What if you’re not crazy? What if you’re finally seeing the truth that everyone else is too afraid to see? Is the revelation too much for your mind? Could your mind be both the doorway to hell and the gate keeping the evil old ones at bay? Most importantly, can a person’s mental illness infect another person? Stephen King’s “N” is a hybrid of Lovecraft and Modern Psychology where we are forced to learn the answers to these questions.
The story was both a novella and adapted as a comic book/olde-timey radio-show. Confused? Let me explain. N was first published as a novella, but instead of getting made into a comic book or as is typical of King’s work- a movie or miniseries, it became something else. Marc Guggenheim adapted the work as an all dialogue webseries similar to the serials of the 1930s and 40s and presented the story as a series of hyper-detailed comic illustrations. You can see it in its entirety below.
I have also read the novella several times. Honestly, sometimes I’m not sure why I like a particular Stephen King story more than another, but it seems to be when the characters are so real that they could be you or your neighbor. Yes, the monsters are spooky, but it’s the people, their story, their lives, who just happen to have to also deal with a monster or four.
The story begins with Sheila Bonsaint who is in mourning from her brother’s suicide. She is calling her friend who is reminiscent of Anderson Cooper to look into why her brother John killed himself. She believes it’s because of his contact with a patient named N. The story shifts to John’s perspective describing a patient N who suffers from extreme OCD. N believes his OCD rituals keep the portals between our world and the hell world closed.
N describes how he encountered a field with rocks similar to Stonehenge in Maine and that by viewing the structure, he caused the structure to activate and potentially release an ancient evil that will consume mankind. He begins to do OCD rituals to keep the portal closed, but realizes that he must sacrifice his life in order to shut the gate forever. Unfortunately, John becomes infected by N’s mental disorder and becomes overcome with the need to investigate the structure, which activates it again and causes him to spiral into the same OCD as N.
This story struck a very strong chord with me. Last year, I began to take a long road into facing my own PTSD experiences in the Army. When I would tell the medical professionals in the VA about what happened, one cried. My stories had infected them and left them different afterwards. The world was less clean, less safe, and much darker. Now, like N, if I have to tell a person the stories, I begin by saying that I am sorry because what I will tell you, will change you. I suppose that is what humanity does; we share our burdens and our curses. Maybe that’s how we keep the gate to hell closed?