First published in December of 2012, British author G.R. Yeates’ short story ‘The Thing Behind The Door’ was the first standalone release to see publication following the author’s stories from the Vetala Cycle mythos.

DLS Synopsis:
John’s childhood hadn’t exactly been a happy one.  As he sat there, in the glum darkness of his bedsit, eking out an existence on benefits and the dole, his mind wondered back to where it all started.  Memories of his grotesquely fat father, who struck fear in John as a young boy.  A man who was neither a father figure to John, nor someone who he felt he could trust.

But most tormenting of all were his memories of his time at the Old School.  Located near to the Old Town, John reflected back at the pain, misery, suffering and soul-destroying fear that plagued his life throughout his miserable time at the school.  Bullying that never saw an end.  

Clayton was often the instigator of the attacks.  A boy who took a vicious delight in the pain and humiliation of John.  Encouraged by Louisa, the two were at the hub of John’s misery.  But it didn’t end there.  As he so often could be seen lying on the floor, curled up in a ball of pain from yet another unprovoked attack, teachers such as Jennifer, would simply walk on by.  Their indifference to the bullying as much to blame as those that threw the punches.  Although certain teachers were known to take part in the violence against him as well.

Consumed by hate for those that had kept his life in the pitiful state it had remained in, John sits alone in his bedsit, seething at the memories, even to this day.  He hasn’t forgotten the past.  He hasn’t forgiven those that caused him so much suffering.  If anything, he has let the burning hatred swell within him.  With his parents now dead; a symbolic cigarette stubbed out in his father’s eye, John feels that his time has finally come.  And in the gloom and the darkness, his existence is offered the perfect gift of revenge.  Without a second’s thought, he takes it.

And so, one after the other, John’s three main tormentors are visited by the Greater Darkness that has taken over his hatred.  Clayton’s young daughter Felicity is found dead in her room.  Louisa’s young boy, Barry, plummets down the stairs, in a tragic fall that ends in fatality.  And, even before it had the chance at life, Jennifer’s unborn child miscarries.  And they each know who is responsible for this mark of vengeance.  In their minds eye they see him there, no longer a defenceless boy cowering at their unrelenting punishment.  They know it is John who did this to them.  And it is John who must pay for this act of callous cruelty against them.

And so the three of them return to the long-since abandoned Old School, knowing it is there that they will find John.  Along its decaying corridors and within the damp and rotting classrooms, they know they must confront him, and they will enact their final revenge.  He suffered before at their hands, but that was a long time ago.  Now it’s time that his suffering was taken to the next level.

But John has other ideas.  No longer a man, nor a ghost either.  Something darker, and much, much worse.  And, in his world of utter darkness, he promises himself that the screams they make will encourage no mercy from him.  It is time they paid for what they did to him.  It’s time his hatred finally had its fill...

DLS Review:
Breathe in…breathe out...breathe in…and back out again  And now relax.  If that’s at all possible.  Because holy moly is this an intense read.  There’s absolutely no hiding the fact that writing this was one hell of a cathartic release for the writer.  And it bores through the reader like a ten tonne pile driver driven down through their skull, splitting their head open and exposing the raw nerves inside.

How many times can I use the word ‘intense’ in a review before it just becomes an endless repetition of the same word?  Because, having just finished the short for the first time, I’m struggling to see anything from behind the vivid intensity of it all.  The seething anger and hate-fuelled vengeance of the storyline is all-consuming.

Okay, so even before the story commences, Yeates gives the reader a glimpse of what’s to come with the statement - “For those I have not forgiven, I will never forget.”  If that wasn’t a warning of what is about to follow, I don’t know what is.

Yeates quickly gets to work setting the scene for the short tale, showing John’s life how it is now, as he sits in his gloomy bedsit wallowing in the misery of his bitter memories.  And from here the short slips into John’s feverish memories, re-enacting the horrific torments that John suffered as a child.  Snippets of bullying that are like quick stabs to the chest, but nevertheless enough to form a vivid picture of John’s childhood.  His constant fear, rejection, misery and suffering brought on by all those around him.  And it’s the very seed for which the whole twisted story will grow from.

