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MICHAEL MARSHALL SMITH - TO SEE THE SEA in STEPHEN JONES (EDITOR)-  SHADOWS OVER INNSMOUTH 

 

Rather sad little horror story written as part of a collection of sequels to H. P. Lovecraft’s classic yarn, The Shadow Over Innsmouth. This is one of the few stories in the collection to make no direct reference to the original work. A tired young couple decide to take a vacation on the West Coast of England. The girl, Susan has a particular reason for going there. In 1955, her mother survived a shipwreck off the coast of a town called Dawton. Her boyfriend, who narrates the story, decides to take her there. They travel by coach, but the driver refuses, despite the schedule, to go directly into the dismal, dilapidated, run down town. He drops them off on the outskirts. They find the town largely deserted, but they do find a little guesthouse, run by an ugly old lady who leers at them and refuses to let them have a room with a sea-view. (Later this is contradicted when the narrator describes the grottiness of the sea viewed through his window).  They learn that the town has a festival the next day, though the publicity flyers are apparently badly typed and with distorting photographs that make the people look monstrous (yeah, this is Lovecraft territory, we know the pictures are not out of focus). The couple visit a pub in the town, but its owner treats them rudely, and hides for much of the time in a back room. (The scene of them booking into the guesthouse is confusingly inserted into this sequence in the pub as a flashback). The couple do learn however that the pub is named after the ship on which Susan’s mother had sailed. The couple find a restaurant which seems friendly enough, but which despite being a coastal town, has no seafood on the menu. The couple get very drunk. Susan wants to walk to the Sea, though the tide is out. The beach is a mud flat, and the sea keeps receding as they try to approach it. They give up and get drunk instead. Back at the guesthouse, the landlady is dressed up nicely and gives them a cup of tea each. It is drugged. The narrator wakes up to find his lover missing. He searches the town for her, or the parade, which is now supposed to be happening. He finds few clues until e goes to the pub. He goes into the room in which the landlord had been skulking and finds a tunnel there. He follows the tunnel, which leads him to the beach. On the muddy sand a ceremony is taking place involving a small replica of the sunken ship. Susan is with the revellers in the sea itself. Someone knocks the narrator unconscious. When he wakes up, Susan and everyone else has gone. He calls the police. Investigations lead a diving team to inspect the waters. The wreck of the ship is found. Susan’s mother’s body is among those still on board. Susan is never seen again.  More of a ghost stories really, with only hints of Lovecraft’s World, and on the whole, the weakest story in an otherwise excellent collection. http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lovecraft/theshadowoverinnsmouth.htm

 

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