Locus Focus: Take Twenty-Three!
One problem with not having my own PC and having to draft my posts in longhand before going to an Internet cafe and typing them up, is that I make some awful editorial errors. For instance, last week's Locus Focus was actually supposed to be this week's--and yes, the order matters. The locus I finally feature today is a more natural follow-up to the first Scary Setting of the month, while the locus of last Saturday is a more logical progression from this one.
So what lies between Neal Shusterman's Full Tilt and Dante's Inferno? Read on . . .
The Masque of the Red Death
by Edgar Allan Poe
It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. There were seven--an imperial suite . . . so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn, a novel effect. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose colour varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue--and vividly blue were its windows. . . But in [the black chamber], the colour of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet--a deep blood colour.
Edgar Allan Poe isn't my favourite Horror writer, but here he had me at seven.
The seven apartments of Prince Prospero's masquerade are obviously and deeply symbolic. Critic Julian Symons suggests the seven ages of man or the seven days of the week as possible readings. Of course, I go for the seven deadly sins . . . but that's just me being predictable.
(It's certainly easy to imagine Prince Prospero committing them all as he holes up in his palace, letting others fiddle for him while the city around him figuratively burns up with plague. Pride is obvious; lust and gluttony are easy read between the lines; we actually see his rage in the one action scene we get; and so on . . . It's not as strong a reading as the other two, however, which are supported by the fact that one can really see only one chamber at a time.)
I like the way this setting is related to the evil amusement park of Full Tilt: both suggest progression. These are settings the characters are supposed to pass through--except that there doesn't seem to be anywhere to go once you've reached the seventh chamber, all black save for the blood-red windows. But Horror loves a good irony, and it won't let this final apartment be the end of the line.
So at the close of one night of revelry--which the guests can mark only because of a "gigantic clock of ebony" in the last room--these chambers that seem so perfectly sealed off from the world and from the implications of life, are visited by the most gruesomely possible reminder of the guests' mortality.
Who could forget the final line of this macabre sketch . . .
And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.
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I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D
This Week's Other Locus Focus:
J.R.R. Tolkien's Morgul Vale @ Spike Is Best
Image Source: The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe