Tuesday Terror! Click-Clack the Rattle Bag by Neil Gaiman

Turn out the lights…

 

On Sunday night, for some reason I couldn’t sleep – a very rare occurrence for me. So I decided to listen to a bit of my current audiobook – Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning – in the dead of night with the lights off. And this little story raised my hair and tingled my spine in the most delicious way, so it just has to be this week’s…

 

Tuesday Terror

Click-Clack the Rattle Bag by Neil Gaiman

 

trigger warning

 

The narrator is staying in his girlfriend’s new house – a rambling old pile with long corridors, creaky floors and dodgy electricity. His girlfriend has gone out to get a takeaway meal, leaving our narrator to look after her young brother. It’s the boy’s bed time, and he asks the narrator to walk up to his bedroom with him and tell him a story before he goes to sleep because, as he explains, he feels a bit scared in the old house and his bedroom is all the way up in the attic. He knows the narrator writes scary stories but says maybe he should tell a not-scary story instead.

spooky house

 

Now our narrator is just a young man himself, so he’s quite proud to have both his bravery and his story-telling skills appealed to in this way. So they leave the sitting-room and go into the corridor. The narrator clicks on the light switch…but nothing happens. Taking the boy’s hand, he sets off along the corridor and up the stairs, lit only by the pale light of the moon shining through the stairwell window. The narrator keeps up a brave face for the boy’s sake even though he’s feeling just a little spooked himself. And as they go, they chat about what story he should tell. The boy asks him if he knows the story of ‘Click-Clack the Rattle Bag’. No, our narrator replies, and so the boy begins to tell him…

Spooky_Moonlight_by_kiebitz

 

It’s only a short story but brilliantly effective, one of these ones that’s really enjoyably scary! The kind of story that a wicked adult might tell to a bunch of kids round a campfire late at night. But I’m going to tell you no more. I don’t think it would be half so much fun to read as to hear, so here’s the man himself reading it superbly. But don’t listen now! Wait until it’s dark, and you’re alone, and the wind is gently rattling through the branches of the trees outside…

 

 

Fretful Porpentine rating: 😯 😯 😯 😯 😯

Overall story rating:         😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

 

It's a fretful porpentine!!
It’s a fretful porpentine!!

 

 

58 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! Click-Clack the Rattle Bag by Neil Gaiman

  1. Oooh the fretful porpentine! What a nervous chap he looks today! I know this one but have not heard the audio version so I shall be sure to re-visit this later tonight when I am tucked up in bed with Terry. And possibly a light on eek!

  2. Oh that was WONDERFUL I’m afraid i couldn’t wait, and I’m rather glad, even if sunshine and daffodils on the windowsill keep the porpie at bay. Come tonight though, and the click-clack of the cat-flap in the darkness will no doubt raise the porpies, howling mournfully afrit!

    Lovely telling, and great atmospherics – and what made it even better is that in the minimal lighting and shadows the microphone looked as if Neil had A SECOND EAR on the left side of his head. And that was REALLY scary, even with the sunshine and the daffodils, I thought it might even be a click-clack about to do what click-clacks do

    • Haha! I know – I wondered at first what that was! I thought he’d been made up to look like some kind of medieval storyteller – complete with boils, a la Baldrick! And I have to say it didn’t send me peacefully off to sleep, that’s for sure! He’s really great at telling the scary stories, and I love little understated ones like this…

  3. What?! That’s it? How can he end off their! I bet the kid was a Click-Clack! Was he? Was he?

    He has one of the best narrating voices I’ve ever heard. I think he’s American, too. He might look like Jeremy Irons.

    That was brave to listen to that at night! I wasn’t about to do it, see. But we must admit, the boyfriend was rather stupid.

    • I’ve tried to warn you about horrid little kids – you just can’t trust them!! I bet the boy was wearing a blue robe…

      Yes, he’s great at the scary stories. He’s a Brit actually, but I believe he lives in America and there’s definitely the occasional American twang in there. A strange accent really – kind of neutral almost, and though he didn’t have to do it in this one, he’s great at giving his characters different voices. Oh yes! He does a bit – but Jeremy Irons always looks so miserable. He – Neil Gaiman that is – used to have a bit of a Kenny G hairdo..

