A HeAd Full OF GHOsts
Read the mind-bending tale of modern psychological horror that terrified stephen King. Merry Barrett’s family is torn apart when her older sister Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia. One night, she tells Merry a story…
Marjorie sat on her bed with an open book in her lap. She was still dressed in her sweats, and her chin was still stained red with spaghetti sauce. Her hair was dark, greasy, and heavy, weighing down her head. She said, “Come on, I’m just teasing. Come sit next to me, Merry. I have your new story.”
I dutifully sat next to my sister and said, “I didn’t like your letter, you know.” I imagined Marjorie sneaking into my room and pinching my nose shut while I slept, and it scared me. Then I imagined doing the same right back to her, and it was thrilling. “You can’t sneak into my room anymore, or I’ll tell Mom. I’ll show her the note.” I felt brave saying such things, and my bravery puffed up my chest as it lightened my head.
“Sorry. I don’t know if I can promise you anything like that.” Marjorie turned her head abruptly from side to side, as though she was listening for the sounds of my parents walking out of their room and into the hallway. “That’s not fair.” “I know. But I have your new story.” She opened the book on her lap. It was my book, of course, the one she stole from my room: All Around the World. She flipped to a page with a cartoon New York City. The buildings were brick red and sea blue, and they crowded the page, elbowing and wrestling one another for precious space. The streets and sidewalks, and the people on the streets and sidewalks, were scribbled over with green ropey lines. She must’ve used the same green crayon with which she wrote my note.
She said, “New York City is the biggest city in the world, right? When the growing things” – Marjorie paused and ran her hands over the green lines she’d drawn in my book – “started growing there, it meant they could grow anywhere. They took over Central Park, poking through the cement paths and soaking up the park’s ponds and fountains. The stuff just came shooting up, crowding out the grass and trees, and the flower boxes in apartment windowsills, and then filled the streets. When people tried cutting the growing things down, they grew back faster. People didn’t know how or why they grew. There was no soil under the streets, you know, in the sewers, but they still grew. The vines and shoots broke through windows and buildings, and some people climbed the growing things so they could break into apartments and steal food, money, and HD TVs, but it quickly got too crowded for people, for everything, and the buildings crumbled and fell. They grew fast there, like a foot an hour, just like everywhere else.” She kept on talking about how in the suburbs the growing things swallowed up everyone’s pretty lawns and gardens and their driveways and sidewalks. And in the country and the farms, the growing things overran the corn, wheat, soy, and all the other crops. They couldn’t stop the growing things so people poured and sprayed millions of gallons of weed killer, which didn’t work. People quickly grew desperate and dumped bottles of Liquid-Plumr, lye, and bleach. None of it worked on the stuff and all the chemicals and poisons leached into the groundwater and poisoned everything else.
I was tracing the green loops on the New York City page, my head filling with those snaking vines and thorns and leaves, when I