By Tee Tyson
For no better reason than Because, we’ve decided to talk about our ‘favourite’ scary books into the run up to Halloween. The divine Miss Tee Tyson goes first.
It was my sister who unknowingly instilled a love for horror novels in me. I started reading her Christopher Pike chapter books in secret, fully aware I was far too young for stories about teenagers killing each other, plotting the demise of their classmates, or monsters under beds and in the backseats of cars. Still, I read them when no one was looking and graduated quickly to John Saul, Dean Koontz and Stephen King.
Most of the terrifying novels I love today derive from a deep seated fear, and they’re books I obsessed over at a young age, novels that have stuck with me. It’s an irrational fear. You know if you read these books for the first time as an adult and not as a child you wouldn’t understand. But at the time I couldn’t sleep with my light off, and to this day, I can still see the bubble of blood in the sink from IT!, smell the ocean crashing on the cliffs in Come The Blind Fury, and hear the thump-thump-thumping of the Tell-Tale Heart.
Out of all the horror stories, the ones which scared me the most were those that held a microscope over human nature. Books like Stephen King’s The Shining, Piercing by Ryu Murakami, and Thomas Harris’ classic Silence Of The Lambs (way creepier than the movie, by the way) are the stuff my nightmares are made of. Exploring the human psyche and reminding us that anyone we brush shoulders with could be harbouring terrifying tendencies.
There is one big name and book that will forever stick with me and take me back to the queasy feeling I had when I first read it. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Required reading at the time, I was only thirteen, but I remember telling the teacher the novel was horrifying. I distinctly remember her telling me it is a story of survival and the tirade I went on afterward would be known around my junior high school as the day I lost my shit.
What my teacher viewed as a simple survival story left a lasting impression on me and not only because of the brutal murder of Piggy, but also due to the rapid descent into savagery these young, innocent boys experience. The lesson rings clear throughout – everyone is capable of inhuman cruelty.
Over the course of the book, the boys’ civilized ways are stripped away and their compassion dwindles until they begin to act as animals. Remember how Golding strips Simon of his gender when the boys kill him, how they leap on to the beast, give over to their animalistic urge to destroy him, completely disregarding who he is?
Worse, they are aware there is no coming back from their descent into evil. When Ralph weeps for the end of innocence and the darkness of man’s heart, you see it then, they will never be the boys they were when they the novel first started.
Eventually, they no longer want to be rescued. They allow the fire – both metaphorically and literally – to burn out.
The imagery throughout is vivid and unsettling. When the boys kill Simon, when they murder the sow with the piglets in her belly, and when the boulder falls on Piggy, the words Golding chooses to describe the brutality and emotions throughout are exquisitely disturbing. But it is the themes that stand out most. How these boys yield to the darkness and the deeply unsettling idea that we all have the capacity to do such horrible things. It’s enough to keep a girl up at night.
Isn’t it funny how forced reading in grade eight can haunt you for the rest of your life? Or maybe that’s not funny at all.