The Terror by Guy de Maupassant, 1883
The magic trick:
Jumping from humor to horror to sadness
“The Terror” evokes three key emotional feelings over the course of its small word count. It starts with comedy – our protagonist is marrying a woman he’s only just met. It moves quickly into horror – our protagonist is losing his mind, seeing ghosts. And it winds up with sadness – our protagonist is feeling completely alone. The feelings of loneliness and fear the story conjures by the end surprised me. Even as it twisted into a macabre plot, I didn’t expect such a powerful statement of what it feels like when one is staring down a potential lifetime of loneliness. And that’s quite a trick on Maupassant’s part.
Since that time I have been afraid of being alone at night. I feel that the spectre is there, close to me, around me; but it has not appeared to me again.
And supposing it did, what would it matter, since I do not believe in it, and know that it is nothing?
However, it still worries me, because I am constantly thinking of it. His right arm hanging down and his head inclined to the left like a man who was asleep–I don’t want to think about it!
Why, however, am I so persistently possessed with this idea? His feet were close to the fire!
He haunts me; it is very stupid, but who and what is he? I know that he does not exist except in my cowardly imagination, in my fears, and in my agony. There–enough of that!
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