A few weeks back, my partner sent me a link to an article about a recommended book list from Stephen King. It was a list of 16 horror novels, both new and old, and while there were some I was familiar with, there were many I was not.
Hex was one of them.
When I read the description, I was immediately intrigued:
Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s beds for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.
The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated by being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.
I immediately ordered the book, and on Saturday evening of the weekend past, I started reading it.
I finished it within 24 hours.
I read a lot; I have never before read a book quite like Hex. It was a steadily building sense of unease, then tension, then a literary frequency I couldn’t turn off. I had to finish the book. Whatever end it was coming to, I had to meet it for better or worse.
Along the way, there was a sequence where a dog was killed. I won’t go into specifics, but it vividly brought back a memory of the literal worst moment of my life. I broke down into wracking sobs, and I felt so crushed, I woke my partner up to hug me…and I almost never wake him for anything. I was so upset, I was afraid to go to sleep for fear of what I would dream about.
So I stayed awake.
By the halfway point of the book, I knew things weren’t going to end well; I just didn’t know how poorly they could go. I felt like I was listening to bees buzzing in my ears and the volume was getting louder and louder. I had to finish the book. The tension had to come to a conclusion.
After I finished the book, I felt strange. A book has never quite made me feel like Hex did. I felt like I was in a stupor. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The arc of the story, the characters, and the town felt present. I wanted to shake them off, but I couldn’t.
On Monday, I noticed I still felt the same way. I felt like I’d been colossally drunk and was only now realizing how drunk I’d been. But I hadn’t had any alcohol. The book was THERE, hanging over me and my thoughts.
It was the same yesterday. I’ve never had a book stick with me this long in this way. I feel like I went through something.
The author, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, is an exceptional writer. To weave a tale like this and make it feel so real is a feat in and of itself. To create a story that stays with you and causes you to really THINK, is rarer still.
Now, three full days after I finished the book, I find myself with a strange media hangover. This occasionally happens to me with games or movies or certain types of music. I’ve never had quite this reaction to a novel before.
I find myself wondering at the terrible things people do to each other out of fear or ignorance or whatever else causes such things. I find myself wondering how to better foster kindness and a willingness to understand.
I find myself wondering.
It’s no surprise that the state of the world is…concerning. Something about this particular book make me ponder how we come back from here and how we can connect with each other instead of push each other away.
I have a feeling I may be pondering it forever.
Have you ever experienced a media hangover? Has a book, game, movie, or piece of music stuck with you for days on end and held on for dear life? If so, what was it? How did it make you feel?
If it wasn’t already clear, I highly recommend Hex to anyone who likes either horror novels or thought-provoking literature in general. But brace yourself, it’s a heck of an experience.