A man on a business trip finds himself lost and running out of gas. He decides to see if anyone at the very large house nearby can help him. They seem friendly enough but behave a little strangely.
It's a pretty well-worn premise, which I wouldn't be surprised is older than the novel. As often in horror, it's all about execution, execution, execution. (Yes, pun intended.) There's a certain quality to Aickman's strange stories--an atmosphere that manages to be both uncanny and subtle--that is done particularly well in this story.
The house turns out to be a hospice, named simply The Hospice, which seems to specialize in healing people with some undefined nervous condition. The host seems friendly enough, though it is not clear if he can be trusted. The staff, too, are polite, though with a strangely condescending manner. The protagonist has dinner at The Hospice, where he is served the same gigantic portions as everyone else, which he is strongly encouraged to eat.
He meets another resident, a woman who flirts with him. Then he ends up spending the night, having to spend the night sharing a room with one of the residents, whose behavior, much like everyone else's, is a little bit off.
This ends up being one of Aickman's pieces where the atmosphere is the strongest element. There's no real resolution, no revelation as to what is going on, or even a final shocking twist. But it still manages to be quite tense throughout.
Donald Hall (1928-2018)
3 weeks ago