Short Story Saturday: Jim

Verse by
H. BELLOC

———

Pictures by
B. T. B.

 

Jim,

Who ran away from his Nurse, and was eaten by a Lion.

 

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There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
His Friends were very good to him.
They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
And slices of delicious Ham,
And Chocolate with pink inside,
And little Tricycles to ride,
And

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read him Stories through and through,
And even took him to the Zoo—
But there it was the dreadful Fate
Befell him, which I now relate.

You know—at least you ought to know.
For I have often told you so—
That Children never are allowed
To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;

Now this was Jim’s especial Foible,
He ran away when he was able,
And on this inauspicious day
He slipped his hand and ran away!
He hadn’t gone a yard when—

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Bang!
With open Jaws, a Lion sprang,
And hungrily began to eat
The Boy: beginning at his feet.

Now just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels,
And then by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.

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No wonder Jim detested it!
No wonder that he shouted “Hi!”
The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
Though very fat

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he almost ran
To help the little gentleman.
“Ponto!” he ordered as he came
(For Ponto was the Lion’s name),
“Ponto!” he cried,

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with angry Frown.
“Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!”

The Lion made a sudden Stop,
He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
Snarling with Disappointed Rage
But when he bent him over Jim,
The Honest Keeper’s

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Eyes were dim.
The Lion having reached his Head,
The Miserable Boy was dead!

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When Nurse informed his Parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:—
His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
Said, “Well—it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!”
His Father, who was self-controlled,
Bade all the children round attend
To James’ miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.

Short Story Saturday – The People Who Wear Black

This week’s story is Mike Russell’s The People Who Wear Black. I hope you enjoy it…

Mike Russell has released three books: Nothing Is Strange (20 pieces of weird fiction), Strange Medicine (8 surreal short stories) and Strungballs (a fantasy novella).

The People Who Wear Black

Sometimes things are naughty. They do things they’re not supposed to. They appear and disappear and fly around all by themselves. Things aren’t supposed to appear and disappear and fly around all by themselves. Once I saw my dolly do it. She flew around my room. It was night time. Of course it was. We sleep in the daytime. Daddy says it’s better that way because daytime is too bright. I had my candle lit. So I could see her. Flying around my room. I wanted to light another candle so I could see her better but Daddy says we must only have one candle lit in a room. We don’t have any electric lights in the house. Daddy says they’re too bright. Sometimes I think Daddy is scared of seeing something. I wonder what it is that he is scared of seeing. Dolly flew around my room then she disappeared. Daddy found her in his bed.

‘What’s your dolly doing in my bed?’ he said.

‘She got there by magic,’ I said.

‘Tsk,’ he said, which is what he says when he is grumpy about something.

‘I saw her fly around my room,’ I said, ‘then she disappeared.’

‘Tsk,’ Daddy said, ‘things don’t fly around all by themselves or disappear or reappear. There are laws against it.’

‘But laws don’t stop people doing bad things do they?’ I said. I know that because Daddy told me it when I asked him what happened to Uncle Tom. ‘So laws against things flying by themselves or disappearing or reappearing won’t stop things from flying by themselves or disappearing or reappearing,’ I said.

‘Tsk,’ said Daddy.

‘Will Dolly go to prison?’ I said.

‘Don’t be silly,’ Daddy said. Then he told me about The People Who Wear Black. ‘They wear black so you can’t see them,’ he said. ‘They wear black shoes and black trousers and black jumpers and black gloves and black balaclavas. And they creep around quietly in the dark. And they pick things up so it looks like the things are moving all by themselves and they cover things up with black cloths so it looks like the things have disappeared then they uncover them again so it looks like they have reappeared. It’s The People Who Wear Black that make it look like magic happens. It doesn’t really.’

‘What about when magic happens when it’s light?’ I said, ‘Nothing that looks like magic ever happens in the light,’ Daddy said.

‘How do you know?‘ I said.

‘Tsk’, he said.

‘I’m not sure I believe in The People Who Wear Black,’ I said, ‘I think magic does happen! And I think you keep me in the dark so I don’t see magic happening because I think you don’t like magic!’

‘Tsk!’ he said then he went into his room then came back out again with an electric torch and gave it to me. I didn’t know he had a torch.

‘Next time you think some magic is happening,’ he said, ‘switch this on and see what you see.’

