When I read through my journal from a few months back, I find them filled with thick descriptions of brutal and erotic caresses, of rough scaly skin and a deluge of sweat, tears, blood, and semen. There are explicit descriptions of murder, of sex, of bestiality. You would think that I was some sort of depraved lunatic, but they are the result of my imagination, fueled by the “erotic” card game, The Beast, written by Aleksandra Sontowska and Kamil Węgrzynowicz and published by through Naked Female Giant. According to the website;
“The Beast is an unsettling erotic game of imagining you are having sex with the Beast — an alien and inhuman creature — and writing a diary describing your erotic encounters, your fears and your anxieties.
The game is played over the course of 21 days. Every day you draw a card with an event or a question that will stimulate associations and invite you to visit unusual and perverse regions of your imagination, and then you write your thoughts and reactions to it in your diary”
The game design is simple, you use a 21 cards from a deck of 28 (excluding instructions), where the first and the last cards are always the same. Each day, you set aside the time to lay one card, and responding to the statement or question on the card, challenging you to delve into the darkest and perverted reaches of your mind.
It starts with a simple sentence “I have sex with a beast. It’s a secret”, and my journal continues: “Its smell reminds me of faeces. It feels meaty to the touch. I hide it in the basement. I’m attracted to the Beast’s brilliant eyes, unclothing my intellect. I’m repulsed by the Beast’s touch. I think of the beast as it…” Each statement, each description prompted by the first card, the Beastionaire. I know from the get go, from having read the instructions, the website, and reviews that this will be oriented towards sex, bestiality and the blackest fantasies I can muster. I am ready. And I am enjoying it. Every card is an opportunity for me to be creative. To write something awful and to transgress against good taste and morals. And possibly myself and how I see my sexuality…
…At least this seems to be the intention of the game. It mirrors how our sex lives and sexual fantasies are a private and secret matter. It is something we don’t talk about outside of our most intimate circles, it is not something we want to have broadcast. And it is a private matter of course, and only the most exhibitionist and extrovert among us would feel the need to tell the world of our fetishes or deepest fantasies. The Beast also pushes the boundaries of these fantasies, or even crosses them, as the game asks us to reach deep into the really perverted parts of our imagination. And the results may not look much like our sexual fantasies as we know them, but they may indicate the furthest reaches of our imagination. A potentiality of it, if you will.
During the course of the three weeks the game is played, you, the player, receive random instructions by the cards that encourages you to think and describe your relationship to the beast. It is not just a sexual thing – it can be an emotional thing, too. At one point the game prompted me to describe what needs the beast fulfills apart from sex.
“Companionship, comfort, love. The Beast is always there. Always there for me. It listens when I whisper and mumble my thoughts, hitherto unspoken. It will always embrace me, hold me tight. Tighter than anyone or anything before. It holds me like in a vise. Holds me like it will never let go. It’s love. It loves me. Without any reservation. I can see it in its eyes, smell it on its musk. It’s love when it holds me, enfolds me, consumes me. It’s love.
The Beast gives me that unconditional love and comfort that I have always dreamed of, but no human has ever afforded to give me. “
Is this true? Is this something I’m lacking, or is it how I see myself as partner to the beast? In what way do the game and the cards I answer create a different “me” in the journal from what I am elsewhere? Several times in the journal I see my real life creeping in, when asked about when I last had sex with someone else, I describe a Tinder date that took place a couple of months before I journaled my life with the Beast. It’s personal, intimate and not something I would gladly share. I am far more comfortable with sharing the sexual details of my relationship with the Beast itself, than I am with how I answered questions about my relationships to others. Maybe because they are true, a part of the world outside the game, and they involve real people, and have real emotional risks involved. Huizinga’s oft-cited concept of play as a magic circle can be used here, as a metaphor for how the act of playing sets aside a special psychological and social space where we are allowed to imagine or do things that would be considered inappropriate under “normal” circumstance. Playing the Beasts allows for me to go (really) dark and sexual, in ways I would be reluctant to do even when writing fiction. But the walls of this space can crumble if someone from outside intrudes, not understanding the boundaries of the game and play act. Or when we allow someone to see it. Compare it to sex, which occurs in a private and intimate circle, allowing people into the bedroom to watch would for most (but not all) be a transgressive act, and break that circle. My feeling is that the same happens if I allow the world of the Beast to mix with the world outside the safety of the game.
At some points I allow myself a bit of “humour”. While hardly hilarious, my journal reveals the absurdity of the situation, without leaving the darkness. Towards the end I am asked what protection, if any I use with the beast.
“No. I couldn’t fathom what protection would work… The size of the Beast’s member… it would take what? An elephant’s intestines? And the strength of it ejaculate, it feels like I’m being bombarded by artillery. No… I don’t use any protection. There isn’t any protection.
And why would I protect myself from this gift?”
Earlier in the journal, I am asked about what diseases the Beast has given me, and it only makes sense that we wouldn’t have been using any protection. The answer to that question also has a comedic element, that shines through the body horror, if only for me.
“I probably should go to a doctor though.
I have sores. There’s puss. And they ache when I have a fever. No. They don’t ache. They throb. It isn’t painful really. It’s just a warm throbbing that matches my fever. And I can swear they are growing. They’re probably not, but they feel like it.
I’ve been toying with the idea of of puncturing one of the sores, one of the larger ones… a pustule on my shoulder. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. I fear what’ll come out. And I don’t want to hurt it…
… it reminds me of my Beast.”
