It Was His Time to Go

A fragment of a dream. This was the new normal. Everyone seemed so resigned to it. Maybe it was indeed the time appointed to the man, somehow, as someone said afterward, but he was panicking as they lifted him out the window. Arms came out of the ocean–long, brightly colored arms, with sticky, webbed hands–amphibian hands–pulling the terrified man right off the subway car. His friends tried desperately to hold him, but there was no resisting. He was already suffocating, head wrapped in those rubbery fins, as he disappeared beneath the leaden waves.

I wonder what the arms were connected to. Why did we stay near the ocean? Was it futile to leave? How long had we been living like this? How many of us were left?

New Robert Aickman Anthology Coming in 2018

New York Review Books has announced Compulsory Games, a new collection of Robert Aickman stories scheduled for May 8, 2018. The publisher has separately leaked its table of contents, and its a revelation of hard to obtain material.¬†I’ve updated my table of Aickman’s published works to include Compulsory Games (as well as a very limited 2015 Tartarus anthology).

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Robert Aickman (1914-1981) was the most significant horror writer since H. P. Lovecraft. I can say that with certainty. As an epithet, he was the Last Symbolist (though Fritz Leiber’s “Weatherman of the Subconscious” is also fitting). Beyond that, I can’t tell you much, despite having spent the last two years reading and rereading as much of his work as practical. Leiber admired him, but didn’t understand him. Peter Straub admires him, but doesn’t understand him. Neil Gaiman admires him, but doesn’t understand him. This is not criticism, but praise.¬†Perhaps a ghost is that which you can’t understand.