It was All Hallows’ Eve and Stephen was peeved. His wife Tabitha was out with the grandchildren and wouldn’t be home for hours. They made it a point to go out each Halloween, as the house of a modern-day horror master was a landmark every trick or treater simply had to hit.
However, Stephen had stayed home today because Molly, aka the Thing of Evil, had to be rushed to the vet that morning. She was sleeping peacefully now, hopped up on painkillers, and cared for by her sister Vixen.
As darkness gripped the skies, the doorbell announced the first visitors of the night. Hoping that costumed kids would brighten his day, he pushed the creaky wooden frame open and was taken aback for a second. There stood The Ten. Men and women, not a child among them, their faces staring back at him. Their costumes bore a Victorian theme, and they crowded in an arc around the door.
“Trick or treat, Mr. King,” they growled in chorus.
“Aren’t you lot a little too old for this?” Stephen barked. He had hoped for children and his anger was growing.
“Trick or treat, Mr. King,” they growled again.
“The costumes are good, but the accents need work, fellas.”
“Trick or treat, Mr. King.” It was shorter, terse. Stephen was never known for his even temper.
“Fine. Trick. I’m Stephen King, you think you can scare me?”
He immediately wished he hadn’t said that. The Ten looked up in unison, creepy smiles plastered across their faces. Stephen knew the man right in front of him. It couldn’t be… he knew them all.
Stephen King fainted. The modern-day master of horror was about to experience a rather harrowing Halloween.
Stephen King awoke in his dank basement, bound to a chair. The rancid stench of burning kerosene filled the room as a lone lamp cast the 10 shadows of his captors on the walls around him. One of them bent down and his long face was in front of him again. Stephen couldn’t believe his eyes. Was it really him?
“Well, Mr. King. Trick it is then,” smiled H. P. Lovecraft.
“Let me tell you about the most terrifying night of my life, Mr. King,” he began. “My uncle and I set out to explore a house where several inhabitants had mysteriously taken ill and died. My uncle was a learned man, he needed to solve the mystery of the old Harris house. The cellar seemed to be the source of it all, so that’s where we went.
A whole night in there, Mr. King. We shouldn’t have slept. Oh how I wish we had just stayed awake. We took turns sleeping, and I saw things I can never unsee. To this day, I remain unsure if those were nightmares or reality. But let me tell you what I saw…”
And H. P. Lovecraft told the tale of The Shunned House.
“Why are you doing this?” Stephen cried. “What is the meaning of all this? What have I done?”
A shadow coughed and chuckled. “Because you deserve it,” said a voice with a strong German accent.
“Why do I deserve it?”
“Never mind that, Mr. King. It is not necessary to accept that as true, you must only accept it as necessary.” Kafka always had a way with words, even if English wasn’t his first language.
“This trial gives the defendant nothing. The charges are unknown to him, the rules are unknown to him, all he needs to do is accept his guilt. You are guilty, no? I knew another one like you once. Have I told you about Josef K.?”
And Franz Kafka told the tale of The Trial.
“Please, what about my wife? I need to see Tabitha. She must be worried,” Stephen croaked.
“Ha, typical!” cried Gertrude Barrows Bennett. “A sentiment most fitting of this time when women’s superiority to man has not been clearly recognized. I wrote for years under the pseudonym of a man, and was only later lauded as the creator of dark fantasy.
The future sees women for what they are, King, we will triumph over men. Let me give you a glimpse into this future, when a wizened sailoress landed on a mysterious island that seemed keen to bend to her every whim and wish… perhaps a little too keenly.”
And Gertrude Bennett alias Francis Stevens told the tale of Friend Island.
“None may leave the Circle, Mr. King.” Stephen turned to see who spoke and saw that The Ten were standing all around him. In the middle stood William Hope Hodgson. His chiseled physique cut an intimidating figure, matched by everyone’s knowledge of the sheer volume of his works. “In the darkness lies our destruction. Much as you may want to meet your love, we cannot allow it, for The Watchers wait there for us.”
Hodgson built worlds within worlds within worlds for his masterpiece, and carved a scene of despair seldom seen in books. And yet, in all that, he brought a story of love and longing. His heart was larger than he’d ever let on.
“Come, Mr. King. Let me take your mind off your troubles with a story.”
And William Hope Hodgson told the tale of The Night Land.
“Friends, surely this man has had enough. Let us not allow the evil within get the better of us,” implored a lone voice.
