Two classic stories just newly discovered for me —
nullimmortalis June 6, 2021 at 8:42 am THE SEVENTH MAN by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
“The cards were so thumbed and tattered that by the backs of them each player guessed pretty shrewdly what the other held. Yet they went on playing night after night;…”
“Whist!” And beware, this is a very chilling tale (literally and scarily), till — SPOILER — the sun comes out at the end, but comes out for whom? Paradise Lost – and Regained? It’s always night because the stopped clock — in inexact tune with the clock in the AJA story above — ever thus says it is night in or out of this dream of madness dreamt or actually lived by a group of meticulously named men, shipwrecked upon a desolate Arctic shore, if there is such a shore to be had, and their sleeping in cupboard-bunks possibly with quills in their couches to keep them awake, within a possibly ready-made or self-made one-roomed hut with trap-doors in the roof to let out the smoke of the warming fire. The number of the men was once seven, I guess, but one has been buried outside under the snow. But their names and personal derivations confuse me and, no doubt, confuse them, too, and it is never certain who knocks on the door, who goes out a trap door to investigate, and who comes back frozen almost stiff. The counting — like the clock’s or that of the scheming playing-cards — is interminable and even lasts beyond the ending of this excellent ghostly work. Still lasts now as I write this — beyond any lost conceit of Paradise, I guess. [Not forgetting the “interloper” in this work’s inner ballet scenario reminiscent of Elena’s model in Aickman’s ‘The Model’ that I am now equally slowly and attritionally reviewing here!]
nullimmortalis June 6, 2021 at 2:14 pm NO SHIPS PASS by Lady Eleanor Smith
“What should have been paradise was only a pretty hell.”
I won’t detain you long with this review of a truly classic story, once read never can it be UNread. Never to escape its own version of Null Immortalis. As if I invented this two-word expression for an anthology book that I edited some while ago, invented it, by premonition or instinct, to encapsulate this very story, just read by me for the first time! Furthermore, I don’t know how I possibly predicted the paradise lost/regained element based on someone in the previous story above reading Paradise Lost by Milton, when I wrote the previous review above of a single hut and surrounding hummocks, and now here huts in the plural and hammocks inside — here on a perfect archetypal desert island, a Mirage Island, where death does not exist. And with no escape from it. The believable POV of Patterson shipwrecked here, as the others had been years ago, even centuries ago, and the characters of Captain Micah Thunder and Doña Inés, the elegant and evocative descriptions of these people and of the island itself and of its flickers of parakeets as well as flickers of sorrow beyond the looks of happiness — none of this will you ever forget. Even its arguably empty ending as a story has already fitted into its own scheme of endless ‘nullimmortalis’. Yet I am somehow blown away by the work’s magic and style, while ever fated to be blown back to its doldrums or fated never to leave them in the first place, even temporarily.