Dementia is cruel, in the way it steals from the person who suffers it, and steals from the people who love them. Joe Hill externalizes and personifies it in Snapshot, about a boy who finds that the woman who raised him and loved him as a mother is being attacked by a man with a camera that doesn’t just capture memories, but steals them, leaving empty spaces and confusion and fear behind.
“The idea that these days had been taken from her struck me as vile. It was a swallow of curdled milk. It was indecent.
There was no justification for the loss of her memories and understanding, no defense the universe could offer for the corruption of her mind. She had loved me, even if I’d been too witless to know it or value it. Anyone who looked at these pictures could see she loved me, that I delighted her somehow, in spite of my fat cheeks, vacant stare, and tendency to eat in a way that smeared food all down my bad T-shirts. In spite of how I thoughtlessly accepted her attention and affection as my due. And now it was all melting away, every birthday party, every BBQ, every plucked ripe peach. She was being erased a little at a time by a cancer that fed not on her flesh but on her inner life, on her private store of happiness.”
There’s more about the boy and how he battles the evil man with the camera and what he does with his life, but this was the essence of the story for me, the wish that it was as simple as a bad man with an evil camera who could be defeated, and that people would never have to lose their memories and essential selves again.
Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. As usual, Wil Wheaton brings the story to life with an outstanding performance. I read this story for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Relics and Curiosities: concerning magical, supernatural or haunted objects, such as spellbooks, talismans or swords. The memory-stealing camera in this story fits the square.
There are three other (short stories? novellas?) in this collection. Loaded was a horribly plausible story of a trigger-happy security guard whose prejudices lead him to shoot innocent bystanders in the excitement and confusion of responding to an actual shooting. It was maybe a little too realistic to be enjoyable, my stomach felt twisted through most of it, but the effect was spoiled in the end as Hill was just a little too heavy-handed with the evil, a little too over the top. Aloft was maybe the most fun of the four stories, on its surface about a guy who parachutes, not to the ground, but onto a mysteriously solid cloud. But the story is more about isolation and loneliness, and how we can fool ourselves into believing dysfunctional relationships give more, promise more, than they do. Rain seemed more up my alley as a straightforward weird horror – I mean, really, rain made of sharp needles of crystal that shred anybody unlucky enough to get caught in it? – but for some reason, it bored me enough that I skimmed most of it.