Before we talk about When Darkness Loves Us by Elizabeth Engstrom, I want to relate a recent experience. If you don’t want to hear it, just scroll down to the first heading where the review begins.
Someone at lunch saw that I was reading a book by Peter Straub and said, “Why would anyone read horror?”
I looked up. “I like it.” I looked down.
Usually, “because” is a sufficient answer for me. I don’t care what people read, I just hope they read. But since then I’ve tried to actually figure out why I like horror so much. I don’t read it constantly, but I do have spurts. And when I find a horror story that I really love, that truly unnerves me, I enjoy it as much as I enjoy any reading I do.
But “I enjoy reading it and I think it’s fun” also suffices.
I’m something of an obsessive about pulp era science fiction and horror, and I think this provides a clue. When HP Lovecraft was publishing in Weird Tales, there was a lot more of the world that was relatively unexplored. At the Mountains of Madness takes place in Antarctica. Many more stories are set in space, or at the bottom of the oceans.
There were still frontiers. Lines to step across. And I think that’s what it is for me, even though we’ve now been to many places that weren’t possible way back when.
Psychologically, horror fiction still provides unexplored territory, which fits in nicely with everything I believe about curiosity. It prompts questions that I may not otherwise ask. I love that.
And of course, I’m all about a good story, and that’s what’s truly behind my “Because it’s fun” answer.
Now then, let’s kick the month off with one of the most unnerving short horror stories I have ever read:
When Darkness Loves Us
Young, newly-married, joyous ,16 year old country girl Sally Ann (What else could her name possibly be?) is outside with her loving new husband when there is a bit of a mishap.
I’m not going to tell you exactly how, but she gets trapped underground and can’t get back out. But she has another option–go the other way into the enormous network of underground, absolutely lightless caverns.
Oh, and she’s pregnant. You don’t realize just how long she’s been down there until you realize how old her child has gotten. A boy, raised completely in the dark, with nothing the the sounds of dripping water, the feel of his mother’s body, and no concept that there is anything else.
Then, for more reasons I won’t spoil, things get nuts, which is the correct, technical term, according to my dictionary for really lazy writing.
A wonderful, eerie, unforgettable story.
If you’ve ever seen The Descent, or read the book by Jeff Long, you already have a healthy fear of caves. Fiction has taught me that everyone who goes into a cave either gets eaten by monsters, or becomes one.
If you need even more convincing of the horrors of the subterranean world, here’s a screenshot of Spelunker for the old 8 bit Nintendo:
And with that, we’re into the third annual horrorfest here on World’s Strongest Librarian.
Here’s the plan: I’m going to write one post each day that I will send out to the RSS and email subscribers. However, I’m going to write a lot more than that, if I have time.
If you want to read it all, please just check back a couple of times each day. The posts will be on the front page, but I’m just not going tobombard everyone’s readers and inboxes.
Has anyone read this story by Elizabeth Engstrom? Who’s been trapped in a cave? Why do you (or do you not) read horror?
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