Strangely enough, I enjoy horrifying fiction, scary stories and other frightening things that make my mind race in the dark. I can’t watch horror movies though. There was once a commercial that aired on tv for some horror movie, The Ring I think it might have been. The commercial gave me nightmares, I just kept seeing the same image over and over again. When I was working night shift, I would be walking a mile home in the wee hours of the morning before the sun rose with only a flashlight and my imagination for company.
Let me tell you, an overactive imagination in a weary mind is a traitor at 4:30 in the morning. Every rustle in the woods becomes a starving, rabid wolf. Every snap of a branch becomes a Sasquatch waiting to commit horrible atrocities.
Even though I knew every inch of the road, every pot-hole of the bridge, some mornings I saw our door and I could almost taste my relief.
And yet I seek out horror stories. I have my own in the works.
I can’t explain it. Perhaps my imagination enjoys being terrified, but my muse does not want readily made images, but would rather conjure its own? To that end, I found this story this morning, by Robert E. Howard.
Pigeons From Hell.
It should be a classic, if it is not already. It has all the best markings of a Twilight Zone episode, or perhaps The Outer Limits.
It is frightening and horrifying in its implications, descriptions and quest for its own truth. Here’s a snippet;
‘He blinked his eyes. The beam of moonlight fell across the stair just as he had dreamed it did; but no figure lurked there. Yet his flesh still crawled from the fear the dream or vision had roused in him; his legs felt as if they had been plunged in ice-water. He made an involuntary movement to awaken his companion, when a sudden sound paralyzed him.
It was the sound of whistling on the floor above. Eery and sweet it rose, not carrying any tune, but piping shrill and melodious. Such a sound in a supposedly deserted house was alarming enough; but it was more than the fear of a physical invader that held Griswell frozen. He could not himself have defined the horror that gripped him. But Branner’s blankets rustled, and Griswell saw he was sitting upright. His figure bulked dimly in the soft darkness, the head turned toward the stair as if the man were listening intently. More sweetly and more subtly evil rose that weird whistling.
“John!” whispered Griswell from dry lips. He had meant to shout — to tell Branner that there was somebody upstairs, somebody who could mean them no good; that they must leave the house at once. But his voice died dryly in his throat.
Branner had risen. His boots clumped on the floor as he moved toward the door. He stalked leisurely into the hall and made for the lower landing, merging with the shadows that clustered black about the stair.
Griswell lay incapable of movement, his mind a whirl of bewilderment. Who was that whistling upstairs? Why was Branner going up those stairs? Griswell saw him pass the spot where the moonlight rested, saw his head tilted back as if he were looking at something Griswell could not see, above and beyond the stair. But his face was like that of a sleepwalker. He moved across the bar of moonlight and vanished from Griswell’s view, even as the latter tried to shout to him to come back. A ghastly whisper was the only result of his effort.
The whistling sank to a lower note, died out. Griswell heard the stairs creaking under Branner’s measured tread. Now he had reached the hallway above, for Griswell heard the clump of his feet moving along it. Suddenly the footfalls halted, and the whole night seemed to hold its breath. Then an awful scream split the stillness, and Griswell started up, echoing the cry.
The strange paralysis that had held him was broken. He took a step toward the door, then checked himself. The footfalls were resumed. Branner was coming back. He was not running. The tread was even more deliberate and measured than before. Now the stairs began to creak again. A groping hand, moving along the balustrade, came into the bar of moonlight; then another, and a ghastly thrill went through Griswell as he saw that the other hand gripped a hatchet — a hatchet which dripped blackly. Was that Branner who was coming down that stair?
Yes! The figure had moved into the bar of moonlight now, and Griswell recognized it. Then he saw Branner’s face, and a shriek burst from Griswell’s lips. Branner’s face was bloodless, corpse-like; gouts of blood dripped darkly down it; his eyes were glassy and set, and blood oozed from the great gash which cleft the crown of his head!’
I’d love to know if you followed the link and read the whole thing. If you did, what do you think? How do you feel about horror fiction? Sound off in the comments section!
(Royalty free pigeon photo found at dreamstime)