The Gothic Study

The Gothic Study

A Story by Delmar Cooper
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Every horror cliche known to man less than 800words

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                                           The Gothic Study

 

She lay upon a couch of deeply tufted leather; leather dyed a color darker than spilled burgundy, lighter than clotted blood.  Although the air in the study was almost chilling, a thin film of perspiration formed on her back, buttocks and thighs.  This effect, more of adhesion than lubrication, held her transfixed to the smooth leather, somewhere behind her the mechanical punctuation of a pendulum clock monotonously accented the silence.

 Through slats of eyelash she saw a muraled ceiling arrayed high above her in curving panorama.  The scene, an innocent harvest festival, where frescoed nudes of fat, jolly Rubenesque proportions once reveled, was now overlaid by grime.  Decades of ill trimmed wicks and poorly laid hearth fires transfigured maidens and nymphs into hags and crones, and corrupted a naïve Saturnalia into an obscene witch’s Sabbath - a Faustian Walpurgisnacht.  The cheerful pinks and blues the artist once tinted into summer were hoar-frosted over by beady, gray-green hues she associated with lichens, or the backs of toads.

A shadow imposed across the ceiling and her eyes followed intemperately, opening perhaps a millimeter.

 “You are awake at last.” The cello voice of the shadow caster resonated in the room.

“Am I alive?”  Her voice hung in the air. “Why am I so cold?” 

“What a poor host I must seem. I am standing between you and the fire.”

            He moved to her feet, draping one arm languidly over the marble shoulders of a Greek statue, his pose a study in conviviality.

“You fell faint in the ballroom. The air is cooler here, revivifying.   I took the liberty of loosening your clothes, they are here…somewhere.”

This was the same man who had whirled her around the brilliantly lit ballroom as the phonograph hissed the waltzes of Strauss. Yet somehow he was not the same man at all.  The ballroom youthful giddiness matured in the gloom of the library. The untamed wheat straw hair was darkened by water and swept back into a semblance of order.  The ruddy athletic complexion had blanched to a scholarly pallor almost matching the bust of Athena he now adorned. 

“Why am I so weak?  I feel helpless to move, as though oppressed by some great weight.”

“Rest a bit more, your strength will certainly return soon.”  He wandered at her feet not taking his eyes from hers as though remaining in her field of vision was reassuring.

“You have done this to me.  Some drug or potion…”

“You affront me,” he said.  “How could that be true?  You touched nothing on my table; your champagne flat and untasted remains in your glass.  A good year too -shame.”  He continued to pace as might a polymath who weighs solutions but finds each wanting.  “Ah,” he said, pausing his stride.  “Perhaps I placed this drug upon my own lips.  No, that answer will not serve!  You have sampled none of my offerings.”  He smiled at own joke.

Her head moved slightly to follow him.  “Yet here I am, despite your words.  You have poisoned the very air, some mist or vapor that when breathed…”

“Rest from these speculations. What miasma could I compose that would captivate you while it invigorates me? This is no alchemy that so affects you.  Mark my word.”

“If it is not science then you work through some darker art - some necromancy that gives you this power over me.”

He looked pointedly away from her.  His splayed fingers caressed the books that lined the study walls as if all answers were hidden there.  “I too sense such a power.”  He ran a fingernail slowly down the spine of a volume of Mary Shelley.  “It is an animating force - one that cannot be resisted.”

Fluidly as water he poured his body over hers until only a shadow’s thickness separated them.  His mouth sought out the unresisting alabaster flesh of her neck.  The warmth of a long blue vein flushed under his cheek.   She felt herself levitating to meet him, levitating until only her shoulders and heels seemed to press upon the couch.

He raised himself on locked arms and looked into her, past his own reflection in her eyes.  “I am not such a fool as to believe any force of mine has brought us here.  It is you. Your power has brought us to this place.”

Her hand flew, swift as thought, and slapped him with a red sound that reverberated like gunfire though the room.  “DAMN YOU!” She screamed.

