I’ve just discovered that today is Book Lovers Day. Isn’t that the best celebration in the world? Well, come on, one of the best! And I know exactly how to celebrate it, in this sunny summer day: with three ghost stories!
A BUMP IN THE NIGHT
Mr Bump traced a finger upon the table and watched as the surface blistered and peeled. “How could one expect to reach those that had managed to survive the killing fields of the Somme? What of those that lived through the Battle of Stalingrad or the death camps of the Third Reich? Everything changed with the flash over Hiroshima and then Nagasaki. Nuclear holocaust became the harbinger of the living, the threat of total annihilation looming over them; whilst beneath the beds and in the wardrobes there hid a new terror. Communists.”
“Was that any different from the Spanish Inquisition or Cromwell, even?” asked Mr Snaggle.
Mr Snuffle raised an eyebrow.
“We are disproven by science and labelled as malady by those of a religious persuasion. Time, our once trusted companion, now revolves with whirlwind pace, tearing down the old with every sweep of the hand. How long, I ask you, will it be before the next Great Storm comes to rid the world of those that yet remain? The Quick have nailed shut our coffins; sealed our tombs; and scattered our ashes to the wind.”
Mr Snaggle opened his mouth only for Mr Bump’s raised hand to cut him short.
“In this day and age, we are nothing but an evening’s pale entertainment. How can I… we… appeal to the living when we are mocked with the hollow screams of those that find amusement in an actor apparelled in a hockey mask? The Quick live in an age far more terrifying than anything we have witnessed, for it is solely of their making. Have you not noticed how hollow their lives have become? They have torn away the umbilical cord that once attached them to the earth and live in a sterilised world of numbers and fact. Nothing lasts in this age. The Quick rush through life clinging to their soulless possessions and then, when they die… poof! They fade.”
Mr Bump shuddered and sank his head into his fading hands. “We are done for.”
As the author himself says in the afterword, more than a ghost story, this is a story about ghosts. They have a problem. They are fading (or at least, some of them are) because people don’t believe in ghosts and spirits anymore. Even Death has some problems. But especially Charon, who was once Mr Grym, now it’s just Mr Bump.
So they put their heads together to find a solution at least for Mr Bumb.
It’s a quick read with lots of dark humour. The pace is uneven, maybe, but overall it’s fun, with a cast of relatable characters, both familiar and surprising… and very English.
THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER
by Pam Lecky
As the sleepless minutes slipped by, she became aware of the wind picking up; a lonely plaintive sound, making her uneasy. No wonder her mind was playing tricks. From now on she would stick to admiring lighthouses from the outside.
The floorboard above creaked. Then there were footsteps and the sound of something being dragged across the floor.
Suddenly her body was humming with adrenaline and she broke out in a cold sweat. Her sensing were straining and all at once the overpowering smell of kerosene pervaded the room. Terrified, she could not move. The sound of metal scrapping against metal sent a shiver down her spine. To her horror, as she watched, a powerful beam of light flitted across the opening to the upper level. Impossible, a voice inside her head said, but there it was again: a sweep of light that lit the room with an intensity that hurt her eyes.
She bolted from the bed. Almost tripping down the stairs in her hast, she lunged at Alex.
“Wake up!” she shouted at him, shaking his arm.
Alex groaned and slowly opened his eyes. He stared at her, coughed and ran his fingers through his hair. “What the hell, Sally? I was fast asleep.”
“The lighthouse is working – there is someone up there!” she whispered hoarsely.
“Don’t be daft, Sal. This place was decommissioned years ago,” Alex said, sitting up. He stretched his arms over his head and yawned. “You must have had a nightmare,” he said, getting to his feet.
This is a short ghost story, with many usual elements (the abandoned lighthouse, the story of lost love, a suicide), but set against a very modern, recognizable backdrop.
I like the way the author handles the ghosts. Many times, I find the ghost too much of an intrusive presence, something that I have troubles placing inside an otherwise very recognizable, familiar reality. Here the ghost is there, it’s a very clear presence, and still, it’s subtle, to the point you can almost dismiss it.
Really liked the atmosphere.
DUSK OR DARK OR DAWN OR DAY
The wind howls, the rain comes down in sheets, and Patty is still dead.
The earth settles, the grave grows green with the first shoots of hungry scrub grass and dandelions root, and Patti is still dead.
The funeral bells are silent, the last of the we’re-so-sorry cakes have been reduced to stale crumbles that attract marching regiments of ants, and Patty is still dead. Patty is going to be dead forever, because that’s what dead means: dead is the change you can’t take back, dead is the mistake that can’t be unmade. The rain batters the tin slope of the roof until the sound of it drowns out everything else in the world – everything except for the simple, inalienable fact that Patty is dead, Patty is gone, Patty is never coming back. Patty died far away, in the big city where Jenna begged her not to go, the victim of the sadness that grew in her own body, in her own bones, until she picked up a knife as sharp as the end of the world.
This is how this story begins, and I don’t know about you, but it feels solid to me. I was expecting great stuff. It wasn’t going to happen.
There are a lot of good ideas in this story, but they don’t seem to belong to the same story. They are scattered, diverse and end up making the entire narration incoherent. The world the author creates is charming, but she seems to be charmed by it too, to the point so wants to talk about it even if she doesn’t have a story to tell.
The plot is completely inconsistent and insubstantial. The characters are provided with what they need at the moment they deed it and make choices that don’t make any sense. I had a very very hard time caring for any of them because they felt so airy.
It’s really a great shame, this could have been such an awesome story, and I heard so many good things about it. But it didn’t click for me at all.