Whitley's Room
Monday, March 11, 2013

Pain, a Short Story by Whitley Strieber

Pain was written between mid-December 1985 and mid-January 1986. It is the last thing I wrote before becoming conscious of the close encounter experience I had on December 26, 1985. While I was writing it, uneasy and confused memories of that experience were flowing through my mind, and I was beginning the process of research that would eventually lead to recollection of the close encounter and the writing of Communion.

The story contains a great deal of unconscious material about the experience. In fact, my entire unconscious understanding of close encounter and its connection to the dangerous sacred is contained in the story.

I have made it available only briefly since its publication in my now out-of-print book of short stories, Evenings with Demons. After Communion was published, Pain was used by sleazy people to try to claim that I was somehow involved in sado-masochistic sex. I found this so offensive that I basically shelved the story for 25 years. It is not a sex story. It is about the dangerous sacred.

It is among the most important things I have ever written about the visitors, because it contains so much truth coming straight out of my unconscious recollections of what happened to me.

To read my commentary on Pain, click here.
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I've been waiting to hear this story from you Whitley....for a very long, long time...

Whitley - I have been a fan, more or less, since I read Communion when it came out in hardcover. I usually, but not always, agree with or support what you have say. But I have to tell you that, as capable as I am of recognizing such things, you are such a very good soul, and are an extraordinarily brave fellow. How courageous of you to do what you do, and have done, indeed. Thanks, I appreciate it.

I too had looked forward to this story. I am thankful for hearing it. I am thankful for its coming out right now, for all its discomfort.

It took over an hour to listen to it, I kept rewinding and pausing at certain parts, trying to register what I was hearing. It is a rich story and a disturbing story, obviously. This is going to stick in the consciousness, that's for sure.
And now we await the commentary...

(I remember a commentary on the Book of Job that pointed this out... one of the Job's new daughters is named after a box of eye shadow.)

The extent to which an author is his characters or whether or not the events about which he has written have in fact happened to him is an interesting question. Certainly there are similarities between Pain’s Alex and Whitley Strieber. It is curious that supposed participation in S&M scenes would be posited as a pejorative explanation for the Communion experience; it just isn’t necessary when authors are prone to actively investigate their subject matter. For example, Anne Rice admitted in an interview some years ago that friends took her to Dungeons so that her “Roquelare” books would ring true. No one subsequently derided her for this research. Moreover, Clive Barker said in an interview that “my books are my confessions.” Are we to believe, then, that he participated in scenes that later appear in his books? To my knowledge he was never accused of being a Satanist or of participating in outré occult experiments. It would be a different matter if he had stated that "The Hellbound Heart" was essentially true and born out of his involvement with the occult. He never said this of course, and I have to think that such an admission would hardly have hurt his book sales (just imagine what might have happened to Rice had she claimed that "Interview" was based on her meeting with a real New Orleans vampire; likely even higher book sales!). However, it is not wispy grey aliens but garish blue cenobites that come waltzing forth in Barker’s work with their arcane knowledge and medieval methodologies. The lesson is that if you write about demons and vampires you’re hip and edgy, but if you write about “aliens” you’re sunk. Moreover, Barker’s cenobites “do pain” for pleasure’s sake which is in marked distinction to the treatment of pain in Strieber’s short story. Certainly those of us subscribers who are familiar with Mr Strieber’s biography recognized many of the red flags. The irony that these close encounter/visitor experiences happen to a writer of horror fiction was never lost on Mr Strieber. He addressed this head-on in the Communion film: he and Anne have an argument in their bedroom following the Halloween scene in which Strieber and his son Andrew were frightened by a sort of bug mask in which Anne is given the line “You think I don’t know what you do for a living?” "Pain" is an important story because we see the immediate interpenetration of art, life, and the ever-present other. The story is a sort of two-way mirror and as we read/listen we try to understand how Mr Strieber’s life at that moment was affecting his work and how his work was reflecting his – inner, subconscious – life (was he not also writing "The Hunger" at this time?). Any of us who have bothered to listen to the hypnosis audio have an idea of the turmoil that he was suffering. Had he been the victim of something as “mundane” as a violent break-in at the cabin in upstate New York, for example, Pain would likely have been a very different document. I think that, now that we have so much more material to hand, a broader biographical analysis along the lines of Ed Conroy’s "Report on Communion" could be attempted. I have to wonder what will become of this body of work when the Strieber’s are no longer with us. Colin Wilson wrote a book about Ouspensky called "The Strange Life of P D Ouspensky" (a titular play on Ouspensky’s "The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin") and I have to suspect that there will appear a "Strange Life of Whitley Strieber" if for no other reason than books such as "The Key" and "The Path" – not to mention "Communion" itself – will in time likely take their place in the canon alongside "Beelzebub’s Tales" and "A New Model of the Universe". Do we not already comb through texts like "The Grays" and "Majestic" with the attention that used to be paid to the books of Agrippa? I look forward to the author’s commentary and would welcome a chance to read the other stories in "Evenings with Demons".