The single tear which fell from his face coursed between her breasts and finally came to rest like a diamond in the navel of a slave girl.

“Damn you.” She said.  “Damn us both.” 

Then, with fingernails raking his scalp, she pulled him down to her.

© 2014 Delmar Cooper


Author's Note

Delmar Cooper
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Featured Review

I used to read a lot of 30s pulp horror short stories as a kid. I used to love Robert E Howard, Lovecraft, and the like. This reminds of those. Is it faulkner? F**k no, but it sure was entertaining. I value my short collections of Conan and Solomon Kane as much as I do my first editions of Rockwell Kent. I can't dig down too deep on the the mechanics of a short story because I feel I do not have the right to do so, but I can tell you I like this one a lot, even if it was meant to be campy. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

I used to read a lot of 30s pulp horror short stories as a kid. I used to love Robert E Howard, Lovecraft, and the like. This reminds of those. Is it faulkner? F**k no, but it sure was entertaining. I value my short collections of Conan and Solomon Kane as much as I do my first editions of Rockwell Kent. I can't dig down too deep on the the mechanics of a short story because I feel I do not have the right to do so, but I can tell you I like this one a lot, even if it was meant to be campy. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar -- what fun! You've left me with lots of questions, making me re-read the story for more hints, but the answers are well hidden. The suspense is taut throughout. For a moment -- when you talked about her blue vein, I thought he was a vampire, but the vein was passed up! Sensual in detail, unsettling but not in a negative way. Your deft hand has done it again!

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

6 Years Ago

I am please that this was fun to read. It was fun to write also. I have for a long time believed m.. read more
"it was a dark and stormy night" ... right!?! :)
who is the vamp says i ..
must confess your story caught me ... tho i will not deliver my neck .. it is much too scrawny anyway ;)
as far as cliche's go ... i think they are well hidden for a virgin :))) its a blood trail from head to foot .. i think you had a great bit of fun writing this one .. i had fun reading!
E.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

6 Years Ago

Noodle, I had a critic here who raked me over the coals for "banal" dialogue. I couldn't disagree w.. read more
Einstein Noodle

6 Years Ago

i like it ... we all know we can never please everyone .. but thats the great thing about life after.. read more
I really like this story, it gripped my attention from the start and I could not stop until it had finished, I loved the build up to key moments, I love the detail and it really helps to paint a picture in my head and I cant wait to read more of your work.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

6 Years Ago

Thanks, it's a complex arrangement of pretty much "off the shelf" conceits about the horror genre, b.. read more
I think this is a good piece of writing. It could be the beginning of a vampire tale or a mystery. I don't see anything bad in it. I would certainly read a book if this was the prologue. Like always I enjoy your writings. :) Rudi

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

6 Years Ago

Glad you read it. This was a very experimental piece that used commom perceptions of gothic horror .. read more
Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere

6 Years Ago

I think it's good, Delmar, I've read a lot of this stories and I must say that yours has a certain f.. read more
Interesting piece! As usual, though, my Good and my Bad!

The GOOD: I found the astonishing quality of detail (and the intensely-vivid wordplay, in general) struck me as the strongest point of this piece, by far. The scene was described in a way that makes me feel quite jealous, quite jealous indeed! For that, it must easily be praised.

The Flow of this piece is excellent, and no time is skipped from the beginning of its tell until its very conclusion. This, is also worth noting.

As well, the powerful terminology (which closely ties into, but is not, the above) is something of a beautiful rarity.

The BAD: Oh, the dialogue. Even for what I know of the gothic era of human history, I found this to be the worst element of this piece by FAR. I'll list a couple of examples:

“Why am I so weak? I feel helpless to move, as though oppressed by some great weight.” Par. 10 full.

“You affront me,” he said. “How could that be true? You touched nothing on my table; your champagne flat and untasted remains in your glass. A good year too -shame.” Par. 13, Sent.'s 1-4.

