This is an older short story that GR says was first published in 1956. Admittedly, I haven’t read much in the way of classic horror and I wasn’t sure the story would work for me. I guess I was expecting it to be dry and slow. What I found instead was a deeply disturbing story with many images that will linger with me for months to come.
This story is about a soldier who calls himself “George”. George is being held in a crowded military psychiatric ward for assaulting a superior. It seems he’s been forgotten there though and they really need his bed for another patient. Psychiatrist Dr. Phil is tasked with going over his case before his release. What he discovers is bizarre and chilling.
George’s story is told in various ways. He writes his own biography for the doctor which takes up a large chunk of the book. This part explores George’s sad, desperate childhood growing up poor with a sick mom and a mean ass drunkard father. I listened to this on audio and narrator Malcolm Hillgartner does an amazing job with these characters, especially George. Initially, I found George’s section sad but as he revealed more tidbits about his past, I could see that he was developing some very dangerous tendencies and a simmering anger that turned my feelings of sympathy into repulsion. The narrator gives him the perfect backwoods voice that wasn’t over the top but yet remains vastly different from the more cultured tones he gives to the psychiatrists. The rest of the book consists of interviews with the doc and George and letters between the doctors as they pick and prod into George’s past in order to figure him out. These two doc’s are quite the characters. The witty back and forth banter between them added some much needed humor and I found them both highly amusing despite the dark subject matter they were discussing.
George’s affliction is bizarre, to say the least, and I refuse to think about it too much because it freaks me out. I highly recommend listening to this on audio, if you can, because the narrator adds so much life to the words.
I will leave you with my favorite quote from George:
“The world would be a whole lot less trouble for everybody if most people would just not talk so much.”
And with that I am shutting up!
*Thanks for recommending this Char!