle of asprins. No, Tammy, poisons don't just make you sick; they can KILL you. In fact, in the book, she's just in bed like she had a cold. In real life, if she weren't dead, she would be in the hospital getting her stomach pumped. Of course, as a child, you're not aware of this horrific implication until years later when you read about people who die of drug overdose either accidentally or intentionally...
    • Actually, this ramps up the horror when you ask yourself: "How many kids unknowingly overdosed on what they thought was a small bottle of candy?" There is a reason the warning labels on the prescriptions tell you to keep the pills away from children.
  • The story that Susan Varley wrote called Badger's Parting Gifts. It tells the story about Badger dying, and his friends each sharing their special memories of Bagder. The Fridge Horror you may ask? When Fox went into his house, he saw a letter saying that he went through the "Long Tunnel." Now, judging by this letter, you can interpret the letter as a suicide note, and that he killed himself. Or, alternatively, he probably wrote the letter when he felt like he was dying.
  • In Dragon Bones Ward experiences a brief moment of Fridge Horror when he puts together the information that Oreg is an immortal slave whose material body is that of a pretty boy, and the fact that many of Ward's ancestors, and previous "owners" of Oreg were ... unsavoury characters. Oreg explains that he must do (as in, is magically compelled to do) whatever Ward orders him to do, and if Ward orders him to sit down and not move, he must do that until Ward orders him to do something different. Seems harmless, if you're an innocent child and can't imagine anything worse. If you can, on the other hand ...
  • Zilpha Keatley Snyder wrote fridge horror brilliance in one of her most popular novels, The Changeling (on which the Green-Sky Trilogy is based). When Ivy and Martha are seven, Ivy (who lives a mile or so from Martha) appears at Martha's window at midnight in the middle of a rainstorm. Martha suspects Ivy is crying, asks how she could come all that way in the dark, and Ivy buries her face in a towel for a minute before whispering "There's worse things than dark." At thirteen, Ivy furiously states "I am never going to grow up." Not just a teenager's wisdom that Growing Up Sucks, she is angry and defiant about it, not wistful or nostalgic. When Martha asks "What's wrong with being an adult?" Ivy responds furiously "If you don't know, there's no use trying to tell you." Asked by a neighbor what she has been doing, she says "Waiting." This was published in 1970, when sexual abuse was never referred to in children's literature explicitly or even implicitly, even in young adult books.
  • Reading The Spider and the Fly as an adult is horrifying. The spider murders the fly, eats her, and gets away with it. Both are fully anthropomorphic.
    • That's probably not all he did with her...
    • Consider how spiders eat. First, they paralyze their food with their venom. Then they gob acid in the hole they make, and wait for their victim's organs to liquify. Then they slurp it out.
  • John Anthony West's short story "Gladys's Gregory", in which a society of housewives prepares for an annual contest that features their husbands. The winning husband's last line is a doozy. The contest involves fattening up one's husband, and the heaviest wins. A wife basically gets one chance, so there is some strategy guessing which other wives are entering their husbands that year. The winning husband gets to choose how he will be served - to the wives at the banquet following the contest. Gregory chooses to be eaten raw.
  • Missing by James Duffy is a children's book about a 10-year-old girl being abducted by a stranger who has been stalking her for some time. The girl has a history of running away from home (to escape her parents' abusive marriage; in one instance she just wanted to visit her grandparents) so the police don't believe she is in danger, and casually remark that she'll turn up when she wants to. There's some Values Dissonance here due to the book being set in the early 1980s, and it's made clear to the child audience that the girl is in no danger - the man has no sexual interest in her and doesn't want to harm her, he intends her to replace his daughter whom he lost in a custody battle. All the same, the entire story is full of terrifying implications for an older reader. And nowadays, with the police being okay with it due to misinformation, it is way too close to the Henri Piette thing.
