Friday, May 4, 2012

'A monstrous noise like that could be bagged and sold to horror movies by the pound'

The house at 1313 East Hodges was large and empty.  The windows were broken out.  The doors sagged open.  Yet it once had been a glorious house.  Ancient nobility clung to it like old moss.  It was down in its luck, that house, but it maintained an attitude of grandeur.

"Oh, this is the old haunted house," Agata said.  "I remember it."

"In we go," cried the madam.  "This may be the new home of one or both of you.  Over the threshold with you, Conrad.  In, Agata, in!  Ah, you can hear old echoes in the air right now.  Come, come, friends in residence, greet us with the laugh."

The laugh came so powerfully that it knocked the three arrivals to their knees.  The scream (blood-thirsty and foully happy), the heart-freezing clatter, the gobbling laugh that curdled all the body juices - a laugh like that should not be allowed in hell.  That was the sound of a male Spokelspuk.  The tape had not done it justice.

"The element spuk in the name is spook, ghost, isn't it?" Agata asked.  She had to say something to disguise her shaking...

The other male Spokelspuk sounded.  His gobbling laugh was stronger than that of the first.

"No human nerves can stand much of that horror," Agata said...

A monstrous noise like that could be bagged and sold to horror movies by the pound.  The twin devil-ghost laughters were like ripsaws cutting the brain and meninges and every nerve.  They set up a screaming in each inch of the body.  Such two pillars of strident cacophony could not be topped.

Could they not?  The female sounded.  That cutting, killing, spirit-shriveling laughter set the very rats to tumbling fearfully out of the walls of the haunted house.  Sound could never be quite the same again, after it had included this.

"I wonder if I could do that?" Agata asked almost rationally.  Almost, but her eyes weren't rational now.  She bled copiously from the mouth from her self-bitten tongue and lips, and from the ears as they all did.  And there was white froth gathering in the mouth corners.

"Sure you could do it, Agata," Madam Hexe purred.  "And it is almost time that you do it now."

"And it is almost time that you do it now," Conrad echoed...

The horrible triple laughing of the Spokelspuks rose to a crest, then to a higher crest, then still higher.  Would it never break?

"Come here, mad Agata," Madam Hexe ordered in her own delight.  "You are ripe for it now.  Come here." The Madam was happy in her coming triumph.  She was one happy medium.

-R. A. Lafferty, 'Endangered Species' (first published in Galaxy science siction magazine, May 1974)

[The other day I was compiling a list of all the stories by Lafferty that were published in horror anthologies and magazines of the 1960s and 70s - there's a surprising lot - when my 'google alert' for Lafferty linked to a discussion about this very topic on the Vault of Evil: Brit Horror Pulp Plus! site.  We've been having a good discussion about it there and none other than the renowned Ramsey Campbell himself has weighed into the thread, reminiscing about when he chose Lafferty's 'The Funny Face Murders' to be included in his anthology New Terrors 2 (1980).  The excerpt above is from one of Lafferty's many stories that thematically could have been included in such horror anthologies also.  I'm hoping to do a series of posts on Lafferty and Horror in the near-ish future.]

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'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)