Title: The Moonlit Road and Other Ghost and Horror Stories.
Author: Ambrose Bierce.
Genre: Fiction, literature, gothic, horror, mystery, paranormal fiction, speculative fiction.
Publication Dates: 1882, 1889, 1890, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1897, 1899, 1907, and 1909.
Summary: Filled with mordant wit and satire, a provocative collection of 12 ghost and horror stories abounding with crimes of passion, restless specters seeking revenge, haunted houses, forewarnings of doom, and sound minds deranged by contact with the spirit world. Including: The Eyes of the Panther (1891), a chilling account of a young woman's supernatural link to a beast of the forest. The Moonlit Road (1907), a tale of a man's jealousy that destroys those he loves and damns him to a horrible fate. The Boarded Window (1891), a story of a man preparing his wife's death rites, with horrific results. The Man and the Snake (1891), a hallucinogenic encounter between serpent and human. The Secret of Macarger's Gulch (1893), where a traveler, taking a rest in an abandoned cabin overnight, gets haunted by the dwelling's dark past. The Middle Toe of the Right Foot (1891), a story where a duel gives a restless, vengeful spirit a chance to fulfill its dark desire on those who had wronged her. A Psychological Shipwreck (1893), a haunting account of a man's mysterious soul-swapping, out-of-body voyage. A Holy Terror (1882), where a young gold-hunter encounters his darkest fears during a grave-robbing stint. John Bartine's Watch (1893), a story of a watch passed down through the family with a disturbing imprint of the owner's death on it. Beyond the Wall (1909), a tale of a broken love that persists even beyond the grave. A Watcher by the Dead (1889), in which a madcap wager about fear of death and what it entails has ghastly consequences. And Moxon's Master (1909), a 19th-century caveat against the coming Machine Age on the nature of life and intelligence and describes a chess-playing automaton that murders its creator.
My rating: 8.5/10.
My Review: I am a huge fan of 19th-century horror, and Ambrose Bierce is decidedly one of its prime examples. I love his imagination, his wit, and his gift of brevity which, even among other authors who share it, I find pretty singular - one seldom encounters someone who can do so much with so few words.
♥ The man started, then looked incredulous and was conscious that he ought to be amused. But, again, the sense of humor failed him in his need, and despite his disbelief he was profoundly disturbed by that which he did not believe. Between our convictions and our feelings there is no good understanding.
~~The Eyes of the Panther.
♥ As to me, I was younger then than now - there is much in that. Youth is Gilead, in which is balm for every wound. Ah, that I might again dwell in that enchanted land! Unacquainted with grief, I knew not how to appraise my bereavement, I could not rightly estimate the strength of the stroke.
♥ Nevertheless, the strange terror grew so insupportable that conquering my reluctance to move I sat up and lit the lamp at my bedside. Contrary to my expectation this gave me no relief; the light seemed rather an added danger, for I reflected that it would shine out under the door, disclosing my presence to whatever evil thing might lurk outside. You that are still in the flesh, subject to horrors of the imagination think what a monstrous fear that must be which seeks in darkness security from malevolent existences of the night. That is to spring to close quarters with an unseen enemy - the strategy of despair!
♥ Fear has no brains; it is an idiot. The dismal witness that it bears and the cowardly counsel that it whispers are unrelated. We know this well, we who have passed into the Realm of Terror, who skulk in eternal dusk among the scenes of our former lives, invisible even to ourselves and one another yet hiding forlorn in lonely places; yearning for speech with our loved ones, yet dumb, and as fearful of them as they of us. Sometimes the disability is removed, the law suspended: by the deathless power of love or hate we break the spell - we are seen by those whom we would warn, console, or punish. What form we seem to them to bear we know not; we know only that we terrify even those whom we most wish to comfort, and from whom we most crave tenderness and sympathy.
~~The Moonlit Road.