  • ''The BMA Family Doctor Home Adviser'' is a medical book created to make it easier for parents in a family household to assess whether or not their daughter's, say, rash or flu is a normal occurrence that can be cured quickly with some antibiotics or a sign of another, more serious, underlying illness by using simple charts requiring the reader to follow the charts according to the symptoms present. As all medical books are the book is very thorough, most of the articles explaining what possible illness are there depending on the symptoms. It makes you think however, when you see pages dedicated to fainting (has he or she been unconscious for more than two days?) and head trauma (has he or she suffered from a head injury in two or more days?) and fever (does he or she have a body temperature of over 38 degrees Celsius?), how any sensible parent would not bring them to the doctor immediately and are conflicted enough to consult the book about it.
    • This is a matter of social class, tradition and poverty. Because doctors cost money, they're only consulted when things are dire. People used to know a lot of first aid, medicinal plants and home remedies to treat even serious illness and injury, often successfully. Detailed reference books like this, called "doctor books", were very common, and regarded as necessary and valuable as the Bible.
  • The Hunger Games: As Katniss sings a song by her father called "The Hanging Tree", she realizes, many years after first hearing it, that the point-of-view character is the guy who was hanged there. invoked
  • In Mercer Mayer's One Monster After Another, after the ship that retrieved Sally Ann's letter is sunk by a Furious Floating Ice-Ferg, the ship's crew set off in a lifeboat, leaving the letter in a bottle, only for the entire Blue Ocean of Bubbly Goo to be sucked up by a Wild n' Windy Typhoonigator, which makes one wonder what happened to the crew.
  • Writing about the 1944 Hartford, CT circus fire, reporter Stewart O'Nan says "Several survivors said the one thing they will never forget about the circus fire as long as they live is the sound of the animals as they burned alive. But there were no animals."
  • In Barry Lyga’s novel The Secret Sea, the protagonists end up in a universe where women are not allowed to vote, live on their own, go into various establishments, or (presumably) attend higher education. The female protagonist even discovers- the hard way- that women who are walking around by themselves are at risk of being kidnapped and sold at legally-sanctioned auctions. That, and difference in technology between the two universes noted by the protagonists, raises a bit of fridge horror:
    • What happens to the women who are bought at auction?
    • With women so carefully excluded from education, how much knowledge and scientific progress has that universe missed out on?
    • Even more fridge horror kicks in when you realize that in our own universe, up until very recently, sexism, racism, classism, ableism and income inequality pretty much controlled who got an education and who didn’t, and still hold undue influence over it. How much knowledge and technology are we missing?
  • One that leans more toward Fridge Sadness: In The Penderwicks, the Penderwick sisters' mother died of cancer two weeks after giving birth to her youngest daughter, Batty. Younger readers won't pick up on it, but it's very likely that Mrs. Penderwick found out she had cancer during her pregnancy, and chose to forgo treatment in order to have Batty.
  • The titular organization of There Is No Antimemetics Division is fighting an entity called 3125 — a Brown Note Being that erases from existence not only anyone who discovers it, but also anyone in their “headspace”, including their close family. The Antimemetics Division has developed failsafes to protect its employees from being erased by 3125, but their “headspace”-mates do not always escape unscathed. The book’s first chapter establishes that protagonist Marion Wheeler has a husband and two children. It’s later revealed that some time after this chapter she wiped her husband’s memory (as well as her own memory of her husband) to keep him safe from 3125, but her children are never mentioned again.
  • The Call of Cthulhu's ending could easily count as this. To quote someone who said this better, "The final lines of the story involve Thurston realizing that he knows too much, and that it is very likely that he will meet his end by cultists. Then suddenly you realize you now know too much. "
  • 3 2 1 Contact Magazine had a series of short stories called "The Time Teens" about a pair of teenagers who'd accidentally made a time machine and used it to jump to random points in time. One story had them visit the future only for the time machine's batteries to die, leaving them stuck on an alien planet. The natives of the planet had a shared mental dreamscape that they brought the teens into and then "used the power of dreams" to send them back home. It's never addressed in the series, but there's certainly an implication that the protagonists were simply put into a Lotus-Eater Machine dreamscape that made them think that they had made it back home while their bodies slowly starved on an alien planet devoid of anything they could eat.