Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Between the Lights

Fiction ~ short story
First published in The Room in the Tower and Other Stories, 1912
4,745 words
(First read 28/03/2012) 

In this reviewer's estimation Between the Lights¹ is not at all a bad horror story.  Like the later The Face (1924), it differs from the average EFB spook story in that the whole thing isn't neatly sewn up at the end².  It also differs from the routine in another major way: the story is told at one remove ~ our Unnamed Narrator merely sits back and lets his pal Everard Chandler tell it to him and his fellow house-guests on a snowy Christmas Eve.  (Definite shades of Mr M. R. James here.)  Benson handles this ploy extremely well: you can almost hear the background silence, the crackling of the logs on the fire, etc.  Well, the bare bones of it is that exactly a year previously, on an unseasonably warm Christmas Eve, while watching a game of croquet, Chandler had a vision ~ a really quite unsettling vision, doubly so because it has no apparent meaning ~ our hero is a completely run-of-the-mill toff, doing nothing in particular.  Later in the year, while he's on holiday deer-stalking in Scotland (Sutherland³), the vision 'became real' ~ I won't give any more away.  As I say, though, the 'power' of it is its randomness, its lack of explanation, its mystery.

¹ Please don't ask me to explain the title ~ I have no idea.
² A tentative theory is briefly put forward, but it doesn't really make any sense.
³ See also Gavon's Eve (1906) ~ the two stories are set in pretty much the same place.

The story is available online here.

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