      Ah, but see, you’d trust a horrid kid too, ‘cos you think they’re quite sweet… I wouldn’t have been fooled though! *nods vehemently*

      • Now wait a minute or two or three here…did you just call the professor a horrid little kid?! I mean… *growls*

        Now that made me look him up…the hair remark. And I read a bit about him and Daniel Handler! That was great fun. Anyway, he did have a Kenny G hairdo! That’s special. Don’t you beat up on Jeremy! He’s a hero.

        I don’t think anything is sweet! I’m a horrible warrior, remember. But I bet you would have caved!

        • Aha! Hah! And haha! You admit that was you!!! I knew it!! *shudders and hopes his little pals don’t start singing*

          What about him and Lemony, Lemony? Special is certainly one word for it. OK, OK!!! (*whispers* still miserable though…)

          Me? Never! I’m always on my guard around horrid little kids – I can sense the evil ones…

          • That wasn’t me! He had blond hair. And looked…stupid!

            Well, it was great fun reading about their literary duel. Lemony is so…crass. His voice did that to him. It’s so mean sounding, see.

            *skeptical professorish eye* Paul’s a kid!

            • The boy in the blue robe had brown hair! And the Professorial resemblance cannot be denied, I fear!

              I’ve never heard Lemony. I find his name weirdly disconcerting…

              Paul so is not!! He’s a heroic young man! He’d never have been scared of the dark!

            • Well…that’s ’cause you don’t know what I look like!

              It is disconcerting. So, I asked Nick about Gaiman, and he knew him instantly. Then, when he explained hidden things to me, I know him, too. Though I didn’t know he was responsible for why I know him. There. That sounds like some sort of riddle.

              He’s mean to Chani!

            • I don’t? Then who is that lovely young man who plays guitar then? You know, the one with the kisscurl?

              *laughs lots and lots* Nope, read it three times and can’t work it out! What’s the answer?

              Well, that is true. I fear he’s like all men – wins a young girl’s heart and then forgets to cherish it… *nods sadly*

            • Umm…uhh…umm… *gulps a few times* Well, I don’t know that fool.

              *laughs too* He wrote a children’s book that I’m familiar with. (I never read it, though.) And his voice is tops.

              *nods too* Yeah, I think I know what you mean. It’s horrible.

            • *laughs* I know something really funny and I absolutely can’t tell you – but I will one day!

              I see, I think. What book?

              But the Professor wouldn’t be like that! *beams confidently*

            • Sometime between very soon and ages from now…

              Don’t know it. *chuckles and determinedly continues trying to get blood from stone* So… why are you familiar with it if you’ve never read it? Feel free to use more than one word…

              Babe-magnet!

            • *cranky face* I’ve never ever been more curious, and there’s nothing I can do about it. That’s…depressing.

              Well, it’s a long story of sorts. I became familiar with the opening song to the cartoon first.

  4. I love this one! His narration is so wonderful. Have you heard him read “October in the Chair”? If I weren’t at work, I’d try to find it for you. The gimmick (personified months telling stories) isn’t the interesting bit, the good bit is October’s story about a little boy who meets a ghost when running away from home. It’s got a similar, creepy vibe to this one, but with an emotional punch too.

    Gaiman later said that this story is sort of a very early version of the idea that later became The Graveyard Book, but I can’t imagine that it improves upon this story.

    Thank you for sharing. Am happy that I listened to it at lunch, and not in the dark. No doubt I will think of it later, in the dark. ><

    • No, but I’ll search it out – thanks for the rec! I must say I think he narrates the proper stories in this collection very well, but those fragmentary ones he does with a kind of knowing wink in his voice that I find really irritating. And several of them I find myself thinking that they wouldn’t be nearly as good without the narration – a real mixed bag.

      I haven’t read any of his books yet – and I’m tempted to stick with audio versions when I do.

      Haha! Sleep well! I could have done without the cats playing around the place after reading it…in the night…in the dark…

      • Honestly, I’ve enjoyed very few of his books, but I love his short fiction (and Sandman–books 1, 4, 9, and 10).

        Am still okay with “Click Clack the Rattle Bag”, but it will be another half hour before I go to bed. Am sleeping with the lights on, of course… which only makes me think of 1984… oh dear, am not going to sleep well tonight at all! 🙂

        But don’t you love Gaiman’s voice?! Sometimes, I wonder how I will ever make it as a writer with such a high-pitched voice and inability to pull accents!

