So I was going to peek beyond the wall of sleep today, but, having peeked behind it, there’s not much of a story there: inbred hick appears to be possessed by a creature who soars in realms of light and fights an elusive enemy whilst the hillbilly sleeps, and our narrator just happens to have a telepathy machine handy that allows him to meet this creature. And that’s about it. Not particularly interesting and definitely not scary or horrifying.
So if we’re not peering beyond the wall of sleep, let’s look over in the corner at “The Haunter of the Dark.”
A writer in Providence (wonder if he resembles anyone we know?) named Robert Blake apparently can’t keep his eye on the sparrow (note to readers under forty years old: that’s a Baretta joke) (and yes, I know, if you have to explain the joke, you probably shouldn’t make it) and stares at this church steeple across town and becomes obsessed with it. He ventures across town and, after some difficulty, finds the disused church and decides to break in despite the warning of the superstitious Italians who live nearby.
He finds books full of dark and forbidden knowledge, like the good ol’ Necronomicon, as well as a glowing trapezoid. Apparently Blake lets something loose in his blundering around, because after he leaves, a new fear grows in the neighborhood and in Blake’s febrile brain. He’s let loose something from beyond time and space that prefers to hide in the darkness. Fortunately, though, after the sun goes down, the neighborhood is lit by streetlights. But what would happen if the power went out? Something horrible would get out and take over Blake’s brain, causing him to gibber in his journal, that’s what.
Pretty much everything. Another of the lesser-known (at least by me) stories that proves to be a win for H.P. Because who’s not afraid of the dark? And who’s not curious? Blake’s initial obsession with the steeple is credible, the disused church full of creepy junk is spooky, and the real horror of this story is not that Blake has unleashed something awful—it’s that he loses himself. His last journal entry is full of desperate assertions of his identity but it’s clear that the Robert Blake part of his mind is losing out to whatever is winging its way across Providence.
Not much! I suppose the view of the superstitious Italians isn’t all that great, but their superstition is proven correct, and they briefly keep the horror at bay with their love of candles. (?)
In our next installment, we’ll visit “The Shadow out of Time”!
Illustration by Scott Altmann.
Seamus Cooper is the author of The Mall of Cthulhu (Night Shade Books, 2009). He sleeps with a Cthulhu night light to keep darkness-dwelling things from beyond at bay.