Five years after it began, a handful of scattered survivors remains, including Malorie and her two young children. Living in an abandoned house near the river, she has dreamed of fleeing to a place where they might be safe. Now that the boy and girl are four, it’s time to go, but the journey ahead will be terrifying: twenty miles downriver in a rowboat–blindfolded–with nothing to rely on but her wits and the children’s trained ears. One wrong choice and they will die. Something is following them all the while, but is it man, animal, or monster? (From the book jacket.)
“I’m reading the most incredible book,” she said. “Really scary, can’t put it down, totally amazing.” That’s quite a recommendation coming from someone who writes horror herself.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Bird Box—something horrible appears that if people see it, they go crazy. Like homicidally, suicidally crazy. No-one survives seeing the Thing. The only way to get by is to wear a blindfold when you go outside. So most of the world has died off, and there’s a woman with two small children, trying to reach a sanctuary she’s heard of. In a boat, 20 miles downriver, blindfolded. I keep thinking, there’s NO WAY he can sustain this, but it just goes on. It’s amazing.”
“That sounds terrifying and paranoia-inducing.”
“It is, and it’s awesome. You have to read it.”
“I want to! But I’ll save it for RIP this year, it sounds perfect.” Books have seasons, to me, and reading one at the wrong time of year can ruin an otherwise great read.
I was away, and she was keeping an eye on the house for me.
“I left you some books on the kitchen table, if you’re interested,” I said.
“I left YOU some books on the kitchen table. Mwa hah hah!” she answered.
I got home, and there it was, the creepy, compelling, don’t–open-your-eyes Bird Box.
“Thank you!” I said. “Can I keep this until October? RIP, you know. Perfect book for it.”
“Of course,” she answered, gracious and patient about spreading the madness. An expert bider of time, that one.
I read it, disbelieving. How could he sustain it? A person—any person—would HAVE to open their eyes at some point; the urge to know would overpower their fear sooner or later. Also, side note, this would be a great audiobook to listen to. You could test yourself, see how long you could keep your eyes closed as you listen to the world end.
“I would never survive,” I said. “I would have to open my eyes, sooner or later. I would have to know.”
“Oh yeah, me, too,” she answered.
“How long, really, do you think you would last before you had to look?” I asked.
“Two minutes?” she hazarded.
“Yeah. I just couldn’t not know.”
Years ago, I read a quote from Stephen King, talking about The Stand (I think), that went along the lines of, “It’s an apocalypse, and those are always comforting, because everyone thinks they would survive, and with everyone else gone, they would get all their stuff.” Which is funny, and deeply insightful. Apocalyptic literature is fun, and oddly comforting, as we imagine how we’ll survive—-what skills and resources we have that make us valuable to a community of survivors, or how we’ll go it alone and finally get some peace and quiet (and get all those books read, right?) But this apocalypse, no; no surviving it for me—I would have to know. In fact, I have a mental image of what they look like, based on absolutely nothing; I can’t even think where the weird, membranous, bony creatures I’m imagining came from, but they’re there. And I would have to know if I was right.
That’s the real terror, here: as fans of the genre, we’re inquisitive about the unknown, willingly peering into dark recesses, fearlessly pursuing footsteps into the night, bravely confronting horrors and looking them right in the eye—and in Bird Box, that’s when they get you. What a thriller of a book!