“The Adventure of the Death-Fetch” — Darrell Schweitzer

Darrell Schweitzer is the author of the novels The Shattered Goddess and The Mask of the Sorcerer, as well as numerous short stories, which have been collected in Transients, Nightscapes, Refugees from an Imaginary Country, and Necromancies and Netherworlds. Recent books include The Fantastic Horizon, Ghosts of Past and Future, and Living with the Dead. Well-known as an editor and critic, he co-edited the magazine Weird Tales for several years, and is currently editing anthologies for DAW, such as The Secret History of Vampires and Cthulhu’s Reign, and an urban fantasy werewolf anthology for Pocket Books.

We all have days when the world seems too much to bear, and all we want to do is lock ourselves in our room and not come out. It’s an illusion, this idea that a foot of wood and plaster can seal us off from the troubles that beset us, but it’s a comforting illusion, and it resonates. Authors have spun some wonderful dramatic scenarios out of this notion of a safe room within a hostile universe. H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zann” is about a violinist who plays unearthly tunes to keep hostile entities from invading his apartment. China Miéville’s “Details” is about a woman who has plastered over all the visible lines and angles in her apartment, because those angles are traversed by the other-dimensional terrors that assail her. The movie Pulse features characters who must seal up their room with red duct tape to protect themselves from malevolent spirits. There’s something instantly intriguing about a person who refuses to come out, and also about the idea that evil could be kept at bay by something simple, such as music or duct tape. Our next tale brings us a chilling new variation on this theme.