Throughout my childhood my family made regular visits to my grandfather’s place, a doublewide trailer at the dead end of a long rural road, secluded acreage at the edge of Pottawatomi State Park in scenic Door County, Wisconsin.
On one visit, I excavated (from a drawer in a nightstand in a guest bedroom) a remaindered paperback of The Stand by Steven King. I suppose it was purchased by one of my aunts, uncles or cousins.
I didn’t manage to read the book. Not sure if I even tried.
Actually I gather there are several epigraphs for the various sections of the novel, but there was one at the beginning that caught my eye back those many years ago. (It must have been 1981 because the book came out in paperback only in 1980. Surely a remaindered edition wouldn’t have been available until then. My grandfather died in 1981, and I didn’t return to Sturgeon Bay until 1992.) With the front cover missing I suppose the epigraphs may have been visible without actually opening the book. There were some other quotations, but only one made a lasting impression.
And it was clear she couldn’t go on!
The door was opened and the wind appeared,
The candles blew and then disappeared,
The curtains flew and then he appeared,
Said, “Don’t be afraid,
Come on, Mary,”
And she had no fear
And she ran to him
And they started to fly…
She had taken his hand…
“Come on, Mary;
Don’t fear the reaper!”
— Blue Öyster Cult
At the time, I had no idea who the Blue Öyster Cult was. They sounded mysterious and intriguing, and the lyrical quotation was dark and chilling. The name and the lyrics combined to create an atmosphere that was both dreadful and delicious at the same time. Eventually Blue Öyster Cult became my favorite band of my high school years, based on the records they’d put out in the 70s. “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” remains one of my favorite songs. But at the time, I didn’t even know they were a rock band. I thought they were some sort of religious group. Their name alone evoked a mysterious image that still haunts me today.
I don’t know why this memory came back so vividly today. Perhaps it’s because I recently read Earth Abides, a novel which inspired The Stand. I’ve still never read The Stand, and really have no desire to do so, but Earth Abides is a great book.