Inevitably, his vision verged toward the fantastic; he published a scattering of stories - most included in this volume - which appeared to conform to that genre at least to the degree that the fuller part of his vision could be seen as "mysteries." For Woolrich it all was fantastic; the clock in the tower, hand in the glove, out of control vehicle, errant gunshot which destroyed; whether destructive coincidence was masked in the "naturalistic" or the "incredible" was all pretty much the same to him. RENDEZVOUS IN BLACK, THE BRIDE WORE BLACK, NIGHTMARE are all great swollen dreams, turgid constructions of the night, obsession and grotesque outcome; to turn from these to the "fantastic" was not to turn at all. The work, as is usually the case with a major writer was perfectly formed, perfectly consistent, the vision leached into every area and pulled the book together. "Jane Brown's Body" is a suspense story. THE BRIDE WORE BLACK is science fiction. PHANTOM LADY is a gothic. RENDEZVOUS IN BLACK was a bildungsroman. It does not matter.
He had gone again and, emboldened by his first successful trip, had chosen a different sort of world to enter, that of THE MONK. He had studied the book with great care and finally selected a passage that was purely descriptive.The result was the same. The instant he closed the top of the showcase, he was transported to the world described in the open pages. He found himself standing - and shivering - in a dank corridor that, he knew, was far underground. Feeble candlelight flickered in the distance, off to his left. Water dripped down the gleaming walls and startled rats scurried past his feet. The air was stale and unpleasant. Down the corridor to his left, he could hear singing but could not make out the words. Then suddenly, from his right, he heard a woman's high-pitched scream, its sound caroming off the wet, stone walls of the passageway. He jumped, his skin crawling at the back of his neck.And found himself back in his warm and familiar room.("I Shall Not Leave England Now")
She used to place her pretty arms about my neck, draw me to her, and laying her cheek to mine, murmur with her lips near my ear, “Dearest, your little heart is wounded; think me not cruel because I obey the irresistible law of my strength and weakness; if your dear heart is wounded, my wild heart bleeds with yours. In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die—die, sweetly die—into mine. I cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love; so, for a while, seek to know no more of me and mine, but trust me with all your loving spirit.”And when she had spoken such a rhapsody, she would press me more closely in her trembling embrace, and her lips in soft kisses gently glow upon my cheek.
They told of dripping stone walls in uninhabited castles and of ivy-clad monastery ruins by moonlight, of locked inner rooms and secret dungeons, dank charnel houses and overgrown graveyards, of footsteps creaking upon staircases and fingers tapping at casements, of howlings and shriekings, groanings and scuttlings and the clanking of chains, of hooded monks and headless horseman, swirling mists and sudden winds, insubstantial specters and sheeted creatures, vampires and bloodhounds, bats and rats and spiders, of men found at dawn and women turned white-haired and raving lunatic, and of vanished corpses and curses upon heirs.
It was now autumn, and I made up my mind to make, before winter set in, an excursion across Normandy, a country with which I was not acquainted. It must be borne in mind that I began with Rouen, and for a week I wandered about enthusiastic with admiration, in that picturesque town of the Middle Ages, in that veritable museum of extraordinary Gothic monuments.Well, one afternoon, somewhere about four o'clock, as I happened to be passing down an out-of-the-way by-street, in the middle of which flowed a deep river, black as ink, named the Eau de Robec, my attention wholly directed to examining the bizarre and antique physiognomy of the houses, was all of a sudden attracted by the sight of a series of shops of furniture brokers, one after the other, from door to door along the street. Ah! these second-hand brokers had well chosen their locality, these sordid old traffickers of bric-a-brac, in this fantastic alley leading up from stream of that sinister dark water, under the steep pointed overhanging gables of tiled roofs and projecting shingle eaves, where the weathercocks of the past still creaked overhead. ("Who Knows?")
There was some that they called crayons, which one of the daughters which was dead made her own self when she was only fifteen years old. They was different from any pictures I ever see before—blacker, mostly, than is common. One was a woman in a slim black dress, belted small under the armpits, with bulges like a cabbage in the middle of the sleeves, and a large black scoop-shovel bonnet with a black veil, and white slim ankles crossed about with black tape, and very wee black slippers, like a chisel, and she was leaning pensive on a tombstone on her right elbow, under a weeping willow, and her other hand hanging down her side holding a white handkerchief and a reticule, and underneath the picture it said “Shall I Never See Thee More Alas.” Another one was a young lady with her hair all combed up straight to the top of her head, and knotted there in front of a comb like a chair-back, and she was crying into a handkerchief and had a dead bird laying on its back in her other hand with its heels up, and underneath the picture it said “I Shall Never Hear Thy Sweet Chirrup More Alas.” There was one where a young lady was at a window looking up at the moon, and tears running down her cheeks; and she had an open letter in one hand with black sealing wax showing on one edge of it, and she was mashing a locket with a chain to it against her mouth, and underneath the picture it said “And Art Thou Gone Yes Thou Art Gone Alas.” These was all nice pictures, I reckon, but I didn’t somehow seem to take to them, because if ever I was down a little they always give me the fan-tods. Everybody was sorry she died, because she had laid out a lot more of these pictures to do, and a body could see by what she had done what they had lost. But I reckoned that with her disposition she was having a better time in the graveyard.