Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dark Passages: "Prey"

This week our macabre republic lost a literary legend.  In honor of Richard Matheson, today's dark passage is taken from his classic story "Prey."  The narrative (famously filmed as a segment of Trilogy of Terror) details the ordeal of Amelia, who is menaced by an uncannily animate Zuni fetish doll.  Her harrowing experience has the quality of a waking nightmare, as can be seen in the following passage (whose sequence of shorts sentences creates a rhythm like that of a thumping heart):
She was dialing Arthur's number by the light from the bathroom when the doorknob started turning.  Suddenly, her fingers couldn't move.  She stared across the darkened room.  The door latch clicked.  The telephone slipped off her lap.  She heard it thudding onto the carpet as the door swung open.  Something dropped from the outside knob.
Amelia jerked back, pulling up her legs.  A shadowy form was scurrying across the carpet toward the bed.  She gaped at it. It isn't true, she thought.  She stiffened at the tugging on her bedspread.  It was climbing up to get her.  No, she thought; it isn't true.  She couldn't move.  She stared at the edge of the mattress.
Something that looked like a tiny head appeared.  Amelia twisted around with a cry of shock, flung herself across the bed and jumped to the floor.  Plunging into the bathroom, she sprung around and slammed the door, gasping at the pain in her ankle.  She had barely thumbed in the button on the doorknob when something banged against the bottom of the door.  Amelia heard a noise like the scratching of a rat.  Then it was still. 

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