Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"The Room in the Tower"

"The Room in the Tower" 
by E.F. Benson

A man is haunted for years by an inexplicably horrifying recurring dream that always ends in a room in a tower.  Then, when he least expects it, he finds himself standing, wide awake, before the scene of his nightmare...

My Reaction (with SPOILERS):
I enjoyed the lead-up to the inevitable end.  It's nothing earth-shattering, but still a nicely old-fashioned creepy tale. 

--  "It is probable that everybody who is at all a constant dreamer has had at least one experience of an event or a sequence of circumstances which have come to his mind in sleep being subsequently realized in the material world. But, in my opinion, so far from this being a strange thing, it would be far odder if this fulfillment did not occasionally happen, since our dreams are, as a rule, concerned with people whom we know and places with which we are familiar, such as might very naturally occur in the awake and daylit world. ... But occasionally it is not so easy to find such an explanation, and for the following story I can find no explanation at all. It came out of the dark, and into the dark it has gone again."

--  "All my life I have been a habitual dreamer: the nights are few, that is to say, when I do not find on awaking in the morning that some mental experience has been mine, and sometimes, all night long, apparently, a series of the most dazzling adventures befall me. Almost without exception these adventures are pleasant, though often merely trivial. It is of an exception that I am going to speak."

I too am a "habitual dreamer".  Every now and then I'll have a nightmare, but they are less common these days than they used to be.  It's interesting that there is such variation in how people dream and whether or not they remember those dreams... Something to do with brain structure and chemistry, most likely.

--   "Now that dream or variations on it occurred to me intermittently for fifteen years." 

I've had recurring dreams, too, though I'm not sure I've had one that's come back over the course of fifteen years.  (Also, so far none of my recurring dreams have come true.  It's a good thing, too, because the one I think of most involved a large tree that had come to life and was holding me and bunch of other people captive in a house...)  I think that these days, I'm less likely to dream the exact same series of events repeatedly than I am to experience multiple dreams set in the same two or three houses.  These aren't places I know in waking life, but in my dreams, I recognize them from dream to dream.  One has a vast, low-ceilinged basement crowded with furniture-- some of which I recognize from real life as old, cast-off pieces.  Another has a creepy vibe and feels like the set for some early-80s horror movie... Then there's the "missing room" from our current house-- the one that doesn't actually exist except in my dreams.  It's usually cluttered with packing boxes and sometimes has serious problems-- like mold or a leaking ceiling.  At least I'm no longer dreaming about finding/remembering a tiny, neglected-- but still miraculously living-- baby that I forgot I was supposed to be taking care of.  ~shudder~  I hated that dream. 

--  The way the "characters" in the narrator's recurring dream age and change... creepy! 

--  Also creepy:  The blood-stains on the hands of the men who move Mrs. Stone's portrait.  And the narrator reaching out in the dark and feeling the portrait back on the wall.  ~shiver~

--  So, the conclusion... Mrs. Stone was/is a vampire, then... But I'm a bit confused by the strange coincidence that the narrator's friend is living in the same house that apparently once belonged to his former classmate's family.  Why was it necessary that the narrator should have known Mrs. Stone's son at all, since the son himself never makes an appearance?  I guess it makes it more plausible that he'd be dreaming about that family to begin with-- they weren't total strangers, though he'd never met any of the classmate's family before. 

-- This story reminded me of the myth that those who commit suicide might return as vampires.  I keep forgetting that, as I've only learned it fairly recently.  It doesn't feel nearly as much a part of popular vampire myth as so many other things-- garlic, wooden stake through the heart, "allergic" to the sun/holy water/the cross, returning to a coffin/native soil during the day, etc.  The suicide connection seems an out-dated and and uncharitable inclusion in a silly monster myth. 

-- The coffin filled with blood is a nasty touch.  It doesn't make a whole lot of sense-- as opposed to the rest of this highly logical and realistic story, of course-- but I'll grant that it's creepy. 

I enjoyed the classic cadence of this story, after The Reapers are the Angels.  Next up is one of E.F. Benson's stories that I've seen mentioned numerous times-- and one that I've kind of been dreading!  "The Caterpillars"...