The Road Virus Heads North, by Stephen King

Eight stars

Always a fan of the odd short story, I have been filling some time with a few by Stephen King, who always seems to have something to say that holds my attention. In this short piece, an inanimate object seems to have a mind of its own, wreaking havoc in a small New England community. Richard Kinnell had a feeling he should not have stopped at the yard sale on his way back from a book forum, but he did. The regional author allowed a painting to catch his eye before he decided to buy it, thinking of the perfect spot it could hang. Not deterred when he learned that the artist committed suicide soon after painting it, Kinnell loads up his new artwork and heads home. However, he stops in to see his aunt on the trip back. When he pulls it out, the painting, titled ‘The Road Virus Heads North’, appears to have changed slightly, but Kinnell wonders if it might be that he is so tired. After his short visit, Kinnell finish’s the drive to Derry, where he plans to relax. However, the painting again seems to have shifted, leaving Kinnell with a very off-putting feeling. Soon, thoughts of the author’s suicide enter Kinnell’s mind, leaving him sure that the ‘road virus’ must surely be heading north and he wants nothing to do with it! An eerie story that only King could pull off, this short piece is a perfect filler for those who need to bridge between fun-length reading commitments.

I have long been a fan of Stephen King and his work, both the longer pieces and short ones like this. King is able to turn almost anything into something gripping, if not spine-tingling, using his vast array of ideas. The reader can never quite tell what awaits them as they read, but can be guaranteed that it will leave an impact, at least for a while. These short pieces are wonderful teasers for the reader who awaits a major novel by the author, though I miss the tangential writing that King has made his own over the years. Still, I won’t be buying any yard sale art anytime soon, that’s for sure!

Kudos, Mr. King, for a great piece to fill the time while I had a refreshment. Always keeping me on my toes as I wait for a book I want to arrive on my iPod.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: