Short Stories Challenge – A Terribly Strange Bed by Wilkie Collins from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Published January 15, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s A Terribly Strange Bed all about?:

A Terribly Strange Bed tells the story of a young man in Paris when after having a lucky break at a gambling table has a rather less than restful night’s sleep.

What did I think?:

As I mentioned in the previous reviews of this collection Stories To Get You Through The Night is split into little categories that may evoke different moods. A Terribly Strange Bed is the first story in the category: Stories to send a shiver down your spine and as I do like a bit of “creepy,” I was excited to get to this one. Our narrator is looking back on a time when he was a young man in Paris and living “a wild life,” with a friend. One night he becomes bored of the same old places and wants to experience something a bit darker and less upper-class i.e. somewhere where he can really let his hair down. This turns out to be a small (and unknown to but a few) gambling house:

“as blackguard a place, by all report, as you could possibly wish to see.”

The author sets the mood almost immediately as the men enter the room – they wanted blackguard? Well, they certainly got it in abundance, but it is a different kind of blackguard where the quiet and menace in the room was undeniably horrid. Our narrator is obviously a man who does not need to worry about money and gambles purely for his own entertainment but as he begins to play Rouge et Noir he wins. Again and again and again. Bitten by the bug, he cannot bear to leave even when his friend has had enough and wishes to go home. Our narrator plays on but by this time he has attracted the attention of an old soldier who eggs him on believing he has the possibility to ruin the croupier. After breaking the bank and amassing a hefty weight of gold, he sits down with the soldier and they drink, toasting each other with two bottles of champagne before he becomes quite drunk. Even after the soldier buys him some coffee, our narrator feels too unwell to go home so the soldier suggests he stays at the gambling house with him for the night as in his drunken state, he is likely to be robbed if he ventures onto the streets. There’s some wicked people out there after all…

Our narrator settles himself into bed but tosses and turns through the night unable to sleep. Then, all of a sudden, he notices that the top of the bed appears to be getting lower and closer to him on the mattress below. At first, he thinks it is a trick of the light or that he is still drunk and imagining it but unfortunately for him, he is not. The top of the bed continues to lower and our narrator quickly realises that shortly he will be engulfed and suffocated between the two halves.

So does our narrator escape the bed’s deadly embrace? Well, that would be telling. Did this story do what it promised – send a shiver down my spine? Well, maybe there was a slight cold feeling, I thought the build-up to what happened in the bedroom was both surprising and a little eerie and it was certainly written very well. The character of the soldier was probably the most intriguing and I would have liked a deeper insight into him, although I appreciate there are probably limits when writing a short story. It has to pull the reader in almost immediately, hold the interest and then cut them off wanting more. For me, it was a novel story for its time with a bit of a difference (in a good way) and I always admire any author who manages to surprise me. My only criticism would have to be the ending which had the potential to be so much better!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Mrs Todd’s Shortcut by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

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6 comments on “Short Stories Challenge – A Terribly Strange Bed by Wilkie Collins from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

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