The Damned Thing by Ambrose Bierce (1893)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror May 7, 2013
[May is National Short Story Month. We are reading a short story every day to celebrate (Well, honestly, I do that anyway. I love reading shorties; I love writing shorties.). Please join the movement and read, review, comment, blog, post on Facebook, and tweet about short stories.]
By the light of a tallow candle …
A corpse, a book, a coroner, insects whizzing in the trees, strange cries of night birds, and an assembly of local mountain men, The Damned Thing presents one question. What or who killed this man?
The dead man is Hugh Morgan, a hunter. We know very little of the circumstances of his death except that it happened in a field of wild oats, and something tore him to shreds.
Ambrose Bierce is a clever writer and likes to use his wit and sarcasm to bite the reader. There is something of the familiar old campfire tale here where the woodsy noises made you jump and the flickering firelight shoot out shadows with horns and claws. Lovecraft was said to have liked The Damned Thing so much that it inspired him to write The Colour Out of Space.
Bierce’s story is a short one (3000 words), but executed in four segments, has a curious scientific aspect and plays with the old adage, “seeing is believing.” Or in this case, not seeing is believing.
A man though naked may be in rags.
Meet William Harker, a young fiction writer, and the last man to see Hugh Morgan alive.
Read it at Readbookonline:
I found a narration of The Damned Thing on YouTube. Turn down the lights, open the windows to let in the sounds and dark colors of the night and listen …
And since it’s National Short Story Month, I’ll include a second short story for you: Lovecraft’s The Color Out of Space—science fiction, moody, and atmospheric. Lovecraft considered this story to be his finest.
The opening line is certainly one of the best ever written …
West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight. On the gentler slopes there are farms, ancient and rocky, with squat, moss-coated cottages brooding eternally over old New England secrets in the lee of great ledges; but these are all vacant now, the wide chimneys crumbling and the shingled sides bulging perilously beneath low gambrel roofs.
Read it here at the H.P. Lovecraft site:
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