As the nights draw longer and get colder, we arrive on a day of fear and excitement: Halloween! For some, this night is spent remembering and honouring the dead and celebrating the coming winter. But for most, Halloween is a day of scary costumes, sweets, and stories of the undead.
One of my all-time favourite horror novels is Poppy Z Brite’s Lost Souls. It tells the tale of Nothing, a young teen who has never fit in in his adopted home. He leaves to travel to Missing Mile in search of a band, Lost Souls?, whom he idolises. While there, he meets Zillah, Twig and Molochai, a trio of vampires, who, unlike “classic” vampires, are a separate species to humans. The book is dark and unpredictable, surprising the reader until the end. Each twist is accompanied by rich literary detail, sure to nourish even the hungriest of horror fans.
Now, no Hallowe’en night would be worth its weight in pumpkins without mentioning Stephen King. If I’m having a bad day, Carrie has long been my go-to King book. I used to think that Carrie and I were pretty similar; we were both picked on in school, we both lived in old fashioned houses… of course, my mother never locked me in a cupboard and shouted bible verses at me, and I’ve never quite developed my telekinesis. Still, it’s a classic from one of the all-time greats of horror writing and a must-read for any fan of the genre.
I leave you with an extract from A Book of Horrors, edited by Stephen Jones. Once you’ve read through Little Green God of Agony by Stephen King you won’t want to turn out the light.
Rideout once more flashed his brief smile, but now there was sweat on his brow as well as his client’s. ‘It’s not Mace – that is illegal where I come from – but that’s the idea, yes. Now I’d like silence, please.’
‘Wait a minute.’ Kat propped the broom against the bed and mran her hands first up Rideout’s left arm, then his right. She feltonly plain cotton cloth and the man’s scrawny flesh beneath.
‘Nothing up my sleeve, Miss Kat, I promise you.’
‘Hurry up,’ Newsome said. ‘This is bad. It always is, but the goddam stormy weather makes it worse.’
‘Hush,’ Rideout said. ‘All of you, hush.’
They hushed. Rideout closed his eyes. His lips moved silently. Twenty seconds ticked past on Kat’s watch, then thirty. Her hands were damp with perspiration. She wiped them one at a time on her sweater, then took hold of the broom again. We look like people gathered at a deathbed, she thought.
Outside, the wind howled along the gutters.
Rideout said, ‘For Jesus’ sake I pray,’ then opened his eyes and leaned close to Newsome.
‘God, there is an evil outsider in this man. An outsider feeding on his flesh and bones. Help me cast it out, as Your Son cast out the demons from the possessed man of the Gadarenes. Help me speak to the little green god of agony inside Andrew Newsome in your own voice of command.’
He leaned closer. He curled the long fingers of one arthritis-swollen hand around the base of Newsome’s throat, as if he intended to strangle him. He leaned closer still, and inserted the first two fingers of his other hand into the billionaire’s mouth. He curled them, and pulled down the jaw.
‘Come out,’ he said. He had spoken of command, but his voice was soft. Silky. Almost cajoling. It made the skin on Kat’s back and arms prickle. ‘Come out in the name of Jesus. Come out in the names of all the saints and martyrs. Come out in the name of God, who gave you leave to enter and now commands you to leave. Come out into the light. Leave off your meal and come out.’
There was nothing. He began again.
‘Come out in the name of Jesus. Come out in the names of the saints and martyrs.’ His hand flexed slightly, and Newsome’s breath began to rasp. ‘No, don’t go deeper. You can’t hide, thing of darkness. Come out into the light. Jesus commands you. The saints and martyrs command you. God commands you to leave your meal and come out.’
A cold hand gripped Kat’s upper arm and she almost screamed. It was Melissa. Her eyes were huge. Her mouth hung open. In Kat’s ear, the housekeeper’s whisper was as harsh as bristles.
A bulge like a goitre had appeared in Newsome’s throat just above Rideout’s loosely grasping hand. It began to move slowly mouthwards. Kat had never seen anything like it in her life.
‘That’s right,’ Rideout almost crooned. His face was streaming with sweat; the collar of his shirt had gone limp and dark. ‘Come out. Come out into the light. You’ve done your feeding, thing of darkness.’
The wind rose to a scream. Rain that was now half-sleet blasted the windows like shrapnel. The lights flickered and the house creaked.
‘The God that let you in commands you to leave. Jesus commands you to leave. All the saints and martyrs—’
He let go of Newsome’s mouth, pulling his hand back the way a man does when he’s touched something hot. But Newsome’s mouth stayed open. More: it began to widen, first into a gape and then into a soundless howl. His eyes rolled back in his head and his feet began to jitter. His urine let go and the sheet over his crotch went as dark as Rideout’s collar.
‘Stop,’ Kat said, starting forward. ‘He’s having a seizure. You have to st—’
And that’s all you’re getting. Keep safe, stay out of the shadows and have a wicked Halloween…
By Ayesha Burrows
Extract from The Little Green God of Agony by Stephen King, story from A Book of Horrors edited by Stephen Jones
‘The Little Green God of Agony’ copyright © Stephen King 2011