It’s a summer Saturday, and I’m with my dad at Tower Records & Books. I must have been 11 or 12, not quite yet too cool to hang out with my dad in public. We are in the book section, as we Wards are wont to be, and I have been promised a paperback of my choice. I had recently discovered epic fantasy; Narnia and Middle Earth, Arrakis and Earthsea, they were all digested and well-loved by then. (Excepting the dismay and betrayal I felt upon realizing the magnificent Aslan was a Christ analogue, but that’s another memory). I was looking for a new world to live in for a while.
Then my brain was ambushed by the most skin-crawlingly disgusting book cover I’d ever seen. I was almost afraid to look at it, like I thought what I saw would ooze into my brain and infect me somehow. But I also could not stop looking at it, just stood, fascinated, as my dad sauntered over to see if I had made my selection. When he saw the book, he plucked it off the shelf and said with relish, ”Well! ‘The Rats in the Walls,’ that’s a good one.” I let my dad buy me “The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre,” with gruesome cover art by Michael Whelan.
My brain would never be the same.
P.S.: "Pickman's Model" was my immediate favorite.