There is always a difference between having knowledge and using it in the right way. No matter how much knowledge we attain, it is never enough, which is probably why Socrates said that true wisdom is to accept that we know “nothing.” Based on the horror short story by Michael Shea and directed by David Prior, “The Autopsy” tells the story of an alien creature who claims to be wiser than humans. Its arrogance blinds him, preventing him from learning anything from humans or their society, the most important piece of which is “humility.”
In “The Autopsy,” the third episode of the “Cabinet of Curiosities,” an old coroner, Carl Winters, confronts this overly arrogant parasite (or alien) who has started to believe that his knowledge has made him invincible. So, let’s see how Carl proved it wrong by giving the creature a taste of its own medicine.
How Did Carl’s Humility Defeat The Creature Blinded With Arrogance?
A seasoned sheriff, Nate Craven, called his friend, the coroner, Dr. Carl Winters, to perform an autopsy on ten decedents in the Braddock Fork mine explosion. All ten laborers had died, except one (not entirely). Joe Allen, whose real name was Eddie Sykes, was the one who had exploded the mine with the help of a bizarre-looking sphere. Craven was not certain if that sphere was actually a bomb or something else. So, he called Carl to conduct an investigation in his own way to identify what exactly it was. Craven trusted Carl because of his expertise and understanding of his field.
Carl Winters, who was battling cancer and had only six months left in his life, wanted to explore this complicated case. He performed the autopsy of the first two bodies but found no traces of a bomb. Events took an unexpected turn when Carl went for Joe Allen’s body. Though Joe Allen was dead physically, he seemed to be possessed by an alien entity that was controlling his cognitive ability. The alien later captured Carl and paralyzed his whole body except his arm.
The alien creature explained how it entered Eddie Sykes’ body through his mouth and took nine months to grow inside. The genesis of the beast was a meteorite shower, and perhaps the sphere was the egg where it first received nourishment. Though the beast looked like an octopus, its intelligence was almost equal to the human mind. Usually, it took control of the host’s consciousness and lived as a parasite in human bodies, so it knew everything about human physiology.
This time he picked Carl as a host, since Carl’s mind would provide it with vast knowledge and corpses to feed on. Carl understood that the creature had acquired a lot of intelligence as it had traveled through a lot of human bodies. Different people’s different thinking abilities made the creature powerful with the knowledge he had gained so far. Through Allen’s voice, the creature declared that its brain was considerably more developed than humans. Carl was amused by this remark. Carl reminded him that it was nothing more than a stupid parasite with no independent existence. A parasite that merely acquired knowledge of human anatomy did not necessarily have a greater understanding of it.
When the beast eventually came out of Allen, it started to enter Carl’s body through a small incision. Once the creature was outside of the host, all of its abilities were gone. It could neither speak nor think. It simply became a leeching parasite that needed a host to survive. Carl was just waiting for this opportunity to act wisely. He knew if he didn’t die, his friend Nate, too, would be the victim of the beast. So, he slashed his eyes, ears, and throat so that the creature wouldn’t be able to use his senses (or body parts).
The creature, in his arrogance, completely ignored the fact that the human intellect had created so many wonders and could easily outwit it with its sharp wit. When it entered Carl’s body, it connected itself with his awareness through his eighth cranial nerve. Carl’s calm and steady voice informed the creature that their entire conversation had been recorded up to that point, which, ironically, this highly advanced and transcendent creature failed to notice. Carl finally passed away because he had lost too much blood. His body could no longer sustain any internal parasites, including his cancer. The creature didn’t want to give up and tried to stay alive, but Carl had already won.
The arrogance of knowledge arises when one has flawed assumptions about his ability to assess consciousness. This creature believed it could control everything when it invaded Sykes’ body and controlled his consciousness. It was just an alien parasite that had a special ability to dominate the human mind. That’s why it considered itself omnipotent. It generally begins to overestimate its own abilities and ignore surrounding factors. It forgot or didn’t even think about the fact that Carl might be able to record the whole autopsy from the beginning to the end. Carl, on the other hand, patiently listened to the creature in order to understand its mechanism and functional ability. So, he wrote “Play Tape, Burn Me” in blood on his chest and killed himself. Therefore, if Nate were to cremate Carl’s body, the creature within him would also be destroyed.
The defeat of the creature conveys the message that the arrogance of knowledge is temporary. It only provides the happiness of winning for a brief time. But if one has humility towards other beings, he will learn from others through empathy and patience, and in a healthy and steady way, he will know the enemy’s weakness. Just as Carl defeated the alien’s stolen knowledge, which turned out to be inferior to his true wisdom.
How Did The Parasitic Alien Symbolize Cancer ‘The Autopsy’? Was Joe Allen Alive All the Time?
Dr. Carl Winters was a cancer fighter who had only six months left in his life. Therefore, he came to pay a last visit to his friend Nate and perform an autopsy to help him with the investigation. He knew his life was uncertain, so he did not care about it all. While he was captured by Joe Allen, he understood that the creature inside Allen was only a parasite who fed upon a host and stole its cognition. So, he named the beast “Cancer with a big mouth.” I think this parasite was symbolic of the deadly disease called cancer.
Cancer is an irreversible condition when cells divide abnormally and harm the entire body. It appears in the body all of a sudden and abruptly kills the human being. Just as this alien parasite destroys the human body, cancer does it too. Carl had accepted the ravages of cancer and overcome his fear of death to live his last moments in peace, but he did not give in to this alien parasite. He killed himself without waiting for cancer to kill him. Thus, he defeated two of those evil parasites in his body.
Eddie Sykes was alive and healthy until the alien entered his body. It controlled Eddie’s brain and kept his body alive since it needed a host to hunt the other humans. But eventually, when it was cutting Allen’s body to come out, it connected his sense of awareness with the eighth cranial nerve. Since the creature gained the protein when the host felt the pain, it kept Allen aware throughout the incision. When the beast finally came out, we saw Allen shed a tear. It conveys that he was in pain throughout the procedure. After the creature was out of Allen’s body, he was free from the pain and died.
Did The Alien Really Exist, Or Was IT A Psychotic Episode of Dr. Carl?
Many times, illusions result from cancer and fear of death. The question is whether the entire conversation between Dr. Carl and the alien was real or whether Carl’s paranoid illusions were to blame. He might have created the whole incident inside his head out of his vivid imagination and extensive biological knowledge. He looked like he was dealing with cancer peacefully, but he might have wanted to end his life out of frustration. The only proof could be the tape, but at the end of the episode, it remained unclear if Nate could really hear the conversation between Carl and Allen. There is no way to know for sure that Carl was crazy, but there is a small chance that the aliens were all in Carl’s head and not real.
“The Autopsy” portrays how love, friendship, and compassion for one another define the true nature of human beings. It shows how kindness distinguishes humans from other creatures. Similarly, Carl proved that he was superior to the creature because he knew the value of friendship. So, he sacrificed his own life to save his friend Nate, which a greedy alien creature would never comprehend. Even though the alien bragged about its superior intellect, it was finally defeated by Carl’s humanity.