Horror Short Story Review: "Hypnos" by H. P. Lovecraft
Below a quote from Baudelaire suggesting that people only sleep because they don’t know how dangerous it is, the unnamed narrator of this short story, a sculptor, tells the reader he’s afraid to sleep. He then talks of his friend, a man he met in a railway station. The man seems to have fallen in some sort of seizure. The narrator chases away the merely curious. When the friend opens his eyes, he knew such eyes “must have looked fully upon the grandeur and the terror of realms beyond normal consciousness and reality.”
He invites the man home and together they explore the nature of the realm beyond consciousness. His friend ingests drugs. He excels in his exploration. The narrator can sense him when he’s unconscious without seeing him; he sees what he calls a memory face. It is youthful, beautiful, godlike. The friend passes through barriers. The narrator cannot make it through one, but the friend warns him away from it. He changes. Whereas he only liked solitude, he now craves company. He cannot bear to be alone. He’s terrified of falling asleep. One day, he falls asleep, and the narrator cannot rouse him—
This is an odd, sad little story that ends with a final irony that’s not easily foreseen. The language gets abstract and perhaps a bit hard to follow. It is part of Lovecraft’s dream cycle, exploring the nature of the unconscious and the forbidden. While not in his top tier of memorable tales, this is worth the read, maybe on a chilly winter’s day with a cup of hot chocolate, easy on the opium.
Title: “Hypnos” written in 1922 first published in the May 1923 issue of National Amateur .
Author: H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937)
Last review: “No. 252 Rue M. le Prince” by Ralph Adams Cram
Last Lovecraft review: “The Music of Erich Zann”
©2015 Denise Longrie
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