Author Topic: Trying to remember title and author  (Read 4440 times)


  • Hipparch
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on: July 10, 2007, 07:25:33 AM
Back around the mid-60s or so, I read an anthology of SF/Horror short stories. I think the anthology title was something like "Third From The Sun" (no, not "Third Planet..." nor "Third Rock...)
One of them was very short, maybe 5 - 10 pages long.

The very first line (if I recall correctly) was "You wretch she said." It was told from the POV of a kid who is kept locked in the basement by his parents, for many years. The parents are scared of him for some vague reason, and they are ashamed of him, but they don't send him away. I think the kid fantasizes about killing them and escaping.

The punctuation is bad, and there are no quotation marks when he quotes the parents. It's almost as if we're reading his journal and his literary skills have been sorely neglected.

Does this sound familiar? What's the title, and who was the author?

For some reason, I keep thinking of Robert Bloch, but don't recognise the title in any lists of his work.
Something like "That Only A Mother", but that's a different story, by Judith Merrill.

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("planish" rhymes with "vanish")


  • Hipparch
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Reply #1 on: July 10, 2007, 07:57:48 AM
Shoot. It always happens this way.

A few minutes later, I'm clicking around in Wikipedia, and I hit
(Huh - I think I have that, buried in one of my book shelves. I know I have Vol. 2A and Vol. 2B)

I spot this: Richard Matheson - "Born of Man and Woman" - 1950
And here he is:
His first short story, "Born of Man and Woman", appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1950. The tale of a monstrous child chained in its parents' cellar, it was told in the first person as the creature's diary (in poignantly non-idiomatic English) and immediately made Matheson famous. Between 1950 and 1971, Matheson produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres.

There's more, but that's the one.

Anyway, it made a big impression on me at the time, (early teens?) and I'm still haunted by that opening line. Great stuff. I'm guessing it was at least partly inspired by the Cold War / Radiation / Mutation fears of the time, as was probably "That Only A Mother".

Even worse - now that I found the title, I found the full text, here:
Born of Man and Woman
by Richard Matheson

X-- This day when it had light mother called me a retch. You retch she said. I saw in her eyes the anger. I wonder what it is a retch.

This day it had water falling from upstairs. It fell all around. I saw that. The ground of the back I watched from the little window. The ground it sucked up the water like thirsty lips. It drank too much and it got sick and runny brown. I didn't like it.

Mother is a pretty thing I know. In my bed place with cold walls around I have a paper things that was behind the furnace. It says on it Screen Stars. I see in the pictures faces like of mother and father. Father says they are pretty. Once he said it.

And also mother he said. Mother so pretty and me decent enough. Look at you he said and didn't have the nice face. I touched his arm and said it is alright father. He shook and pulled away where I couldn't reach.

Today mother let me off the chain a little so I could look out the little window. That's how I saw the water falling from upstairs.

XX -- This day it had goldness in the upstairs. As I know when I looked at it my eyes hurt. After I looked at it the cellar is red.

I think this was church. They leave the upstairs. The big machine swallow them and rolls out past and is gone. In the back part is the little mother. She is much small than me. I am big. It is a secret but I have pulled the chain out of the wall. I can see out the little window all I like.

In this day when it got dark I had eat my food and some bugs. I hear laughs upstairs. I like to know why there are laughs for. I took the chain from the wall and wrapped it around me. I walked squish to the stairs. They creak when I walk on them. My legs slip on them because I don't want on stairs. My feet stick to the wood.

I went up and opened a door. It was a white place. White as white jewels that come from upstairs sometime. I went in and stood quiet. I hear laughing some more. I walk to the sound and look through to the people. More people than I thought was. I thought I should laugh with them.

Mother came out and pushed the door in. It hit me and hurt. I fell back on the smooth floor and the chain made noise. I cried. She made a hissing noise into her and put her hand on her mouth. Her eyes got big.

She looked at me. I heard father call. What fell he called. She said a iron board. Come help pick it up she said. He came and said now is that so heavy you need me. He saw me and grew big. The anger came in his eyes. He hit me. I spilled some of the drip on the floor from one arm. It was not nice. It made ugly green on the floor.

Father told me to go to the cellar. I had to go. The light it hurt now in my eyes. It is not like that in the cellar.

Father tied my legs and arms up. He put me on my bed. Upstairs I heard laughing while I was quiet there looking on a black spider that was swinging down to me. I thought what father said. Oh god he said. And only eight.

XXX - This day father hit in the chain again before it had light. I have to try to pull it out again. He said I was bad to come upstairs. He said never do that again or he would beat me hard. That hurts.

I hurt. I slept the day and rested my head against the cold wall. I thought of the white place upstairs.

XXXX -- I got the chain from the wall out. Mother was upstairs. I heard little laughs very high. I looked out the window. I saw all little people like the little mother and little fathers too. They are pretty.

They were making nice noise and jumping around the ground. Their legs was moving hard. They are like mother and father. Mother says all right people look like they do.

One of the little fathers saw me. He pointed at the window. I let go and slid down the wall in the dark. I curled up as they would not see. I heard their talks by the window and foots running. Upstairs there was a door hitting. I heard the little mother call upstairs. I heard heavy steps and I rushed to my bed place. I hit the chain in the wall and lay down on my front.

I heard mother come down. Have you been at the window she said. I heard the anger. Stay away from the window. You have pulled the chain out again.

She took the stick and hit me with it. I didn't cry. I can't do that. But the drip ran all over the bed. She saw it and twisted away and made a noise. Oh my god my god she said why have you done this to me? I heard the stick go bounce on the stone floor. She ran upstairs. I slept the day.

XXXXX -- This day it had water again. When mother was upstairs I heard the little one come slow down the steps. I hidded myself in the coal bin for mother would have anger if the little mother saw me.

She had a little live thing with her. It walked on the arms and had pointy ears. She said things to it.

It was all right except the live thing smelled me. It ran up the coal and looked down at me. The hairs stood up. In the throat it made an angry noise. I hissed but it jumped on me.

I didn't want to hurt it. I got fear because it bit harder than the rat does. I hurt and the little mother screamed. I grabbed the live thing tight. It made sounds I never heard. I pushed it all together. It was lumpy and red on the black coal.

I hid there when mother called. I was afraid of the stick. She left. I crept over the coal with the thing. I hid it under my pillow and rested on it. I put the chain in the wall again.

X -- This is another times. Father chained me tight. I hurt because he beat me. This time I hit the stick out of his hands and made noise. He went away and his face was white. He ran out of my bed place and locked the door.

I am not so glad. All day it is cold in here. The chain comes slow out of the wall. And I have a bad anger with mother and father. I will show them. I will do what I did that once.

I will screech and laugh loud. I will run on the walls. Last I will hang head down by all my legs and laugh and drip green all over until they are sorry they didn't be nice to me.

If they try to beat me again I'll hurt them. I will.
Okay, so I got the first line a little bit wrong.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2007, 08:03:42 AM by Planish »

I feed The Pod.
("planish" rhymes with "vanish")