And so, with the ‘vengeance’ plot now firmly established, Yeates drags the storyline back to the Old School.  And here, amongst the decaying grime, Yeates unleashes every ounce of his inner-hatred onto those that have returned for their comeuppance.  If you took Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ (1974) and warped it out of all shape, infecting the storyline with a festering illness that eats away at everything from the inside, and then thrust it into an abyss of never-ending darkness, then you’d possibly come reasonably close to the near-palpable mental anguish that is seeping out from behind the story.

It’s not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination.  It submerges and engulfs the reader in a viscous sludge of endless negativity.  Its eventual release is still twisted out of shape – distorted into something that is perhaps equally as grotesque.  There is no protagonist to latch on to, to follow through the darkness in the faith that they are justified in what they are doing.  Indeed, justification is a strangely distorted and corrupted concept for the tale.  Is there justification for the monumental vengeance that John unleashes onto these tormentors from his past?  Has he, in accepting the vengeful darkness into him, become as corrupt and guilty as they are?

Sadly, the ending itself seems perhaps a little out of sync with the rest of the tale.  Its final few pages are reached with a stumbling stutter, rather than with a final burst of lasting energy.  And, although it accomplishes everything that the short set out to destroy, although still with a consistent negativity to everything that has happened, the ending nevertheless fails to strike the reader with the hardened, take-no-prisoners willpower, that the rest of the tale projected.

That said, this is still a monumental piece of pretty darn horrifying reading.  If you fancy wallowing in a pit of hatred for an hour or two, then you need look no further.  With Yeates undoubtedly exorcising his own personal demons in the writing of the short, the intimate and personal depth to the tale is what eventually claws its way under your skin.  And immersed in so much endless negativity and corruption, it’s hard not to become swallowed up in the veritable quagmire of misery that is the absolute entirety of the tale.

If perhaps Lovecraft had allowed a burning hatred to swell and mutate deep within his belly, making him insane from his constant inner turmoil, then perhaps this would possibly be a glimpse of the horrifying madness that would spawn from the man’s frantic hand.

The short runs for a total of 54 pages

The Thing Behind The Door – Alternate Version - 53 Pages
Following on from the final version of ‘The Thing Behind The Door’, Yeates has included a complete alternate version, that includes a handful of noticeable changes to the final version.  Indeed, this alternate version starts out ever-so-slightly different from the previous version, and continues to incorporate slight changes throughout the length of the tale.  However, the vast majority of the text nevertheless remains the same.  And it must be said that most of the changes have little to no effect on the storyline, other than to offer a slightly different take on certain aspect and passages.

Perhaps the most noticeable alteration is that our lead character is now left unnamed (drawing further similarities to Lovecraft’s work).  This seems to work a lot better for the story, allowing the reader to make and feel the connection easier between the author and this bitter character.

The inclusion of an over-before-you-know-it sex scene, even in its degrading and guttural state, is still a little off-putting within the chaotic mix of the dark storyline.  It doesn’t really fit in and feels out of line with everything else that is forming.

However, the alternate version does provide some passages that really should have made it into the principal version.  The added input into the deaths of John/unnamed’s parents, as well as the monumentally vicious vengeance reaped upon Clayton, make for much stronger and more pronounced scenes for the reader to latch on to.

All in all it must be said that after reading both versions of the short, the reasoning behind including this full alternate version still remains unclear.  Parts are work better, and give more insight and depth than currently in the final version.  And perhaps these should have been incorporated into the principal story rather than left for an alternate version.  Others - such as the out-of-place sex scene – not so much.  But offering the story in two separate versions in this way leaves too much repetition to really justify the existence of a full alternate version.

The Thing Behind The Door – Short Story – 12 Pages
Okay, so much of the text is once again the same as that of the previous two versions of the story.  However, this far shorter take of the story is considerably different.  The idea of vengeance isn’t really present.  Instead the story is encased in even further degrees of misery and despair.  It’s a tour of the Old Town and the Old School that simply spirals towards an entirely depressive conclusion.  And other than holding an incredibly personal tone to it, offers little else than another short vision of the author’s cathartic exorcism.  And good god is it unpleasantly atmospheric.

The Thing Behind The Door – A Poem – 1 Page
It’s a poem.  I’ve got to admit, I’m utterly out of my comfort zone here.  I read it.  I read it again.  It seemed a bit like something Poe would write to me.  But what do I know?  I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to poetry!

The book as a whole runs for a total of 121 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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