So I had a terribly creepy dream–and like a lot of things in dreams, doesn’t SEEM like it should be creepy–where I thought I woke up, and that the bed was surrounded by headless marble statues, pressed right up against the edges of the mattress.
I should really know better than to read an entire Stephen King novel in one sitting right before bed. Now, admittedly, it was “From a Buick 8” which is hardly one of his more famous works, and most people probably found it less scary than “Cujo,” but it was recommended to me as a really Lovecraftian King novel, so I picked it up at the used bookstore, and read it.
Yup, it was Lovecraftian all right.
A lot of horror just rolls off me. I have very little fear of psychopaths and serial killers, and the supernatural generally doesn’t pain me much–“It” left me terrified of demon-mimes under the bed (now known as the “undermimes,” thank you, Carl) but I was arguably already halfway there, and the giant spider bit didn’t bother me in the slightest. I am not very worried about ghosts, and I don’t believe in hell. I read “The Shining,” and said “Hey, cool, hedge animals,” and slept like the most somnolent of logs.
And indeed, much of Lovecraft also doesn’t bother me. I have no fear of Cthulhu, and I would quite like to meet a night-gaunt. I do not fear rats in the walls (which is good, ‘cos I’ve already got the deer mice) and I’m not much worried that I’ll wake up and discover my brain is being regularly kidnapped by rugose cones from somewhere east of Yuggoth. And being a bright sort, if I discovered that I was prone to sleepwalking and attending nightmarish rituals and sacrificing small children in my sleep, I’m pretty confident I could come up with a solution that did not involve staying in the same place and hoping it blew over. I know I’m not in danger of acquiring the Innsmouth look, because I hate swimming, and I’m pretty sure if anyone in the family had been a pirate, someone would have mentioned it by now.
But there’s one particular set-up, probably set deeply in my psyche from reading Lovecraft as a teen, that gets me every time. A series of baffling, seemingly unrelated phenomena that eventually turn out to be related, and get weirder and weirder, and turn out to involve aliens–often not malicious aliens, but simply alien aliens, culminating in the great and horrible Encounter With The Unknown, (which is nearly always a let down, of course) followed by an ending that seems pretty much required to leave a cliffhanger.
Or, to put it in simpler terms, “The Color out of Space.” That one bothered me. And “Whisperer in Darkness,” for that matter. Even a relatively crappy Dean Koontz book, “Winter Moon,” followed this sequence and despite a terribly disappointing ending wherein a giant oily amoeba rode disinterred corpses around, the build-up freaked me the hell out.
This one also freaked me the hell out, and King managed to get a very personable narrator who could describe things without the Lovecraftian narrator’s detachment. I didn’t see the word “rugose” come up once.
So I finished it in one evening, went to bed, and had a series of nightmares that started with the belief that I was working with someone who had been infected by the aliens and was turning into something wrong, and then just wandered bizarrely far afield, like when I had to tell jokes to the witch doctor masks to convince the masks to drive evil spirits off for me. (Not very Lovecraftian, but noteworthy!) And then, of course, the headless marble statues, very classical, Davidesque figure, with the heads broken off, totally unrelated to anything in the book or ever written by Lovecraft, but scared the living credenzas out of me.