JUST A SONG AT TWILIGHT by Robert Aickman
“Most of all, of course, the heat was incredible, just incredible. She could not have believed in such heat.”
And, indeed, as we eventually learn, this island is in Southern Europe, but I think that is all we do know about it. Except perhaps, in hindsight, a very strange thing – that the wild road Lydia and Timo drive along is very muddy! They reach the house they have bought to escape from their life in London, finding that some of the land they thought that they had bought is barbed-wired off, with a sign in the island’s language that neither of them understand. Lydia is English and Timo comes from a place that then ‘no longer existed’: Estonia. The backstory of their relationship creates a backdrop to their argument at how they had been swindled and whether they should stay or not.
“They had not even agreed about getting married. Lydia was quite sure of this, certain that Timo had undermined her with the unique destructiveness of the weak and desperate; though she had since read in a book that no one ever marries anyone without fully intending it, and wishing it. The book, of course, only undermined her further.”
Luckily the well does have some water. They had had a dreadful journey there, as well, with customs officers earlier looking for signs of ‘infection’ and other things in their car! And now here they are on this island of crucifixes (“very fierce and bleeding”), crucifixes on every ridge, one of them with a grey-haired woman hanging on it with her arms wrapped round it.
The clear blue sky starts to turn green! And they are visited by a fair-haired woman with no stockings who turns out to be a haunted English woman asking them for money to get home, and needing to pay for a car that had brought her (cf Nesta and the taxi-driver elsewhere in Aickman). There now start the sounds of some music or singing, perhaps sounds of a song that Timo and this woman seem to be able to hear, but not Lydia.
“They say few can hear it. […] They say it never ends.”
The woman leaves. Later followed by Timo. Leaving Lydia behind.
None the wiser, I am genuinely haunted and disturbed by this strange undermining Aickman masterpiece. They say few can read it. They say it never ends.
“It represents what I most hate in life: the trouble that always comes from doing anything you really want to do.”
My other reviews of Aickman: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/robert-aickman/