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Dead Men Do Tell Tales · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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A sequel to Mr. Valdemar's case
The handling of Mr. Valdemar's case had been a resounding failure. The quick rotting away of his body as soon as we had endeavoured to wake him up, the hollow, ominous sound of his voice, the noisome stench of his decayed flesh, had shocked and revulsed the assistance. In the wake of the incident, many staunch supporters of our society had walked out and disowned us.

I was not satisfied, and neither was Dr. F—, so we decided to carry on with our experiments. There was, however, one difficulty: the most indelicate amongst our former associates had spoken out about the gruesome aspects of Mr. Valdemar's death, and it is an understatement to say that the name of our society had been expunged of most scientists' and aristocrats' good books. Even the police had asked for clarification about our business.

That is why we resolved to move away from London and pursue our quest in a quieter place. Fortunately, Dr. F—
still owned a large mansion set in a vast expanse of green outside Newcastle, far into the north, were we could continue our research at ease. Once we settled there, it was an easy task to locate a suitable patient, for Dr. F—'s fame as former royal family's physician was still unblemished by the slanders of our London's opponents.

Mrs. H— had been suffering from an incurable form of consumption. When Dr. F— had proposed her to spend her last days in one of the luxurious chambers of his manor, away from her squalid attic, she had consented. Once installed there, we had watched over her affectionately day and night, taking turns to insure we wouldn't miss the moment of her passing.

The fourteenth day after Mrs. H— arrival, she awoke at midnight with a fit of heavy cough, spitting out considerable quantities of blood and phlegm. Having given her a bowl to gather her expectorations, I awoke F— at once. He found that she had lost most of her blood. Her pulse was flimsy, and her breathing hardly perceptible at all. He nodded to me, and I picked up the locket I used to mesmerise patients with. Without delay, I began the magnetic passes which would put our dying host into a deep trance. Mrs. H— turned out to be very receptive, and in less than one minute I noticed the unmistakable signs which betray the entrance into this altered state.

"Mrs. H—, can you hear me?" I asked.

There was a long pause as Mrs. H— mustered her failing strength to respond. "Yes, I can," came the answer at last, in a whisper.

"Mrs. H—, until I free you, you will faithfully answer either my or Dr. F—'s questions. Do you understand?"

"Yes. I will."

"Are you in pain?"

"No, not at all," she replied, and I let out a sigh of relief. We would never had proceeded with the experiment had our guest been subjected to unbearable throes.

"Are you asleep?"

"Yes. Please, let me at peace until I die," she breathed, and I shuddered as I remembered Mr. Valdemar's last words.

Suddenly Mrs. H—'s face changed. As in our previous experiment, it was as if what life remained in her had been snuffed out. Her sallow skin turned grey and her cheeks dimpled inwards while her eyes rolled up.

"Mrs. H—, can you hear me?"

Although I had already witnessed Mr. Valdemar answering my questions from the nethermost regions of the grave, the hollow, utterly inhuman voice which replied, without our guest's tongue or lips moving, sent a shuddering down my spine. "Yes. Leave me alone, for I am dead now."

I turned to F—. "I want an exact report of this," I said. "Let me fetch a pen and a notebook. Please don't do anything in my absence. I shall be back at once."

F— nodded. I rushed downstairs.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten about F— famous impatience. Halfway through the stairs, I heard him whispering something to Mrs. H—.

I was about to turn around and protest when the lights unexpectedly went out. Plunged into darkness, I stopped short. Then came a sudden icy draught, the slamming of Mrs. H—'s bedroom door, followed by a heavy thud. A second after, the lights turned back on.

I sprang upwards and ran to the bedroom. I flung the door open and froze.

F—'s lifeless body lay on the floor, while Mrs. H—'s face had assumed an expression of intense felicity.
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#1 ·
· · >>No_Raisin >>Monokeras
I confess I had some difficulty following this one. There's quite a few interesting bits here -- I got an Island of Doctor Moreau vibe off the introduction, in a way that caught my interest. But I didn't understand where the story went from there, and the ending came a bit out of left field.
#2 ·
· · >>No_Raisin >>Monokeras
Yet more editing problems. Yes, I think everyone submitted late enough that they couldn't make an editing pass.

The idea for this is cool. I'm going to take a stab and say you don't reveal the characters' names because they've been redacted? Otherwise, I don't know why you'd hide those. There's never a reveal where everything clicks, or where it makes a difference, so it comes across more as a gimmick for the gimmick's sake. And by the end, I have no idea what happened. They were doing some kind of research into what happens when someone dies. But I don't know what they wanted to do with that knowledge, and I don't know what the lady patient did to the assistant. I can't imagine what he asked her to make that happen. I don't know if it was some sort of attack she made on him, or the response to an ill-advised question he'd asked her. If it's a way for her to come back to life by killing him, then she's still in a diseased body, and I don't know what she's going to do about that.

The atmosphere and the setup are good here, but I don't understand enough about what happened to have much of an opinion about it as a story.
#3 ·
· · >>Monokeras
Honorable Mention:
Although I had already witnessed Mr. Valdemar answering my questions from the nethermost regions of the grave, the hollow, utterly inhuman voice which replied, without our guest's tongue or lips moving, sent a shuddering down my spine. "Yes. Leave me alone, for I am dead now."

