Updated Review: “The Ropy Thing” by Al Sarrantonio

3 of 5 stars.

Monsters are real. Some are psychological, and some are physical, but either way humans have always had their counterpoint in monsters whether they were previously unknown creatures [giant squid, Kimodo dragons, anacondas and grizzlies] or humans gone depraved or hallucinations that inspired terror. A monster known to be not real is no longer a monster. And then there is the ropy thing which doesn’t seem to know where it is on this spectrum.

A rope is snaking out of the earth and grabbing people off the street or out of their homes and pulling them underground never to be seen again. Everyone from strangers to parents to babies is grabbed with the exceptions of Jerry and Suzie. The two are young but manage to cling to each other in an attic that is overlooked whereas all other people everywhere disappear. And then the cats, dogs, birds, insects, plants, microorganisms . . . But not Suzie and Jerry. They survive by eating all the food left behind in the various houses. And when they’ve exhausted all the food in their town and the next, they learn to drive a train to make it to further cities. . .

I repeat, they learned to drive a train. And they’re young.

This might work as an allegory, but it’s not treated as an allegory. Or possibly we are witnessing a psychotic break by either Suzie or Jerry in which one believes that tentacles are grabbing all living things but themselves and that they could possibly continue to survive in said world. Or one of the children is really an all-powerful deity that can accomplish this outrageous stunt.

Or possibly it is just an absurdist tale not working for me in the context of an anthology of monster stories. As an absurdist tale, which this does work as, it is not about monsters at all but rather about the relationship between Jerry and Suzie. It probably shouldn’t have been included in an anthologies that analyzes different types of monsters and monster tales through a series of very short essays throughout the collection. This is not the only absurdist tale in the collection [See: “Godzilla’s Twelve-Step Program”], but this might have worked better adjacent to the other story which more clearly leveraged monsters to shine a spotlight on modern society.

This tale appears in Creatures: Thirty Years of Monsters edited by John Langan and Paul Tremblay after first publishing in 999: New Stories of Horror and Suspense.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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