This is traditional body horror, that of the body changing into something inhuman and disgusting. This is a nightmarish scenario, but the pustule on the shoulder, growing, was more inspired by the third Evil Dead movie, The Army of Darkness, where the protagonist Ash has an evil copy of himself growing from his shoulder. A scene that both haunts me and makes me laugh. This pustule becomes the center of the journal as it grows, and we learn from the cards that Beast will give birth. In my journal the Beast is birthing through me, transforming my body into one of its own. The story I tell is shaped in the intersection of the randomness of the cards, my imagination and my intention to push the boundaries. As I work through the cards and write my journal, it becomes a creative writing exercise, hardly transgressive in its performance. I am used to writing horror scenarios and poking at all too human darkness and inclinations. The transgression occurs when reading the final result, seeing what I have created. You may be in control of the writing process, but the results might surprise you, and whatever direction you intend for the game to take will be overruled by your imagination and creative impulse. You may wish for a happy ending, but that may not be what you end up writing. No matter how much you care for yourself or your beast, as was pointed out in this interview.
The results, nonetheless are quite nasty for other people to read, even if it doesn’t speak to some inner, erotic truth of my own. For me it was an opportunity to delve into sexual body horror and other such nastiness, for me it was a literary exercise, I didn’t offend or scare myself. But still, I would be very reluctant to let anyone read through the entire journal. Because what would they think of me, the author of this text? Even though it’s a work of fiction, of imagination, and the product of a game of actual make believe, I would be very uncomfortable to have someone read it. And judge me by it. Especially in an academic setting.
And it is easy to feel judged even by unseen eyes. I can feel it as I write this blogpost. I am constantly postponing and revising what to include. At some point I have to actually show you some of the nasty bits, the bits I don’t want anyone to read. Writing it was no problem, showing it however… When asked about how I satisfy the beast, I write sadistic pornography about being denigrated. Asking myself why, my only answer would be – it sounds horrible. And the game prompted me to explain how it harms me, so harm me, it must.
“I don’t do much. I remain still and try to calm myself as it grabs me in its arms/paws(?) and holds me to the ground. It is never gentle, there is no warning, no gentle caress or trial before it enters me with a swift stabbing motion. It thrusts into me, and it feels as my insides are being torn asunder and my body is torn apart as it enters me. For every jerky motion it lets out a heavy breath or groan, and I feel myself slipping away. If it’s the pain causing me to lose consciousness or ecstasy I honestly can’t tell. For every thrust I feel myself slipping, and sliding into the Beast as much as it is sliding itself into me, it’s rotten breath on my neck. It is as if I am becoming consumed by the Beast’s fleshy body, engulfed by the folds and crevices of its belly. I try not to cry and scream, but I can never stop myself. It thrusts and it thrusts, and when I’ve stopped crying for mercy, the Beast is finished, throwing me to the side, discards me as a used tissue.
I crawl away, bleeding, sweating and weeping. My body aches from the wounds, the pain is unbearable. My body aches for more, the need is unbearable. That’s my life now.
I fear going to the doctor.”
As the journal continues, I find the physical abuse less transgressive and push my boundaries into that of bodily secretions, smell, and anything that I would find disgusting. I am helped by the game that asks me what secretions I have to clean up after having sex with the Beast.
“I’ve given up cleaning the basement. The flood, and myself, is covered with mucus, cum, shit, sweat, blood… and indistinct fleshy bits. Sometimes my ass will be dripping with my own shit, and I’ll just lie there or sit hunkering down in the corner waiting for it to stop running.
After the first times I tried to hose the floor down. Now I just take a shower. The smell of the basement is half the attraction.”
And this is just skimming the surface of my journal, as I find it difficult to share the graphic and gory details of me rolling around in bodily fluids and waste, of blood, sweat and faeces, of insinuation of necrophilia, of murder and of misplaced love. But, beyond the body horror, the journal tells the story of an abusive relationship. About a sex partner that colonizes my existence, brutalizes me, separates me from friends, family, and work in order to control me completely with a combination of shame and obligation. If I don’t stay, if I don’t feed it, it will leave me, and it will kill.
As a game, I believe The Beast has some real potential to open up the doors of people’s imagination, and help them play around with their boundaries within the safe confines of it being a game. We can thus argue that The Beast encourages what Cindy Poremba calls brink play, where one is allowed to explore difficult or transgressive topics under the guise of it being play or playful. But this safety is always at risk of shattering, as the game results in a written journal, physical evidence, the written confession to your depravity. Something others could potentially find and read. What horrid embarrassment that would be. Which is why it is suggested you burn the journal after reading it… but heck, my journal is a work of art. If only for me alone.
And in the end, the beast left me alone with my transformation.
“But one day my gift went away.
I don’t know where. I don’t know why.
The basement was silent, but the smell lingered. I went downstairs and found my love gone. No trace, but the refuse, the blood, the sperm and rotten flesh. No note. Nothing to let me understand why it went. Or where.
I collapsed then and there. Found comfort in the smell of the place, in hugging it’s refuse against me. It felt like I’d fallen into an abyss. I don’t know how long I lay there. Crying. Screaming. Clutching whatever was left of my comfort.
But in the end I got up. In the end I could move on. I cleaned the basement. Moved some pillows downstairs that I could lie on. Because in the end, I still have the memories. I still have the love it left behind inside me. I can feel it growing on me. The pustules, the lumps. My hair is growing, and my skin has taken on the same colour as my Beast. I know what’s coming now. I know how blessed I am. Soon our child will be born. In me.”