Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stephen King: The man who could make me afraid of my own car.

As I've mentioned several times in recent blog posts, I'm reading Christine by Stephen King right now.  I started it two weeks ago, and considering that it is a monstrosity of a book (over 500 pages), and that I'm a fairly slow reader, it's kind of a miracle that I'm over three-quarters of the way through it in that time.  That's a testament to the storyteller, I suppose. 

I first fell for Stephen King during my teen years, in those late stages of high school, when suddenly Christopher Pike and VC Andrews weren't quite scary enough for me anymore.  I remember discovering the King section on the school library shelves.  I remember how massive those books looked - huge, hardcovered volumes that awed and amazed me just upon sight.  I remember how they smelled, that musty yet delightful old book smell (one big reason why I still read book-books and don't own an e-reader).  I remember the little thrill of excitement I got at the prospect of diving in.

I don't remember which was my first.  And I certainly didn't read them all.  In fact, for a King fan, I think I can claim to have read only a paltry few.  I distinctly can recall Carrie and Thinner.  I remember the harrowing weeks I was immersed in The Shining.  I still consider Pet Semetary and The Dead Zone two of my favourite books of all time.

I took a break from Stephen King after my college years, and I'm not even sure why.  Other books to read, I guess, other titles and authors that grabbed me.  It wasn't until several years ago, when a friend claimed on Facebook that The Stand was the best book that she'd ever read, that I picked up another Stephen King novel.  I didn't love The Stand.  I wouldn't rank it among my favourite books ever.  It was massive, and it took me months to plow through it.  I remember being so relieved when I was finally done.  And yet, so well written.  Certain scenes from it can come back to me in a second; come alive right before my eyes just as I think of them.  Some of them so disturbing I wish I could forget.  I mean, for months, every time I heard anyone sneeze, my first thought was, "Oh no!  You've got it too!  It's the end of the world!!"

The masterful work of an amazing writer.  And he's doing it to me again.

This year, our book club is trying out something different.  For one of our meetings (coming up this summer), everyone is to read a best seller from their birth year.  Lists were sent out of best sellers for the birth years of all regular attendees, and we had to choose one from our year.  Let me say, I wasn't all that impressed with the choices available for 1983.  One of them was Pet Semetary, which I read in high school and loved, but I wanted to pick something I hadn't read before.  For me, based on the other choices, the only one that interested me at all was Christine.

And even then, I was skeptical. I mean, seriously?  A scary novel about a CAR?  How the hell is a CAR going to scare me?  It isn't what I think of when I think of horror.  A car doesn't sound like much of a villain to me.

Oh, but you guys.  Oh, she is.  She is scary.  And getting scarier with every passing chapter.

And how do I know this scary car has wormed her way into my head?  Because it's not just poor ol' Arnie Cunningham who has to deal with her.  She's starting to mess with me, too.

I drive a 2013 Ford Focus.  Fire engine red, and named Purdy after the sales lady who sold her to me.  A cute little car that gets me from point A to point B, and has caused me little trouble over the past five years, save for a flat tire on a freezing cold day a few years ago.  A car I neglect to wash on a regular basis, but for the most part, I really do love.

Yesterday, I left work at my usual time in the winter, at 4 PM.  I went out to my car and was glad I didn't have to clean the snow off of it, because even though the fluffy flakes had fallen pretty well all day, it was warm enough out that it was melting on contact.  My car was clean and ready to roll.

I got in, turned the key in the ignition, and as I sat adjusting the radio station, my gaze flashed to the screen on my dash where the outside temperature lights up.  It said it was 10 degrees Celsius.  As it was snowing at that very moment, I knew the temp was wrong, but that's not unusual.  Sometimes in the summer, if the car has been sitting in the sun, it can register 40 degrees or more, and the temperature gradually drops as the car cools off.  The thought did cross my mind that it wasn't sunny at all yesterday, not even a little bit.  Overcast and snowing, all day.  Still, not that big a deal.

As I slowly drove down the 5th Concession to the highway, doing my best to dodge the potholes, I noticed the temperature starting to drop on the screen.  9.  Then 8... 7... 6.  Suddenly, the numbers started to flash by so fast, until it had plummeted to -30.  My eyes widened.  I'd never seen it do that before.  My stomach did an odd little flip as I thought of the book and how strange little things happen like that with Arnie's car.  Like the odometer that runs backwards.

I could almost see Arnie's little half-grin.  Just a glitch, I guess...

Then, after a brief moment, the numbers ran up again, zipping all the way back up to 10 degrees.  And then they slowly started going back down.

"CHRISTINE!!!!!!!" I cried out. 

Like, literally.  I screamed the name of that car.  Even though it's not the name of my car.  Because in that moment, I felt very certain that my car was no longer my car anymore.  Christine had taken over.  It was possessed, in some small yet terrifying way.

Damn you, Stephen King.  Damn you and your scary car book that has wormed its way into my head.  Damn you for making me just a little bit fearful of my own perfectly innocent, sweet little car.

He's a master.  An absolute master.

I can't wait to see how the rest of this book plays out.  Christine has started her murdering ways, and she is gruesome.  Ruthless.  I'm afraid to pick up the book to see what's next, yet also so intrigued that I can't seem to put it down.  I can't wait to see how this all plays out for Arnie and his bitch of a car.

I just hope that my little "glitch" doesn't happen again.... Keep my car out of it, King.


Stacy said...

Bahaha, literally laughing out loud here!

Rev. Nancy Best said...

Scary! I can't read his stuff since I read Misery. I hated The Stand. I don't do scary at all any more.