My name is Steven King. Not the one you’re probably thinking of — our names are spelled differently for starters. I certainly don’t write for a living, and if I did, I wouldn’t touch the horror genre. I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat, to be perfectly blunt. I happened to see my next-door neighbor’s corpse being taken away by the coroner one night and I couldn’t leave my apartment for days. I was sad that she was gone, really. She used to drop in for tea each week. Now no one has tea with me. It’s no picnic, being me.
I’m going to tell you about a particular night, that not only scared me half to death but changed my life forever. I vow that every word is true.
It was one of those quiet nights; as though everyone in the street had gone out or went to bed early or some damn thing. After ruminating on this very fact for a time, I switched off my lamp, dropped my book on the floor and disappeared under the covers. I have always dreaded bedtime. I slept with the light on well into my twenties but I’ve since made some changes. Change sucks. To make matters worse: I have a remarkably vivid imagination. My mind is a veritable theme park ride: I can see the ghouls and gnarled, dead things advancing as the lights retreat. I can see the slickness of wet, grey skin. I can hear the mewling of desperate creatures, hungry for soft, warm flesh. I can even smell the decay of rot and corruption. It’s no picnic, being me.
This night was especially bad. Earlier, as I tried to carefully assume a comfortable position, I soon realized, to my horror, that my feet were exposed. I imagined a clawed hand reaching up from under the bed, playfully grazing the sole of my foot, before making a grab for my ankle. My spine tingled and my heartbeat quickened — this was going to be a long night. Did I mention: it’s no picnic, being me?
I stopped breathing altogether and listened hard, trying desperately to work out the source of the noise.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
I was mildly relieved when it was clear the disturbance had come from outside my apartment.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
It sounded like someone was punching the metal garage door just beneath my window. It would only be a moment before an angry resident ventured outside for a look, surely.
There was silence for a time, and I counted the seconds. A minute went by, then another and another. Nothing. I squeezed my eyes shut and pulled back the blankets. The cool air on my face was more than welcome, and I gulped down draught after draught of fresh air.
I slowly opened my eyes. I could hear the sound of footsteps on the floorboards coming from the apartment above. I felt a little more courageous all of a sudden — just a little. The banging was probably just a drunkard: groggily thinking he was knocking on his front door.
I crept over to the window and gently pinched the wooden sill with thumb and forefinger. I leaned forward and looking downward, I hoped desperately to see nothing. It was hard to see anything with any sort of clarity. Then a vague shape stirred. I withdrew, then I hazarded another look. The shape was still moving but as I studied it, I was confounded. It was the size of an average person but it moved in such an impossible way. I feared what it might be. It was snapping back and forth, like a dying fish. I felt a growing sense of dread, yet I couldn’t stop gawping at it. It was like I was seeing something I shouldn’t— something forbidden.
The thing twisted and rolled, beating the garage door, using its head like a fist. Relieved of clouds, the moon lit the creature, and I saw its ruined face. Stringy, sparse hair. Receded lips. Blackened teeth. Fear rose up in me like bubbles in soda. But then I felt something else: anger. I felt resentful of all the years spent jumping at shadows. I felt resentful of all the missed opportunities and sleepless nights. Now, in light of the most dreadful thing I had ever clapped eyes on, I was a picture of defiance.
I slid into my Garfield slippers, marched to the front door, and undid all seven locks and three latches. I inhaled deeply, then I stomped down the stairs and along the side passage. When I emerged at the front of the block, I gasped: the thing was so desiccated and hideous. The situation being just north of insane: it was relatively easy to brush the whole thing off as a hallucination. I approached the creature.
It stumbled toward me in its peculiar way. My anus tightened and my knees knocked, but I stood strong. The thing creaked and scraped with every movement, sounding like dry leaves being raked into a pile. When it was close, it stared at me with milky eyes, and released something that sounded like a sigh of relief. Then it disappeared up the path and into the stairwell.
I followed the creature to the upper ground level and was mildly perturbed to see it standing at my door. It was feebly pawing the knob with its withered fingers. Fearful that the scraping sound might attract sticky-beaks, I opened my door and found myself ushering the thing inside.
I know, right?
I made tea: it’s the polite thing to do, especially when the undead come to visit. She likes Darjeeling — that’s right: ‘she’. She visits me each week, now. I had to buy some of those fragrance thingies, you know the ones with the sticks? I have thirteen of those. On the plus side: I’m no longer a scaredy-cat. You can’t be a wimp when you have a standing date with a stiff.
My name is Steven King, but I don’t write horror — I live it. It’s no picnic, being me, you know.