After a few not-so-thrilling experiences with the horror stories we are reading for class, I finally hit one that I couldn’t stop reading!
Clive Barker had me hooked from the first line of “Rawhead Rex.”
“Of all the conquering armies that had tramped the streets of Zeal down the centuries, it was finally the mild tread of the Sunday trippers that brought the village to its knees.”
Rawhead Rex is a forgotten ancient man-eating evil giant buried alive beneath the English town of Zeal. (Ancient Giants alive under the earth! This could be the leader of the monsters in my own story—six ancient tribes of man-eating giants buried beneath the six mountains surrounding the fictional town of Six Summit Lake.) I was instantly hooked! And, I may have found an inspiration story in which to expand some of my current ideas! I was excited but worried that story would let me down in the end.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
A farmer inadvertently releases Rex who begins to his bloody rampage on a mission to reclaim his rule over the earth and humanity that imprisoned him. The author deftly tells the story from many viewpoint characters without confusing the reader—a feat that is admirable.
Rex first feasts on the farmer, than a horse, a father, his daughter—But doesn’t eat on the mother who is having her time of the month. The giant, Rex mentions that blood being forbidden and then I know this is the monster that follows much of the mythology I am after! Onward.
The monster continues his carnage attacking a vicar inside this church—whose colleague we find out worships Rex—and pulls a boy out of the car in front of his family to eat him. The family was in town waiting for a home they’d purchased to be finished. They were moving from London to the country.
I was surprised to see that the father, who I did not really like up until this point—and perhaps I never really like him—is the one who loses it and goes after Rex. He sees the vicar in the hospital before his dies, and is told that the monster fears something inside the altar. Not the church, the altar, or the crucifix.
Inside the alter is a stone. Now, I am thinking David and Goliath. This giant is going down. In the story, the stone is a representation of a goddess that Rex fears. This part I don’t think I fully understood, but ultimately it is the stone sunk into the giants forehead that kills it.
Why did I like this gruesome story so much? It was captivating and ticked many of my interest boxes. Ancient evil rising—giants of course as I have a bit of an obsession with giants—David’ stones, etc. There is also one part where Rex is urinating on the vicar’s assistant (?) creating a worshipper for himself. This portion automatically had me thinking of Greek mythology and the gods peeing on a bulls head. There were so many creatively incorporate symbols and myths with in this short story!
Additionally, when Barker begins switching points of view from character to character, I thought it was going to be confusing and jarring. However, it is was not and the author sometimes switched from one paragraph to the next. Definitely something I would not attempt with my own writing.
If horror is your thing, and you want to read a short story that will capture your attention and hold it til the very last moment, I definitely would recommend reading Rawhead Rex. The story can be in Book of the Blood 3. I will surely be re-reading this one, and branching out to some of Barker’s other shorts.