Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"The Other Bed"

"The Other Bed"
by E.F. Benson

When a man checks into the last vacancy available in a Swiss resort, he is thrilled to find that he'll be enjoying a large room for an excellent price.  He'll even have two beds all to himself-- or will he~dun Dun DUN!~

My Reaction (with a chance of SPOILERS):
This one is predictable.  I figured out the nature of the ghostly roommate pretty quickly, and for the rest of the story was just waiting for the inevitable conclusion.  Still creepy, though. (And I was surprised that the narrator actually glimpsed the face of the ghost.  Gruesome...)

I feel that I've read several hotel-based ghost stories over the years, but I can't recall if any of the others were by Benson.  At least a few by M.R. James, one or two by H.R. Wakefield.  Anyway, I guess hotels are a natural choice for a ghost story setting-- so many people coming and going, each with his/her own life story--  no way of knowing who occupied your bed in the weeks, months, and years before-- a rare place that is not home where you give yourself up to the vulnerability of sleep.

(Confession:  I kind of hate hotels.  I view them as a necessity only-- not a place where I'll actively enjoy spending time.  I'm not afraid that a hotel room might be haunted, though I've written before that I find 1408 particularly awful.  No, for me, the horror is mostly on the microscopic level...  I don't like knowing that those sheets and pillows-- that bathtub-- those chairs-- that remote control have all been used by so many unknown people who have left behind their unknown germs.  ~shudder~  Much more frightening than your average silly ghost story.  ...Also, sleeping in an unfamiliar place is not always easy, so I worry that I'll wake up and be unable to fall back to sleep... or that there'll be a fire... or a break-in... or... well, I just don't like hotels, ok? ;o)) 

Back on topic...
The best parts of the story might have been the little touches of humor:

-- "Once I made him come in, but I saw him cross himself as, with a face of icy terror, he stepped into the room, and the sight somehow did not reassure me."  Ha!  Yes, it's never completely reassuring when hotel staff cross themselves before entering your room...

--  The ("Sensitive") young hotel attendant (or whatever he's called in the story) apologizes for (repeatedly) bringing a bottle of alcohol to the room, under the mistaken impression that the narrator has rung for it, suggests that perhaps the other gentleman staying in the room might have rung for it, then corrects himself that, oh yes, you told me last time that there is no other occupant... "It was on the night when this happened for the second time that I definitely began to wish that I too was quite certain that the other bed was unoccupied." 

--  And then the end... "No, monsieur had not rung.  But monsieur made himself a couch in the billiard-room."

Reminds me of the Lucia books.  I'll have to re-read them, one of these days...