Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Folding Man”
“You know that old story about the black car?”
William shook his head
“My grandmother used to tell me about a black car that roams the highways and the back roads of the South. It isn’t in one area all the time, but it’s out there somewhere all the time. Halloween is its peak night. It’s always after somebody for whatever reason.”
“… Grandma said before it was a black car, it was a black buggy, and before that a figure dressed in black on a black horse, and that before that, it was just a shadow that clicked and clacked and squeaked. There’s people that go missing, she said, and it’s the black car, the black buggy, the thing on the horse, or the walkin’ shadow that gets them…”
Horror author Joe R. Lansdale, who won a 2010 Bram Stoker award for this story, explains in a brief afterward that, growing up in the sixties, he heard this legend of the black car from his grandmother and other people (perhaps it is one of that type of stories that Truman Capote was referencing in his short story “A Tree of Night”). As Lansdale pondered, “All right, let’s say there is something bad in that car. What is it? The imagination took over.”
This was a great horror story, perhaps one of my favorites of the ones I’ve read this season. It starts with some partygoers driving home ’mooning’ a carload of nuns – in a black car, naturally. Surely no good can come of this. None does. The “nuns” respond by making an obscene gesture back at Harold, Jim, and William. (Harold’s the drunk one, who actually perpetrated the mooning.) The nun’s car speeds up along side them and one of the nuns produces a two-by-four, brandishing it menacingly. Their near approach allows the boys a closer look at one of them:
“She looked like something dead, and the nun’s outfit she wore was not actually black and white, but purple and white, or so it appeared in the light from the highbeams and moonlight. The nun’s lips pulled back from her teeth and the teeth were long and brown, as if tobacco-stained. One of her eyes looked like a spoiled meatball, and her nostrils flared like a pig’s”
The nun gives Harold a lethal whack with her two-by-four, but the boys’ troubles are only beginning.
The nuns force them off the road and their car careens down into a ravine. The “nuns” themselves are apparently above the menial task of a foot pursuit, though, and this is when they unpack “The Folding Man” from the trunk of their car…
Literally a goose-bump inducing story for me! I found it in my story collection “Haunted Legends.” Many of the online reviews of that collection cite this story as one of the best in the volume. I haven’t explored the other stories in this volume yet, but if this one is indicative of their quality, I would have no qualms in recommending it. It’s e-versions are “only” $9.99. The amazon link is http://www.amazon.com/Haunted-Legends-Ellen-Datlow/dp/0765323001
Are you familiar with the work of Lansdale? This was my first encounter with him. What are your favorite horror stories? Are you including some in your October reading?
(below: Horror author Joe R. Lansdale (from Wikipedia))