Welcome to the first Short Story Sunday! Today's is a classic - 67 years old!
Even if you have never heard the name Richard Matheson, you will know his work - he penned the short story that inspired Steven Speilberg's debut film "Duel", and tons of his stories (like "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet" were made into Twilight Zone episodes. He's also the author of "I, Legend" - though, sadly, the Will Smith film takes a lot of liberties with the source material. Even though a lot of his work has been adapted to film, it's well worth picking up in book form. Matheson is a sharp, punchy writer, and the master of the brilliant last line. Take, for example, today's story - "Born of Man and Woman"...in my opinion, one of the best horror stories ever written. The last line (which I won't spoil here) leaves me with a cold sense of dread every time I read it.
"Born of Man and Woman" is written from the perspective of a child kept in a basement, away from their family. Horrific enough - but, as the story unravels and the situation becomes more apparent, things only slide further into darkness.
X — This day when it had light mother called me retch. You retch she said. I saw in her eyes the anger. I wonder what it is a retch.
The story is written in simple, childish language, with childish spelling mistakes and slips of punctuation - which make it all the more horrifying as we learn more about who - or what - is living beneath this house. Matheson uses language to an amazing effect in this story - never explaining anything outright, but letting characters' reactions and memories fill in just enough gaps to give the reader a real feeling horror at the reality of the situation. This is a stable of Matheson's work - and the reason why his prose has such a punch-to-the-stomach feel.
The child knows very little of the world outside their prison...but just enough to feel anger at being kept caged. There are no heroes or villains in this story - just a family, however broken and disturbed they may be, and an example of exactly what a lack of love can turn you into.
At 2-3 pages, this is a story that can be blasted through in a matter of minutes, but that will stick with you for a very, very long time afterwards. You can pick up the collection that contains "Born of Man and Woman", along with a ton of Matheson's best short stories, here. If you love horror and sci-fi, I cannot recommend him highly enough.
So, that's the first Short Story Sunday! Have you read "Born of Man and Woman?" What did you think? Have you a recommendation for next week's SSS? Leave me a comment below, or DM me on Twitter at @KalliTales!
Musings on my life as a writer.