Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Horror Business

Random teenage incident that came flooding back to me this afternoon, apropos of nothing. When I was in... seventh grade, I guess, I read Stephen King's "'Salem's Lot." I was still a ways from my ravenous horror novel consumption of a few years later, and it scared the shit out of me (for those who haven't read it, it concerns vampires taking over a small Maine town).

I finished it one Friday afternoon, then spent the night at my friend Joel's house. My Dad was at home alone; Mom, brother and sister were all out of town for some reason. After we went to bed, I freaked out. Completely and utterly. I started having nightmares as soon as I hit half-sleep, and became convinced that the vampires were gonna get Dad. Scenes from the book merged with reality, and I had visions of my world becoming overwhelmed by darkness.

The family hosting me (poor suckers) finally drove me home in the middle of the night -- I found Dad none the worse for wear, watching "Hot Dog: The Movie." No vampires. But that night still sticks with me all these years. Even safely home, I was tormented by nightmares all night, dreaming (seriously) that vampires were killing off the Chicago White Sox baseball team (I'd read a history of the ChiSox, "Who's on Third?" at roughly the same time as "'Salem's Lot"). I started a habit that night that went on for years, sleeping with a cross on a chain on my nightstand, in response to one of the more memorable scenes from the book. I was certain that I was losing my mind.

Of course, later I got over it, and once I got thoroughly into my horror phase, "'Salem's Lot" became my favorite King novel -- I probably read it at least once a year through the end of college. I also found I had a taste for novels of a similar plot -- supernatural forces taking over a small town. Peter Straub's "Ghost Story" and Ramsey Campbell's "Hungry Moon" were both favorites.

Also in that later horror freak period -- I was about 15-16 -- I decided that I was going to emulate Campbell, who first became a published horror writer at age 16 (I believe; it's been years since I've read any of this stuff). I wrote a short vampire story, centered on Boulder, Colorado's annual Halloween bash (and thus incomprehensible to anyone who didn't live in Boulder), and ripping off King's vampire elements pretty heftily. I sent it off to some intermittently-published newsprint magazine in North Carolina, and never heard another word. With good reason. It was crap.

* * *

One thing that's always bugged me, and who knows -- perhaps someone will stumble upon this and have the answer. At some point early in "'Salem's Lot," the main character muses on the quiet town and ponders the line "When the kudzu gets your fields, you will sleep like the dead." It's presented as an aphorism, not an original thought, but the source isn't provided. It's odd enough that it's stuck with me all these years, but a Google search on it turns up nothin'. Anyone have any idea where that came from?


gsdgsd13 said...

All I had to do was alter my search a bit -- it's a James Dickey poem, slightly misquoted. If anyone cares: here.

I love that this has bugged me all these years, and a few minutes after I mention it publicly, I figure it out.

Brushback said...

Horror Business


gsdgsd13 said...

I had a feeling you would appreciate these titles. I had to compensate for the poor taste of a U2 pun the other day...

Nanuk of the North said...

Hot Dog: the movie !!!

Oh please, tell us more about your dad and the cinema.

gsdgsd13 said...

It stuck with me all those years partly because I was at that age where I would have killed to see "Hot Dog".

Someday, I'll queue up all the teen shower movies I missed as a kid on Netflix, and catch up.