In his essay on horror fiction, H.P. Lovecraft devotes many words to Ambrose Bierce. One of those words are to call him “uneven” but mostly Lovecraft heaps praise on Bierce. The Ambrose Bierce story included in H.P. Lovecraft Selects is “The Death of Halpin Frayser”, another story which seems to bleed out from the edges of its simple premise. “Bleed” definitely being the operative word for this fascinating, gory, dreamlike tale.
The Halpin Frayser of the title is a young man from Tennessee who moves to California, a weird point of identification for me because I was born in Tennessee and moved to California as a child. Halpin moved as an adult, though, after a youth spent with a mother with whom he shared a peculiar attachment.
In these two romantic natures was manifest in a signal way that neglected phenomenon, the dominance of the sexual element in all the relations of life, strengthening, softening, and beautifying even those of consanguinity. The two were nearly inseparable, and by strangers observing their manners were not infrequently mistaken for lovers.
But the story begins with Halpin wandering in the woods of Napa, beholding terrible and strange visions of blood that culminate in a walking corpse.
It was now long after nightfall, yet the interminable forest through which he journeyed was lit with a wan glimmer having no point of diffusion, for in its mysterious lumination nothing cast a shadow. A shallow pool in the guttered depression of an old wheel rut, as from a recent rain, met his eye with a crimson gleam. He stooped and plunged his hand into it. It stained his fingers; it was blood! Blood, he then observed, was about him everywhere.
All this actually ties into a murder mystery but Bierce avoids any attempt at contriving a plot, instead intriguingly leaving us with significant points, arranged seemingly at random but with a really great sense of dreamlike significance. It’s a fascinating and disturbing tale and it’s impossible for the reader not to compulsively allow his or her imagination to wander through disturbing paths in scrutinising it.
Twitter Sonnet #1297
Committed sports combine to make a box.
A timer clicked to one before the twelve.
A siding shed informs as manner talks.
In deeper grapes the seedless slowly delve.
An endless row of boards create the track.
As keys became the nails to hold the dirt.
A slowly drifting car was coming back.
Completed trains again redress the hurt.
A crispy bag contained forgotten salt.
Desired space approached the drying moon.
As water pulled the thick and soupy malt.
As travel took the driver further soon.
A dirty table holds the only drink.
The hope of scones began to sink.