If you remember Fizzies, the Hula-Hoop, The One-Eyed-One-Horned-Flying-Purple-People-Eater, Natalie Wood, and Muhammad Ali, then you’ve been lucky enough to grow up with the Beatles, Woodstock and see man landing on the moon. More importantly, you’ve grown up alongside the world’s greatest author since Mark- what’s his name?
I’m talking about the Dealer of Doom, the Darkest Knight, the Weaver of Fright in the dead of the night who takes you “where lightening walks and thunder talks”, Stephen King, the Mastermind from Maine, genius in his field who scaled the mountain called “Horror”.
Hunker down and get comfortable. A bear rug by the fireplace, the Lazy Boy, an overstuffed chair, a sunny beach, a sleeping bag inside a tent on Mt. Katahdin, a table at the local diner, a seat on the bus, train or plane, a stadium seat at a Phillies game, the dentist’s waiting room (God forbid), the Receiving Room in the White House, a laundramat, a movie theater (bring a flashlight), a room with a view, a room without a view… the list is endless. We can go in either direction here- the point is to relax and focus on the text.
Your eyes are the window to your soul so, like it or not, King’s short stories will “change” you. When you’re finished and put the book down you will be a different person than who you were when you picked the book up, trust me. Are you ready to take the leap? Let’s see just how brave you are. You say you like short stories? You say you like horror?
Okay, first clear your mind and picture a stage with a curtain slowly rising. Paint the curtain blood red with an oxygen-starved blue blood fringe. Real “horror show” as Alex DeLarge would say. Make sure you have adequate light to read. They say the light should approach whatever you’re reading from over your left shoulder but this doesn’t apply to a cyclops. As your bravado increases you may turn off the other lights around the house but if you find creaking floors, bones rattling or clanking chains unsettling, you might want to rethink this move.
Read the blurb inside the cover and on the back, take a deep breath, resign yourself to sheer horror, excitement, plot, thrills, adventures, interesting characters, and read. It’s important, however, to focus on the print and turn off your peripheral vision for a few reasons; it’s better for your eyes, easier on the brain, and besides, lamps and cats levitating out of the corner of your eye can wreak havoc on a weak constitution. Sometimes it’s best to just keep that door closed and not go there.
Eventually you’ll be transported into the book and you’ll be using all eight senses, some of these you never even knew you had. Once you’re lost within the stories Stephen King will take you on adventures you never dreamed of with side trips into parallel dimensions and excursions into worlds that … do they really exist?
Watch out for the occasional “humor attack out of left field”. Humor and horror make nice bed-fellows and Stephen King’s short stories are chock full of these assaults. In one passage, two old men are arguing by a pot-belly stove inside a general store somewhere in Maine. Their “wise” retorts are accentuated by the length of the pause before the comeback as much as the words they choose.
And watch out for stunning characterization like you’ve never seen before. Stephen King has a gift for describing people in a few sentences so that you’ll feel like you actually know the individual inside-out and backwards. If he spends an entire paragraph on someone you’ll expect a knock on the door.
Allegorical, his stories embody every human emotion through worlds of good versus evil on a roller-coaster ride you will never forget. No emotion, physical or mental is left untouched.
A word of warning, as the end of the book approaches you may experience “post-partum-Stephen-King-short-story-blues” but all good things end, right? Try to milk it. I tried, I couldn’t do this.
“When you turn off the main road, you have to be prepared to see some funny houses.” -Stephen King