The Horla by Guy De Maupassant is a story told through the diary of someone getting increasingly hysterical and unreliable. Sound like anyone else we’ve talked about before? So many of HP Lovecraft’s stories are related after the fact by someone who has seen something horrible and is now sitting around waiting for the world to end.
It’s impossible for me to read Horla (link to the full text) without thinking of Lovecraft, but the story is worth reading regardless of any other fun associations we might tie to it.
After a man waves at a boat, he feels an evil presence invade his life. We’ve all been there, yes? He calls this terrible presence the Horla. Suddenly it is all he can think about. He understands that this is not normal behavior, and wonders if he has lost his mind, but he doesn’t need long to convince himself that he must actually be sane. We, of course, can’t really say for sure.
The Horla makes him feel physically sick, it watches him night and day, and it increasingly dominates his thoughts. This is the creepiest part of the story for me: whether it’s real or not, he just can’t get the Horla out of him. Which is more disturbing? That it’s real and it has invaded his body and mind? Or, it’s not real and he’s just losing his marbles? I think we’ve all had nagging thoughts, but what if the nagging thoughts were not our own? What if they were the result of an invading…uh…something? A Horla?
By the end of the story, it has driven him to the brink of suicide, which might be his only way to kill it, if it is in fact a parasite inside of him.
Again, though, we can’t really be sure it’s real.
An interesting, if sad, side note: Maupassant was suffering from syphilis at the time that he wrote The Horla. I’ve read a few brief histories of the story, and although none of them prove that he was mentally ill while writing the story, many have suggested it.
Maupassant died at age 43.
One of my very favorite horror stories, and it’s still effective despite being published in 1887.