The October Country: Oct. 1st: “The Jar” by Ray Bradbury

In celebration of the month of October, I’ll be sharing 31 of my favorite spooky, eerie and creepy stories, one per day. The stories will range over an array of genres: horror, suspense, science fiction, mysteries and dark fantasy. There is no criteria other than my own humble opinion of which stories belong in what Ray Bradbury called: The October Country.

The October Country

that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain…

— Ray Bradbury

October 1:

The Jar by Ray Bradbury

Found In:

The October Country

Opening Line:

“It was one of those things they keep in a jar in the tent of a sideshow on the outskirts of a little, drowsy town.”

First off, let’s talk about that opening line. For me, it’s a doozy.

The accumulation of prepositional phrases takes what should otherwise be a simple everyday object and shifts it further and further into the world of the strange and unnatural: in a jar, in the tent, of a sideshow, on the outskirts.

The words sideshow and outskirts in particular suggest to the reader that whatever is in that jar is definitely out of the norm. And it’s gonna seriously disturb the complaceny of that little, drowsy town.

Like many writers of horror and dark fantasy, Bradbury had a real gift for taking the ordinary and making it truly disturbing. The Jar is one of the finest examples of this gift (although not quite so fine, nor so creepy, as The Small Assassin, in which he turns a tiny baby into an object of terror).

Who hasn’t come across some natural phenomenon that, upon closer inspection, inspires the imagination towards the grotesque? Faces in the clouds. Monsters in the grain of wood. Twisted roots and plants that appear distressingly like something aborted and tossed aside.

Just what’s in that jar that the main character, Charlie, buys from the carnival owner and keeps in his living room? Bradbury never tells us. And every character who glimpses the jar sees something different: drowned kittens, a shriveled three-year-old boy, even Charlie himself (or at least this is what Charlie’s wife is reminded of when she peers at the jar).

The Jar also showcases Bradbury’s deep understanding of motivation, especially the darker motivations that power our lives. While Bradbury is often thought of as a playful, innocent fantasist, The Jar deals expressly with adultery, vengeance and murder. The main theme, however, revolves around the way in which our sins haunt us.

Poor Charlie won’t escape his sins. Peering into the jar may be a murky exercise, but that much anyway is clear.

More October Stories

For the month of October, you can download

Tyler Miller’s The Other Side of the Door 

FREE

In celebration of my favorite month, I’m giving away my collection The Other Side of the Door. These are stories inspired by so many of my favorite writers: Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Shirley Jackson.

Stories like the award-winning Til Death Do Us, about a man who believes he’s gotten away with his wife’s murder…at least until her severed finger is delivered to him in a box. Somebody knows the truth…

Or another first-place winner: Not Dead, Not Even Past, the story of a small-town sheriff confronted with a string of suicides he can’t explain. Each of the victims share a disturbing trait: no matter how they died, all of them have lungs full of water.

I loved working on these stories, and I truly believe that you’ll enjoy reading them just as much as I enjoyed writing them. Check them out. For the entire month, they’re free. What have you got to lose?

Except a little sleep…

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