As I have stated before, I like to be scared. I like to be creeped out. I like to read a story that makes me shudder, close the book for a minute and then still open it back up, because I JUST HAVE to find out what happens next…will the monster be bested somehow, or will it feed?
And what better way to be scared…than…you guessed it…read a Stephen King book (hey, it’s this blog, don’t act surprised)?
Stephen King is scary. Water is wet and the sun sets in the west. So duh, in other words. Stephen King is a great writer, creates great characters and is able to hook his Constant Reader to his tale. And one of the ways he hooks someone into a story is by scaring them into a change of pants (or is that just me?)
And more than a few of the stories in King’s latest collection, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, are exactly that: scary. Frightening. May make one leave the lights on at night. Disturbing and terrifying, even.
In other words, just what the (creepy) doc ordered.
The short story The Little Green God of Agony would be part of that creepy doctor’s prescription. It may be a quick read, but it is definitely packed with lots of vitamin F (vitamin Fear, for the uninitiated). And there is nothing like a good dose of vitamin F to get you up and going in the morning (although this guy yapping in your face will also do the trick, but I digress).
I know, how frightening!
The Little Green God of Agony tells of a woman named Katherine McDonald, who is an in-home nurse for a man named Newsome. About two years ago, Newsome was involved in an accident that injured him horribly, leaving him in a massive amount of pain. Katherine cares for Newsome and attempts to involve him physical therapy that she believes will help him recover and manage his pain. However, Newsome is not cooperative in these efforts, which leads Katherine to think that he is weak. Newsome is also very rich and compensating his staff very well (including Katherine), so Katherine stays silent on the subject, and also stays silent when Newsome tries alternative forms of therapy, which Katherine believes to be fake therapies.
Newsome has invited a preacher named Reverend Rideout to help him deal with his pain, in his latest attempt to cope with his injuries. Rideout tells Newsome that he is actually possessed by a demon, and that is what is actually causing him the pain. Katherine believes that this is another charlatan, but Newsome offers the reverend $10 million to cure his of his injuries. The reverend refuses the $10 million and tells Newsome that he will take $750,000 so that he may rebuild his church, which was destroyed by a fire. Rideout then tells Newsome that he will perform an expulsion of sorts, right then and there.
The reverend begins the ritual, and tells Newsome to describe his pain. Newsome begins to do so, telling Katherine, Rideout and his other staff that his pain is a green ball of agony. Katherine interrupts the ritual, and tells Newsome that he is weak and that the reverend is a charlatan. Newsome tries to tells Katherine that she is fired, but Rideout intervenes, telling Katherine that she had become jaded, and therefore no longer able to recognize which patients are faking their pain, and which are not (with Newsome falling into the latter category).
Rideout then proceeds with the ritual, giving Katherine a can of pepper spray to fend the “demon” off with. He also tells Newsome’s cook, Tonya, to grab a broom she that she may use it as a weapon.
The reverend cajoles the demon to leave the body of Newsome. A bulge appears in Newsome’s throat, and the electricity powers off. A window shatters, and the electricity powers back on. A creature that resembles a tennis ball with green spikes for legs emerges from the body of Newsome. Katherine swipes at the creature with a broom, and misses. The creature then attempts to possess the body of Melissa, Newsome’s housekeeper. However, Katherine hits Melissa in the face with a broom, and the creature leaves Melissa’s body. Katherine and the rest of Newsome’s staff believe that they have defeated the creature.
Newsome tells Katherine that he feels better, but it appears that the reverend has died in the struggle. The electricity then powers off again, and Katherine feels something crawl onto the back of her hand.
Um, shudder? Or ick? Maybe shudder ick (to coin a new term)?
In other words, this was one creepy ass story…let me count the ways!
And, in the style of Stephen King, it was creepy in more ways than one…
First of all, chronic pain. I know that’s not a supernatural horror, but it is a “human” horror. King writes very well about the horrors of the everyday world. Pain is one of those horrors. And it is one that I understand. I am sure that King understands it much better than I do, given the horrific accident he suffered on June 19th, 1999.
So I could understand where Newsome was coming from, to a point. Living with pain is not fun, and it can really feel like a non stop horror movie. And it will make a person desperate, willing to try almost anything to get relief from it.
But I could also understand how Katherine felt. Caring for someone who suffers from chronic pain is not an easy task (my husband would testify to this, I am sure). Chronic pain often affects more than one person, and is indeed an every day horror.
But of course, this is Stephen King. So let’s talk about the supernatural horror already…after all, this is Stephen King!
First of all, the description of the demon, or whatever it was…
So, thanks to Stephen King, I will never look at green koosh balls in the same way again. Thanks, Uncle Stevie, and maybe I should thank Obama for good measure, while I am at it!
The build-up before the demon revealed itself was also terrifying. King’s description of it being flushed out of Newsome and looking like a a goiter (ew much?) was just…nasty. I can think of no other word for it. The reverend cajoling the creature out of Newsome also created some terrifying imagery, making me think of movies like The Exorcist, although we were (thankfully) spared of green vomit coming out of people.
The ending of this story was unsettling as well.
First of all, the “good” guy, Reverend Rideout, lost his life in the fight. I do believe that he was one of the good guys, because of his refusal to accept an excessive amount of money from Newsome, and the fact that he did give his life in the fight. So that part was a downer.
And the ending! The creature, whatever it was, was not defeated. And it went on to claim its next victim in Katherine, who, ironically, was skeptical of the ritual to flush it out, and also skeptical of Newsome’s complaints. However, I did not consider Katherine to be “bad”. Her skepticism was understandable, and so was her impatience with her employer. So seeing her (ostensibly) become the next victim was disturbing. It was just further proof that monsters do not care who their victims are, only that they victims are there for the taking.
The ending reminds us that often, the monsters live. And they continue to commit evil deeds. And sometimes, the only thing standing between someone, and whether or not that person is victimized by the evil, is simply pure, dumb luck.