This Weeks Prompt:13. House and garden—old—associations. Scene takes on strange aspect.
Resulting Story: The House In the Mangroves
What Mr. Lovecraft has proposed for us here is an interesting scene, perhaps. A home slowly warped by time serves as something of the plot to ‘Color out of Space’, and certainly haunted houses and creeping abodes are common enough. Why, we’ve already had a few corpses speak of them already, with Zinge’s strange house and the terrible abode of the vampire.
But this is a more civilized place, judging by the fact that it has a garden. The first format that springs to mind is the age old ‘country house poem’ which is, admittedly, antiquated but contains the necessary structure that can be bent to the purpose. Alas, if we go that route, I must admit my incompetence at poetry.
There is more of course. Firstly, is this a home or simply a house? A home is inhabited, I think, and the recounting of a peculiar boy (or girl) hood home might be a nice twist on it. Talking of summer vacations in Innsmouth or the like. Further, there is the ability for some old tenet to wander through the garden, and muse on how times have changed the place (No doubt, given our source author, for the worse).
A house meanwhile has all the strangeness of the unknown, a place where insight must be gleaned through the senses. It therefore has something of a mystery to it. It isn’t as obvious all the terrible things that could happen there, or have happened there. The inhabitants themselves become a piece of the strange puzzle.
As for the format, it seems by nature mostly expository. I don’t think this will be terribly problematic, and in fact could be modeled like the Tom Waits song ‘What’s He Building in There?’. There is unlikely to be a shocking reveal, but instead a gradual increase in atmosphere, a density that is hopefully choking by the end.
Now, what element of horror could we locate? There is something like what we did last week, with gradual revelation of strangeness. Indeed a house lends itself to this quite naturally. The basements and attics are always full of terrible deeds and treasures, the closest always skeletons, and the bedrooms damned deeds. But if we are going to do that, we must keep some element of surprise. I recommend, then, we build our story like a house, with a central hub connected to seemingly disparate parts. Bit by bit we drop the pieces, unrelated at first, but binding slowly over time, until the last terrible truth is shown with something so simple as say, a doll.
Of course, there is also the notion of a haunting, a terrible ghostly presences still remnant in the house. Ghosts will no doubt take a primary role latter in our list, and as such, we will leave a full discussion of their lore until then. But for the mean time, an eldritch or haunted house is a classic archetype which could be built on. Stephen King, the Simpsons, Edgar Allen Poe, and more illustrious individuals have toyed with the notion, most recently with the House of Leaves. Most influential on myself was Monster House, a strange film to say the least which scarred me out of Halloween as a child.
The difficulty with such a prolific form, however, is that it is rife with cliché. We certainly, as proper necromancers, cannot bury a loved one in the walls or foundation. We cannot have some noxious beating noise, should avoid mass murders as the cause of haunting (particularly of children thanks to a certain franchise) and suicides do to lost of loved ones. These have been played with endlessly, and with a limit on space, we do not have time for good reversal. A nebulous force of malice in the house may be do to something else, some other odd occurrence (perhaps simply a visit from a strange man? A seance that draws a long dead ghost to the place? Some unexplained unease?) is far preferable.
With that in mind, hopefully next week we will have something homely and domestically produced for you. What would you do, with such a place?
I’d like to also take a moment and recommend Lovecraftian Science, a wonderful blog which I will be certainly consulting for the more scientific side of things. The image of Innsmouth was found at their lovely site.
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