“The Things That Shall Come Upon Them” — Barbara Roden

Barbara Roden, along with her husband Christopher Roden, is the proprietor of Ash-Tree Press. Together, they are also the editors of several anthologies, including Acquainted with the Night, which won the World Fantasy Award. Barbara is also the editor of All Hallows, the journal of the Ghost Story Society. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Exotic Gothic 2, The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, By Blood We Live, and in the Sherlock Holmes anthologies The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures and Gaslight Grimoire, the latter in which this story first appeared. Her first collection of short stories, Northwest Passages, will be published by Prime Books in October.

“If you eliminate the impossible,” says Sherlock Holmes, in an oft-quoted remark, “then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” But doesn’t this bold statement perhaps presuppose a rather cavalier degree of ontological certainty? Is it really so unproblematic to sort out the possible from the impossible? Many would take issue with Holmes’s unflappable rationalism, chief among them Flaxman Low, the first true psychic detective character, whose co-creator Hesketh Vernon Hesketh-Prichard was a good friend of Conan Doyle’s. These two contemporaneous fictional characters go head-to-head in our next adventure, in a clash of both personality and worldview. The author writes, “The story’s setting—Lufford Abbey, former home of Julian Karswell of M. R. James’s classic ‘Casting the Runes’—came after I watched, with our son, the film version of ‘Casting the Runes’, Night of the Demon, and found myself wondering what happened to Karswell’s home after he died, in somewhat mysterious circumstances, in France. The involvement of a ‘Dr. Watson’ in James’s story was a gift from the writing gods.” The following tale, an adept blending of several different literary universes, calls to mind the common saying: “There are generally two sides to every story.”