So from what I can tell this is The Island of Doctor Moreau crossed with... Invasion of the Body Snatchers? I'm not sure what else could've happened at the end there, yet I was never given enough of a reason to believe it could happen in the first place. To agree with >>GaPJaxie I do like the horror atmosphere; reminds me of a Val Lewton production, with the horror being unseen. There is something almost spiritual going on here. And to hopefully bring some light to >>Pascoite 's comment about the redacted names, it could be that I had recently gone through Two Years Before the Mast, but I can't say it's unheard of for a work of autobiography to keep the names of real people hidden with em dashes. And given the first-person narration this is meant to be read like a memoir or journal.

Of course, that raises the problem of what the hell the narrator could've done or how they could've reacted to what happens at the end here. This is one of those classic shocking swerve endings you find in a short story, except I'm not sure how everything leading up to it explains it. I'm also not sure what happened immediately afterward. Is Mrs. H— a zombie now? Is she possessed? How does that work? Mind you, my reading comprehension skills are not the best; one time I thought a girl in one of these minific rounds had literally turned into a tree. But I know I'm not the only one confused by this turn of events.

You gotta admit, though, having "sequel" be part of your title in a minific round is a ballsy move. And I still like the setup. I'm just not convinced that the payoff adds up.
#4 ·
· · >>Monokeras
Read this story twice and had a hard time following until I read in out loud in Bruce Campbell's voice. Has 50s horror movie feel this.
#5 ·
· · >>Pascoite
Congrats to all, especially our winners (very impressive, GaP)

First of all, I am so sorry to be late. I thought I had until tomorrow to comment and rate the stories, and planned to do it tonight (because I was away at a conference most of the week). I am going to comment anyway, even if it is too late to fill my slate.

I had quite a bunch of ideas for this round, but hardly any that would fit into 750 words, so I had to go for a backstop concept. I thought everyone in the Anglo-Saxon would be familiar with the works of Edgar Poe, even those less famous than the most celebrated ones such as The Raven or The Pit and The Pendulum. "The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar" was one of those lesser short stories which I am personally quite fond of, and I resolved to write a sequel to it, trying to mimic Poe's style as much as I could—without sounding too posh or archaic. Once again, I surmised everyone would immediately recognise the name in the title and set the story into its background. I was wrong.

At the end of Poe's story, a mesmerised man, Mr. Valdemar, dies while being in trance. Although he is dead, his "corpse" endures, intact, until after a few months the narrator decides to break his "spell". Upon being freed, and much to the horror of anyone present, the body of the late Mr. Valdemar rots away at once.

I know I let slip the word "assistance", which in French means both "assistance" and "audience, onlookers". But, Pasco, I’m interested in knowing what other mistakes you found (and I apologise for these, having written the whole story in a single, much disjointed, hour).

I’m sorry to have let you with a story you could not properly place. I’ll try to do better this time. Yet, I thank you all for your appreciation.

PS: Also, I wonder if there’s any relation between Poe's Valdemar and J. K. Rowling's Voldemort.
#6 ·
· · >>Monokeras
Sure. It's not like there were a lot of problems. There's only one genuine typo, so that's the only thing a good editing pass probably would have caught.

expunged of

Maybe this is just a more archaic phrasing, but I'd normally see "expunged from."

were we could continue our research


the slanders of our London's opponents

Again, this may be a legitimate archaic usage, but I'd normally see that as a noun adjunct, not a possessive, so "our London opponents."

had proposed her to spend her last days

That sets up an odd indirecct object for "proposed," which doesn't really take one, and when it takes a regular direct object, it's the thing being proposed, not the person it is being proposed to. There are two ways to fix it. One, make it "proposed to her." Then "to her" becomes an adverb prepositional phrase, and "to spend her last days..." is an infinitive acting as the direct object. Or the other way is to make it subjunctive mood, so "proposed (that) she spend her last days."

Mrs. H— arrival

As phrased, that would need a possessive.

magnetic passes

You may have chosen the wrong word here. I can't figure out what you mean by "magnetic," except for possibly referring to the watch being metal (though, depending on the metal, not necessarly magnetic).

F— famous impatience

Another spot that needs a possessive. Or did Poe write it this way as well?

Halfway through the stairs

This may just be a difference in prepositions between languages, but "through" in this case would imply he was ghost-like and physically passing through them as if through a wall. (Or in another sense that you obviously don't mean, that he was halfway finished with some task involving them, like building or painting them.) You'd normally say halfway up or down the stairs, depending on which direction he was going, or more rarely, halfway along them, if you want the direction more generic.
#7 ·
Thank you very much Pasco.

You’re of course bullseye on every item.

Thank you for teaching me the right way to use propose is “propose something TO someone”. It’s sometimes hard, with verbs that I don’t use that often, to arbitrate between the double accusative “he gave me the stone” vs the “normal” accusative + dative construction (“explain that to me”). It’s mainly a usage thing, but I never really paid attention as to how the verb “propose” was used. Thanks to you, that lack is now filled.

“Halfway through” – I was envisioning the walking down of the stairs as a process (e.g. “He was halfway through his work when his phone rang”).

The rest are more or less typos or careless mistakes, like forgetting the 's after the — (I caught most of those, but some slipped through the net). As for the use of word “magnetic”, this word was often used back then to refer to the underlying influence which Mesmer's techniques were thought to be exerting. Backing this is an excerpt of Poe's story: “ My attention, for the last three years, had been repeatedly drawn to the subject of Mesmerism; and, about nine months ago, it occurred to me, quite suddenly, that in the series of experiments made hitherto, there had been a very remarkable and most unaccountable omission: no person had as yet been mesmerized in articulo mortis. It remained to be seen, first, whether, in such condition, there existed in the patient any susceptibility to the magnetic influence; […]

Once again, thanks so much!