The Horror of the Hamptons

But those events, bad as they seemed at the time, were not to be the culmination of the Dimity horror. For me, things have now become much worse.

I knew, once my shock had lifted, that I would never be able to finish my Civil War epic. I had found a new story that must be told. I made arrangements to stay in Sachnoth’s cottage, and then I began to investigate the history of the Dimities, travelling the length and width of Long Island and particularly the Hamptons in search of any bit of news, no matter how vague or insubstantial, that might explain what I had witnessed on that fateful summer morning. I fleshed out Sachnoth’s skeletal narrative with a flesh of gossip ranging from thin speculation to blatant invention—and slowly, as my notecards gathered, I began to understand what had really happened. I gained firsthand knowledge of the force that had destroyed the Dimities.

My questioning pulled me inevitably into the web of gossip and rumor that had been gathering around that place and that family for decades—even centuries. As I tried to sort out the pieces of the story, I became part of it myself.

“They’re talking about you now, Nathan,” Sachnoth warned me. “The gossip is going around, that you’re too interested in the Dimities. They think you must be a journalist or a paperback writer—taking advantage of the Dimities’ miseries to enrich yourself. They frown on that sort of thing; to them, it’s a kind of plundering. They hold their tongues around me because we’re friends and I’m somewhat of a newcomer around here, but I can’t help overhearing them.”

I can almost hear them myself. It’s a horrible sound. They have been whispering for centuries.

“I won’t bring trouble down on you, Sach,” I told my friend. “I’ll be staying on in the Hamptons, but not here. I’ve rented a house nearby, so that I can finish my work without dragging you into it.”

“What work, Nathan? Is it a book? Are they right about you? What exactly are you doing?”

And I thought, but never answered, Wouldn’t you like to know?

No, I can’t tell Sachnoth either. I have no doubt that he contributes to the gossip, that he adds his own sticky strands to the web that’s a-weaving around me. Gossip is contagious. It spreads. The source of horror has infected even me, a rootless poet: I understand now why its effect had been so great on the Dimity family, who proudly endured it for two centuries. I am not so proud as all that. No…I am simply trapped.

I sit at the window of this rented place, where sometimes I can see the passersby pointing me out to one another. They think I don’t see them, but I do. They think I don’t hear what they say, but my ears are sharp, I can read their lips. I know what they’re doing to me—I know even better than they know themselves.


There was nothing in the Dimity house. Nothing at all.

That’s what I witnessed. But all those years of rumor and suspicion had given untold power to that nothingness, forcing the Dimities to feed it, to hide it, and finally to be devoured by it.

He’s hiding something, that poet, with all his questions.”

Last week I bought an inexpensive aluminum shed and set it in the side yard. There’s nothing in it, nothing at all, but they don’t know that. They speculate endlessly, and their whispers feed the void. I know there’s nothing in the shed, but every day it’s a stronger, stranger, slightly larger nothing. At night I hear the metal straining. Someday soon I’ll need two sheds to hold it all. Two sheds. Three. Clumsily welded together, because I must do the work myself. I mustn’t let anyone know. Four sheds. Five.

Eventually, before the end, I will require a house.

* * *

“The Horror of the Hamptons” copyright 2016 by Marc Laidlaw. This is its first appearance.


This story I have only previously circulated in manuscript form. It’s pretty clearly not suitable for any market ever. Written around the time we lived on Long Island in the late ’80s, partly of course a riff on “The Dunwich Horror” but mainly as a lark. An overlong lark. Don’t give it a second thought.