The Crystal Egg by H.G. Wells (1897)
Tuesday’s Tale of Terror, September 17, 2013
This week is H.G. Wells anniversary birth date (September 21), so featuring one of this grandmaster’s science fiction short stories is a must for Tales of Terror.
In The Crystal Egg, we meet a gentleman known as Mr. Cave. He owns a grimy dark little shop full of antiquities in town. Among the animal skulls, boxes of eyes, elephant tusks, and stuffed monkeys is a crystal egg. Mr. Cave acquired the egg from another dealer and as curiosity prevails—who doesn’t find crystals eye-catching?—he couldn’t resist the gleaming oval object and displayed it in his shop window.
Mr. Cave is a little old man, with pale face and peculiar watery blue eyes; his hair was a dirty grey, and he wore a shabby blue frock-coat, an ancient silk hat, and carpet slippers very much down at heel.
Sounds cute, huh? Cute if you keep in mind we are in the late 1890s. Mr. Cave is actually a charming character who endears you immediately. His wife, the corpulent Mrs. Cave, however, can reduce the poor man to quivering emotions and muddle his thoughts. And she does so when two men stroll into the shop and offer to buy the crystal egg. Mrs. Cave is quite anxious to sell the object, but Mr. Cave has some trouble parting with the crystal.
The fascinating thing about crystals is their mysterious refractions of light. Sometimes you can see into them quite clearly and other times the view is a distorted image. Even colors change with every new angle. If you hold a rounded crystal in a ray of light, what do you think you’ll see?
Mr. Cave does more than just look at the colors and angles of light. He sees a vivid vision within the crystal egg. No dreaming here, no illusions, no hallucinations. This is a definite impression of reality. What does he see exactly? I have a better question. What happens to Mr. Cave when he observes this vivid vision? Do you think the vision will look back and observe poor Mr. Cave?
This amazing little short story raises more questions than resolutions, especially if you believe in … well, I won’t say exactly.
Read it at ReadBook Online http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/9395/
Listen to the narration by LibriVox Recording (46 minutes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=840JrGZJMhg
Watch the 1951 vintage film by Tales of Tomorrow starring Thomas Mitchell (23 minutes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6rPm5siOwk
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