I absolutely love collections of short horror fiction, assuming they’re good, of course. Ever since reading Skeleton Crew by Stephen King, I have always looked forward to his books of short stories. SC is not my favorite anymore, but it still contains many of my favorite stories by Mr. King, including the novella The Mist.
I believe that Stephen King’s best and most frightening stories are the ones where bad things just happen without explanation. Sometimes creepy stuff just happens and the reader gets to watch it happen, experiencing whatever that delicious thrill is that we get from being scared and knowing that that isn’t happening to us.
Besides The Mist, which I believe is the best story in Skeleton Crew, I’d like to tell you a little about my other top three from this book.
My wife likes to ask me what my dream car will be once I’m rich and famous. My answer is usually, “I don’t care about cars. I’ll wait for a teleporter.” Well, after reading The Jaunt I’m reconsidering.
In this story, jaunting is teleporting. The story revolves around a family waiting in the waiting room before they take their own trips via the jaunt machine. The father tells them the story of how the machine came to be created, including, of course, some early failures and how the inventor learned that the machine works best when the travelers are asleep.
You might be able to guess where this is heading.
A classic example of bad things just happening. Four people, two men and two women, go out to the lake for a day of fun and sun and…something else. They swim out to the raft in the middle of the lake. While on the raft they notice a mysterious round oil slick floating towards them. Then it eats one of them. The other three are trapped on the raft as the sun sets.
There are some silly moments in this story, but the good outweighs the bad. The thought of being trapped on the raft, unable to get back to shore just because this thing showed up chilled me. Still does. Great story with some wonderful imagery and real tension (for me, anyway).
A man gets marooned on a tiny island. His experience is not quite as great as Robinson Crusoe’s. There is very little food, but he does have a lot of heroin on him, for reasons I won’t spoil. It just so happens that this man is a surgeon who is able to operate on himself as he gets hungrier and hungrier. I know, it’s disgusting, but it’s Halloween and this is Stephen King we’re talking about.
If you liked Four Past Midnight, Night Shift, Everything’s Eventual, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, and somehow never got around to Skeleton Crew, you’ll love it. It’s one of King’s best and a book I revisit frequently.