Pure Cosmic Horror
In The Tall Grass
by Stephen King and Joe Hill
I won’t be mad, he’d told Tobin, but he was mad. Really mad. Not mad enough to kill a kid, of course not (probably of course not), but he wasn’t going to let the little Judas-goat out of his sight, either.―
Stephen King and Joe Hill, In The Tall Grass
Mile 81 meets N. in this e-book collaboration between Stephen King and Joe Hill.
In the Tall Grass begins with a sister and brother who pull off to the side of the road after hearing a young boy crying for help from beyond the tall grass. Within minutes they are disoriented, in deeper than seems possible, and they’ve lost one another. The boy’s cries are more and more desperate. What follows is a terrifying, entertaining, and masterfully told tale, as only Stephen King and Joe Hill can deliver.
In the Tall Grass was originally published in two parts in the June/July and August 2012 issues of Esquire magazine. This is their second collaboration since the novella Throttle, published in 2009.
Published October 9th 2012 by Simon Schuster Original TitleIn the Tall GrassISBN1442359889 (ISBN13: 9781442359888)Edition LanguageEnglishLiterary AwardsThis is Horror Award for Short Fiction (2012)
Stephen King let it all hang out in this short story.
There are different types of horror. There is gore or disturbing; this is pretty self-explanatory. There is psychological horror where you fight your mind. There is killer horror; good ole’ fashioned slasher movies type horror. Then there is paranormal and cosmic horror. Cosmic horror is usually defined as Lovecraftian. It is the horror of the unknown, coupled with fear and awe. It is the type of horror that makes us feel small and insignificant. In the grass is cosmic horror. It is the most comic horror story I think I have ever read. This story, written in tandem with his son Joe Hill is a genius and probably the evilest and unforgiving horror story I have ever read. That is saying something considering how much King I have read.
The premise is simple, terribly, and cruelly simple. Twins, Becky, and Cal, are on a road trip. They are driving along listening to music when they overhear a child yelling for help in the tall grass on the side of the road. Anyone with a soul would stop for a screaming child. Maybe they got lost? They can’t find their mother, and we should go to help them.
Becky and Cal enter the grass and get lost. You would think that at this point, a neverending field of grass would be terrifying. King is “hold my beer” on this one. There is gore, violence, death, destruction, and so much more. I felt roasted and stripped bare after the ending.
“Want to see the rock? Want to lay on it naked, and feel me in you, beneath the pinwheel stars, while the grass sings our names?―
Stephen King and Joe Hill, In The Tall Grass
That ending! Dear god.
As I said, this is one of the most humbling and ferocious horror stories I have ever read. I am not sure that I can even recommend it, as I don’t think this story would sit well with most readers. But, if you are up to crush your soul a smidge, you should read it.
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About The Author
Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father’s family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen’s grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.
Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.
He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men’s magazines.
Stephen made his first professional short story sale (“The Glass Floor”) to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men’s magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.
In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.