‘Alright then, ‘I said, ‘I will.’ Then I went to bed.

The next night, my dolly started flying around my room again. She wasn’t as graceful as before but she was definitely flying. She flew over the bed and over the toy-box and over the candle. I switched on the torch. There was a man dressed in black standing in front of me. He was holding Dolly in one of his black-glove covered hands, moving her about above his black-balaclava covered head. He was about the same height as Daddy. I screamed because he looked frightening then I pushed him and he stumbled backwards and tripped over and fell on the floor. When he fell he said ‘Tsk’ like Daddy does. I was glad he fell over because he was horrible. Then he stood up and ran out of the room. I picked up Dolly then I shouted:

‘I saw one! I saw one!’ Then Daddy came in and he held me as I cried and he seemed really happy.

 

www.strangebooks.com

You can read another of Mike Russell’s stories for free here!

“If there’s one thing you can count on StrangeBooks for, it’s an original mind-bending story.” The Geek Lyfe

“I always look forward to Mike Russell’s work – he’s so out-there that it’s refreshing.”Oddly Weird Fiction

A Strange Books Giveaway

Exciting news! It’s time for another Examining the Odd giveaway. This time, StrangeBooks.com** have agreed to give away a full signed set of their books by author Mike Russell. They’ll even throw in some cute little pin badges!

Book 1: Nothing Is Strange. This was Strange Books’ first release, a collection of twenty pieces of flash fiction falling in the fantasy/horror genre. “I can’t lie.. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked up Nothing Is Strange by Mike Russell. Nothing Is Strange is the complete opposite of it’s title! THIS WHOLE BOOK IS EXTREMELY STRANGE! But no one ever said that strange had to be bad.. different has always been good in my opinion!”*

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Book 2: Strange Medicine. Then came this book of eight longer short stories. This time, Mike delved further into fantasy and weird fiction. “I raved about Mike Russell’s first book, “Nothing Is Strange” last year, and this new collection blew me away as well. These stories are entertaining but they also make you think — and may even make you question reality. Reading this book gave me the same feeling I have gotten when looking at the work of such artists as Renee Magritte, M.C. Escher or Salvador Dali. Mike Russell does with words what they did with imagery. It’s amazing and completely, wonderfully bizarre stuff!”*

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Book 3: Strungballs. And here we have Strange Books’ latest release! Strungballs is a fantasy/science-fiction novella like no other. “First there was “Nothing is Strange.” Next, there was “Strange Medicine.” Now, with the addition of “Strungballs,” the “Ultimate Strange Trilogy,” as I now refer to it, is complete.”*

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Click here to enter!

Anyone over the age of 18 can enter. Entries will close on April 19th and the winner will be chosen at random using Promo Simple. The winner will then be announced in the comments of this post and they will be contacted via email.

Good luck!

Disclaimers: *All quotes used in this post come from Amazon.com reviewers. **Jay of Examining the Odd also works for Strange Books.

8 Lord Dunsany Books

Here are eight books by the incredible Lord Dunsany. If you haven’t read any of his work before, you should definitely give him a try. If you have read some before, perhaps you’ll discover some unknown pieces in this list.

  1. The Charwoman’s Shadow
    The Charwoman's Shadow by Lord Dunsany
    The Charwoman’s Shadow
    by Lord Dunsany 

    An old woman who spends her days scrubbing the floors might be an unlikely damsel in distress, but Lord Dunsany proves once again his mastery of the fantastical. The Charwoman’s Shadow is a beautiful tale of a sorcerer’s apprentice who discovers his master’s nefarious usage of stolen shadows, and vows to save the charwoman from her slavery. Goodreads. 1926.

  2. The Book of Wonder
    The Book of Wonder by Lord Dunsany
    The Book of Wonder by Lord Dunsany

    “Not only does any tale which crosshatches between this world and Faerie owe a Founder’s Debt to Lord Dunsany, but the secondary world created by J.R.R. Tolkien–from which almost all fantasylands have devolved–also took shape and flower from Dunsany’s example.” –The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. 1912. It’s quite difficult to convey in words how happy reading Lord Dunsany’s short fiction makes me. Eleanor Toland, Goodreads reviewer

