In the “Master of Puppets” chapter of Grady Hendrix’s 2018 heavy-metal horror novel We Sold Our Souls, protagonist Kris Pulaski is a fugitive on the run, framed for a series of murders. Worse, her nemesis, the rock god Terry Hunt (who has made a deal with forces much more dangerous than the Devil) has alerted his legions of fans nationwide to be on the lookout for her. Inevitably, Kris is spotted at a highway rest stop, and the gathering crowd immediately begins to menace her verbally and physically. What is interesting here is the technological emphasis: this mob wields not torches and pitchforks but cellphones: “Kris stopped, turned, and saw a wall of people behind the girl, all of them bearing down on her, all of their phones out, all of them staring at her tiny image on their screens, fitting her into their phones, capturing her in their hands” (218). When a suspicious white van at the rest stop begins to blast a song from Terry’s group Koffin, the music transforms the singer’s loyal followers into a viciously homicidal “herd” (220).
Just as Kris is about to be mauled, her former band mate (and current sole ally) JD rolls into the rest step. Kris hops in, but the car is surrounded before it can make its getaway: “The car began to rock on its shocks as the screaming crowd pushed it from side to side” (222). The real mayhem, though, doesn’t kick in until the driver’s side window is shattered:
Pebbles of safety glass showered [JD’s] hair and face and bounced off Kris’s neck, unleashing the roar of the furious crowd. Hands slapped into JD’s face, grabbing his hair, his shirt, his arms. Kris screamed, and JD thrashed and bellowed, but that exposed his tongue and fingers forced their way inside his mouth, hooked his left cheek, grabbed his tongue by the root. JD clung to the wheel as hundreds of hands pulled him out through the window by his lips. Hands pried his fingers off the steering wheel, breaking them with hollow pops, and JD screamed as his left cheek stretched like bubblegum, and then fissures appeared, filled with red, widened, and his cheek came loose from his face and white gobbets of fat and red blood flowed down his hairy chin and the front of his shirt in a bib. (222-23)
Grim stuff, for sure. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of JD’s suffering. I won’t spoil the reader’s experience here by quoting the passage of JD’s subsequent annihilation, but let’s just say the paragraph has a certain splatterpunk panache. Kris, meanwhile, does manage to escape the lynch mob, although hardly unscathed either physically (she has hunks of hair ripped right out of her scalp) or emotionally.
Hendrix’s short chapter leaves a lasting impression, and constitutes one of the most visceral and chilling mob scenes ever to appear in a horror novel.