If It Bleeds is a collection of four “short” stories by Stephen King. The cover of the book has a gold background with the words STEPHEN KING at the top in large font. Below it is a blurb from The Washington Post that reads “Filled with startling, sometimes unsettling pleasures… compulsively readable”.
Below the blurb is the head of a black cat. If you stare at the cat long enough, you will see the nose of the cat, and the cat’s eyes, are actually the head of a rat. Below that somewhat disturbing image are the words If It Bleeds, the title of this book of short stories.
The first story is titled: “Mr Harrigan’s Phone”. He is a very old man who purchased a house that could be considered a mansion. In short, Mr. Harrigan asks the boy’s father if he would allow his son to come over and read to him. The old man promised to pay the boy for his time, and the father allowed it.
Over time, as the boy grew up, he considered Mr. Harrigan to be a friend. Time moves on, and the boy’s father bought him an iPhone. At first, Mr. Harrigan wanted nothing to do with this new-fangled device. He changed his mind after the boy told him he could get The Wall Street Journal on the phone. It wasn’t long before Mr. Harrigan purchased his own iPhone.
There was a day when the boy came over to read to Mr. Harrigan only to find that he had died. There was a funeral. At the last minute, the boy puts Mr. Harrigan’s phone into the inner pocket of his jacket as the man lay in the open casket. Things get really weird from there.
The second story is titled: “The Life of Chuck”. This story is done in what I would call a backwards format. It starts with evidence that there is severe climate change happening. Huge sinkholes are opening up in the streets, swallowing vehicles (and the people who were inside them). Unexpected power outages are happening.
As this is going on, a man named Chuck is in a hospital room, hooked up to machines. No one knows who he is, and wouldn’t know, despite his image appearing on TV, park benches, and skywriting. Some of Chuck’s family are in the hospital room with him, waiting.
The third story is titled: “If It Bleeds”. A woman named Holly learns about a reporter who tends to show up after car accidents, explosions, shootings, and other alarming situations. I’m finding it difficult to write about without giving away major spoilers. What I can say is that she meets some people who also have figured out that the reporter is not human.
The phrase “If It Bleeds” is part of the full phrase “If it bleeds, it leads.” It’s something that has been said on news channels and websites, who tend to focus on tragic situations that cause injury or death. The bad guy in Stephen King’s “If It Bleeds” book of stories is the reporter that Holly noticed.
The fourth, and final, story is titled: “Rat”. A writer goes out to a cabin in the woods, hoping to finish a story that he has been trying to write. He believes he needs total concentration to get it done. His wife, who doesn’t really want him to go, allows it. They share some phone calls while he is at the cabin.
His writing is going really well! It seems to be set in an old western type of book. Meanwhile, a dangerous bad storm appears and lasts for days. The writer get sick and heads for a small store for cough syrup and some food. Upon arriving back at the cabin, he starts hallucinating after allowing a rat to come in from the storm.