Tuesday Terror! The Face by EF Benson

A Nightmarish Tale…

 

Having (just about) recovered from last week’s spookily terrifying story, I have summoned up all my courage to venture once again into the world of…

TUESDAY TERROR!

“I shall soon come for you now,” it said, and on the words it drew a little nearer to her, and the smile broadened. At that the full, hot blast of nightmare poured in upon her. Again she tried to run, again she tried to scream, and now she could feel the breath of that terrible mouth upon her…

hauntings and horrorsHester Ward is a cheerful, contented young woman, happily married and with two small children. But one night she has a dream – not a bad dream in itself, but one that she remembers from her childhood. And she remembers too that this dream was always followed the next night by another, much more terrifying nightmare. Despite her attempts to convince herself she is being silly, as soon as she falls asleep, the nightmare begins. In her childhood, the face that haunts her dreams used to tell her ‘I shall come for you when you’re older’. But now the horrible vision tells her ‘I shall soon come for you now

This is a well-written story and though it’s quite short we have enough time to get to know and like Hester, so that we empathise with her growing fear. Refreshingly, there is no suggestion that Hester is ‘hysterical’ – in fact, she is a down-to-earth, sensible, fun-loving person, which leads the reader to feel that there must be some substance to her fears. Perhaps by the time EF Benson wrote the story (late 1920s) the fashion for implying that all women were constantly on the verge of insanity was beginning to pass. Benson relies on some good descriptive writing to create an atmosphere and build the tension – a woodland path leading to a ruined church on the edge of an eroding cliff, which is encroaching on the surrounding graveyard. And then, of course, there’s the face…

Her heart hammered in her throat, and then seemed to stand still altogether. A qualm as of some mental sickness of the soul overcame her, for there in front of her was he who would soon come for her. There was the reddish hair, the projecting ears, the greedy eyes set close together, and the mouth smiling on one side, and on the other gathered up into the sneering menace that she knew so well.

EF Benson
EF Benson

Did it scare me? Well…no, to be honest. Not a hair was raised. Perhaps the ending is a little too clear-cut – there’s none of that feeling of uncertainty that can leave a reader feeling uneasy. However, I enjoyed the quality of the writing and characterisation, and thought it was a well-told tale. Although there are a lot of the usual clichés – church, graveyard etc – the story feels quite fresh, with some original features and even a few touches of humour. It will certainly encourage me to read more of Benson’s stories – perhaps they won’t terrify me, but I suspect they will entertain me.

 

Fretful porpentine rating: 😯 😯

Overall story rating:         🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