The brainchild of author H. P. Lovecraft, Cthulhu and other creepy netherworld critters attempted to scare the life out of various folk in his stories. A recurring theme in his work is that of madness. Imagine actually seeing a god. Coming face to face with one. Not Zeus with his fluffy white beard and lightning bolt. I mean a literal force of nature. Awe inspiring doesn’t cut it. Lovecraft felt that the human mind couldn’t handle such an experience. The typical result was madness.
As a fan of Stephen King, I’ve read two of the stories he’s written that touch on Lovecraftian ideas. One is Crouch End from Nightmares & Dreamscapes. It’s a tremendously creepy tale about a couple of Yanks getting lost on the deserted streets of London. Only one makes it back, though she has lost her sanity.
A more recent story I’ve read is N from Just After Sunset. N refers to the name of an accountant who visits a shrink. The poor fellow developed a crippling case of obsessive compulsive disorder after witnessing a thin spot in the world. Stephen King has written about this sort of thing before. Other worlds border our own and sometimes the fabric that separates the two wears thing. The character N found such a place and was infected by OCD.
Insanity has always been associated with Lovecraft, but this was the first time I’ve read about the madness manifesting as a compulsive disorder. N must count things, and the numbers must always be even. Six is a fix. Eight makes it straight. He also arranges objects in diagonals and circles. He says it’s to save the world. And in this story, he isn’t being metaphorical. Can you imagine, compelled to count and arrange to keep monstrous slimy things out of our world? This story is well worth a read. It has a surprise ending that I won’t spoil, but it’s good enough that I sought it out again to read.
I had forgotten the name and had to listen to nearly all my King audio books until finding it. That’s an obsession. Uh oh. Perhaps I’ve caught N’s compulsion. I better start counting.
(There are 458 words in this post. That’s even. A good number.)