It's an astonishingly simple premise. An aspiring young author comes home one night to discover a rag doll on his front porch. Intrigued, he brings it inside. Suddenly, the lifeless doll begins to pop it's stitches, revealing a yellow-eyed reptilian monster straining to break free from its cloth restraints, and kill our protagonist. All hell breaks lose and the plot raises on at breakneck speed as our little Lucifer begins to grow etc... Great stuff. Except, this isn't the type of story one wants dancing around inside your brain when last night happens!
Camplaba is a charming cottage, and I mean that in the most sincere way, not the way the people who write descriptions of rental properties use the term charming, which usually means...moldy old dump. However, the place is over a hundred years old. My administrative assistant will surely understand what follows, since she is always regaling me with harrowing tales of what it's like to live in a very old house. She lives in one of those gorgeous Victorians on the railroad tracks in Ashland, Virginia, and suffice it to say, when you live in an old house you share it with...the animal kingdom.
So last night, Pam and I had just settled our brains for a long peaceful sleep in our incredibly comfortable king sized bed in the only upstairs room in the cottage. Spending all day outside kayaking and walking and eating and shopping wears a guy out, so sleep comes quickly...and hard. Imagine my surprise when I am roused awake by my wife who is sitting up in the bed, her knees pulled firmly to her chest, trembling like a child. I bolt up to her side, still half asleep, forgetting that I am hooked up to my dreadful C-Pap machine, nearly pulling it off the nightstand.
"Honey, what's wrong? What is it?" I ask, still not in full possession of all of my waking faculties.
"There's something in here!!! Can't you hear it??"
Immediately I'm thinking of that cursed rag doll from the brimstone-tinged imagination of Koontz. Then I hear it...a fluttering sound from across the room. No, more like a clawing sound, and it's coming from under our bed. Or, is it a pecking sound coming from under the sofa against the wall??
Pam is positively freaked at this point, so it's crucial that I remain totally unimpressed by events while at the same time not dismissive of her fears.( after 31 years of marriage, I've learned a few helpful tips in this regard)
"Yes, I do hear it," I answer. Affirmation. Step one in diffusing any female fear-derangement syndrome is to agree with them about the threat. "Wonder what it could be?" I ask in as up-beat a tone of voice as I can muster at 1 in the morning. "Maybe a bird?"
At this point I'm tempted to trot out that old standby...it won't bother us if we don't bother it...but I wisely reject that tactic. Besides, whatever this thing was, it was making quite an unwholesome racket. So I decide what I always decide in moments like this...blind, irrational action. I jump out of bed, walk across the room and throw on the light switch, half expecting to see a bald eagle perched in the rafters above...damn that Dean Koontz!! Instead, I saw nothing, and now neither of us heard anything. Still, the damage had been done. There were two chances that Pam was going to go back to sleep in that bed, slim and none, and none had just left town on vacation. So, there we were tucking ourselves in to the twin beds in the downstairs bedroom, feeling a little like Ricky and Lucy Ricardo. I hadn't slept in a twin bed since the Nixon years. Of course, I woke up with a very stiff and sore neck.
The dawn has ushered in another Chamber of Commerse day here on Meguntecook, bright sunshine and birds chirping...outside, where they belong. There is no sIgn of our little friend from last night. But, Pam will be sleeping with one eye opened the rest of the week, unless I can figure a way to find and kill the Camplaba Creature.
Now that I think about it, doesn't Steven King live right up the road?