Why Horror?

Fear Street: You gotta watch this! That message, though mostly in still photos of the Netflix Special’s posters, has been cycling through a lot of the horror accounts I follow on Instagram. Along with captures of the R.L. Stine book series of the same name. 

I was aware that R.L. Stine was behind the famous series Goosebumps (of which I’ve never read a single one). It took me a while to piece it all together, but I finally figured out that Fear Street was also by the same author. And maybe for an audience a little bit older. 

I’ve never read any of those either. 

When it came to horror as a child, I lived through it, and the author that helped me sift through it all was Stephen King. My uncle read him, so I had a stack to work through and I didn’t have to go through the usual parental channels to get it. My parents would have never let me read Stephen King if they’d known it was happening. 

Turns out there’s a whole hell of a lot that can happen to a kid without their parents knowing it. 

When I was old enough to have a little spending money, you’d find me in the bookstores, but never in the kid’s section. So R.L. Stine, probably among many other authors, never even showed up on my radar. 

The first major bit of horror that I experienced as a child was my brother’s accident. He was two years younger than me. A blond-haired, bright blue-eyed boy of the ripe old age of four. Trailing behind his older sister and friends on a bike. 

A bike that would never make it all the way to the other side of the highway.

There’s a lot I don’t remember about that day. But I remember reaching the other side of the street, twisting around in my seat, sweaty legs sticking to the hot seat, seeing my brother on the other side. 

Were we yelling? Were we telling him to hurry? 

Those piercing blue eyes. That terrible haircut, his white-hot hair the color of a sun.

He died on scene, but even back in those days, there were ways of saving people. And maybe the people doing the saving tried extra hard to bring 4-year-olds back. 

I sometimes wonder about them. The people who saved him. Do they still think about him? His tiny body broken? Or was he just another tragedy in a line of tragedies spread out over a life where you decide you can see that every day and keep moving forward? 

Does the blood not haunt them?  

Pet Semetary. I found my brother among its pages, his name now Gage, not Spencer. 

Stephen King taught me that “Sometimes dead is better.” 

Spencer died. Was brought back a vegetable. A vegetable for four years. 

There were three other people in the trailer when he died overnight. A two-bedroom trailer where my parents slept on a pull-out sofa next to his bedroom, and my bedroom all the way on the opposite side. 

That morning, my parents were still in bed. 

When someone dies, especially someone young, you want to figure out where to place the blame. My young mind couldn’t stop thinking, “Did he die because my parents slept in? Because for once they couldn’t get up and suction the mucus out of his tracheostomy?”

Other times I’ve often wondered, “Did my dad let him die on purpose?” Did my dad learn, from experience, and not from reading Stephen King, that “Sometimes dead is better”? 

Maybe my dad’s wondered about it too. We all have our demons. 

So, Why Horror? 

Because it doesn’t lie to me. It’s right there, down in the depths, where this soul is supposed to be, and it just sits there with me. Holds me while I cry, reminds me what it is I’ve survived, and whispers, in Gary Oldman’s voice, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

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