I’m not a pack rat. I swear… But I am guilty of keeping four sealed boxes in the spare closet. I have no idea what’s in those boxes. They are unmarked, and while I remember taking them when I moved out of my parents’ house, I don’t remember what I packed in them. For the past eleven or twelve years, the boxes moved where I did and were immediately hid in a closet with the intention to sort through them at a later date.
Three apartments and one house later, nothing changed.
“Oh, those are the boxes from my parents. I’ll get to them later. Better start unpacking the dishes, clothes, doggie toys…”
Then you realize later never came. Seems as if there’s never an appropriate time to sort through the past. Or perhaps stated better: there’s always a reason to procrastinate the examining of one’s past. You’re never sure what you’ll find, and once something buried long ago surfaces, it can very difficult subduing it again.
Every year when I initiate spring cleaning, I manage to leave my past and a few other unpleasant tasks—like grout scrubbing—off my To Do list. I always end up regretting this. So over the holiday weekend, I decided to finally face my issue with procrastination. I took one look at the grout and decided to start on the spare closest instead—see what unknown treasures lay in wait. Let me swear again that I’m not a hoarder! But when I opened the first box, I realized it may be harder to part with the contents than I’d previously estimated.
They say everything happens for a reason, and that the universe’s timing is always perfect despite how us mortals perceive it. Ask me in a week if I still believe that statement, and I’m not sure what I’ll say. But if you ask me today, I’ll swear I got a sign from the universe that I’m on the correct life path.
When I slit the tape and pulled back the cardboard flaps, I was greeted by—Drumroll please—BOOKS! Not just any books either, they were the YA series that spawned my love of the darkness. Stuff from R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, The Scary Stories Books, and anything else I could order through the Scholastic books program at school. I was somewhere between 4th and 6th grade, I believe, and it was basically a book club for kids put on by the school. I can't remember much from elementary school, but I do remember being very excited to place an order each month and even more excited to receive my new stack of books.
I didn’t read Goosebumps, mind you. Their covers looked too cartoony, and I was way too cool for kids stuff—apparently, I was a book snob as a kid lol. Instead, I chose R.L. Stein’s older fiction, and the first box was filled with YA thrillers from Stine and numerous other authors.
These authors marked a turning point in my life. It was the first time I got to select my own reading choices. Not the teacher, not my parents, just me. It wasn’t that I disliked their literary choices; there’s just something magical about free will. Since I always wanted to feel older, I needed something edgy (at least what I thought was edgy) and these books, which looked like true horror in a teen disguise, were my ticket. Let Me Tell You How I Died. Come on, that shouldn’t be a title for a 5th grader. That’s totally morbid, right? And the drawings in Scary Stories, holy hell! Haha
Even though my parents wrote the check to Scholastic, which meant they supported my choices, I convinced myself they weren’t really paying attention to my order—they were typical parents who were just happy I was reading. As kids, we can justify anything to ourselves, and if that doesn’t work, we’ll simply overlook facts. Come to think of it, adults do that too ;) Either way, I was sure my parents had no clue how edgy I was being and that made me feel even cooler when books like Die Softly showed up at my desk.
These are the books that pulled me to the dark side of literature when I was a kid. Unfortunately, despite their influence, I can’t remember a plot line or major character from any of them. Just the warm feeling of nostalgia. I doubt I’ll ever re-read any of them, but as I sift through the dog-eared covers and torn pages, their feel still excites me. I’m back in elementary school, anxious to get home so I can devour the next book. But the giddy wave of excitement that wells up in me now is different from what I remember as a child. Now the excitement is motivating me to keep pushing at my writing goals. Finishing my own novel one day. Going forward with Redrum Reviews to help other authors succeed in goals. Anything I can do to contribute to a book that will one day fill a reader with great memories and emotions, especially if they were to rediscover it…in an old moving box fifteen years or so from now.
I’m curious... Where did you guys start your journey into the dark side of literature? Did you begin like me? Was it movies, comics, stories from a crazy uncle? What pulled you to horror as a child?
I look forward to your comments, but for now I’m gonna get back to my boxes. There’s three more left unopened and a lot more to discover…