If you could inhabit a famous writer’s body/brain for a day, who would it be? Why?
A shuffling behind me. I spun around.
A towering, gaunt figure stepped forward from the shadows. “There you are. Welcome to my … workshop.”
“Thanks, uh, Mr. King.”
“Please, call me Steve. Now come along. I don’t bite.”
I wasn’t too sure, but I followed him anyway, down an inclined, moss-covered passageway. A foul odor grew the deeper we got, and I had the impression that dozens of narrower, less traveled, offshoots branched from this main corridor.
“So, you were curious, huh? About what it’s like in here.”
“Yes.” A few goosebumps popped out on my skin, and I thought I saw some scaly creatures scurry across our path ahead. Hard to tell, in the darkness.
“Ayuh. That’s nice. I don’t get too many visitors. As you might imagine, most people are a little … spooked.”
I nodded, afraid my trembling voice might give away my true feelings. It could have been my imagination, but I thought I heard a few faint screams echoing throughout the labyrinthine tunnel system. Somewhere, a dog barked, and the reverberations made it sound like a marauding pack of wolves were hot on the trail of a scared rabbit. Maybe they were.
“Easy, Cujo,” King called into the murkiness. “Easy, big fella.” Then to me: “At the next junction, we’ll veer right. Unless you want to visit the Semetary. Not many do, but…” He stopped and eyed me. “No, you don’t strike me the type. We’ll skip that,” he said, “for now.”
Forever, if I had anything to say about it.
“Come, let’s forge on. And watch your step. It’s going to get a little bumpy.”
We continued, and the walls closed in on us, as did the ceiling. The footing got more treacherous. Ahead, King whistled a little ditty under his breath.
Shadows played on the walls, although there didn’t seem to be any source of light. I could barely make out things, and parts of things, lying on the sides of the pathway—indeterminate gray matter taking the form of misshapen heads or mangled bodies or boogeymen escaped from long-past nightmares.
The air had warmed considerably, and the putrid stench of death now permeated my clothes, my skin. My stomach lurched.
What kinds of monsters played in these tunnels, hunted in these warrens? If I took a wrong turn, would I hope to survive? I had the feeling that if I strayed, not even King himself could save me. I hustled a bit to close the gap with him; he’d forged ahead, familiar with the grotesque landscape.
Incongruously, his whistling had gotten louder, almost joyful.
Finally, we rounded a bend, and the path leveled out. The fetid air was thick here and my lungs burned.
“Tour’s over. End of the line. We’ve reached the deepest depths of despair,” King said. “Everybody out of the p-p-p-pool.” He laughed, and the laughed morphed into a maniacal cackle, and the cackle transformed into a blood-curdling scream of abject terror, just as his body turned to smoke and dissolved into the pitch-black crevices of his warped mind.
I glanced around, searching for some trace of my host, along with some way to ascend from the abyss. After a few futile moments—perhaps my last few moments in this, or any other, world—my gaze fixed on a simple storm sewer.
Next to the sewer, in garish make-up, stood a clown.
It beckoned me closer, closer, closer, and I slowly approached, unable to stop myself, somehow knowing I hadn’t yet reached the Gates of Hell. I had a strong feeling that good ol’ Steve had hit the nail on the head: things were indeed going to get bumpy.