Monday, October 31, 2011
Book Review: Twitch by Thomas Scopel
by Thomas Scopel
July 14, 2011
Review copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review
Twitch is the story of a carnival owner, McB, who finds a strange creature on the back of a trailer. Because the guy is himself an orphan and still bitter about the fact that no one picked him for adoption, he has a soft spot for misfits, who he likes to take in. Only this misfit is not quite human—not in the traditional sense anyway. Where most people would see a deformed, misshapen creature, he sees a poor child that he wants to take care of.
In the next section, we switch points of view to a morbidly obese woman, Matilda, who meets a particularly gruesome end, which leads to the other carnival “attractions,” shall we say, remarking on the new arrival in their midst, nicknamed Twitch, and they express their genuine fears at his presence, claiming that he caused Matilda’s death somehow. Unfortunately, Matilda isn’t the only customer at the carnival who gets more than bargained for.
Eventually, Twitch finds himself caught in front of a fire that he can’t get away from, and his owner, McB, desperately makes every valiant effort to preserve him, but ultimately and tragically (in his view) fails.
The second part of the novella switches to the past, specifically October 1692 when we meet a woman called Abigail who is pregnant but also in a courtroom where judges are preparing to sentence her to death for being a witch. She’s more of a healer than a sorceress, but the reverend William Morris wants to prove otherwise. As so many fictional characters have done in the past, he reverts to scare tactics to convince the judges to pronounce her guilty, and it works despite the fact that she has helped her husband, a doctor, cure countless patients using her gift.
Hubby is sentenced to death, but because Abigail is pregnant, her fate is to be imprisoned, deliver the baby, then be burned at the stake. But there’s more. Reverend Morris isn’t as much of a holy man as he seems, and as it turns out, he raped her, leading to her pregnancy, but her husband, the good doctor, assumed the child was his.
While in prison, Reverend Morris brings the starving Abigail a pie laced with arsenic, but before she can purge what she’s consumed out of her body, it goes down and as a result, her baby comes out deformed (so much so that the midwife refuses to touch it).
This section explains how Twitch came to be and that he has been alive for centuries—before she died, her mother passed on her abilities to him, but clearly, he got the bad ones or the ones used for doing harm. It doesn’t take long before he starts killing other kids and the monks who are taking care of him try to get rid of him. A travelling sideshow owner nabs the freak and off he goes, doomed to spend the rest of his life as a carnival attraction. In the 1970s, the creature also went to see a shrink in order to determine his age, but to no avail. And so, we learn the tragic origins of a Cujo-esque accident of a monster who should never have been born.
It’s an interesting little novella, and if you’re into horror fiction featuring sideshow freaks, you’ll enjoy this one.