Allendale: A Shunned House Part 23

I can’t say that my uncle and I weren’t nervous on that rainy night of watching. That would be ridiculous. We were not, as I’ve said, in any sense childishly superstitious, but this house had taught us that that there were mysteries in the world. In this case an overwhelming preponderance of evidence from numerous authentic sources pointed to the tenacious existence of certain forces of great power and, so far as the human point of view is concerned, exceptional evil. To say that we actually believed in vampires or werewolves would be a carelessly inclusive statement. Rather we were good Methodists, and, as such believed that the Devil could work with circumstances to make it seem so. We were also, though, educated men and believed, no matter what we found, there would be a rational explanation, even if the Supremely irrational Player was behind it.

In short, it seemed to my uncle and me that an incontrovertible array of facts pointed to some lingering influence in Allendale, traceable to one or another of the ill-favored French settlers of two centuries before, and still operative through some malignant will. Perhaps the trauma of the massacre at Lachine set moving certain kinetic patterns in the morbid brain of one or more of them—notably the sinister coffin-sleeping Michel Deraque—which somehow survived their bodies and continued to function in some way, perhaps some kind of contagious, inheritable post-traumatic stress disorder?

Such a thing was surely not a physical or biochemical impossibility in light of recent scientific discoveries—photons which appear to be two places at once or active human stem cells found in 17-day-old corpses. One might easily imagine certain genetic mutations or even foreign bodies kept alive by imperceptible or almost immaterial subtractions from the bodily tissues and fluids of other and more palpably living things into which it penetrates and with whose genetic fabric it sometimes completely merges itself. It might be actively hostile, or it might be dictated merely by blind motives of self-preservation. In any case such a monster must be by definition an anomaly and an intruder, which must be eradicated for humanity’s own safety.

What troubled us was that we had almost no idea what we were looking for. No sane person had ever seen it, and few had ever felt it definitely. It might be pure energy, or perhaps purely a soul—a form ethereal and outside the realm of substance—or it might be partly material, some unknown and equivocal mass capable of changing at will into any form it desired—solid, liquid, gas, or some tenuously in-between state. The anthropomorphic patch of mold on the floor argued at least a remote and reminiscent connection with the human shape, but how representative or permanent that similarity might be, we couldn’t say with any kind of certainty.

We had procured two weapons to fight it, a large and still-classified electromagnetic energy weapon operated by powerful storage batteries that we hypothesized would disrupt the energy necessary for anything—living, dead, or undead to function, and a pair of military flame-throwers in case it proved partly material and susceptible to mechanical destruction—for like those more superstitious, we were prepared to burn the thing to a crisp if there was anything that could be burnt. All this aggressive weaponry we set in the cellar in positions carefully arranged with reference to the cot and chairs, and to the spot before the fireplace where the mold had taken strange shapes. That suggestive patch, by the way, was only faintly visible when we placed our furniture and instruments, and when we returned that evening for the actual vigil. For a moment I half-doubted that I had ever seen it in the more definitely limned form—but then I thought of the legends.


5 thoughts on “Allendale: A Shunned House Part 23

  1. This may be the cheesiest part. The TL;DR version is “religious mumbo jumbo, scientific mumbo jumbo. Preparations for a fire. Mold.”

    From an artistic stand-point, to me, this is the weakest moment. I’m ready to buy everything else–ferocious mold, supportive relatives, basement werewolves. But if George was interested in religion or science, I have to believe it’d come up before now. If his uncle is interested in religion or science, it should have come up before now.

    Otherwise, these are men wrestling with the weight of history, not religion or science. And I just think it’s obvious that even Lovecraft is like “Ugh, throw some crap about that crap in this crappy place.”

    I do kind of like the idea of monstrosity as a possible PTSD response. I mean, I’ve been through some shit that’s fucked me up and I do feel like, even if it doesn’t suck forever, it changes the shape of you in some way that makes you wonder how others don’t instantly see it. And is that not the question of the werewolf? Once you know you’re one, don’t you wonder how others cannot see it? And then don’t you worry when it will finally destroy you?

  2. I think for those of us carrying around multi-generational harms (sometimes in the form of unshareable family secrets), this story resonates. Many people come from abused parents who were messed up and then in turn inevitably messed up their relationship with us; we, in turn, are now parents and dread screwing up our own childrens’ heads. At least for me, when I became a parent, the whole question quickly became “how can I make it stop when the source of the original harm is historical but it’s lurking inside me like a virus just waiting to burst out and infect a whole new generation? How can this die with me?”

  3. I think this is exactly right and it’s something that I feel like Lovecraft gets and yet can’t look in the face. I mean, you see it over and over in his stories–these kinds of histories with monstrosities hidden in them. And yet, even here you can see him doing his typical move of making this our histories but not our monsters. The monsters come from, in this case, the French or, in other cases, some other impure group. The monsters are, at heart, always those other guys corrupting our pure histories.

    But why this story works so well this way is, I think, because in our context, Demonbreun is “us.” When he brings the poor orphaned Joseph Deraque into Nashville, he is making that French history “ours.”

    I like this take–your take–on it especially because of how I’ve chosen to end the story. I won’t spoil it for you, but I suggest there’s always another monster. Killing off the guy who recognizes this one doesn’t really fix things in the family.

  4. You two enlarged on this so gorgeously. I don’t have anything to say that merits inclusion.

    However, as to B’s very first point comment here, that if either man was interested in religion or science, we would’ve already known, I say this: when George first sets out to investigate this thing, he reviews his childhood memory then he looks in genealogical records, and into written, archival history. He doesn’t bring instruments to measure the air currents or dampness or electro-magnetic resonance of the basement, and he doesn’t bring priests or psychics or a Ouija board down there. he knows all along where HIS answer is to be found. And his uncle’s ready assent suggests that it’s common, if suppressed, family knowledge.

  5. Yes, Jess. Exactly. That’s exactly right. They knew all along where the problem was.

    And to further your point, they never take soil samples or samples of the mold and it would certainly have been easy enough for Elias to have one of his colleagues at Austin Peay take a look at those without having to raise any suspicions.

    That’s why, more than anything, I really hate the giant elbow at the end of “The Shunned House.” I know this story, even before I read it, for all the reasons we talked about. There never is a god to blame, not even an unspeakably evil one, at the bottom of these things. And there especially isn’t in a story that hasn’t been about religion at all except for this weak bit right here.

    Though I do love the idea that mild-mannered Uncle Elias can break into Fort Campbell and steal weapons. I suspect, more likely, he just knows the right pawn shop in Clarksville. But let’s just pretend he can break into an Army base.

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