I’m going to do it. I’m going to terrify myself again, willingly. I’m going to go back to that place, that time. It was the first time I felt real fear jump off the page and set my heart hammering.
Why? To answer that let’s take a little step back in time.
First Step into the KING-dom
It’s the late 1980s and a young girl with the first initial K throws her Christopher Pike book on the floor, finding it lacking. It hasn’t given her the kind of thrill her macabre decade-old heart desires. She sneaks downstairs to the bookshelf in the den where books are housed in a deep cabinet of dark wood as if to mark them as forbidden. These are the adult books. (Not those kinds of adult books, get your minds out of the gutter.) These are the books 10-year-olds don’t usually read, the subject matter and language often too intense.
She sneaks downstairs to the bookshelf in the den where books are housed in a deep cabinet of dark wood as if to mark them as forbidden.
K runs her fingers across the spines. She’s cracked a few of the books open before, her desire so great to read something more she can’t stop herself. But two or three paragraphs in and she found herself bored. Stories of long ago battles or wispy romances don’t intrigue her. She wants to be scared.
Then she sees it, Salem’s Lot by some guy named Stephen King. She doesn’t know of him yet, even though by this point he’s probably already known as the King of Horror. The only King she knows is the King of Pop. K thinks she remembers seeing her older sister, who’s well into her teens, carrying it. This puts a check mark in the interest column.
K tips the spine back and slides it off the shelf. White creases line the cover like rivers on a map. The pages have yellowed. The book is older than her.
She looks over her shoulder. He father snores on the couch. She doesn’t think he’d object. At least that’s what she tells herself. She tucks the book under her arm and darts upstairs.
At night the house is cool. Goosebumps crop up on her arm, perhaps from the air or perhaps from excitement. She climbs in bed and settles down under the covers.
K opens the book. She reads a page and then turns it. Then she turns another and another. The night gets darker. She yawns, but she doesn’t want to put the book down. She glances at the clock. Just a few more minutes, she tells herself.
The story pulls her deeper inside its darkness, the mystery, the people, the town. The wind whistles outside. She jumps. With a shaking hand, she tugs on the window shade and pulls it down, even though it’s so dark outside there isn’t even moonlight.
In her room, shadows dance in the corner, hiding behind dressers and under her bed. She knows it’s not real, nothing hides under there. But she still fears it.
Terror slides out of the pages and creeps up over her body. Her heart thumps with every page and revelation. She can’t put the book down. She can’t stop reading. The book has her in its clutches and it won’t let her go.
Terror slides out of the pages and creeps up over her body. Her heart thumps with every page and revelation.
Return of the King
Given I remember reading Salem’s Lot pretty vividly for a person who has a pretty crappy memory (I remember emotions and feelings much better than actual specific events), it obviously had an impact on me. I’ve noted it in other blogs as one of the scariest books I’ve ever read.
After reading Salem’s Lot, I went on to read more Stephen King, Pet Cemetary, IT (which might be scarier than Salem’s Lot, but the Lot still wins the terror category for me because it was the first King book I read), the Dead Zone, The Gunslinger series, which as a preteen I don’t think I really “got.”
I actually forgot how many of King’s books I read. Once I hit high school, my interests changed, school work increased and King became my reading past rather than my reading future.
That was until last week. For Nanowrimo (see here if you are unfamiliar with this), I’ve decided to write a scary novel, only because I’ve never written one and I want to try something new.
Taking advice from the various writing conferences I’ve been to lately, I realized if I’m going to write something scary, I need to read something scary. And who better to read than King.
I realized if I’m going to write something scary, I need to read something scary. And who better to read than King.
But which one?
I read list after list of King’s scariest books. I debated if I should read a short story or a full novel. I looked up King’s influences. I downloaded book samples.
None satisfied my terror itch.
I needed a book that would transport me back to the feeling I had as a young 10-year-old girl again. The one who discovered the power books have over your emotions by reading something so terrifying she’d pile pillows in front of her window at night, but she never stopped reading.
Finally, I realized what I had to do. I had to go back to the Lot. It was the only answer.
I found the book on kindle. When it popped up on my screen, I thumbed through the intro impatiently, telling myself I’d read it later. I wanted to start the book.
It had been so long. I didn’t remember any of the details of the story really. I read the first few pages and it all seemed new again, but with a twinge of familiarity, like déjà vu. Again, I felt the pull, the simmering terror behind the opening words, the foreshadowing of what was to come. And I fell again down that trembling hole of terror and into King’s world…