“Damn you.” She said. “Damn us both.” Par. 22 full.

Some parts of this dialogue are nonsensical, others banal, even others despicably weakening to their respective characters.

The first (nonsense) example pertains to how people would, and DID, speak. People generally don't speak in similes, and when such dialogue is present it robs the character of believability or of its resonance with the audience. As well, in addition with this scene in particular, it corrupts the seriousness of the entire piece, as anyone in full control of their mental faculties would not waste their time in such formal endeavors.

The second excerpt was tasteless in a different way, as every bit of that dialogue is irrelevantly-spoken. There is NO purpose to such words; they advance neither the plot nor the characters, and merely consume space and time.

Finally, the last example directly contradicts ANY suspense the piece might have built, and weakens the female character to nothingness. Judging by these words, this is a story where (at least) the female character seemed not to care how she ended up in this situation so long as she did, so all of the "questionably-terrorizing" build-up regarding the seriousness of such an infringing, seeming assault is for naught. It might have worked if this was the intention, but that is made clear nowhere in the piece (and such words would still have the underlying contradictory effect on those spoken prior, as well as their deteriorating of said character).

With all of this dialogue, as well, there seems an underlying "formality" to it that would not exist even in such times (though, perhaps, it would in the Dracula universe; I'd read through other reviews that this piece was linked to that, but I still can't tolerate the poor spoken wordplay). In a life-threatening situation, I can't see two people being so coyly calm about themselves; perhaps the assailant, but not the victim, surely.

As well, the line "Her hand flew, swift as thought, and slapped him with a red sound that reverberated like gunfire though the room" (Par. 20, Sent. 1) goes against the above belief that she was unable to move of her own accord ["A shadow imposed across the ceiling and her eyes followed intemperately, opening perhaps a millimeter" (Par. 3 full)]. A borderline-nitpick, but something that should be clarified nonetheless.

A couple of grammatical errors persist, which I will go into at the author's desire, but they really don't detract too badly from the piece itself.

In conclusion, I mark this as an astonishing work of literary talent, but with a crippling blemish upon it in the disgusting dialogue. I would still recommend Readers take a look at it, however, for the excellent detail-work and imagery-prompting terminology.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

6 Years Ago

Wonderfully complete criticism. Thank you for taking your time to give me your appreciation of the .. read more
Interesting play on the gothic cliche as you say. I enjoyed the visual touches. The scene setting and the build up to a very satisfying denouement. As one of your other reviewers has commented you have a deft skill when it comes to word usage and it fits in very well with the genre.

Posted 6 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

6 Years Ago

Thanks for reading Ken
great narration Delmar. the descriptions, the comparisons. a wonderful read.

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

7 Years Ago

Thanks for reading and I am gads it appealed to you
Woody

7 Years Ago

my pleasure entirely.
You do not do yourself credit! This is very well written, your experience really shows! You have such a superb sense of metaphor, simile, and word choice. Your descriptions are incredible, and never take the easy route of imagery; you subtly defy cliche with each breath. I honestly, feel inadequate at describing things compared to a story like this. I mean, that was an incredible description of the ceilings painting; and I loved the phrasing of Faustian Walpurgisnacht--pure and unadulterated genius on that one! I look forward to exploring some of your other work.

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Delmar Cooper

7 Years Ago

You are too kind, but yes it is amazing what you can do with ready made off-the-shelf parts.

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12 Reviews
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Shelved in 1 Library
Added on March 13, 2014
Last Updated on March 14, 2014
Tags: Mary shelley, Frankenstein, Dracula, Stoker, Poe, Raven, Pallas Athena, Gothe, Faust., Marlowe

Author

Delmar Cooper
Delmar Cooper

Trussville, AL



About
I write- a little. I don't write to reinvent the wheel, or discover fire. I just drag along from sentence to sentence hoping for a spark. more..

Writing