It was the design of Angelo Ricci and Joe Czanek and Manuel Silva to call on the Terrible Old Man. This old man dwells all alone in a very ancient house on Water Street near the sea, and is reputed to be both exceedingly rich and exceedingly feeble; which forms a situation very attractive to men of the profession of Messrs. Ricci, Czanek, and Silva, for that profession was nothing less dignified than robbery.
The inhabitants of Kingsport say and think many things about the Terrible Old Man which generally keep him safe from the attention of gentlemen like Mr. Ricci and his colleagues, despite the almost certain fact that he hides a fortune of
indefinite magnitude somewhere about his musty and venerable abode. He is, in truth, a very strange person, believed to have been a captain of East India clipper ships in his day; so old that no one can remember when he was young, and so taciturn that few know his real name. Among the gnarled trees in the front yard of his aged and neglected place he maintains a strange collection of large stones, oddly grouped and painted so that they resemble the idols in some obscure Eastern temple. This collection frightens away most of the small boys who love to taunt the Terrible Old Man about his long white hair and beard, or to break the small-paned windows of his dwelling with wicked missiles; but there are other things which frighten the older and more curious folk who sometimes steal up to the house to peer in through the dusty panes. These folk say that on a table in a bare room on the ground floor are many peculiar bottles, in each a small piece of lead suspended pendulum-wise from a string. And they say that the Terrible Old Man talks to these bottles, addressing them by such names as Jack, Scar-Face, Long Tom, Spanish Joe, Peters, and Mate Ellis, and that whenever he speaks to a bottle the little lead pendulum within makes certain definite vibrations as if in answer. Those who have watched the tall, lean, Terrible Old Man in these peculiar conversations, do not watch him again. But Angelo Ricci and Joe Czanek and Manuel Silva were not of Kingsport blood; they were of that new and heterogeneous alien stock which lies outside the charmed circle of New England life and traditions, and they saw in the Terrible Old Man merely a tottering, almost helpless greybeard, who could not walk without the aid of his knotted cane, and whose thin, weak hands shook pitifully. They were really quite sorry in their way for the lonely, unpopular old fellow, whom everybody shunned, and at whom all the dogs barked singularly. But business is business, and to a robber whose soul is in his profession, there is a lure and a challenge about a very old and very feeble man who has no account at the bank, and who pays for his few necessities at the village store with Spanish gold and silver minted two centuries ago.
A short, animated version of “The Terrible Old Man” can be found on Youtube at
RED is the color of blood, and I will seek it:
I have sought it in the grass.
It is the color of steep sun seen through eyelids.
It is hidden under the suave flesh of women–
Flows there, quietly flows.
It mounts from the heart to the temples, the singing
As cold sap climbs to the rose.
I am confused in webs and knots of scarlet
Spun from the darkness;
Or shuttled from the mouths of thirsty spiders.
Madness for red! I devour the leaves of autumn.
I tire of the green of the world.
I am myself a mouth for blood …
Here, in the golden haze of the late slant sun,
Let us walk, with the light in our eyes,
To a single bench from the outset predetermined.
Look: there are seagulls in these city skies,
Kindled against the blue.
But I do not think of the seagulls, I think of you.
Your eyes, with the late sun in them,
Are like blue pools dazzled with yellow petals.
This pale green suits them well.
Here is your finger, with an emerald on it:
The one I gave you. I say these things politely–
But what I think beneath them, who can tell?
For I think of you, crumpled against a whiteness;
Flayed and torn, with a dulled face.
I think of you, writing, a thing of scarlet,
And myself, rising red from that embrace.
November sun is sunlight poured through honey:
Old things, in such a light, grow subtle and fine.
Bare oaks are like still fire.
Talk to me: now we drink the evening’s wine.
Look, how our shadows creep along the grave!–
And this way, how the gravel begins to shine!
This is the time of day for recollections,
For sentimental regrets, oblique allusions,
Rose-leaves, shrivelled in a musty jar.
Scatter them to the wind! There are tempests coming.
It is dark, with a windy star.
If human mouths were really roses, my dear,–
(Why must we link things so?–)
I would tear yours petal by petal with slow murder.
I would pluck the stamens, the pistils,
The gold and the green,–
Spreading the subtle sweetness that was your breath
On a cold wave of death….
Now let us walk back, slowly, as we came.
We will light the room with candles; they may shine
Like rows of yellow eyes.
Your hair is like spun fire, by candle-flame.
You smile at me–say nothing. You are wise.
For I think of you, flung down brutal darkness;
Crushed and red, with pale face.
I think of you, with your hair disordered and dripping.
And myself, rising red from that embrace.
This poem is from Gothic Romantic Poetry, which adds this note about Conrad Aiken:
“Conrad Aiken came from a wealthy, and well known family who were from New England but moved to Savannah, Georgia. His father was a respected physician and surgeon however for no apparent reason Conrad’s father
suddenly seemed to change his temperament and became difficult to get on with and violent. Then early in the morning of February 27, 1901, he murdered his wife and shot himself. Conrad (who was eleven years old) heard the gunshots and discovered the bodies. After this tragedy he was raised by his great-great-aunt in Massachusetts.
“To read more about the life of Conrad Aiken read his autobiographical novel Ushant (1952), one of his major works which is an excellent source of information. In this book he speaks candidly about his various affairs and marriages, his attempted suicide and fear of insanity.”
Slattery’s note: This is not what most would consider “horror” per se, but the ending has such a chilling quality that might bring it into the realm of horror ultra-lite.
By intrudesite She was just a baby when they diagnosed her with acute leukemia. She did not understand all the words, she feared the pricks given countless times and drawing blood to see if cells s…
Source: Sleep on Needles