Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bump in the Night

I'm here, in one of the most beautiful places found across the entirety of Earth (according to me, at least), with the sun shining brightly, and the day passing as lazily as only the greatest of vacation days can. However, in a vacation home I've come to know almost as well as my own house, and surrounded by my very happy -and finally relaxed - family, you could swear that the world had grown a little colder. Maybe the sunshine shifted a little, causing the warmth to turn into a glinting shine that blinded your eyes, just for a moment. Maybe - once again, just for a moment - the breeze shifted, and you would have sworn that the rustling of the pines was, instead, the quiet hissing whispers of some unseen observers.

Maybe a curious girl - terrified into nightmares at the age of three by Ernest Scared Stupid, the same girl who went on "The Haunted Mansion" for the first time at the age of four, and the second, at fourteen - has decided to take a peek at one of her father's favorite Stephen King's collections, Night Shift. I'd thought that I'd grown out of my past poultry-flavored tendencies, and could successfully sleep through the night without fears of being attacked by vicious, spade-clawed Boogeymen, or sneaking, sloppy zombies. The only time I've become afraid of breaking that insomnia-free streak, was in reading this collection of short stories, from the master of horror himself.

This grouping of some of King's most famous short stories was published in 1978, with the majority of the stories first having been ran in publications as varied as Penthouse and Cosmopolitan, to Cavalier (who,  in running nine of them, was the real heavyweight). While the book itself was dug out of the dust cluttering some of my Dad's old college gear, the tales held within have lost little of their original appeal... or terror. With well known stories like "Jerusalem's Lot," "The Ledge," and "Quitters, Inc." as well as lesser known, but nonetheless thrilling tales, like "I Am the Doorway," "Gray Matter," and "I Know What You Need," this collection of all the aspects of horror, fantasy, suspense, and even sci-fi, found in King's best works are put on display, at their very most chilling.

While anyone who knows me would readily attest that I usually choose to abstain from partaking in the very scariest of movies, television shows, etc., I was never solely afraid of them. As a kid, I really did enjoy books from R. L. Stine's Goosebumps franchise, and I watched Are You Afraid of the Dark? so often, that even now, so many years later, I can recount some of my favorite episodes. The problem was, my imagination was just never great at delineating where fiction met fact, and no matter how I loved shivering to the tune of a haunted castle or a possessed doll during the daytime, I could never seem to sleep at night without both legs firmly tucked inside the covers (later, an encounter with Bram Stoker's Dracula, from the local library, led to a still-ongoing nightly necessity, of locking all windows and closing the blinds. But that was Dracula).

Regardless, reading King's stories led me back to those good ol' days, back when there were some Nancy Drew novels that still scared me. The horror - the kind that draws you in and makes you wait in dreadful anticipation, fully absorbed in the terrifying monster before you, unable to recognize any others that may be sneaking around the corner to catch you from behind - felt good to meet again. It keeps you on your toes.

(The best part is, age -and further fantastical reading - has given me a weapon: where I once quaked beneath covers at the slightest bump in the night, I find I am now able to OUT-THINK any demons my own mind may invent. I can use reality to my advantage, and prove my own monsters to be false, thereby slaying them with a sword crafted from the foundation of their existence. And poof! No more nightmares.)

 Besides, there are plenty of other things to better be afraid of... for instance, in this climate, a repeat of the red-hot sunburn of late July. Now that's scary to think about. :)

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