Wilson Henshaw fetches us a retro tale of possession, horror, and female dominance in the style of exotic 1920’s fiction.
When a researcher into paranormal activity is asked to investigate the horrific events at the home of a friend from his military days, he neglects to take into account the fact that his position as an investigator does not exempt him from being possessed himself.
And, when the spirit doing the possessing is housed in the body of a cruel and dominant woman who thrives upon the sexual humiliation of men, his neglect will ensure his life soon becomes a living hell of sexual service and submission.
It was as if an irresistible force had invaded his slumbering mind. A female force. So powerful that he, despite his much-valued sense of manhood and what it meant to be an upstanding exponent of his own gender’s qualities – if one wished to be respected by one’s peers, that is – could do no more than bow before it.
At least in those dreams he was at pains not to share with another living soul; lest he himself be thought… corrupted.
Lord knows the world viewed what he did with a cynicism that often descended into outright contempt.
But for him to confess he was being…
The prospect was simply untenable.
And the consequences still more so.
With each visit to his nocturnal habitat, the amorphous invader tore at his defences; insisting he give ground before her imperious and inflexible will. It was, he assured himself upon waking – sometimes even within the dream itself – no more than a triggering of external preoccupations resulting in an overactive subconscious. Nobody, after all, could work in his rarefied line for very long without the sights, sounds, and experiences to be found within its sensational subject having a deleterious effect upon an imagination that was fertile to begin with.
The female inhabitant of his sleep, the same inhabitant with the incredible female body and the amorphous face that prohibited him from supplying that face a name, seemed no less real during his waking hours than it did when his eyes finally succumbed to the wiles of Morpheus and the female revenant, succubus, or elemental – for he had yet to settle upon a description, given that all three seemed apt at one time or another – who he was now fighting during his time conscious as much as he did when in sleep.
The latter struggle, he confessed in more honest moments, one that was not going well for him.
More and more, his dream persona was submitting to the lustful wraith that seemed intent upon claiming him.
Totally and unreservedly.
And seeming more real with each passing episode.
He sensed her will overriding his own and, strangely – scarily – with each advance his nightly tormentor made so did her form; even her face; become more distinguishable.
Though that “amorphous face” seemed more resistant to transparency than the body that was doing so much on its own to enslave him.
Alcohol before sleep – and copious amounts of it – had succeeded only in making him intoxicated rather than benumbed, and only the fact that his great friend and host was even more a fan of various Ports and Spirits had spared him embarrassment after his wife had departed for her own chamber.
But nothing could spare him the embarrassment of his own thoughts immediately upon waking from a dream in which she featured.
The dream – or nightmare, as he described it – he was currently experiencing being very much of the unforgettable kind.
And “unforgettable” in a way he could never bring himself to find positive.
As her labia, made slippery by the copious evidence of her own perverse arousal, slid the length of his unresisting face and back again, he realised there was both another aroma and another taste introducing itself into the mix of her sexual frenzy.
As his nightly tormentor allowed yet more of her waste nectar to moisten his handsome features, he screwed both eyes and mouth shit against the obscenity.
But it wasn’t until the female voice that grew stronger with every dream said the word of command that he awoke from his torment bathed in the cold sweat of horror.
And the word?
“There,” pointed,” Major Hawtrey, fetching us up short on the brow of the hill, indicating a valley with slopes carpeted in multi-coloured heather hemming it in.
“Low Belgrove,” he said in a low voice, almost to himself, an unmistakable look of foreboding clouding features that had been untroubled before as my eyes followed his to house resting in the hollow of the dip. A low, rambling building, parts of which were showing evidence of great age, while others bore testament to recent attempts at renovation.
“That’s the new wing to the left,” continued Hawtrey. “It’s the only addition I’ve made to the house, which, as it stood, had insufficient accommodation for the servants.”
“It’s certainly a quaint old place,” I answered truthfully, feeling, if I’m honest, a little disturbed at sight of it myself. “Moody, would be a good description for it.”
“I can do no less than agree. Just the same, I’m loath to part with it, especially as it means a big loss.”
“Have you formed any theories since wiring me?”
“None whatever. I’ve always been a sceptic, Carnforth, but if Low Wakeham is haunted then I’m a Papuan head-shrinker.”
I laughed reassuringly, my companion being the very antithesis of anything resembling a native of that area.
The two of us then descended the slope to a white gate giving access to a trim gravel path flanked by standard roses where Mrs. Hawtrey greeted us at the door. She was, as I had heard, much younger than the Major, and a distinctly attractive woman with a… robust… build. Junoesque, in fact. I had also come into possession of other rumours in regard of her but, unwilling to be either precipitous or judgmental, was neither ready nor willing to jump to conclusions. It being enough for me that my friend was happy with her and, from what I had observed of them when together during my last few days in the area, she appeared happy with him in return.
She greeted me cordially enough on this third occasion of our meeting, although I have known enough women who are naturally gifted actresses when it suits them to be; feeling sure, however, that she at least did not dislike me and did not suspect the real object of my visit to Low Wakeham for the first time since I came to the area at the confidential behest of her husband.
However, and being something of a lover of women – and especially those whose physical attractions far outweigh those of the beauteous, if you take my drift – I knew she would be occupying my thoughts at some stage during my stay.
And, if my instincts were right, as they usually were about such matters, beyond also.
Tea was served in a delightful little drawing-room which bore evidence of having but recently left the hands of London decorators, but when presently I found myself alone with my host in the Major’s peculiar sanctum, our real business monopolised the conversation.
The room which Major Hawtrey had appropriated as a study was on the ground floor of the new wing – the wing which he himself designed and had built on to Low Wakeham. In regard to its outlook, it was certainly a charming apartment. Roses grew right up to the open window, so that their perfume filled the space inside, and beyond could be seen a prospect of coloured heather slopes and fir-clad hills.
Sporting prints decorated the walls, and the library was entirely, or almost entirely, made up of works on riding, hunting, shooting, racing, and golf, with a sprinkling of military manuals and crime and adventure fiction from the likes of Doyle and Haggard.
All in all, a most cosy room, probably because it was so untidy, or, as Mrs. Hawtrey phrased it, “so man-ish.”
On a side table was ranked enough liquid refreshment to have inebriated a regiment, and, in one corner, cigar-boxes and tobacco-tins were stacked from the floor some two feet up against the wall – a presence explaining, being an abstainer myself, the somewhat stale and stuffy atmosphere of my friend’s hidey-hole.
Try as I might, I could not avoid the conclusion that here, as I had found it with the rest of the dwelling, an air of what I could only describe as a kind of pervasive sensuousness hung in the ether.
Though I do recall berating myself for my fancy and telling myself – not for the first time – that my calling was making inroads upon my interior life that might not prove healthy were I to follow it for too much longer.