Previously published as 'Born of Man and Woman', this is a nifty little collection, contains a couple of stories later adapted for 'The Twilight Zone' and a whole bunch that could have been. Jumps seamlessly from SF to horror, often in the same story. Lovely twisted endings abound.
The cover of the Bantam 1962 edition:
Blurb from the same:
These extraordinary, hair raising science fiction stories make you believe you are there!
Meet Loolie from Venus - she ads in mags for mates with like fixtures!
Move with the time traveller to a civilisation where dirty postcards are pictures of - food!
Ride on the last space ship leaving - for Earth!
Fall in love with Lover - she wants to wrap her warm pink mind around yours!
Live dangerously and adventurously with Richard Matheson who can make the unbelievable seem true.
Born of Man and Woman The diary of the thing in the cellar, kept chained to a wall so it doesn't escape whilst the 'normal' members of the family go about their everyday business. Horrible and moving.
Third from the Sun Two families sneak aboard a test-flight rocket ship and head off to find a new life on a fresh planet, preferably one that isn't going to be devastated by a nasty war in the next few years.
Lover Wher You're Near Me Life on an alien planet (inhabited by the gross Gnees) becomes unbearable for the man stationed there when his alien, and telepathic, house-help falls for him in a big way. Urghh.
SRL Ad A Venusian places a personal ad, which is answered by an astrophysisist (as a joke), only to find the whole affair more serious than he had expected.
Mad House An angry, failed writer finds that all of his rage is sinking into his surroundings. After his wife evntually gets fed up with him and leaves, the house has its chance to throw some of his anger back at him.
One of Matheson's best short stories, in my opinion.
F--- A time traveller reaches a future where food has become obscene (nourishment is now taken intraveniously). He quickly finds himself hauled off to jail for possesion of some coffee and a box of crackers, only to find that the police commisoner is in fact a huge food pervert...
Dear Diary A day in the life, from three very different (and depressingly similar) eras.
To Fit the Crime An aging poet, who views himself as something of an intellectual giant, lies on his death-bed, enjoying a final rant at those nearest and dearest to him. When he awakes in the afterlife, he finds himself in his own special hell...
Dress of White Silk A scary little girl, a dead mother and a spooky dress. This one is a rarity - a dull Matheson story.
Disappearing Act People begin to go missing from the narrator's life. Completely missing, leaving blanks in address books and vanishing from photographs. The places start to vanish too...
A classic. They don't make 'em like this anymore!
The Wedding A man drives his wife-to-be half mad with his superstitions as he attempts to make their wedding go off without a hitch. Unfortunately, he misses something.
A nicely comic piece.
Shipshape Home A couple move into a shiny new apartment with suspiciously low rent. All seems well, except there is something strange about the janitor, seems like he's got eyes in the back of his head. And there appear to be giant engines underneath the basement.
They try to escape, but unfortunately they have underestimated the scale of the problem...
Good, old fashioned SF.
The Traveller A time traveller (and an athiest) travels back to witness the crucifiction. Although lacking in many of the embelishments described in the bible (except those accidentally caused by the traveller himself) he finds his faith in the suffering of Jesus. Bleargh!
I have to give Dress Of White Silk another go now! It's been a while since i read it, but i was quite fond of it. These notes are from six years ago (!) "Narrated by a little girl who, teased about her dead mother by horrid Mary Jane, tries on mummy's beautiful dress and does something terrible to her playmate. What that something is we're never told, but there are hints of vampirism in the pay-off."
That last line may be well off the mark. I think i was seeing vampires everywhere at the time.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
Dem, I've probably read too many stories of that ilk recently and it put me off!
Caroline, the two TZ (original series) stories were 'Third from the Sun' and 'Disappearing Act', the latter of which they messed about with no end. No idea if any ever turned up in the later versions of the show, which I'd rather chew my own leg off than watch.