  3. Fifty-One TalesWithout doubt Lord Dunsany was one of the most influential writers of fantasy fiction in twentieth century.Goodreads. 1915. A hen decides to go south for the winter, an angel tosses an advertiser into Hell, an orange makes nefarious plans and a sphinx visits Thebes, Massachusetts. Often witty, frequently melancholy and occasionally blood-chillingly creepy, these fifty-one very short stories are a foundational document for the modern fantasy genre. Decades before Neil Gaiman was born, Dunsany wrote about a cyclist encountering decrepit versions of Odin and Thor begging for worship by the side of the road. – Eleanor Toland, Goodreads reviewer
    Fifty-One Tales by Lord Dunsany
    Fifty-One Tales
    by Lord Dunsany

    The first editions, in hardcover, were published simultaneously in London and New York City by Elkin Mathews and Mitchell Kennerly, respectively, in April, 1915. The British and American editions differ in that they arrange the material slightly differently and that each includes a story the other omits; “The Poet Speaks with Earth” in the British version, and “The Mist” in the American version. Wikipedia

  4. Don Rodriguez: Chronicles of Shadow ValleyAfter long and patient research I am still unable to give to the reader of these Chronicles the exact date of the times that they tell of. Goodreads. 1922. “Don Rodriguez: Chronicles of Shadow Valley conveys its young disinherited protagonist through a fantasized Spain, gifting him with a Sancho Panza companion, good luck with magicians, and a castle” — The Encyclopedia of Fantasy.
  5. The Hashish Man and Other Stories
    The Hashish Man and Other Stories by Lord Dunsany
    The Hashish Man and Other Stories by Lord Dunsany

    In this collection of 23 short stories, one of the original masters of early-twentieth-century science fiction and fantasy is introduced to a new generation of readers. Goodreads

  6. Gods, Men and Ghosts: The Best Supernatural Fiction of Lord DunsanyIrish writer Edward J. M. D. Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany, ranks among the twentieth century’s great masters of supernatural and science fiction. Goodreads. 260 pages. I had this book in my home as a child, but I had to read some other stuff first to truly appreciate it. HP Lovecraft’s Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Jack Vance’s Eyes of the Overworld, I reread The Hobbit as an adult and fell in love again, and then I understood a predecessor to them all, Lord Dunsany. Arpad Okay, Goodreads reviewer
  7. Tales of Three Hemispheres
    Tales of Three Hemispheres by Lord Dunsany
    Tales of Three Hemispheres by Lord Dunsany

    This peculiar collection is a very real treat: we envy you the reading of it. Goodreads. 108 pages. The section at the latter part of the book he calls Beyond the Fields We Know is beyond remarkable. Andrew James Jiao, Goodreads reviewer

  8. The Blessing of Pan. “The Blessing of Pan portrays English rural life under a sign of paganism, after the fashion of writers like T.F. Powys.” — The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. 288 pages. Published in 1927, this is a highly unusual tale of fantasy. Daniel Martin Eckhart, Goodreads reviewer

    Lord Dunsany
    Lord Dunsany

Montague Rhodes James

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary with More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. Two Volumes in One.

Montague Rhodes James by Sir Gerald Kelly oil on canvas, circa 1936

M.R. James (b. 1862) is perhaps one of the most understated writers of odd ghost stories of all time. Many of his stories take place at Oxbridge and other places with a very English feel, reflecting the life of the author himself. James also catalogued medieval manuscripts (see below), for which he was well-respected during his lifetime.

I’ve collected some excellent articles and put them together here – I hope you enjoy them!

Montague Rhodes James was born in 1862 in Goodnestone Parsonage, Kent, where his father was the curate, and died in 1936. He developed a taste for old books from a precocious age and was fonder of reading dusty volumes in the library than playing with the other children. He studied at Eton and then at King’s College, Cambridge, where he became assistant in Classical archaeology at the Fitzwilliam museumHe was elected a Fellow of King’s after writing his dissertation The Apocalypse of St. Peter, and after that, he lectured in divinity, eventually becoming dean of the college in 1889. He was a distinguished medievalist and wrote a large amount of reviews, translations, monographs, articles and works on bibliography, palaeography, antiquarian issues, and often edited volumes for specialized bibliographical and historical societies. He was a brilliant linguist and biblical scholar, and he was exceptionally gifted, which, along with his unusually keen memory and hard work, enabled him to write many pioneering studies. – Walk Awhile 

