(May 11th to 17th)

Format: Triple

‘It’s a lead-coloured steamer, and the sea’s lead-coloured. Perfectly smooth sea—perfectly still ship, except for the engines running, and her waves going off in lines and lines and lines—dull grey’. ‘All this time I know something’s going to happen … ‘Then I hear a thud in the engine-room. Then the noise of machinery falling down—like fire-irons—and then two most awful yells. They’re more like hoots, and I know—I know while I listen—that it means that two men have died as they hooted. It was their last breath hooting out of them—in most awful pain.


This is from “In the Same Boat” in A Diversity of Creatures.

Conroy, a wealthy and powerful young man, is plagued by dreadful recurrent dreams which have turned him into a drug-addict. Here he describes his dream to a friend, who is equally troubled. Together they confront their nightmares, and defeat them.

Despair upon despair, misery upon misery, fear after fear, each causing their distinct and separate woe, packed in upon me for an unrecorded length of time, until at last they blurred together, and I heard a click in my brain like the click in the ear when one descends in a diving bell, and I knew that the pressures were equalised within and without, and that, for the moment, the worst was at an end. But I knew also that at any moment the darkness might come down anew…


This is from “The House Surgeon” in Actions and Reactions.

The narrator has made friends with a wealthy man, whose house is beset by an overwhelming sense of gloom and depression. Here he encounters it for the first time. Later he tracks down the cause, an old tragedy in which two women believe that their sister had committed suicide. When they come to understand that this is not so, the darkness is lifted.

Give me something to make me sleep. I tell you I’m nearly mad. I don’t know what I say half my time. For three weeks I’ve had to think and spell out every word that has come through my lips before I dared say it. Isn’t that enough to drive a man mad? I can’t see things correctly now, and I’ve lost my sense of touch. My skin aches—my skin aches! Make me sleep … for the love of God make me sleep sound. It isn’t enough merely to let me dream. Let me sleep!’


This is from “At the End of the Passage” in Life’s Handicap.

In a remote Indian station, in the hottest season of the year, a young engineer is near the end of his tether, arguing stridently with his friends over dinner in a vile temper. He has not slept properly for days, and when he does drop off, he is afflicted by terrible dreams. He puts a spur in the bed to stop himself drifting into the shallow sleep of nightmare. When his friends return a week later, they find him dead, with a look of fearful horror in his eyes.