“JAMES CLARENCE WITHENCROFT. BORN JAN. 18TH, 1860.”
“Were you at Clacton-on-Sea last July?”
Well, born as I was in 1948 on January 18th as the same date on the gravestone quoted above, I have also lived in Clacton-on-Sea far longer than I have lived anywhere else and, at my age, that fact is likely to remain the case. The death date recorded in the story as being on the same gravestone I, superstitiously, shall not repeat here but, for those in the know, it is HP Lovecraft’s birthdate, if not the same year. Hopefully, knowing that will lift any curse from me, today, at the very tail end of the hottest July, just before we enter predictably the hottest August ever experienced in Clacton-on-Sea. Any curse, that is, in my having just read this brief WF Harvey story for the first time, a story that somehow seems to teem with synchronicities that usually please me when I am gestalt real-time reviewing. But perhaps not this time!
My other unconnected Horror Story reviews: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/07/13/separate-horror-stories-from-many-years-ago/
“I held a book in my hands, but I wasn’t reading it.”
An extremely haunting story ostensibly told by a white boy left alone at home in the African sun, back in some day, with the children he sees called ‘piccanins’. The evocative atmosphere of Africa is presented to us, and the route he follows, following a parade of a makeshift funeral of a child and a black man with white smile paid to push the barrow with the coffin upon it, amid the wired off mine-dumps and humps and mounds of earth, and we sense the fear that he will see himself inside the coffin when gleefully invited to look inside, till he loses grip, as we do, upon what happens next, if anything. Though he fears something will, even if it’s tomorrow.
Full context of this review: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/1366-2/
“…I just started wandering around, over to the coronary-care unit, down to the cafeteria, et cetera,…”
This is so off the wall it is neither inside nor outside, a story that one needs to pluck out of the mind’s eye like a mote, if not a knife, as a clerk and an orderly in the Emergency Room of a hospital chum up and are so blindsided by the blood and guts they take some of the pills in the medicine cupboards and go to a funfair that is so utterly funfairish beyond Ligotti that they end up at a military graveyard which turns into a drive-in cinema — in the deep snow! And they effectively let eight little bunny rabbits die. A story that makes me philosophical about never being able to be philosophical. Untouchable by death.
“There’s so much goop inside of us, man,” he said, “and it all wants to get out.”
Full context of this review: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/1372-2/
“Whatever this place was, it was special. Why did he get drawn in?”
Now, we come possibly to my own most self-involved story of all! It follows almost the exact profile of my own younger life. Nathan was in accountancy, me in insurance, I always carried a so-called ‘outdated’ photo of my wife and kids in my wallet (still do) and I spent much of my time going to hotels for business conferences and other business meetings, even examples of the so-called ‘outdated’ hotel in this work, and the ‘occasional shattered city’ And in those days I read much compelling fiction in plain-spoken style as this one, stories with exciting horrors on the front cover, and I later expanded into the carnivals of Ligotti etc. The rest is history. I left the “dull” and the humdrum behind and entered the hall of mirrors where I still live, reflecting the works I read. This story itself is engaging and page-turning, as I follow Nathan into the hotel with the evocatively described hotel’s Under Carnival, complete with smells, into which he is tempted as I was. And likewise glimpsing his grey-suited colleagues of yore just like mine were destined to become in memoriam! Did I say plain-spoken above? Well, yes, mainly so, except for items such as an “organoleptic feast”!
“The man was clearly kind and dull. You don’t know that. He could be a serial killer.”
Full context of this review: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/06/10/vastarien-vol-5-issue-1/
“Sometimes, some of Them would join the old One, cooing and sniffing, and acting as if they’d never had any greater pleasure in life than a limp petunia.”
I hate seemingly arbitrary upper case words like that. So, naturally, I loved these taunting me, negging my number. A story of a woman who — like most of us these days — go along with the Them or the crowd and vote, en gestalt, for politicians that we hate, and who hate us. She once had a boy friend who did not care enough for her not to care for her, or did he care too much? She found a woman in the shelter who suited her better, so was kind enough to offer her a tin of peas without letting her have a spoon. Kisses better because they hurt more. This is the only story that has really described self-punishment properly. I loved it. Jealous that I hadn’t written it. Insert adjective here that I got it red at all.
“She stuck to nouns and verbs. Functional words. To acknowledge color was to acknowledge beauty. Far too dangerous.”
Full context of this review here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2022/06/10/vastarien-vol-5-issue-1/