(Design & illustration by Robert Roxby)
By Karen Kincy, author of BLOODBORN
When I was a kid, if you asked me to write a story about the scariest thing ever, I would have probably written something about the most foul, undead, oozing, crawling monster ever. With glowing red eyes. Unspeakable evil that eats kittens for breakfast and unicorns for lunch.
But that’s not what really scares me.
Now I would write about the pause where possible disasters flash through your mind like a murder of crows. You stand, paralyzed, and realize you don’t know what will happen to you. Now I would write about the shadows on the wall, those shapes you don’t recognize, and the whispers in your mind, talking to parts of yourself you don’t recognize, either.
It’s the whitespace in a story that really scares me. The gaps between the words, filled in by a black seeping ooze from the corners of my nightmares. The author doesn’t even need to do that much work; I have an overactive imagination. Fear of the unknown is my fear. But like all readers who relish a good horror story, I masochistically adore the creeped-out feeling of goosebumps prickling your skin, an icy trickle down your spine, and a sudden urge to yelp and leap off the floor, away from the windows and doors.
One book that thoroughly, deliciously creeped me out was The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. To quote from my original review: “I managed to read 300+ pages straight of this book before someone knocked on my door and I jumped out of bed, adrenaline rushing at the thought of a zombie outside my apartment.” A scene in this book Creeped. Me. Out.
In an abandoned house, with zombies shuffling around outside, there’s an abandoned crib. Well, it looks abandoned, at first, but something squirms inside… is it a baby? Alive? So the main character goes and picks it up while I’m screaming at her to put it down, because of course the baby is dead. Undead, rather. So sad, and so, so scary.
On the subject of zombies, Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry is an awesome action adventure middle-grade. And of course, like all good zombie books, it has scary parts. I don’t want to be too spoilery, but there are scenes involving characters who might be alive, or might be undead, and it’s really hard to tell, so you’re biting your nails while the definitely-alive characters keep their hands on their weapons. Besides all the scariness, Rot & Ruin tackles the emotional aftermath of loved ones becoming zombies, and makes you feel for the undead.
As a nod to our host, Nova, I have to say that Imaginary Girls scared me. I like to read in bed, often at night, and so I merrily started this book. Pretty soon I started getting goosebumps. The dread in this book dawned on me slowly, subtly, like the delicate evocation of horror often found in Japanese films like The Ring—the original one is much creepier than the remake. I didn’t know quite what I should be afraid of, and so the dread built, and built, with all my questions about who was actually dead, and what was actually real.
Now that it’s late October, and fog creeps through the dying leaves, it’s the perfect time to read scary books. Let me check my bookshelf, though I’m going to check under the bed, first…
Karen Kincy (Redmond, Washington) lives among countless trees, some of which—her pet kumquats and oranges—have lovingly invaded her apartment. Unlike her characters, she has never been on the run from the law or bitten by a werewolf, though she has been known to howl at the moon. Karen has a BA in Linguistics and Literature from The Evergreen State College, and is studying toward a Master’s in Computational Linguistics.
Visit Karen at karenkincy.com.
Follow @karenkincy on Twitter.