My love of horror began with my Mom.
Which is funny, because if you know her, you’ll know that watching a horror movie is the absolute last thing she would ever consider doing. The fact that I grew to love gore and guts still unsettles her: “Whose kid ARE you, anyway?”
It began with my Mom, because she bought me an issue of Seventeen magazine.
To my ten-year-old self, Seventeen was an impossibly cool magazine. It was clearly for older girls. It talked about kissing! and boys! and tampons! I felt cool just having one in my possession.
Somewhere in there (I don’t remember the issue), one of the little quizzes mentioned having a Stephen King book on your nightstand. I think if you picked that option, you were “edgy” or something. And I desperately wanted to be edgy. I begged for a King book.
My parents were both the sensibly-permissive type: I wasn’t allowed out past dark, but they’d let me watch a scary movie as long as I promised I knew the monsters were people in costumes. I promised, and I promised also that if they bought me this “grown-up book” I’d be fine. It’s just words. What’s to be scared of?
Dad bought me Misery. I was smugly proud of myself. Not only was I going to read an adult book, but it was a scary adult book. I would prove not only my reading aptitude, but my incredible fearlessness. Besides, the language was easy enough for a bookish kid.
I zipped along, grimacing here and there, knowing that Annie Wilkes was very bad news, but still gleeful that I was getting away with adult behaviour. Being the little asshole I was, I made sure all my classmates saw me pull out the novel during Reading Time.
It was during this quiet time that I reached The Part With The Mouse.
If you’ve not read it, this scene has the captive hero locked in the basement of the madwoman Annie. He’s been starving, and, I’m pretty sure, drinking his own urine to survive. Annie comes to see him, and she’s all nutty and angry, and she scoops up the mouse that’s been running around the cellar. Then she squeezes it til its eyes burst and licks the blood off her fingers.
I almost lost it, right there. If it weren’t for a room full of my mean-spirited little friends, I would have cried and wet myself.
But I didn’t. I maintained. I also didn’t tell my parents that I stayed awake for what felt like weeks, petrified that Annie Wilkes was coming up the stairs with her sledgehammer.
She never did, and I came to realize that the little jolt of terror was a rush. How much could I handle?
The thrill never went away. And now, writing horror stories, I want to scare you too. It’s a fun little kick. Perfectly safe.
Well, mostly. As long as you keep the lights on, and listen for those little noises that follow you in the dark…