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The Damned Thing 1898, From "In the Midst of Life"   By: (1842-1914?)

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Ambrose Bierce's short story, "The Damned Thing," is a chilling and thought-provoking tale that delves into the unknown horrors lurking within the shadows of the natural world. Set against the backdrop of a remote wilderness, the story follows the unraveling of a man's mind as he grapples with the terrifying truth of an invisible predator.

Bierce's masterful storytelling immediately ensnares the reader in an atmosphere of tension and unease. Through vivid and atmospheric descriptions, he creates a setting that is both captivating and foreboding. As the protagonist, a coroner named William Harker, investigates a mysterious death in the woods, the overwhelming sense of dread intensifies with every step he takes into the heart of darkness.

What sets "The Damned Thing" apart is Bierce's ability to exploit the fear of the unknown. By introducing an invisible menace that evades human comprehension, he taps into our deepest fears of the unseen. The very concept of a creature that cannot be perceived by our senses fills the narrative with an eerie and unsettling atmosphere, leaving the reader constantly on edge.

Throughout the story, Bierce skillfully explores the fragility of human sanity when confronted with the inexplicable. Harker's descent into madness becomes a powerful study of psychological deterioration, as he becomes increasingly hysterical and desperate to prove the existence of the unseen beast. Bierce's choice to narrate the story through Harker's perspective adds to the authenticity of the character's emotional turmoil.

What makes "The Damned Thing" truly exceptional is the underlying commentary on the limitations of human perception and the arrogance of humanity. Bierce prompts the reader to question their own understanding of the world and to confront the idea that there may exist realms beyond our comprehension. The story serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us of our vulnerability and insignificance in the face of forces that exist outside our understanding.

In conclusion, "The Damned Thing" is a captivating and disquieting exploration of the unknown, showcasing Ambrose Bierce's exceptional talent for creating suspenseful and thought-provoking narratives. With its skillful storytelling, atmospheric setting, and profound themes, this short story firmly cements its status as a classic in the horror genre. It is a testament to Bierce's ability to tap into our primal fears and interrogate the boundaries of human understanding.

First Page:


By Ambrose Bierce

Reprinted by permission. From "In the Midst of Life," copyright, 1898, by G. P. Putnam's Sons


By THE light of a tallow candle, which had been placed on one end of a rough table, a man was reading something written in a book. It was an old account book, greatly worn; and the writing was not, apparently, very legible, for the man sometimes held the page close to the flame of the candle to get a stronger light upon it. The shadow of the book would then throw into obscurity a half of the room, darkening a number of faces and figures; for besides the reader, eight other men were present. Seven of them sat against the rough log walls, silent and motionless, and, the room being small, not very far from the table. By extending an arm any one of them could have touched the eighth man, who lay on the table, face upward, partly covered by a sheet, his arms at his sides. He was dead.

The man with the book was not reading aloud, and no one spoke; all seemed to be waiting for something to occur; the dead man only was without expectation. From the blank darkness outside came in, through the aperture that served for a window, all the ever unfamiliar noises of night in the wilderness the long, nameless note of a distant coyote; the stilly pulsing thrill of tireless insects in trees; strange cries of night birds, so different from those of the birds of day; the drone of great blundering beetles, and all that mysterious chorus of small sounds that seem always to have been but half heard when they have suddenly ceased, as if conscious of an indiscretion... Continue reading book >>

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