Written by: Matt Molgaard
Robert Bloch may be best known for his iconic tale, Psycho, but the man crafted many a terrifying tale, and showcased a high level of versatility in the process. Among Bloch’s darker works is the short, The Rubber Room. A psychological tale limited to the confines of a rubber room and a mental ward, this story packs a powerful punch and a fine surprise finale.
A strong sense of racism and hatred bleeds through the pages, as Emery, a German convinced that any and all Jewish individuals to cross his path aim to kill him, fights to keep a grasp on his sanity. Being locked in a padded cell has a way of crawling under the skin, and this man isn’t about to shake his hatred or his paranoia. His (legal) captors aren’t necessarily interested in him ditching his beliefs as it is: they’re simply out for the truth. Emery’s committed a serious crime, and whether a saint, bigot or bull headed hypocrite, the details of his crime are what they seek.
Paranoia really is the true crux of this story. Claustrophobia factors in heavily as well, and Bloch relays a sense of panic that isn’t easy to squeeze into a dozen pages. Yet, he manages, and this saddening examination of a blackened heart really stings readers.
Robert’s writing style is timeless. This specific tale still carries a major impact, despite being assembled decades ago, and while World War II is a thing of the past (I’m not insensitive, I realize the sting still lingers), this story feels strangely modern. It’s an engaging read that doesn’t really showcase any of the H.P. Lovecraft influence that Bloch was known for earlier in his career, but it’s damn sinister, and it’s Bloch’s tale, and Bloch’s tale alone.
As I mentioned, there’s a spin on this tale that will likely catch readers by surprise. Bloch outlines a mind bending scenario that yanks at the inner recesses of the compassionate, up-keeping that mental terror until the final page, the shocking climax that can only be labeled a completely different animal. All the mental anguish dumped on readers throughout the story flies from the mind’s corridors, as Emery comes face to face with a very tangible evil that not even I (I’m pretty good at predicting stories and the ultimate direction they travel) could have predicted.
A fantastic tale that will rile the emotions of the sensitive, The Rubber Room is a winner through and through that will leave you feeling a bit schizophrenic by the third page. Read it!