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James’s incredible detail finds a balance in those ambiguous ghouls to which the reader is invited to apply their own dreadful colour. Many of M.R. James’s ghost stories were written to be read aloud as Christmas Eve entertainment to select gatherings of friends at Cambridge. They were subsequently published as: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, A Thin Ghost and Others, and A Warning to the CuriousA Thin Ghost

Sacha Dhawan plays Garrett in Gatiss's adaptation of The Tractate Middoth
Sacha Dhawan plays Garrett in Gatiss’s adaptation of The Tractate Middoth

Earlier this year, I published a post about one of my favourite James stories, The Mezzotint; a classic story of a picture of a house which has within it the souls of the once living! It reminds me of the story of the girl who gets trapped in a painting, grows old and dies in Roald Dahl’s The Witches. That’s always been my favourite part of the book (and wonderful film).

Spooky: an illustration for MR James's 'O Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad' by Jonathan Barry Photo: Bridgeman Art
Spooky: an illustration for MR James’s ‘O Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’ by Jonathan Barry Photo: Bridgeman Art

It is no coincidence that Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol features more ghosts than carols, or that the 1963 Andy Williams song It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year promises “scary ghost stories”. Christmas was once the time for sharing tales of the spooks we now usually associate with Halloween. Our traditional festive celebrations owe much to the Victorians’ plundering of pagan symbolism – whether the still-fertile appearance of evergreens and holly, the bearded god Odin’s habit of climbing down chimneys, or spectres at the fireside. As the Winter Solstice approached and daylight died away, the ancients thought that the barrier between the living and the dead became slender, so supernatural tales abounded. (James) became a noted medieval scholar before returning to Eton to serve as Provost. He was a devout Anglican, and a profoundly conservative individual, much as one might expect of a man who went from parsonage to school, university then back to school. BBC Arts

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Something feels right about pushing things off kilter, beside a warm fire, for the safe thrill of having your flesh creep. James wanted his creatures to be ghastly. I think he’d have had no truck with sad, longing ghosts yet to be released to heaven. There is something implacably horrible about his monsters, with their black matted hair, teeth and nails. The recent trend for more human vampires is an interesting one, but for me it’s exciting enough that they just want to drink your blood and watch you die for the fun of it. – Mark Gatiss

Montague Rhodes James. 1862-1936
Montague Rhodes James. 1862-1936

Every year I’m drawn back to Montague Rhodes James – his quietly creepy prose hints so effectively at what lurks just beyond the light of the hearth. A fellow whom I have never met but whose work continues to exert a heavy influence upon me. The Guardian

Every reader of M R James’s peerlessly unpleasant ghost stories will have his or her favourite moment of that paradoxical, delighted, wriggling horror that their author sought to instil. For some, it is the scene in “O Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” (1904), in which a sceptical don on a golfing holiday is stalked through his dreams by a blind, shuffling figure in white that eventually rises from the spare bed in his room and thrusts into his face “a horrible, an intensely horrible face of crumpled linen”. For others, it is the episode in “The Diary of Mr Poynter” (1919), where the protagonist rests his hand absently on what he takes to be the head of his pet spaniel and finds that “what he had been touching” — not the dog, but a man-shaped figure on all fours covered with hair — “rose to meet him”. And perhaps the most intimate of these shivers comes in “Casting the Runes” (1911), in which the unlucky protagonist, woken in the night, reaches under his pillow for his watch, only for his questing hand to encounter “a mouth, with teeth, and with hair about it, and, he declares, not the mouth of a human being”. That readers in the iPad age should still be so horrified by these tales of haunted Edwardian bibliophiles, antebellum Oxbridge dons and ghoulish local revenants would doubtless have come as a surprise to their author… His ghost stories were designed as pleasant trifles, and mostly composed at lightning speed on Christmas evenings between 1892 and 1935 for a coterie of colleagues, friends and choirboys at King’s. Their author quoted with approval the comment of the fat boy in The Pickwick Papers, who ghoulishly advertised that “I wants to make your flesh creep.” Although they share densely imagined roots in local and national history and geography, the stories did not, as James wrote in the introduction to his first collection, “make any very exalted claim. If any of them succeed in causing their readers to feel pleasantly uncomfortable while walking along a solitary road at nightfall, or sitting over a dying fire in the small hours, my purpose in writing them will have been attained.” The Telegraph

I hope you have a supernatural festive period, full of shrieks of laughter and terror!

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