Horror Story Review: "The Marmot" by Allison V. Harding
Jim, the narrator of this story tells the reader that he’s never admired his brother, Edward Allis, a vain, selfish blusterer. Edward disappeared after the two split a family inheritance. Jim invested his portion in a business. His brother departed for “foreign soils.”
Yet when he got an emergency telegram two and a half years later from Edward begging him to come see him, he went. He found his brother suffering from a debilitating ailment that no doctor could diagnosis. He woke up in the middle of the night screaming in pain, crying that something in his leg was trying to kill him, yet none of the doctors he’d see could find anything wrong.
After a consultation with a doctor, Jim was told that Edward’s pain, as severe as it was, was psychosomatic. He was urged to have him seek treatment with a psychiatrist.
This is a sad little morality tale, but it does introduce during WWII the idea of psychosomatic illness and pain without moral blame. Jim is horrified by his brother’s affliction. Upon seeing him in agony, doesn’t not doubt the validity of his suffering. He doesn’t see his brother as insane. He may not like his brother, but he feels compassion for him.
I’ve been unable to find the story online, only in print anthologies.
Title: “The Marmot”
Author: Allison V. Harding (pseudonym for Jean Milligan)(1919-2004)
First published: Weird Tales March 1944
© 2016 Denise Longrie
MegL wrote on January 27, 2016, 8:50 AM
It's good to see compassion shown for someone's suffering. It is just as real, whether psychosomatic or visible. I am intrigued by the title of "marmot", which is a rodent.1
lookatdesktop wrote on January 27, 2016, 11:06 AM
1944. Hmm. That was a while back. I have read about Phantom pain from amputated limbs from combat veterans who are always feeling pain in a missing leg or arm even though that limb has been removed long ago.
msiduri wrote on January 27, 2016, 4:22 PM
Yep. I found it interesting that the author was female and therefore not a combat veteran herself. Given the time and the war, she probably knew some combat veterans, however.
msiduri wrote on January 27, 2016, 4:25 PM
Yes. There is a physical rather than a psychological explanation for that, having to do with the way the nerves work. They didn't know that in 1944, of course, but surgeons were aware of the phenomenon. This is not a phantom limb, though. Edward's leg is intact. It's just hurting like hell.1
lookatdesktop wrote on January 27, 2016, 6:06 PM
A doctor once pressed firmly on my wife's leg and she shouted out 'Stop that hurts.' The doctor couldn't find any logical reason my wife would have any pain from this type of touch but my wife sure as H E double tooth picks felt the pain!
cmoneyspinner wrote on January 27, 2016, 6:21 PM
Fantastic story and review. As always.
msiduri wrote on January 27, 2016, 8:33 PM
I have had the same thing happen with a doctor pressing on my abdomen. He determined it wasn't appendicitis (a good thing). When I directed the doctor to where the pain was, he said, "But there's nothing there."
So as to the pain in your wife's leg, I'm betting it wasn't "in her head."
msiduri wrote on January 27, 2016, 8:35 PM
cmoneyspinner Thanks for the kind words.