        (And I love your previous comment on another thread about how Gaiman’s microphone appears to be a boil in certain lights, a la Baldrick. I LOVE Blackadder and watch it whenever I need cheering up!)

        • So… how did you sleep? 😉

          It’s funny – I think he’s great at the scary ones, and at characters, but in the funnier stories there’s something that makes him sound smug to me, and I’m finding that annoying. But I think he’s growing on me – I’ll see how I feel by the time I get to the end…

          I do think it’s tough on writers that they also seem to have to be performers these days – and salespeople. In fact, they spend so much time self-promoting that I often wonder when they find time to write! I find speaking in public so scary that I doubt if I could do the readings…so probably just as well I’m not a writer!

          Baldrick is my hero! Who wouldn’t love a man with a cunning plan…?

          • I woke up in the middle of the night and heard a funny sound which my brain immediately interpreted as “click clack”. I don’t remember what it was, but it was obviously not some nefarious nighttime creature!

            I feel like Gaiman’s other collections (Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things) had more creepy stories in them. Trigger Warning, despite the title, felt disappointingly tame.

            • Haha! My cats had a massive fight in the kitchen with the local marauder (who pops in to steal their food) at 5 a.m. this morning. My nerves are still a-jangling!

              I’m enjoying it more than you, I think because I’m listening rather than reading. But I agree – most of them are straight stories rather than scary, and the title seems completely misleading, as does the cover art. And I found the early stories – all those fragmentary ones – nearly put me off completely. It’s improved as it’s gone on… so far.

      • I read him a chapter from the book, The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel. It’s quite an adventure. Tonight, our hero, Will, nearly lost his life in the Muskeg, an enchanted part of the Canadian outback that sounds quite mysterious and godforsaken. If one travels across the Muskeg at night, during a full moon, one must beware the hag. If you look upon her, she’ll lure you into the bog where you’ll meet an unpleasant fate. Needless to say, my son shuddered when I turned out the light. What a good mother I am! 😀

        • Haha! That sounds fantastic, I must say! And it’s such fun to terrify a child before bedtime… that’s really what they’re for. When I worked in a residential school for ‘troubled’ boys, it was a converted old house that had once belonged to a doctor about a hundred and fifty years earlier. And the story (apparently true) was that the doctor had been an anatomist who used to cut up dead bodies in the house. How the boys loved that story… especially at night!

  5. Oh that was delightful. I didn’t know about this book. I’ve read just about everything else Neil wrote. So very creepy. I love when he reads his books. A couple of years ago, he came to my area and read from The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Marvelous.

    • Welcome to the blog, L. Marie! 😀

      Oh, that must have been great! He did The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains up here, a few months back – just before I started reading him, so I missed it! This book seems to be mainly made up of stuff that’s appeared elsewhere, which is fine if you’re fairly new to him like me, but might not be so good for someone who’s read loads of his stuff, so you might want to check the contents.

  6. I got this story as a free audiobook from Audible on Halloween, it’s so great! Definitely fretful porpentine worthy. I’ve listened to it a few times since, which makes it even better… I love how it’s the little things that matter, the things you miss when you’re not paying attention… eep!

    • Haha! Yes! I like the way it becomes fairly obvious to the listener just a few minutes before the narrator catches on… a real ‘Don’t go in there!’ moment! I’ll be listening to it again too, but maybe not when I’m already have trouble sleeping next time!

  7. This sounds terrifying. I will not watch or read it for fear of never being able to be alone in a house with stairs ever again. Thank you for the warning.

  8. Ooh, wonderful choice! I first heard this a year or two ago when Neil released a recording of it as part of a charity fundraiser. When I bought Trigger Warning a few weeks ago, I read it aloud to my husband and it made the hair on my arms stand up all over again. (If I’m being honest, just reading your review made the skin on the back of my neck start crawling…)

    Are most of your Tuesday Terrors as frightening as this one? (I haven’t read most of the others yet.)

    • It’s beautifully scary, isn’t it? But in that nice way that just leaves you with the shivers rather than being nasty…

      No, very few of them have been really scary, though lots of them have been great stories for other reasons – the Fretful Porpentine rating gives the scare factor whereas the Overall rating is for whether I enjoyed the story. A couple of scary highlights off the top of my head were The Monkey’s Paw by WW Jacobs and The Apple Tree by Daphne du Maurier… and there’s a great reading of Poe’s Silence: A Fable. 🙂

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