THE DAMNED THING BY AMBROSE BIERCE
PROJECT GUTENBERG (E-BOOK), 2013
I downloaded this free e-book: HTTP://WWW.GUTENBERG.ORG/EBOOKS/23172.
BLURB FROM THE COVER
William Harker is the only witness to the death of his friend, Hugh Morgan. Morgan’s body suggests that he has died traumatically, but when Harker tries to explain what he saw of his friend’s last moments, the men in charge of determining Morgan’s cause of death find his testimony too bizarre to be true.
By THE light of a tallow candle, which had been placed on one end of a rough table, a man was reading something written in a book. It was an old account book, greatly worn; and the writing was not, apparently, very legible, for the man sometimes held the page close to the flame of the candle to get a stronger light upon it. The shadow of the book would then throw into obscurity a half of the room, darkening a number of faces and figures; for besides the reader, eight other men were present. Seven of them sat against the rough log walls, silent and motionless, and, the room being small, not very far from the table. By extending an arm any one of them could have touched the eighth man, who lay on the table, face upward, partly covered by a sheet, his arms at his sides. He was dead.
This was my first time reading Ambrose Bierce. I really enjoyed The Damned Thing. I liked the story-within-a-story framework that Bierce uses. I was impressed by the way Bierce explores society’s perception of the supernatural. Harker’s tale about what really happened to his friend is frightening but the coroner and men investigating the cause of death refuse to believe a word of his testimony. It is clear Morgan died in violent, traumatic circumstances and the inquest would rather believe an animal killed him in a frenzied attack than put any stock in Harker’s bizarre tale. I thought the ending of The Damned Thing wasn’t as good as the beginning and middle and the story disappointingly fizzled out.