Hell’s Elbow


And now a  shoe was tucked beneath either armpit…

JUST IMAGINE . . .’ by Elizabeth Bowen

This is a truly scary horror story that needs a bigger audience, a story that was not even re-published in Bowens’s Collected Stories. With elbows, and beyond elbows. One about Noel and Nancy, brought up as non-sibling children in the same family, she having come from Argentine. Then they were separated, now both with their own prospective spouses, when they meet again. As children, he had delighted in scaring her, and now she gets her own back? Not exactly… I can only quote below from the text to give you those childhood fears again…alongside such well-characterised individuals (he when younger ”going alone to the Zoo, walking all the night or exploring the bus-routes of London”, she “a rather curd-faced child, with hair skinned back into a pigtail that her eyes seemed stretched open wider  than ever”) each of them hoping for their own future dreams but inevitably mining the love and hate of their past. Dared to scare and be scared again…. And what or who the shadowy third?

“…a clammy-faced Thing on the top landing that reached out for them through the banisters as they went up.”

“He thought of the nursery fire for ever put out, and of how one went on through the world growing colder and colder.”

“In an air blue and semi-opaque with cigarette smoke, and sharp with geranium scent, two clocks followed each other…”

“‘Fear’, said Nancy. ‘I didn’t mind pain. “Just imagine,” you used to say; you had frogging hands and queer pale eyes.’”

“The tick of the two clocks, never quite synchronising, pattering after each other, maddened him. Since the night fears of his childhood he had never felt so menaced.”

“We’re not alone! Cover your face and don’t look, my dear, for we’re . . . we’re Not Quite Alone . . . A-ah! — Oh, my God, IT’S there…”

“There began, interrupted by silences, the sound of something slithering, dragging itself along the wall.”

“This horror had taken life from himself, had been born of his mind and was creeping about the room.”

*

Till we reach the explicitly unfathomed abyss to match an earlier ‘futureless dream’…
Via Hell’s Elbow, I wonder…

“Nancy turned up a lamp at her elbow, a lamp in painted shade that cast arabesques and eyes over the wall.”

“…he ran on alone to the edge of the Pit. Within him there was an absolute silence, a blank across which shadows doubtfully shivered and fled.  Nancy laughed and turned out the lamp at her elbow…”

“Kneeling up, scarcely breathing, an arm still around Nancy, Noel felt along the back of her chair for the lamp at her other elbow………”

***

All my Bowen reviews: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/31260-2/

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