Footnotes in Search of a Horror Story
This story was originally published online at Fleeting Magazine, which unfortunately no longer seems to be with us, which means that its gone from the internet; not the first thing of mine to disappear that way, and its a shame to see it disappear.
Footnotes in Search of a Horror Story
- The naming of the house RENFIELD is an unambiguous reference to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, where Renfield is a minor character. It offers a suitably gothic name for the house in the story.
- The mix up over the luggage identifies that two of the house have the same initials, J.R., for Jeremy Randall and Jane Rice.
- Absinthe and champagne is otherwise known as “Death in the Afternoon” after the Hemingway novel.
- Dry drowning occurs when a person’s lungs are unable to extract oxygen from the air, effectively drowning without any sort of liquid. The unusual circumstances of the death of Jeremy Randall are the first sign that something is wrong.
- The Bahá’í faith began in 19th century Persia and is practiced by over 5 million people worldwide, with modern day Iran and India being where it is most prevalent. However, it is one of the most widespread religions in the world and so it is not unusual to find white European adherents. The faith appealed to “baby boomers” who had frequently lived and travelled abroad.
- Being brought up as a Bahá’í, even a lapsed one, the deceased will have made a will, and it is through this that we know of his religion. A Bahá’í funeral should take place no more than an hour from where the death took place, regardless of transportation method. The isolated location of RENFIELD means that rather than be repatriated the body is buried in the disused cemetery on the island.
- Above ground burials were once common, particularly in certain parts of the country such as north Lancashire.
- Jane Rice is convinced that it is mistaken identity. Benton jokingly reassures her that “there were no plans for rice this evening.”
- Kibbe nayyeh is a northern Lebanese dish, which consists of uncooked lamb or beef, bulgar wheat and spices. A good recipe for this can be found in Marwan Yamout’s “Classic Lebanese Dishes” pp.22-3.
- Group hallucinations usually take place following the ingestion of some psychotropic drugs such as “magic mushrooms”. The suggestion that this is what takes place is a rationalisation. Like everything in the story so far, there has to be, as Benton says “a rational explanation.”
- The Maricopa harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex Maricopa, is the most poisonous insect in the world, and is generally found in Arizona, USA. A sting from one ant would usually last for four hours, so what has happened here, with a swarm of ants killing the victim, is beyond expectations, and for the first time the guests at RENFIELD are not convinced by Benton’s rationality.
- Makot Mitzrayim is Hebrew for the plagues of Egypt. Diane’s incantation of this is the unlocking of deep-rooted memories from her past.
- Diane’s drawing of the funeral pyre, with the guests in the house leaping into the flames could be interpreted as “sati” or Dakshayani. It certainly scares the other inhabitants who decide to abandon RENFIELD and the island.
- In folklore a Demon can’t cross a line of salt without counting each grain, therefore it acts as a barrier. The other’s question Diane’s superstitions but do not stop her from creating a circle round each entrance even as Benton more pragmatically locks the doors.
- The “skiff” by the boat house could be any kind of small craft, and does not relate to a particular type of boat, but fitting all four of them in the boat will be at a squeeze.
- The story of the scorpion and the frog is an ancient fable where a scorpion asks a frog to carry him across the river. The frog refuses initially, as he is frightened that the scorpion will sting him, and is only convinced to do so when the scorpion points out that then they both will drown. Half way across the river, the scorpion stings the frog, putting them both to death, because, “it is in my nature.” As Benton tells the story, it appears that he is the scorpion, but in reality he is using it to see if any of them are safe. There is silence for the next few minutes.
- Jane’s final words “is anyone else getting tired?” echo, unconsciously or otherwise the poem “When” by the Methodist poet Robert M. Latterday (1850-1901)
When the LORD is bidden
The body is expired;
HIS words un-hidden :-
“My love is getting tired.”
- Encephalitis lethargica is sometimes known as “sleeping sickness”. An epidemic took place between 1915-1925, but only isolated cases have occurred since. It places the victims in a “statue-like” condition, without speech or movement. Its cause is not known. On making shore the inhabitants of the boat will have escaped the island with their bodies, but incapable of anything else. Whatever they were escaping from has not let them go.
- See also 1.