When I was in—probably—the 4th or 5th grade, my class got to visit our school library once per week. For me, there was no more awe-inspiring time in my little life. Of particular interest, was the point at the end of the period when we were finally allowed to explore, have some quiet reading time, and pick a book to check out. Inevitably, I always found myself drifting toward a distinct, spinning, metal, bookrack. This creaking carousel of haunted dreams was in a quiet, deliberately far-removed, corner of the library and housed—what I can only describe as—the most consequential collection of titles that this future horror author would ever stumble across. Filled with the likes of R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, L.J. Smith, Bruce Coville, and Alvin Schwartz (among others) a tantalizing—and wonderfully terrifying—doorway was opened for me.
It was one that would never fully be closed.
The problem was that this bookrack had been hidden away in a poorly-lit, not often traveled, section of the library. Intentionally. And, as I’d soon discover, my teachers were far too-concerned with little Tommy being scared of the subject matter and not nearly delighted enough with how the genre would make a reader out of him.
You see, it was the presentation of this spiral antiquity which drew me to it in the first place. As I remember it, a single flickering bulb illuminated the display from above. It’d been banished to a tiny nook—out of view from the main entrance, the reading circle, and the picture books. Perched at its precipice was a blood-red sign. YOUNG ADULT it forewarned all passersby, like a “Danger High Voltage” placard or a skull and crossbones label slapped onto a bottle of poison. The spines of the tomes themselves bore a similar mark of doom—one which was intended to strike fear into the heart of any mortal 4th grader foolish enough to even think about plucking one of those things from the grasp of the metallic beast. HORROR the green sticker cautioned. Everything—the teachers, the signage, the circular little blemishes—pleaded with me to avoid that corner, those books.
But, it was those futile warnings that had the reverse effect of beckoning me even closer.
And it was the covers of those terror-inducing paperbacks—works of modern art, really—that kept me returning. I think a part of me was genuinely scared, maybe even convinced that I was reading something I shouldn’t have been. But, still, I’d stray to that tiny corner, under that swinging, disembodied, bulb every chance I got. Sure, at first, the librarian tried to tell me those stories were meant for the older kids (the 8th graders, I guess?), but eventually even she gave up. Perhaps it’d become obvious that her time could have been better trained elsewhere. I’d like to think she’d come to realize—in much the way I had, even back then—what my peers could’ve also discovered in those ghoulish words and worlds.
If only that bookrack had been pulled from the shadows.
Into the light.
And now—now that I’m the one making the scary stuff, with the spooky covers—I want others to feel the way I did. I can recall stopping as I walked past Schwartz’ Scary Stories, Stine’s One Day at Horrorland, and Smith’s Forbidden Game series. Those books (and the people telling me to avoid them) made me want to be scared. I’d like to think my books will have the same effect on burgeoning readers of the macabre.
Years from now, maybe one of my stories will materialize onto that little spinning rack, under that same sickly yellow light. Maybe a misguided teacher will tell some kid that he shouldn’t be reading something so frightening.
And maybe—just maybe—that kid might keep on reading anyway.
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About the Author
Tom Rimer lives in Foxborough, Massachusetts with his wife and two children. He is the author of the gothic horror novel MALEVOLENT NEVERS (due out on December 3rd, 2021) and THE GLOWING (an epic sci-fi trilogy) from Shadow Spark Publishing. His short story “Clown” was published in 2016 as part of the horror anthology, 13 Tales to Give You Night Terrors.
Right now, he’s probably lost in an old bookshop. You can find him on Twitter, musing about what he finds funny and talking about all bookish things @RimerTom.
thanks for the opportunity, Justin!
My pleasure, Tom! I really enjoyed the article!