Ask Gregorsa: The Anatomy of Fear
Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at

Teen And Up Audiences
Archive Warning:
Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Humans-B-Gone! (Cartoon), The Magnus Archives (Podcast)
Professor Gregorsa (Humans-B-Gone!), The Beholding (The Magnus Archives), The Buried (The Magnus Archives), The Vast (The Magnus Archives), The Corruption (The Magnus Archives), The Extinction (The Magnus Archives), The End (The Magnus Archives)
Additional Tags:
Breaking the Fourth Wall, Episode Transcript Format, Alternate Universe - The Magnus Archives Fusion, Explanations, Lectures, The Fear Entities (The Magnus Archives), Implied Fear Avatar Gregorsa, (not saying for which entity though. that's a secret for now)
Published: 2023-04-06 Chapters: 1/2 Words: 3649

Ask Gregorsa: The Anatomy of Fear


Macrovolutes are just as capable of being afraid as humans, so it makes sense that the Fears would manifest for them, too. The things they fear can be quite different, but fortunately, everyone's favorite roach professor is here to explain how macrovolutes classify the Entities and the differences in how they manifest for them.


This one was a collaborative effort with my little brother (who's also the main reason I got into Humans-B-Gone! in the first place). He provided the analysis of what macrovolutes might fear and obscure HBG facts I wasn't aware of, I spun that together with my knowledge of TMA lore, and then he looked over the final product and helped with getting Gregorsa's "voice" right (particularly figuring out how he'd be changed as a character by sharing a world with the Entities) and figuring out what information he'd choose to withhold.

Ask Gregorsa: The Anatomy of Fear



Welcome back. As always, I am Professor Gregorsa, and I'll be doing my best to answer the questions you have for me about insects. This question comes from an anonymous user, who asked: "The Entities, the Fears, the Dread Powers, the Things That Were Fear, whatever you may call them- do they exist in your world? If they do, are they any different from the Entities we know?"


I'd... worried this might be coming someday. First and foremost, if you're lucky enough to both not be aware of the Entities and don't have a reason to make yourself aware, please, for your own safety, I ask you to stop here and leave. You won't understand much of what I'm about to say, but you'll still be able to infer more than there's any point in you learning if you don't need to, and I can't let myself put any of you in danger.



Good, they're gone. That's... "a weight off my shoulders," I think is the phrase you use? Now that only those of you who were already aware of the Entities remain: this is not something I'll be able to answer concisely or in a short amount of time, so you may want to make yourself comfortable. This is going to be the longest lecture I've ever given any of you.


Before I explain, I should preface by reminding you that the Entities I'm familiar with are the same as the ones you know, or at least they came from the same source; the same unleashing of fear upon an unsuspecting array of universes. We classify them differently, or at least those aware of their existence do, but they are still the same thing. It's equally important to remember that these categories are only lines we've drawn on something we can't truly comprehend in its entirety no matter how much we may try. Fragmented as they may be sometimes, the Entities are still one... well, entity, and our understanding of them only shapes them as much as they did for you. Remember your color metaphors- you can no more find a clear boundary between any two Fears than you can find a clear point where ved stops being ved and becomes violet.

You should also remember that humans in our world are just as capable of feeling complex fear as you are, so the Entities target them as much as they do us. Their understanding of Fear is much more in line with yours save for some notable exceptions, which I'll mention where they're relevant. There is no clean half-and-half "split" with one set of Entities targeting humans and another for us- if a living organism can feel fear, the Entities will make at least some part of themselves into something they can fear, and it will not affect their ability to remain one monstrous being. The degree to which set of concepts and fears dominates within the Entities skews based on population and biological capacity for fear. While each specific manifestation, artifact, or avatar will tailor itself to the separate fears of humans and macrovolutes where they don't overlap, that's not to say they never get their hyphae crossed, for lack of a better phrase- think of how the fear of prey and livestock intersecting with human neuroses under the Fears you're familiar with would create strange, yet still horrifying imagery. It doesn't happen frequently, but...

For your convenience, I'll be referring to them as "our" Fears and "your" Fears when necessary, but understand that this is only for the sake of conciseness. Also keep in mind that I will specifically be using the former to indicate our world's Entities as they pertain to macrovolutes unless otherwise indicated.