“You heard what they said, if he deserves it, he deserves it!” roared another. But while it sounded hoarser, it was unmistakably the same voice.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote perhaps the defining novel on dissociative identity disorder, or split personality, and the toll was there for all to see. Stevenson continued arguing with himself, with impassioned pleas for Stephen’s safety and brutal hisses suggesting unimaginable acts. No one else spoke, but no one else needed to, for they all knew the tale that was unfolding.
And Robert Louis Stevenson told the tale of the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Stephen’s mouth ran dry. It was one thing to read the classic, but it was infinitely more bone-chilling to hear it from the author himself who apparently lived it.
“I don’t understand what’s happening,” he said quietly. “None of this makes sense. It’s not logical. For heaven’s sake, why is HE here?”
“It’s elementary, my dear King.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s unmistakable mustache quivered with excitement. “I’m not here due to my great detective. No, no, these good people invited me along because of my fascination with the occult and the strange. Have you ever heard about the physiologist Austin Gilroy and the psychic who fell in love with him?”
And Arthur Conan Doyle told the tale of The Parasite.
“Ah, distinctly he’ll remember the day this bleak November;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.”
And Edgar Allen Poe, never flitting, still was leaning, still was sitting
On the railing of the stairs that flow down from the door;
And his eyes had all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming threw his shadow on the floor.
“You wonder, Mr. King, when you will finally exit this infernal door?”
Quoth the poet “Nevermore.”
A manic cackle pierced the room as Poe was finishing. He immediately stopped talking.
“Imprisoned in your own castle, Mr. King.” No one dared utter a word when Ann Radcliffe spoke up. They all owed her their gratitude, for without Radcliffe, what is Gothic literature?
“I see much of my Emily in you,” she said. “She too was trapped in a castle, surrounded by misfortune and the deathly supernatural. She too was longing for the love of her life. But like you, she too realized the truth.”
In an ominous voice, she revealed, “She wanted to complain, not to be consoled; and it was by exclamations of complaint only, Emily learned the particular circumstances of her affliction.”
And Ann Radcliffe told the tale of The Mysteries of Udolpho.
“Stop! What are you hoping to get out of this? This is just some twisted, sadistic exercise,” Stephen yelled. “You’re all monsters. Monsters!”
“You don’t know real monsters, Mr. King. I do. I was just 17 when I met the grandson of a man who made monsters. His name was Dippel, and his grandfather was the alchemist at Castle Frankenstein.”
Mary Shelley was softly spoken, but each word carried the weight of scars. “Dippel told me about his grandfather’s experiments in great detail, and out of it was born the greatest monster ever imagined. But did the man make the monsters, or was he the monster himself…”
And Mary Shelley told the tale of Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus.
“Aye, true monsters are often not the grotesque, but those that speak to the fear within each of us about our own worst selves.” Bram Stoker, the father of the modern vampire era, never met a creature such as his fictional Count Dracula, but he knew what drives horror: the fear every human has of their dark side finally vanquishing the good.
Is this some supernatural punishment, Stephen wondered to himself. An elaborate lesson to see the good in things. And as if to confirm his thoughts, Stoker leaned in and whispered.
“No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be.”
And Bram Stoker told the tale of Dracula.
As Stoker finished his story, the wooden floor above the basement creaked. Nails make a distinct clacking on polished planks.
Stephen grinned. And then he laughed.
Lovecraft was perplexed but annoyed. “It’s just the damned dog, Stephen.”
“Oh I know,” Stephen said, catching his breath. “Molly has been asleep all night and she’s finally awake. Poor girl, she had a terrifying morning and needed to be rushed to the vet. Do you know what happened?”
“What?” Asked Lovecraft, as The Ten noticeably stiffened.
“She was bit on the nose by a rabid bat, Howard,” Stephen said menacingly. The basement door crashed open.
And Stephen King told the tale of Cujo.
Notes for Readers:
- All of the free eBooks listed above come from Project Gutenberg, but it’s good for more than just free books.
- Calibre is a great eBook manager. Even if you’re using an Amazon Kindle, you might want to manage your eBook collection with Calibre.
- Depending on your platform, check out the best PDF and eBook readers for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS.
- For those who prefer movies to books, we have you covered too, with the best horror films ever made.
Celebrated horror writer Neil Gaiman wants you to give someone a scary book for All Hallow’s Read. So, which is the one scary book you would give someone to read this Halloween? Let us know in the comments below.
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