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SMITH, CLARK ASHTON Ė GENIUS LOCI Ė in THE EMPEROR OF DREAMS 2002. Fantasy Masterworks #26. Gollancz Books.† 

 

Short horror story in which a writer of the macabre gets involved in genuine terrifying events. When the writer visits a friend who is an artist, the artist shows him a series of drawings he has made of a landscape of pure evil, The pictures are of a small stretch of marshland situated behind a small ranch where the ranch owner had died in mysterious circumstances. The pictures give the place an eerie haunted look. When the writer visits the artist again the latter man is still doing studies of the small swamp, and he has clearly become more and more obsessed by it. The writer becomes concerned about changes in his friendís personality. The artist talks of having seen the ghost of the man who had died on the farm where the swamp is located. The writer, and narrator of the story, decides to visit the farm in question for him, and makes a visit one day while the artist is working there. The writer quickly notices the atmosphere of brooding evil about the place.As he leaves, the writer himself senses the presence of the dead man. The artist sees his friend, but initially mistakes him for the ghost of the former owner of the property. The artist makes a visit to the farm at night, and comes back terrified. Even he finds the place too horrible for words after dark, and declines to go there again once the Sun has set. He develops a theory that the marsh itself is a living, sentient evil entity intent on swallowing up human souls. The writer is distressed, not only about the landscape, but also about its effects on his friend. He tries to talk him into not going there so often, but the artist is obsessed. The writer decides to call on the artistís girlfriend to have her come and visit, hoping that it will take his friendís mind off the dreadful marshland. The plan backfires horribly, as the artist takes his girlfriend with him when he paints there. Then, to the writerís horror, the artist and the girl disappear there one night after sunset. When they fail to return, the writer goes there himself to investigate. He sees their corpses floating in the swamp, covered in moss and slime.He also sees their faces swirling in the mist around the more with that of the man who had once owned the estate. The writer flees and tells his story, hinting that despite the horror of the place, he too feels compelled to return there one day. He may well yet meet his doom in just the way that his friends did. A story worthy of the best of Edgar Allen Poe. Very creepy indeed.http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/s/clark-ashton-smith/

 

Arthur Chappell

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