Title: The Screaming Skull (Chilling Horror Short Stories)
Author: F. Marion Crawford
Genre: Short Story, Horror, Gothic, Paranormal
Pages: 18 (88-105)
Oh dear Lord in heaven! I’m too embarrassed to admit how long it took me to read this one, but I stopped so many times to keep my nerves from fraying, and not from fright but boredom. Have you ever listened to a person on the phone and not be able to hear the caller on the other end? Sometimes that one side of the conversation that you can hear is interesting, but usually you grow bored of hearing just the one person’s commentary. That’s what this story was, a one-sided conversation between two old friends, unfortunately there was no telephone involved.
The Screaming Skull first reads like someone is narrating a story, but after a few paragraphs the main character switches from one story to another that has nothing to do with the first. It’s then that I realized that the main character is having a conversation to an old friend, one who hasn’t heard the first story but shares in the memories of the second. By this time the second character, the old friend, hasn’t noticeably said a word. A little later, I finally figured out that I’m reading a two person conversation but the author is only acknowledging what the second person is saying by the reactions of the main character. There’s no action. There’s no real setting set up, other than the few things mentioned in the nonstop dialogue. There’s no he said she said, not even a single quotation mark, unless retelling what someone else said. So it’s basically an eighteen page conversation between two old friends, but the author only bothers to record the one side. Sometimes you get the jist of what the friend says to the main character, but other times it’s hard to tell if the friend spoke at all. While no action is described, it is narrated by the main character as he tells his friend exactly what he’s doing or has done since leaving the room. The entire story isn’t a nonstop conversation, towards the end it does shift but it’s so sudden that’s a little disorienting and it cuts the story off abruptly.
The overall idea of The Screaming Skull was extremely interesting and at times chilling.
However, I hate how the author told the story. I normally don’t enjoy dialogue focused stories, especially if that’s the only thing driving the plot. It’s a shame I couldn’t like this story more because the concept is still quite original! The Screaming Skull would probably be a lot better and scarier if done as a play or some other visual media. Honestly, I don’t know who I would recommend this to…