Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Thing On The Doorstep

The Thing on the Doorstep by H.P. Lovecraft. Originally published in Weird Tales, January 1937.

There is simply no way that a month of telling creepy Halloween tales would be complete without a little bit of Lovecraft. Now, I'll make a confession; I have not read as much Lovecraft in my years as I should have. My younger self did not properly appreciate the suggestive and cerebral pervasiveness of his work, opting for tales with more "in your face" shock. But I digress, as it is always better late than never.

Today's story comes courtesy of this amazing list of 25 chillers to read, absolutely free. What better source of quick Halloween scares than that?

The Thing on the Doorstep is told in the first person narrative of Daniel Upton, and it serves as an account to justify his actions in emptying the contents of a revolver into the face of his dear friend Edward Pickman Derby. The declaration of this actual deed constitutes the opening lines of the tale. The remainder of the story recounts the bizarre events that led to that tragic moment.

Upton tells us of how he befriended Derby, an odd, coddles, socially inept youth eight years his junior. Even though their career paths took different routes, the two became and remained fast friends. Upton always maintains a high regard for Derby's authorial talents, and penchant for dark themes, black magic, and the occult.

Derby, who, as already mentioned, was critically introverted, finds love with one Asenath Waite. She is some fifteen years younger than him; a student at Miskatonic University, and quite the phenom in regards to black magic and such. She is a very odd character, but pretty nonetheless, her looks marred only by what appears to be a tad of the old "Innsmouth Taint"....

Yeah, I can see that being a bit of a dealbreaker.

However, from the get-go, Asenath seems to have some kind of hold on Edward (HINT: foreshadowing), and, soon enough, they are wed, and things are free to take a Lovecraftian-manic turn.

Look, there is no spoilers involved in just saying outright that Asenath is vying to take control of Derby's body. This is hinted at in an extremely blatant fashion, numerous times throughout the work. The fun is in watching it happen, and feeling a sympathetic response to Upton's plight of frustrating impotence in salvaging his good friend's soul.

In fact, the narrative of the tale is terribly predictable, leaving all to rest on the money shot: the titular "thing" on the doorstep. In this, Lovecraft pulls out a win. The final payoff to this tale is suitably scary, creepy, and haunting.

The rest of the tale is Lovecraft by-the-numbers; and there is even mention of an Old One, just because the story wouldn't be complete without one.

In this story, Shub-Niggurath.

And that's really all we can say about it. Great opening, great ending, a lot of dragging out in the middle.

Here's what it is:
Not exactly a classic from Lovecraft, but a solid, quick, free read. Solid characters bring to horrid life the tragedy of love in Arkham.

Final Score:


Cover Score:

No real cover score here, as the story was read in the public domain from a free website. It has also been anthologized many times. So, I just posted the pic of the cover of the Weird Tales that it was originally printed in. Enjoy!

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