Friday, October 11, 2013
Born Of Man And Woman
Today's entry is less a review than a mention; a mention in keeping with the trend this month of spooky stories. This year, we have seen the passing of some real literary heavyweights, such as Elmore Leonard, and, more recently, Tom Clancy. But, of all those that passed this year, none had had the impact of Richard Matheson. Even the most casual reader/viewer of horror material has probably encountered one or more of his creations. He was that integral to the genre.
Looking back, you can how Matheson's star was shining in even his first sold work. Published in 1950, a 1,200 word masterpiece titled "Born of Man and Woman", was penned by a then 22 year old Matheson. It tells the tale of a creature; some kind of child abomination, that is kept chained in a basement by its 'normal' parents. As the story is told from a first-person POV, you see the entire landscape of its world through the mentality of an ashamed, uneducated, juvenile mind. And there's a lot of sorrow in that kind of concept.
In the span of what equates to be two pages, Matheson delivers three fully-realized characters. The parents have real emotions; they do not simply chain up and beat the child. There are palpable notes of love, sadness, and, most of all, shame and anger. These might be part of the whole gamut of emotions endured by parents of special needs children, elevated to an astronomical level. The child has a palette of feelings as well; inquisitiveness, need to explore, love, shame, and eventually, pride and anger.
Matheson lets the tale unfold with a true mastery; as the trio that is the central cast reach their individual breaking points, we can see more and more just how inhuman this child is. And yet, even as the last lines give you a glimpse at the abomination, the true horror, like all good horrors, remains implied:
For no explanation is given; as to why this creature was born. It is not attributable to aliens, the Devil, or the cruel humors of demons. It could be born to anyone, a true affront to the security of white picket fence suburbia, it could be lurking in any basement, and, as it asserts its independence, it will not be bound by chains or man.
Born of Man and Woman can be read in .pdf format here, and, I cannot recommend highly enough that you do so. If you have never read works by Richard Matheson, or, if you do not know that he is the man behind many great horror works that you've probably enjoyed, then you are in for a treat. For those who already know, make sure you read it again this Halloween season.
Like I said earlier, I am not assigning this short a numerical grade, but trust me, it is five out of five star reading.