Finally, while I do study vertebratology, I am not a psychologist- be it for humans or macrovolutes- nor a historian, and I do not outright study entities of this kind as anything other than a hobby. I may know the basics of how you identify the Fears and be able to translate our understandings of them accordingly, but I'm not qualified to explain any deeper meanings behind what we fear, the fears we share, or the like. You'd need to seek out someone with more experience than I, and while I do know some who might be capable of giving you a more in-depth explanation, none of them are people I'd feel comfortable sending you to for answers.


Well, I think that's more than enough stalling from me. Let's begin.


For the sake of simplicity, I'll assume you're familiar with the taxonomy created by the human Robert Smirke, as it's the most frequently-used human-made Fear taxonomy I'm aware of. I have my issues with his system, just as I do with the one most frequently used by those of us who are aware of the Entities in my world, but it's a good starting point.

To begin with, rather than fourteen- or perhaps fifteen- our most accepted taxonomy splits Fear into twelve main categories, which I'll be translating for you as the Beholding, the Buried, the Corruption, the Desolation, the End, the Hemolymph, the Illusion, the Lonely, the Overgrowth, the Savagery, the Stranger, and the Vast. If I'm not mistaken about what your primary source of information regarding the Entities is, you're likely most familiar with Beholding, so I'll begin there.

The Beholding covers much of the same fears for us: being watched, followed, or exposed, as well as the need to know regardless of whether what you learn will destroy you. We additionally call Beholding "It Knows You"- or a close equivalent- but not "the Eye" or "the Ceaseless Watcher," though we do have a name for it along the lines of the latter. The most technically accurate translation would be somewhere between "Ceaseless Smeller" and "Ceaseless Intrusiveness," but to us it would sound more like "Ceaseless Unveiler." I... don't imagine any of those sound very intimidating to you, so you'll just have to trust me when I say it is for us.

As you might've already guessed from the names I used, the biggest difference in how the Beholding manifests for us is in the associated motifs rather than the fear behind them. We use our sense of smell as much as or more than sight, and this combined with our usage of pheromones to communicate means Beholding is just as much about fear of someone smelling something you don't want them to as seeing something you don't want them to. This combined with the diversity in eyesight and eye types among macrovolutes means the Beholding rarely uses eye imagery, and due to the diversity of body parts used for picking up pheromones there isn't really an equivalent dominant motif for it. You'll certainly see the Beholding use imagery of antennae more often than anything else due to both preexisting and... imposed biases, but it does not dominate to anywhere near the extent that eyes do for your Beholding. As such, you'll almost never hear "the Antenna" used as an alternative name for it, though this could also be ascribed to antennae having a more diverse range of functions than eyes.

Nevertheless, while our Beholdings may differ in terms of imagery, it is as much "fear of being seen" on an emotional and conceptual level for us as it is for you. It's... also among those I'm best acquainted with.

Moving on, the Buried is one of the most similar Fears- it still encompasses fear of suffocation, drowning, being constricted or trapped, claustrophobia, and everything collapsing on top of you. Its manifestations are more similar than the Beholding's- what we'd identify as caves or dirt may differ due to the nature of Tricularia's growth and the materials it contains, but I think you'd still recognize them. And, yes, the Buried can also take a more metaphorical form as guilt or financial issues: we have to pay bills, too, you know.

Note that while many of us do live underground, certainly to a greater extent than your species, some of us being used to or preferring it doesn't suddenly stop all of us from fearing everything we group under the Buried. Additionally, despite what you may be thinking, burrowing macrovolutes are not the most frequent victims of the Buried, and if anything are more likely to survive an encounter with it. They're more used to the motifs associated with it, so they're more likely to simply shrug it off, and the Fears usually will not waste their time on targeting the fearless. Don't take this to mean they are never victims of it, though, and don't take it to mean they're rarely victims of it either. Complacency can turn you into a victim just as easily as already being afraid.

You cannot discuss the Buried without the Vast- and, truthfully, it's the one I was anticipating the most follow-up questions about for obvious reasons, so it's probably best to cover it now rather than later.

Like the Beholding and Buried, you're probably familiar with what the Vast encompasses: fear of heights and falling, wide-open spaces, things of incomprehensible size, and our own insignificance. It also manifests fairly similarly to what you are probably used to, though... no, I imagine it's for the best if I address the arthropleura in the room now rather than later. The size of macrovolutes does not necessarily make us more likely to associate with the Vast- we see ourselves as being a normal size, after all- but given the terror we induce in your kind simply by existing, those of us who decide to pursue the Vast may find it easier than the rest if they've frequently been around humans. However, macrovolute Vast avatars wouldn't bother to seek out human victims for what are probably obvious reasons.

