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The Vampire Chuck

Wesly and I are on the mailing list of a small-press publisher called Cemetery Dance that specializes in horror fiction. They also have a long-standing relationship with Stephen King, and often produce extremely nice editions of some of his novels — special hardcovers, slipcases, larger folios, illustrations that aren’t in the mass-published editions, etc.

One of the artists who regularly paints illustrations for the special edition King books (among others) is Glenn Chadbourne, who’s wonderful and well-known in the genre. Every now and again he offers special commissions to fans via the mailing list. For instance, a couple of years ago he offered to have people send photos of their house, either by itself or with you in it, and he’d turn it into a haunted/spooky house. We saw some of the results posted on the site; they were very cool. Last September his offer was to paint you as your favorite Stephen King character, or any character you like, in any scene from any of his books. The asking price was quite reasonable too.

Hmm, this sounded intriguing. Who would I be? I didn’t picture myself as anyone on the level of Roland of Gilead from the Dark Tower novels. Maybe one of the geeky kids from It? After a minute or two, a character and image burst forth in my mind.

Danny Glick, from ‘Salem’s Lot. Remember him? He was a minor but very memorable character, a young friend of Mark Petrie, one of the novel’s protagonists. Mark is a 12-year-old horror fan (not unlike myself at that age; I had the same glow-in-the-dark Dracula and Frankenstein plastic models as he did) who in the course of the story loses his friend Danny, who died of “pernicious anemia” not long after a mysterious figure buys and reinhabits the long-abandoned “haunted house” in town. Then, a few days later … Danny shows up. At night. Outside his bedroom window. His second-story bedroom window. Floating. And scratching to be let in.

To this day it’s one of the scariest scenes I’ve ever read in a horror novel. Even though the TV adaptation was deeply flawed and overall quite mediocre, the scene featuring Danny trying to get into Mark’s room is the most effective in the entire film. It’s an amazing scene. And I wanted in.

I sent some pictures of myself as a kid to Glenn, along with the relevant chapter of the novel, and below is what he sent me back, 7 months later. (The initial offer was to have them ready by Christmas, but unless it was absolutely necessary as a gift he asked for extra time to do the paintings properly. It was a gift to myself, so of course I said for him to take as much time as he needed.)

This might be a bit beyond fair use, since it’s more than a paragraph, but here’s the relevant scene:

Something had awakened him.

He lay still in the ticking dark, looking at the ceiling.

A noise. Some noise. But the house was silent.

There it was again. Scratching.

Mark Petrie turned over in his bed and looked through the window and Danny Glick was staring in at him through the glass, his skin grave-pale, his eyes reddish and feral. Some dark substance was smeared about his lips and chin, and when he saw Mark looking at him, he smiled and showed teeth grown hideously long and sharp.

“Let me in,” the voice, whispered, and Mark was not sure if the words had crossed dark air or were only in his mind.

He became aware that he was frightened–his body had known before his mind. He had never been so frightened, not even when he got tired swimming back from the float at Popham Beach and thought he was going to drown. His mind, still that of a child in a thousand ways, made an accurate judgment of his position in seconds. He was in peril of more than his life.

“Let me in, Mark. I want to play with you.”

There was nothing for that hideous entity outside the window to hold on to; his room was on the second floor and there was no ledge. Yet somehow it hung suspended in space … or perhaps it was clinging to the outside shingles like some dark insect.

“Mark … I finally came, Mark. Please …”

Of course. You have to invite them inside. He knew that from his monster magazines, the ones his mother was afraid might damage or warp him in some way.

He got out of bed and almost fell down. It was only then that he realized fright was too mild a word for this. Even terror did not express what he felt. The pallid face outside the window tried to smile, but it had lain in darkness too long to remember precisely how. What Mark saw was a twitching grimace–a bloody mask of tragedy.

Yet if you looked in the eyes, it wasn’t so bad. If you looked in the eyes, you weren’t so afraid anymore and you saw that all you had to do was open the window and say, “C’mon in, Danny,” and then you wouldn’t be afraid at all because you’d be one with Danny and all of them and at one with him. You’d be–

No! That’s how they get you!

He dragged his eyes away, and it took all of his will power to do it.

“Mark, let me in! I command it! He commands it!”

Mark began to walk toward the window again. There was no help for it. There was no possible way to deny that voice. As he drew closer to the glass, the evil little boy’s face on the other side began to twitch and grimace with eagerness. Fingernails, black with earth, scratched across the windowpane.

Think of something. Quick! Quick!

“The rain,” he whispered hoarsely. “The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain. In vain he thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.”

Danny Glick hissed at him.

“Mark! Open the window!”

“Betty Bitter bought some butter–”

“The window, Mark, he commands it!”

“–but, says Betty, this butter’s bitter.”

He was weakening.

OK, you can look now … *scratch*scratch*scratch*

Whomp year!

by Glenn Chadbourne. Click to embiggen.

Freaked. Me. Out.

He completely nailed what I looked like at 12, from the reference pictures and from one in particular (although he properly put me in a funeral suit, and not the plaid jacket my mom had had me in in the photo). My sisters freaked out too. (“Don’t show that to either of my kids!”) It was pretty much perfect, and is going to creep me out every time I look at it … as it should! Thanks a million Glenn, you did a brilliant job. One thing though — I will show it to my niece and nephew … once they’re old enough to read ‘Salem’s Lot.