Salem's Lot

by Steven King

I thought this was going to be a re-read, but it turns out I had never read this one. What a great book! As is typical King, the setting is a small isolated town in Maine that falls prey to incredible evil. This time: vampires, and not the Twilight clowns. These vampires are the ones from our childhood nightmares.

You know the aging adage: today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality? Well, what if today's horror were to be tomorrow's reality? Well, after reading Salem's lot I have one reason to support the Catholic Church, or at least the mass production of their relics!

Here's a fun excerpt of early King meta-fiction. An aging, single guy climbs the stairs of his own house to confront whatever hellish phenom is in an upstairs bedroom.

Going up there stairs was the hardest thing Matt Burke had ever done in his life. That was all; that was it. Nothing else even came close. Except perhaps one thing.

As a boy of eight, he had been in a Cub Scout pack. The den mother’s house was a mile up the road and going was fine, yes, excellent, because you walked in the late afternoon daylight. But coming home twilight had begun to fall, freeing the shadows to yawn across the road in long, twisty patterns—or, if the meeting was particularly enthusiastic and ran late, you had to walk home in the dark. Alone.

Alone. Yes, that’s the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn’t hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym…

There was a ruined church along the way, an old Methodist meeting house, which reared its shambles at the far end of a frost-heaved and hummocked lawn, and when you walked past the view of it’s glaring, senseless windows your footsteps became very loud in your ears and whatever you had been whistling died on your lips and you thought about how it must be inside—the overturned pews, the rotting hymnals, the crumbling altar where only mice now kept the Sabbath, and you wondered what might be in there besides mice—what madmen, what monsters. Maybe they were peering out at you with yellow reptilian eyes. And maybe one night watching would not be enough; maybe some night that splintered, crazily hung door would be thrown open, and what you saw standing there would drive you to lunacy at one look.

And you couldn’t explain that to your mother and father, who were creatures of the light. No more than you could explain to them how, at the age of three, the spare blanket at the foot of the crib turned into a collection of snakes that lay staring at you with flat and lidless eyes. No child ever conquers those fears, he thought. If a fear cannot be articulated, it can’t be conquered. And the fear locked in small brains are much too large to pass through the orifice of the mouth. Sooner or later you found someone to walk past all the deserted meeting houses you had to pass between grinning babyhood and grunting senility. Until tonight. Until tonight when you found out that none of those old fears had been staked—only tucked away in their tiny, child-sized coffins with a wild rose on top.

He didn’t turn on the light. He mounted the steps, one by one, avoiding the sixth, which creaked. He held on to the crucifix, and his palm was sweaty and slick…

He hits on so many of our worst nightmares in this two pages. Despite being a somewhat solid adult I still have those fears that well up and wash over my otherwise rational mind. For me, never in the city. Always among buildings in rural areas. So this was a fun read.

1 comment:

Dan said...

OLD King was great. Scared the beejeebies out of me many times.

I used to run home from the Skidmores house at night because the zombies were always right behind me! I KNEW if I turned around they were going to grab me.

I still get that creeped out feeling when I am out in our woods alone at night sometimes.

I blame King for that!