The first “scary story” I ever remember reading was a little book that had disguised itself as a “fable for adults”. It was by some guy named Clive Barker (you may have heard of him) and it was entitled “The Thief of Always”. I probably would never have read it if it weren’t for the person who recommended it to me: my cousin Parker.
Parker was like a brother to me when I was growing up, but really he was more like a best friend with brotherly qualities. We fought and such as brother/friends always do, but he was one of the few people that I could stand to be around for days on end and not want to throttle. we shared untold similar interests: heavy metal, action movies, the need to watch Bloodsport over and over and over again. We liked the same kinds of girls, felt like weirdos and were proud of it. We generally had a good time just being us and not having to be anyone else. Sadly, we’ve fallen out of contact with one another as we’ve gotten older, and I think it’s life’s fault as much as it’s his or mine.
One of the things we never shared was a love for reading. Sure, Parker would read comic books and the like, but he was never a bibliophile. Heck, he was never a biblio anything. I don’t know why, but he just never seemed able to enjoy books for some reason, and I found it odd that anyone could live life without books. I thought maybe he had some sort of disease but, sadly, I’ve met a few others as I’ve gone out into the world who feel the same way he does. So when he told me I absolutely had to read this book he had just finished-for the second time-I had to see what in the world had the power to make a Fahrenheit 451 firefighter empathizer betray his anti-book stance. And that’s when I learned about “The Thief of Always”.
I won’t get into what the book is about; you can (and should) read it for yourself. I will tell you what it did for me: it made me want to live. I’ve read some of Barker’s other books and they’re like anything else: some are good, some are better, and some just need to be buried out in the backyard. But none of them have given me the sense of immediacy that Thief did. Not only did I want to go to Holiday House (even though I knew it was a trick) but I realized that in a sense I had been living in Holiday House all along. While I was busy being preoccupied with things that I felt mattered but didn’t, life was passing me by. Thief helped me understand that life is about more than pleasure, and that the greatest pleasures can often come from the very things we fight the hardest not to have to do. Thief taught me that life moves with or without us, that our parents and grandparents and everyone in our lives get old and start falling apart, and that while we’re busy gorging ourselves on cardboard cake that we think is important and nourishing the real things that matter in life have moved on without us, and we will never be able to get those things that we missed back.
One of my hopes in being a writer is that I can touch people’s lives with my stories. I want my stories to entertain but I also hope that they will teach lessons and change lives. I hope they will give people the strength to overcome their own demons and perhaps to fight back against the things and people which oppress them. If the pen is truly mightier than the sword, I hope that my pen can-at least for some-be the mightiest of them all. Clive Barker showed me that, with a little imagination and a little talent, stories can give us the strength to carry on. And all it took was a little nudge from a kid who hated books.
Until Death is Defeated,