Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mob Scene: "Dr. Locrian's Asylum"

In this superbly disturbing weird tale written by Thomas Ligotti, a mob of residents finally acts on a longtime desire, "tearing down the old asylum" that overlooks the town and "razing the burial ground" ominously attached to the ruined hulk.  The townspeople have been haunted for too long by this Gothic eyesore, but their sudden ravaging has some frightful consequences.  Here's a passage from the asylum-storming scene:
By all accounts that old institution was a chamber of horrors [classically Gothic], if not in its entirety then at least in certain isolated corners.  It was not simply that a particular room attracted notice for its atmosphere of desolation: the gray walls pocked like sponges [suggests an icky squishiness], the floor filthied by the years entering freely through broken windows, and the shallow bed withered after supporting so many nights of futile tears and screaming [a place of treatment or torment?].  There was something more.
Perhaps [indecisive language falls in borderland between rumor and report] one of the walls to such a room would have built into it a sliding panel, a long rectangular slot near the ceiling.  And on the other side would be another room, an unfurnished room which seemed never to have been occupied.  But leaning against one wall of this other room, directly below the sliding panel [suspense builds amidst repetition], would be some long wooden sticks; and mounted at the end of these sticks would be horrible little puppets [Ligotti staples].
Another room might be completely bare, yet its walls would be covered with pale fragments of weird funereal scenes [excellent assonance].  By removing some loose floorboards at the center of the room, one would discover several feet of earth piled upon an old, empty coffin [skeletons literally hidden here].  And then there was a very special room, a room I had visited myself, that was located on the uppermost floor of the asylum and contained a great windowless skylight.  Positioned under that opening upon the heavens, and fixed securely in place [cosmic expansiveness juxtaposed with a sense of restriction], stood a long table with huge straps hanging from its sides.
There may have been other rooms of a strange type which memory has forbidden me [narrator admits his own unreliability].  But somehow none of them was singled out for comment during the actual dismantling of the asylum, when most of us were busy heaving the debris of years through the great breaches we had made in the asylum's outer walls, while some distance away [at a seemingly safe remove?] the rest of the town witnessed the wrecking in a cautious state of silence.  Among this group was Mr. Harkness Locrian [a wonderfully Lovecraftian moniker], a thin and large-eyed old gentleman whose silence was not like that of the others.  (142-43)

Work Cited

Ligotti, Thomas.  "Dr. Locrian's Asylum."  The Nightmare Factory. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1996.  141-49.

No comments: