A husband’s obsessive desire for a child leads to an unexpected manifestation of his yearning in a nightmarish short story about fatherhood dreams by New York Times bestselling author Joe Hill.
Willy and Marianne’s farmhouse in Maine has acres of meadow and fresh air, and a lonesome bridle path in the forest along which Willy daydreams and ambles. When he’s loaned a decrepit old baby stroller to cart his groceries home, the rickety squeak of the wheels comforts him. So do the sweet coos of a baby Willy knows can’t be real. Can it? In this twisted thicket, wishes come true—with a price.
Joe Hill’s The Pram is part of Creature Feature, a collection of devilishly creepy stories that tingle the spine and twist the mind. They can be read or listened to in one petrifying sitting.
Within the span of 58 pages (give or take), Joe Hill gives us a tragic, haunting short story focusing on grief, loss, and emotional turmoil. “The Pram” centers around a couple, Willy and Marianne, who have moved away from the city following a deeply tragic event. Most notably included with the secluded farmhouse the couple purchases is a dilapidated shed and an ominous religious group that occupies the small town referred to as the “Sin-Planters.” Hill sets the tone early employing a glib sense of humor and a bleak outlook for the characters with the hope that this transition will bring a sense of healing. And of course, because this is a Joe Hill short story, it does not.
The events that transpire that encourage this move are immensely tragic; we see Marianne trying to leave a depressive state while Willy is doing his best to facilitate these actions of growth. However, Willy comes to terms with his own unresolved feelings once in the new home, especially upon his discovery of a path through the woods to the small grocery store nearby. Unusually quiet, this path is serene, giving its full attention to its occupant. After his first walk to the store, Willy is gifted an old, worn down, beaten-up pram to help carry his groceries back home. The combination of this forgotten artifact that signifies the beginning of new life and the waiting, secluded trail back home creates an environment that feeds off Willy’s desperation and strife.
Hill provides the idea of this path being a funnel; anything poured into it will become concentrated. This is true of Willy’s anger related to feeling isolated and actively grieving. I couldn’t help but think of Jack Torrence from The Shining who fell prey to the evil influence of the Overlook Hotel. Willy’s anger festers on these walks with the pram forming an unhealthy connection with an object that should capitalize on hope and new life. As if this isn’t unsettling enough, the dog door in the house keeps opening at night.
A quick, tragic tale of desperation and loss, “The Pram” was a great introduction to Amazon’s Creature Feature Collection. While short in length, there is no lack of creepy omens and a very disturbing conclusion. Joe Hill gives us a deeply layered tale that delves into the ideas of unhealthy connections, manifestations, and festering emotions.