Crime is terribly revealing. Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed by your actions.—Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away…
When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door… (slam!)
Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…
Well, not exactly—today is my birthday, and I went to Stephen King’s house last week. But I went partially as a birthday gift to myself, since 2020 has squashed all my international traveling dreams for the time being, and King’s house has been on my list for awhile. Why not go to Maine in the fall, (on a sanitized, less-than-half-full plane), social distance in a small town (comparatively—Chicagoan here), and see some sights?
For the record, I wore a mask and so were most people I saw in towns in Maine, though as you can see, I removed it for this little photo shoot.
Everything about this house was cool, from the detailed, wrought iron gate made to look like spiders and a spiderweb, to the bat and three-headed dragon sculptures serving as miniature gargoyles, to its blood-red color (not to mention the red balloons left by someone—or something). I would expect nothing less from the King of horror. And the fall foliage only added to the aesthetic.
It was a rainy day in Bangor, but it cleared up right before I arrived at the house (thanks, goddesses). I got few minutes alone to take photos before others who made the pilgrimage started showing up in staggered groups of two, ending with about 7-8 people total before I left, though I’m sure people come and go all day. It was nice to see how calm and respectful fellow King fans are, especially considering the driveway was open and anybody could’ve walked onto the property—warned first, of course, by a “24-hour surveillance” sign.
While most fans hope to catch a glimpse of the author himself, I’ve read that King no longer lives here full-time (I’m sure the most prolific horror writer in the U.S. has a multitude of homes). He and his wife Tabitha are in the process of turning the house into an office for King’s estate, a home for his archives, and a writer’s retreat for visiting writers.
The wooden sculpture in the front yard was just unveiled in April 2020. King hired Josh Landry, a chainsaw sculptor based in Maine, to transform the dead remnants of a massive ash tree that was partially removed a few years ago into a sculpture featuring animals and books. The longer I looked at this, the more details I noticed, like that the legs of the bookshelf are made to look like human legs and feet, and the dog at the bottom appears to be a Corgi, a nod to King having been the owner of multiple Corgis, including his current familiar, Molly, aka the Thing of Evil.
While in Bangor, I saw a lot of King-related sights, namely because King based the fictional Derry, Maine featured in some of his novels—including arguably his most ubiquitous, the nearly-1,200-page IT—on the town. I have more photos and experiences from those spots I’d love to share, so stay tuned for an IT-centered post sometime before Halloween!
P. S. If you’re interested in planning your own Stephen King-inspired trip to Bangor, I recommend this travel blog, Oddities & Curiosities. These guys made a custom Google map showing exactly where all the hot spots are, and I found it really useful. I’ve also heard of guided tours in Bangor for all things King, but I didn’t look too much into these in favor of keeping social distance.
It was growing dark, and somehow the shadows made it feel as if all the trees had taken a collective step towards the house, edging in to shut out the sky.—Ruth Ware, In a Dark, Dark Wood
I felt a Funeral in my Brain
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –
And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –
And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,
As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race,
Wrecked, solitary, here –
And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then
The genre: Horror
The gist: Sequel to Bird Box. A woman and her two children survive in a world with mysterious creatures that make people go insane upon sight.
The background: Like a lot of people with Netflix access, I watched the movie Bird Box when it came out in December 2018. After reading some articles on it and discovering it was based on a book, I added my name to the very long waitlist at the library—turns out I was not the only one who had this idea—and months later, I finally got to read it. It was suspenseful, creepy, and just as fast-paced as the film.
Speaking of the film, Malerman said in the Acknowledgements of Malorie that he never planned to write a sequel, but people in his life saw the movie and started asking him, “What happens next?” And he decided he wanted to find out too.
The tea: I really liked this book. Like its predecessor, it was well-paced, kept me interested, and had some chillingly creepy moments. Malerman writes with an elegant focus that lets you truly step into those creepy moments, not to mention the head, mind, and fears of protagonist Malorie and her two kids.
We get a liiiiiiitle more insight into the creatures themselves, though not much. And I think it’s better that way. They’re scarier mysterious.
Getting two new POVs thrown into the mix with Malorie’s kids, Tom and Olympia, was a refreshing take on the Bird Box world, especially from characters who were literally born and raised in it. They don’t fear the creatures the same way Malorie and other adults who knew the “old world” do, and it was cool to see their curiosity about the creatures butting heads with Malorie’s relentless and single-minded philosophy of “living by the [blind]fold.”
Malorie wants to survive. Her kids want to live. This causes some beautiful tension, because neither are wrong.
My only grievance is that the ending got resolved too quickly, it would’ve been nice to have seen the last thirty or so pages fleshed out more.
There was also a blind train, which was dope. A train is always a fitting setting for a suspense/horror/mystery novel. (Thank you, Agatha Christie.)
The wrap-up: Despite my initial worry that this book might fall into some common sequel pitfalls, I was pleasantly surprised with its originality. If you like horror, Malorie is a satisfying read.
The rating: 4/5
She remembers yelling, so much yelling, so much saying, “No no no, Tom, NO!”
But if you tell someone “no” enough times, they start thinking “yes” just to hear something else, just to hear a different word, they start thinking YES.—Josh Malerman, Malorie