NOTE: This is the twenty-second in a series of 31 reviews of scary short stories and novels. As part of All Hallow’s Read, I will be sharing all the scary stories that I think you should consider giving to someone for Halloween. Because this is a tradition intended for people of all ages, some of these titles will be for children and young adults, while others are meant strictly for adults. Happy Reading.
Be careful what you wish for.
It’s a warning we’ve all known since before we could remember. Still its true meaning doesn’t begin to take shape until one begins approaching adulthood. We can quickly become ruled by our greed. That is perhaps why the moral in W. W. Jacobs’ story remains so relevant.
You know the story of The Monkey’s Paw. The specifics may elude you, but you know it. From all the variations in print, TV and movies which followed. Earlier this month I wrote an article about Richard Matheson’s short story Button, Button, the climax of which mirrors the twist that comes in the middle of Paw.
The reason we all know it so well is because it is something all of man will ultimately face. Maybe it won’t come from a hexed paw. But if you spontaneously follow your deepest urges, some day it will cost you. There is a cost to everything. Even what you think is happiness. Especially what you think is happiness.
I came to the story with years of baggage. People I admire had mentioned it. Countless other stories had stolen from it (including a good amount of Are You Afraid of the Dark and Tales from the Crypt episodes.). So the story held little in the way of surprises for me. But like all the best horror stories of the time, it was the atmosphere and implications that remained. I quite like that we never see what’s knocking on the door. And the macabre-ness of the paw is disgusting and magical. The story holds up.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of what I would do if given the opportunity to have whatever I wanted. To simply benefit from existing. Much like the reality stars of today, who are rewarded with truck loads of money and limitless resources to own and do whatever they want. The cost of course being they’re privacy being ripped away, leaving them with no chance to enjoy it. Sometimes I think that would be a small price to pay, if I could get what I wished.
Makes you wonder if you shouldn’t change your priorities to want what you need and not need what you want. Even if something grotesque were knocking at my door…wouldn’t I open it? Wouldn’t you, if it meant getting what you wished for?