Do note that the Vast rarely manifests in the form of demivolutes- that's non-sapient giant arthropods, for anyone who's new here- and when it does it's to target humans. Macrovolutes are much more likely to encounter demivolutes that are products of the Savagery, the Corruption, the Overgrowth, or the Hemolymph. While the humans of our world fear the Falling Titan much more than yours, which... is largely due to us, for them it will manifest as demivolutes rather than macrovolutes the vast majority of the time. Ah, please excuse the unintended pun. Regardless, something that looks like a macrovolute but isn't would be much more the Stranger's territory, and it and the Vast rarely overlap. It's true that things that look like demivolutes but are not could very easily fall under the Stranger as well, but then you run into the problem of the difference of intent potentially clashing with the actualized terror, something manifestations of Fear tend to avoid in the first place if they can help it. An old joke about dietary requirements comes to mind.

You may be wondering why the Vast seems so similar to what you're familiar with when we do not have gravity like you do. The Unknown Nature is not gravity and can't truly be mistaken for it, but we have reasons to fear it and its effects... or lack thereof... which are close enough to be part of the Vast anyway. We fear uncontrolled or uncontrollable falls and the end results of incurring too much of a gravity debt just as much as you, and have as much reason to fear it. I'll note that the "open spaces" aspect of the Vast does encompass much more of it for us than you, partially due to the Unknown Nature and partially due to... well, the space Tricularia grows out into; space is much more associated with the Vast for us than you. Just because the idea of taking a wrong turn and falling out of Tricularia into the abyss is a very unlikely and irrational fear doesn't stop it from being something our Vast has seized onto. How many other irrational fears have the Entities done the same thing to?

The Corruption is where things... well, first and foremost, they may hit a little close to home for many of you. The position "gubs" hold in our culture combined with the fact that mammals and birds have the worst reputations of all vertebrates means that they are the foremost manifestations of it for us. I'll state this now before any of you ask: yes, there has been a case of a "hive" of humans which hollowed out a macrovolute much like the Flesh Hives you may have heard of. Their intent was to terrorize macrovolutes, even if they didn't realize us to be sapient, and this was something they certainly succeeded at.

However, the Corruption is also where things begin to more noticeably diverge. You see it as one Entity, but we divide it into the Corruption and the Overgrowth, and the latter also encompasses some concepts you consider to be more niche fears. I'll attempt to explain them simultaneously.

As I mentioned, the Corruption and the Overgrowth tend to manifest with mammals and birds, often twisting them in their image with no regard for their actual roles in the ecosystem much like the Corruption does for insects in your world. Holoparasitic plants may also become affiliated with both of these Fears, branching out from parasitization of other plants to parasitization of macrovolutes. Within the Overgrowth specifically, it also manifests as our technology twisting away from what we have grown it into, be it simply into a more feral state or into an equally planned but much more malicious form; for example, modified labouls such as the one you've witnessed Sophodra using can be influenced to revert to their prior states and infest their wearer. They are a niche enough technology that this is an equally niche subset of fear, but given how much you've seen of her it felt worth mentioning.

Since they manifest so similarly, you may be wondering what the difference between Corruption and Overgrowth is. I'll admit it's a bit of an arbitrary line to draw, but at least it's simple: if it eats or rots the victim away from the inside out, then it's classified as the Corruption, while if it simply grows within them, it's the Overgrowth. There are other differences, especially in the Overgrowth, but we'll get to those shortly.

Our fears surrounding disease and disgust are generally classified under the Corruption, and while it retains the affinity for foul smells you'd recognize, these are somewhat entwined with Beholding around the edges when these smells overlap with pheromones... or the Stranger when the smells seem almost, but not quite like pheromones. It's also much more associated with greasiness than simple filthiness due to the concepts it's picked up from its most common manifestations. This is due to... well, to borrow an explanation you may have already read, mammals are uniquely odorous and greasy both in our world and yours. Generalized filth, so long as it's detached from disgust- and especially if it impedes breathing- falls more under the Buried for us.

Where the Corruption deals more with immediate and continuing revulsion, both for the victim and for those around them, the Overgrowth is subtler, a more drawn-out realization of what infests you; simmering, constantly accelerating dread as opposed to the sharp stab of sudden, shocked disgust. While the Corruption eats you away from the inside until you are cracked and collapsing, the Overgrowth simply grows its way over or into you but does not physically consume you until there is nothing you can do to stop it. On a related note, this is why we consider fear of one's body being controlled to fall under the Overgrowth, as well as addiction. Despite the Corruption being much more associated with our repulsion by mammalian greasiness, it's the Overgrowth that manifests in ways more in line with mammal biology, albeit... not necessarily accurately. For example, do you remember Sophodra's mention of how mammals are "best-known" for being parasitized by their young? I think we both know this isn't accurate to biological fact, but the Entities are more concerned with what will scare us than what's strictly true, so that sort of imagery is often used by the Overgrowth as well. It's to the point of including some of what you might think of as the Flesh's domain. And as with the Buried, the Overgrowth also includes the more emotional or mental fears related to its core concept, which...


I'm not sure how comfortable I feel with telling you about the ants' relation to the Fears, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that they're one of the two major reasons we consider the Overgrowth a separate fear, the other being more general fears of our technological advancement. They did not intend to cause it- I doubt most of them are even aware of the Entities- but they did nonetheless, much the same as the humans who enabled your fears of extinction were responsible for the Extinction's rise in your own world despite almost all of them never knowing of the Entities' existence. The ants are also part of why the components of the Extinction we fear as you do are considered part of the Overgrowth. Again, though, the biologically-based nature of our technology and its associated fears are a larger and longer-standing reason for the Overgrowth being considered its own Dread Power. Both of these factors are why we consider the Overgrowth to be the newest of the Entities, as before... we wouldn't have considered it to have "manifested" on a large enough scale to bother classifying it separately from the Corruption. From a chronological perspective, you can consider the Overgrowth to be at a "midway point" between your Flesh and Extinction in terms of establishing itself as a Fear in its own right.

One final note before we move on, specifically for how the Corruption manifests for humans in our world: yes, protocules hold much the same role in their understanding of it as they do for you. Humans consider protocules and macrovolutes to be very different things associated with very different fears regardless of any physical resemblance. After all, if humans hundreds of times our size suddenly began roaming Tricularia, I think their Vastness would be the thing we feared most about them.

The Dark is another odd one, but for the opposite reason of the Corruption and the Overgrowth: we don't really consider it a separate Fear. We're capable of fearing the dark, of course, but again, we're not as sight-reliant as humans; we have no primal fear of the dark, or at least not on the same level as humans. Should there be no light, we can navigate by smell, and if we cannot use smell to get our bearings, chances are there is probably enough light to see by. Your immediate reaction to this is probably that our version of the Dark would just manifest as an inability to see or smell, but remember, the Entities base themselves on our preexisting fears; the more niche a fear, the less they will latch onto it. Places where it's impossible to see and smell at once certainly exist, but not enough to be a dominant source of fear- it's far more likely we'd simply find ourselves in situations where we have to use our other senses to make up for what's missing, which would be more annoying than scary for most of us. Lacking a unified fear for it, this taxonomy partitions out the Dark's associated fears to the others; I'll bring them up when relevant. That being said, the Dark does still exist for the humans of our world, and while it's very rare sometimes a macrovolute will be targeted by the Dark.

We'll return to more familiar ground with the End. Terminus is another Entity that is much the same in concept, but different in manifestation; we have as much reason to fear death as you do. There are similarities between our Ends, in that it will manifest as bodies and other forms of the dead, but due to a cultural perception of them as grim corpse-feeding creatures, we also associate bluebirds with the End much as you associate spiders with the Web. To draw a further comparison, it's true that it might seem more logically consistent or "accurate" if bluebirds manifested as part of the Corruption or the Overgrowth... but then again, for you the same would be true for spiders and the Corruption. Remember, the Entities and the ways they manifest shift along with the societal perceptions of their victims, and dominant symbolism or imagery within that society will sometimes hijack the instinctive, gut feeling-based dream logic they tend to operate off of. On a side note, as a direct result of bluebirds' symbolic association with the End, many tend to think of blue as being the End's "color." In truth, this is no more based in reality than how many of you associate the Beholding with the color green, but I thought it was a detail you might appreciate knowing.

As you might have guessed, the Hemolymph is analogous to the Flesh, but it does not deal solely with the twisting of our hemolymph, similarly to how the Flesh twists more than just your flesh. We call it "the Hemolymph" due to-


...ah, as I was saying, it originates from the-


...I see.

I apologize, but I'll have to be dismissing you early. Something that... needs my immediate attention is... ongoing.

We'll finish this lesson at a later point. Until next time- class dismissed.



Please drop by the archive and comment to let the author know if you enjoyed their work!