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#HappyBirthdayStephenKing: How to tell if you’re in a King novel

You cannot check out, and you cannot ever leave.

books Updated: Oct 11, 2016 11:42 IST
Stephen King at a  book signing event in November  2013 in Paris.
Stephen King at a book signing event in November 2013 in Paris. (AFP)

Like a guest at a banker’s convention, you are surrounded by evil. The worst part is, you don’t know exactly which ones are evil. It could be the little old grandmother with the face of an angel, sitting in the corner, knitting. It could be the handsome young devil sipping a martini, who is, in fact, the Devil. It could be the cute little girl in the pretty pink frock, and you only realize that she is evil when she sinks her sharp little fangs into your jugular, sucking away thirstily.

As her cheeks grow pinker and your life begins to fade, you regret giving her the lollipop, a waste of your hard earned money. You know that evil is omnipresent. It’s in the everyday things that you know and love, which is why you jump at shadows and live in a perpetual state of terror. Sometimes you wet yourself.

The horror is all around you, lurking in the mundane. It’s in the beloved shaggy dog that suddenly transforms into a hound from the deepest pits of hell. It’s in the car that wants to kill you. It’s living inside your toilet bowl, where you tried to flush it, and now it wants revenge. It’s in the woods beyond your garden. It slithers across the aisle of your friendly neighbourhood supermarket. It’s in the warm-hearted, middle-aged lady who loves your books, and is sweetly worshipful, until one day you find yourself stranded in her house, and she breaks both your legs so that you cannot run away. Unless you write the exact book that she wants, and she approves of every page, there is worse in store for you. Next time you get a bad review, you will complain less.

It’s in the empty grave that was not empty yesterday. It’s in the deep end of the swimming pool. It’s in the many, many evil mothers who through years of patient, uncompromising misguidance, turn you and your friends into freaks, and unleash within you the power to destroy all those who have tormented you. Thanks to such mothers, you refer to breasts as ‘dirtypillows’, and you are riddled with guilt about basic bodily functions.

The lyrics of your favourite songs are filled with warnings of impending doom, if only you would pay attention. You have to be careful about the smallest of gestures, apparently harmless, like when an old crone touches you with a finger and says just one word, ‘thinner’, after which you begin to waste away. You realize, far too late, that you should never insult old crones.

You know you’re in a Stephen King book because everything is a source of danger, from the music box in the closet to the hotel that you decide to stay in, thinking, what a lovely and historic hotel, not realizing that part of that historicity involves an alarming number of dead people. You know it when your mild-mannered, caring husband is suddenly banging on the door with an axe, and he’s shouting, ‘I’m he-e-e-re!’, because he too is a character in a Stephen King novel. You wish you had never become one yourself, but now it’s too late. You cannot check out, and you cannot ever leave. If you’re resourceful enough, and if your heart is true, you might be one of the three people who survive until the end.

But I wouldn’t bet on it.

Shovon Chowdhury is a satirist. His latest novel, Murder With Bengali Characteristics, contains no evil.