The Boogeyman by Stephen King, 1973
The magic trick:
Making clear that something is very wrong from the very beginning
Yesterday on the SSMT blog we looked at “The Lawnmower Man,” a story that creates terror by establishing a normal setting first and then adding a frightening element. Today’s story function in the opposite way.
The reader learns on the very first page that things are not normal at all. A man is on a psychiatrist’s couch trying to explain how his three young children each died. The horrific atmosphere is established immediately, and the protagonist (and the reader) then tries to normalize the story from there. And that’s quite a trick on King’s part.
‘Do you mean you actually killed them, or -‘
‘No.’ Impatient flick of the hand. ‘But I was responsible. Denny in 1967. Shirl in 1971. And Andy this year. I want to tell you about it.’
Dr Harper said nothing. He thought that Billings looked haggard and old. His hair was thinning, his complexion sallow. His eyes held all the miserable secrets of whisky.
‘They were murdered, see? Only no one believes that. If they would, things would be all right.’
‘Why is that?’