The Horror of the Hamptons

The next morning I rose early to find a summer storm glowering over sea and land. Rain fell sporadically; the wind continued to rise. I went up to the main house to find that Sach had risen even earlier than I. On the refrigerator was a note to the effect that he had gone to a supermarket in East Hampton. I was relieved, actually, by his absence. I had been hoping for another look at the Dimity House, and I feared that Sach would ridicule my curiosity. I knew that he saw nothing particularly odd or troubling in the Dimity history; to him it was almost completely the fabrication of idle gossips, but to me it had a poetic fascination. I felt as though I had stumbled onto a myth in the making; and who is to say that legends do not have their own reality, which can impinge upon and even shape our own?

I was fairly certain that I could find my way to Quee’s Jaw in my own car, but even so the journey took far longer than I had suspected. I must have taken several wrong turns before I spotted a maroon car parked on the roadside ahead of me, in the shelter of some spindly pines. It was a convertible BMW with the bonnet put up against the inconstant rain, and a figure sat in the driver1s place with his head thrown back and arms sprawled out. Regent Hamilton was sound asleep after what must have been a night-long vigil at the gates of the Dimity estate. The approach of my Volvo did not wake him, nor did the sound of my

footsteps grating on the roadside. When I touched him lightly on the shoulder, he finally jerked awake with a start.

“Huh? Who—oh, Mr… uh…”

“Carlysle,” I reminded him. “You’ve been here all night?”

He rubbed his eyes, re-entering the waking world, and stared past me through the trees at Dimity house. I followed his gaze.

“Something’s happening in there,” he said. “Mr. Ebbing thinks I’m crazy, but he doesn’t understand. Things have come to a point.”

I stared at the house, and something of Regent’s apprehension infected me. It looked as it had the night before; although if anything, the morning light made it seem even uglier and more enormous than my memory had allowed. But though it was merely a house, an inanimate object, I did have the feeling that somehow it was alive, moving inwardly, its soul coiling and uncoiling restlessly behind those shuttered windows. I found myself listening for the sound of a scaly rasp or slithering.

“It’s guiet,” Regent whispered. “Too quiet. Dimity knows I’m here. I’ve seen him watching me. He’s waiting. He’s afraid.”

He reached for a pack of cigarettes, lit one, and offered me another. Though I never smoke, I accepted it.

“Did you know Clarence Dimity?” I asked.

He glanced up at me, narrow-eyed, suspicious. “Why do you say that? Nobody knew the Dimities.”

“Then why are you here? Why are you so interested in this place?”

He choked on smoke and stubbed out the fresh cigarette. He reached for something else in the glovebox. “Because I want to buy it.”

“You…?” Dumbfounded, I sucked on my unlit cigarette.

“My family once owned Quee’s Jaw,” he went on. I noticed he was turning a tiny glass vial over and over again in his fingers. “The Dimities cheated us out of it. Now I’m going to get it back. I’ll raze the house, burn it to the ground. It’ll be a pleasure.”

“You’re going to destroy it?”

He nodded, unclipping a cosmetic mirror from the sun-visor over his windshield. The mirror lay winking in his lap as he tapped out a small mound of white powder. He formed the cocaine into parallel lines with the edge of a credit card, then expertly rolled a hundred dollar bill into a green straw and inserted one end of it into his nostril. He leaned over the mirror, and when he straightened the powder was gone.

“Clive Dimity’s going to sell,” he said.

“I see.” I began to back away. I was not anxious to be seen with him any longer, nor to share in his psychosis. “Well, good luck.”

“I’m going in there, Mr. Carlysle,” he said. “I’m ready now. I’m going to make Clive Dimity an offer he can’t refuse.

You want to come?”

“No…no thanks,” I said, slipping into my car.

Regent bent over once more, vanishing briefly into the interior of his car, and then he got out of the convertible. I found that I was unable to drive away. This was a critical moment in the history I’d so suddenly become a part of; I could not bear to miss it.

Regent did not bother to ring the bell. He put one alligator-shod foot on a cross-bar of the gate and clambered over, narrowly avoiding impalement as he leapt to the other side and dropped ten feet to the driveway. He seemed to be hardly breathing after the exercise. I watched him stroll away down the drive, and a few minutes later he reached the house. He had a choice of porches and doors, but he must have known that only one of them gave access to Clive Dimity. I saw him knock, and a fraction of a second later heard the sound.

After a moment the door opened inward. The lights were out, of course, so I could see nothing inside. If Clive Dimity were there, he didn’t show himself.

But Regent stood quite still. His hands dropped to his sides. His whole body shook in total silence. An instant later I heard his screams.

I threw myself out of the car, toward the gate, though I knew that scaling it was beyond my ability. What I saw made me freeze in my place, clutching the bars of the gate for support, unable even to rattle them any louder than my teeth were rattling.

Regent was just turning to run after a moment of paralysis, when the emptiness inside the doorway reached out for him. It was not a black hand, not a column of shadows, but merely an extension of the void beyond the threshold. The youth was blotted out as though he had never existed, and then the blankness withdrew, reality reasserted itself, and the door banged shut.

I clung to the bars in disbelief, telling myself that I must have blinked as he was stepping inside. No doubt Clive Dimity had asked him in while some optical anomaly was clouding my vision. But I could not bring myself to follow him, to peer through those shutters or knock upon that door; none of my rational powers could convince me to embark on such a course.

I would go for Sachnoth, I told myself. Together we could face the house. I needed allies as desperately as Regent had needed them; but Regent had been unable to ask, and instead had fortified himself with a false strength that undermined his judgment. He should never have approached the place alone…if at all.

The sky had grown darker with that summer storm sweeping in from the sound. I realized, in the back of my mind, that I had taken the place of the numerous anonymous observors who had added so many pieces to the Dimity puzzle: I alone could see them all at once, fresh in my mind, interlocking in jagged bits like the lightning that now began to shatter above the house. There was no rain now, only thunder and the flash of electricity which danced around the chimneys, peaks and gables. Perhaps it was the irregular flashes that made the house seem to jerk and twitch; but lightning could not explain what happened next.

The entire structure shuddered and began to move. It levitated from its foundation, shedding boards and bricks and broken glass, rising on a column of blankness, a place that the eye could not penetrate. Lightning flickered around the roof like a spectral crown. And then the house shook itself like a drenched dog; masonry and wood went flying. I ducked down as huge fragments of the house went flying overhead, crashing against the gate; a heavy oak door crushed the soft bonnet of Regent’s car; an amalgam of moldy brick shattered my windshield. Thunder broke again and again in tremendous volleys, and then all was silent.

When I dared to lift my head, Quee’s Jaw was vacant. A square stone foundation remained; the water of Quag Harbor and the sands of the beach were littered with rubble. There was no sign of life. Nothing remained but the black belly of clouds with lightning firing their depths, moving away overhead.

Perhaps I was deafened, but I heard no thunder to accompany that fire.

I’m not sure how long I crouched there, staring at the place where the Dimity house had been. It was Sachnoth who found me and brought me home.