Will we get to read this story in PDF?

Not likely Heinrich. This is story in particular was shelved for a quarter of a century mainly due to perverts and creeps who co-opted this story as a campaign of slander against its author. The audio version of this story is here only temporarily. So no, no PDF in the foreseeable future unless Whitley deems otherwise.

In my life of 60 years, I have learned more from distinguishing what I am not, than from what I am. We are not our body, however, our bodies teach us about the world, and our place in it. Thankyou for this window into one man's journey into learning the difference between the body and the soul. Blessings to you Whitley.

Actually Heinrich this is posted on the Whitley Strieber Society for what it is worth:
"It has taken all these years for me to get to the meaning hidden in the story, but I'm there now. I'm going to provide it in audio, as a PDF and add a commentary. It will be up in the UC subscriber area this weekend, and for sale as an ebook and audio book soon."~Whitley Strieber

Saw that myself, EE, and so my question. It's a good audio reading, but it'd be great to be able to read it in print, too.

Wow, so he is going to add a PDF after all. When I first heard of 'Pain', I tried for the longest time to find it...ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE. Now, I get to read it for the first time. :)

I think it is fascinating that you wrote this story with bearings on the vril society, sacrifice, evil, demonism, and politics all in one, as these are topics that have been rolling around in my head for a long time, i am fascinated by the weirdness that is world war two, the nazis, and the ss, and have wanted to write a story from the pt of view of an SS officer and the vril society for some time, so it's apropos that you post something regarding these topics this, the week of my birthday, even if the story is old. synchronicity is rampant these days and i feel like i am riding the crest of a huge wave.

There is something deeply wrong in our world. Something is actively distorting and corrupting human life. It lives inside us, but I am not so sure that it is really part of us. And, as we become more powerful, it does as well. The fantastic paroxysm of war that started in 1914 and ended only with the fall of the Berlin Wall is an example. Millions and millions of people died, all because of a single bullet fired by an assassin in a small town in Serbia. Out of that bullet came World War I, the fall of the European empires, the rise of communism and Naziism, World War II, the slaughter of the Jews and minorities of Europe, the Cold War, the rise of Japanese militarism and the atomic age. Compared to that, we are at present living in a period of relative peace. For the moment. But notice that, as soon as the Cold War ended, Arab extremism appeared. Where was it during the Cold War? It seems to have appeared almost on cue. WHO IS DOING THIS? Pain hints strongly at an answer, I think. I am still working on the commentary, but hope to finish it today. Also, the PDF will be up shortly. I have wanted a new cover for it, but I'm going to publish it with the old one, in the interest of time.

1. Wow.
2. Is there anything behind the name Janet O'Reilly? Why that name?
3. As to 'WHO IS DOING THIS?', are we talking here about the breakaway civilization again? Are the beings that carry out the regicide rituals and the breakaway civilization one and the same? Are there two breakaway civilizations fighting it out and beings like Janet O'Reilly are the 'good guys'? Is Janet O'Reilly a protagonist here? Seems like she is. More on this thread of the regicide ritual beings through history would be so fascinating. Have you run into any indications of them being active in the world in the recent past? I worry about the fact that maybe they have been too quiet for too long in this specific part of the world save for 911 which had a definite incantation whiff to it.
4. Thank you.

What I like is the end. The end and then?, another beginning? Get lost in the catecombs and create your own... path.

Thank you for sharing this Whitley and for your response. Things are definitely heading towards a major crest of huge metaphysical proportions, those of us who meditate especially can feel the huge magnetic pull of a struggle that is bubbling to the surface.

Fantastic story, Whitley. A lot to digest there. Can't wait for the commentary.

Very odd, your description of being in the steel box is nearly identical to a picture in my own head, my very own "claustrophobia worst case nightmare scenario".

wow Whitley , this is amazing .one can only imagine the fear of being shown , fear within ourselfs and to overcome that fear ,in facing our death so eloquently .we are the harvest of our own destiny which lies within them. we must in our own passing go volentarily. so many ways of seeing this , I hope your pain of this can be coped with so much more easily now .your truth is always a gate way for us to see and seek our own place within. our own spiritual journey is for us to find, with a lil help from our friends . thanks whitley

Wow, very interesting. Anyone who thinks it's a sex story didn't read it. Were you experiencing high levels of pain on a conscious level at that point in your life? I wonder if this story/message came back to you in a strong way when you went through your episode of back pain recently? Did the female visitor in Communion have "parents" that she introduced you to? Looking forward to your commentary. Thank you for this story.