Short Stories 366:291 — “The Treasure of Abbot-Thomas,” in the style of M.R. James

coverHaving listened to the first two stories in this quartet of horror story productions, I found the first to be the kind of horror story I enjoy the most: the sort where the protagonist(s) may be damaged, but they’re not completely defeated, and as such, there’s a sense of survival or hope—or an outright turning of the tables—and the evil does not (completely) win. The second story was a reverse of this, innocence lost, and though evil suffered a mild set-back, the reader is left with a sense that the larger machinations will go on, and no one will miss the cast aside who are sacrificed.

So I went into this third story from The Conception of Terror completely unsure as to where it would head, which I think added to the will-they/won’t-they on behalf of the protagonist’s survival. “The Treasure of Abbot-Thomas” has a marvellous set up: A woman is hired to be the new head of history at a boy’s school (and, I’ll add, is in a relationship with another woman, huzzah for some visibility) and is asked shortly after joining the staff if she’d mind being the person to go to the funeral of a former head of the history department at the boy’s school—because no one else wants to go.

There she meets a former student, who is starting to have memories of his time with that teacher, and as accusations explode about the horrors this former teacher may have inflicted upon his prey via the guise of a treasure hunt (the prize for which was “alone time” with the teacher in question), this former student and new teacher realize that there’s one more treasure hunt in place, and they’ve received the first clue. What follows is a descent into a mix of psychological and from-beyond horror, but while the journey was fantastic, the ending did fall a bit weak. I had to replay it, rewinding the performance and listening again, as—unfortunately—it was so ambiguous as to almost be a non-ending, though the listener is, I expect, supposed to assume the worst. Despite that ending, though, the performance and the journey to it were great, and I was completely engrossed.

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