♥ He had no experience in grief; his capacity had not been enlarged by use. His heart could not contain it all, nor his imagination rightly conceive it. He did not know he was so hard struck; that knowledge would come later, and never go. Grief is an artist of powers as various as the instruments upon which he plats his dirges for the dead, evoking from some the sharpest, shrillest notes, from others the low, grave chords that throb recurrent like the slow beating of a distant drum. Some natures it startles; some it stupefies. To one it comes like the stroke of an arrow, stinging all the sensibilities to a keener life; to another as the blow of a bludgeon, which in crushing benumbs.
~~The Boarded Window.
♥ These thoughts shaped themselves with greater or less definition in Brayton's mind and begot action. The process is what we call consideration and decision. It is thus that we are wise and unwise. It is thus that the withered leaf in an autumn breeze shows greater or less intelligence than its fellows, falling upon the land or upon the lake. The secret of human action id an open one: something contracts our muscles. Does it matter if we give to the preparatory molecular changes the name of will?
♥ Men retire so from the presence of the great, for greatness is power and power is a menace.
~~The Man and the Snake.
♥ Outside the apertures all was black, and I was unable to repress a certain feeling of apprehension as my fancy pictured the outer world and filled it with unfriendly entities, natural and supernatural - chief among which, in their respective classes, were the grizzly bear, which I knew was occasionally still seen in that region, and the ghost, which I had reason to think was not. Unfortunately, our feelings do not always respect the law of probabilities, an to me that evening, the possible and the impossible were equally disquieting.
♥ --I, to whom the night have been
a more familiar face
Than that of man--
I, in whom that element of hereditary superstition from which none of us is altogether free had given to solitude and darkness and silence only a more alluring interest and charm!
~~The Secret of Macarger's Gulch.
♥ The more I thought of it, while his brilliant conversational gifts were commending themselves to me inattention, the more curious I grew, and of course had no difficulty in persuading myself that my curiosity was friendly solicitude. That is the disguise that curiosity usually assumes to evade resentment.
~~John Bartine's Watch.
♥ Mohun was a trifle sentimental, and had in him a singular element of superstition, which led him to the stue of all manner of occult subjects, though his sname mental health safeguarded him against fantastic and perilous faiths. He made daring incursions into the realm of the unreal without renouncing his residence in the partly surveyed and charted region of what we are pleased to call certitude.
~~Beyond the Wall.
♥ Had it affected his mind? His reply to my question seemed to me then evidence that it had; perhaps I should think differently about it now. I was younger then, and among the blessings that are not denied to youth is ignorance.
♥ "When soldiers form lines, or hollow squares, you call it reason. When wild geese in flight take the form of a letter V you say instinct. Wen the homogeneous atoms of a mineral, moving freely its solution, arrange themselves into shapes mathematically perfect, or particles of frozen moisture into the symmetrical and beautiful forms of snowflakes, you have nothing to say. You have not even invented a name to conceal your heroic unreason."
♥ "Doubtless you do not hold with those (I need not name them to a man of your reading) who have taught that all matter is sentient, that every atom is a living, feeling, conscious being. I do. There is no such thing as dead, inert matter; it is all alive; all instinct with force, actual and potential; all sensitive to the same forces in its environment and susceptible to the contagion of higher and subtler ones residing in such superior organisms as it may be brought into relation with, as those of man when he is fashioning it into an instrument of his will. It absorbs something of his intelligence and purpose - more of them in proportion to the complexity of the resulting machine and that of its work.
"Do you happen to recall Herbert Spencer's definition of 'Life'? I read it thirty years ago. He may have altered it afterward, for anything I know, but in all that time I have been unable to think of a single word that could profitably be changed or added or removed. It seems to me not only the best definition, but the only possible one.
"'Life' he says, 'is a definite combination of heterogeneous changes, both simultaneous and successive, in correspondence with external coexistences and sequences.'"
"That defines the phenomenon," I said, "but gives no hint of its cause."
"That," he replied, "is all that any definition can do. As Mill points out, we know nothing of cause except as an antecedent - nothing of effect except as a consequent. Of certain phenomena, one never occurs without another, which is dissimilar: the first in point of time we can cause, the second, effect. One who had many times seen a rabbit pursued by a dog, and had never seen rabbits and dogs otherwise, would think the rabbit the cause of the dog."