Thursday, January 30, 2014

"At Abdul Ali's Grave"

"At Abdul Ali's Grave"
by E.F. Benson

A couple of friends staying in Egypt decide to test the accuracy of one of their young servant's "visions", which leads them to a moonlit graveyard...

My Reaction:
This is the first short story in this horror "megapack".  I think I've read one of his short stories before, but can't at the moment recall which it was...  I hope they get better, because this one left something to be desired.  Not awful, but not really great, either.  Not particularly creepy, despite the subject matter. 

I am interested to learn that Benson had connections to Egypt and was even involved in an excavation and the mapping of a temple.  First-hand experience, so he should know what he's talking about, as far as settings and atmosphere go.  Though I'm not uncommonly interested in ancient Egypt or its artifacts, myself, I am interested in the fact that others were so interested in it.  (g)  I love the periods in history during which the world was fascinated by Egypt and archaeology. 

Tidbits (with possible SPOILERS):
--  "At sunset the ride into the desert thick with the scent of warm barren sand, which smells like nothing else in the world, for it smells of nothing at all."

-- "Abdul, it is to be feared, was not a man of stereotyped respectability; though full of years and riches, he enjoyed not great reputation for honour.  He drank wine whenever he could get it, he ate food during the days of Ramadan, scornful of the fact, when his appetite desired it, he was supposed to have the evil eye, and in his last moments he was attended to by the notorious Achmet, who is well known here to be practised in Black Magic..."

--  "Machmout's method of unloosing the forces of White Magic is simple, being the ink-mirror known by name to many..."  Well, not known by name to me.  I found it funny that, because ink was in such short supply, Machmout had to make do with a circle of black "American cloth".  That term keeps cropping up!  It's supposed to be a "sturdy enameled cloth", so I guess it might have a certain sheen to it. 

--  Khamseen -- a hot, dry, sandy wind coming from the south.

--  "He was entirely naked, and his brown skin glistened with the dews of exertion in the moonlight."  Maybe he thought he'd keep his cloths clean, that way, but yuck... And "dews of exertion"!  Maybe I should start calling it that, too...  "Whew!  All that weed-pulling has really worked up some dews of exertion!  Better have a shower..."

--  The image of a sweaty naked man performing some sort of supernatural mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a shrouded dead body... Gross.

--  Afrit -- also "Ifrit"-- "infernal Jinn". 

--  The description of the Black Magic creature's fangs reminded me of a vampire.   It never made an appearance in the story, though...