10 Dark Works of Fiction

1All summer in a day – Ray Bradbury

All summer in a day

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This story is about the school children on the planet Venus, where the sun only appears once in seven years for one hour. Five years earlier one of the children, Margot, was shifted from Earth to Venus was the only one to remember sunshine because on the Earth there was regular sunshine throughout the year. She described sun to the other children as “a penny” or “like a fire in a stove”. They didn’t believe her because they were too young to have seen it themselves. The other students bullied her and locked her in a closet down a tunnel.

All of a sudden the sun appears and their teacher arrives to take the class outside to enjoy their hour of sunshine. Due to their astonishment and joy, they all forgot about Margot. They all run, skip, dance, jump, enjoying every second of their newly found freedom. One of them cried “It’s much better than sun lamps.” Then all of a sudden a girl caught a raindrop in her hands as thunderstorm rumbled in distance.

They all started to cry and ran back inside the class. One of them remembered Margot, who was locked inside the closet .They felt ashamed and let her out of the closet, standing frozen in embarrassment of what they have done, unable to meet each the eyes. She is the one who loved the sun, missed it and had to wait for another seven years.

2The Veldt – Ray Bradbury

The Veldt

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The Hadley family lives in an automated house called “The Happylife Home,” filled with machines that do every task. The two children, Peter and Wendy, become fascinated with the “nursery,” a virtual reality room able to reproduce any place they imagine.

The parents, George and Lydia, begin to wonder if there is something wrong with their way of life. Lydia tells George, “That’s just it. I feel like I don’t belong here. The house is wife and mother now, and nursemaid. Can I compete with an African veldt? Can I give a bath and scrub the children as efficiently or quickly as the automatic scrub bath can? I cannot.” They are also perplexed and confused that the nursery is stuck on an African setting, with lions in the distance, eating the dead figure. There they also find recreations of their personal belongings and hear strangely familiar screams. Wondering why their children are so concerned with this scene of death, they decide to call a psychologist.

The psychologist, David McClean, suggests they turn off the house, move to the country, and learn to be more self-sufficient. The children, reliant on the nursery, beg their parents to let them have one last visit, who let them. When they come to fetch them, the children lock them in as they are killed by a pride of lions. When David comes by to look for George and Lydia, he finds the children enjoying lunch on the veldt and sees the lions eating figures in the distance. This is revealed to be George and Lydia, whose remains were the figure eaten by the lions earlier on.

3The Lottery – Shirley Jackson

The Lottery

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In a small village of American life there was an annual ritual known as “The Lottery” to be held on June 27. The locals were excited yet in a nervous mood. Children would gather stones for this annual event for this local tradition to ensure a good harvest. In the north, there was a community talking about to give up the lottery and some have done so.

Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves started making the paper slips and list of the families before the night of the annual event. Once the slips are finished they are kept in a black box which is kept in a safe at the coal company. On morning of the lottery townspeople would gather close to 10 a.m. in order to have everything done before the lunch.

First the heads of the households draws slips until every head of the household has a slip. For the first round, the men have to be above sixteen years of age. Bill Hutchinson gets the black dot in the slip meaning that his family has been chosen .In the second round any individual can draw the slip irrespective of the age. Bill’s wife, Tessie gets the marked slip. After the draw was over Tessie was picked and all the other slips flew off into the wind.

As is the tradition, each villager gets a stone and surrounds Tessie. The story ends as she is stoned to death while she bemoans the unfairness of the situation.

4Johnny Got His Gun – Dalton Trumbo

Johnny Got His Gun

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A young American soldier serving in World War I named, Joe Bonham wakes up in a hospital bed after being caught in the blast of an exploding artillery shell. He gradually realizes that he has lost his arms, legs and all of his face including his eyes, ears ,teeth and tongue but his mind is functioning perfectly leaving him a prisoner in his own body.

He attempts suicide by suffocation but can’t do it because of the tracheotomy which he can’t remove. At first he wished to die but later he desired to tour around the country in a glass box to show other the true horrors of the war. He successfully communicates with his officers in Morse code by banging his head on his pillow. They didn’t grant his wishes because it was “against regulations”. After this he realized that he would live rest of his life in this condition. As Joe drifts between reality and fantasy, he remembers his old life with his family and girlfriend, and reflects upon the myths and realities of war.

5Rats in the Walls – H.P. Lovecraft

Rats in the Walls

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Set in 1923, “The Rats in the Walls” is narrated by the descendant of the De la Poer Family, who has moved from Massachusetts to his ancestral estate in England, the ruined Exham Priory.

To the dismay of nearby residents, he restores the Priory. After moving in, the protagonist and his cat, frequently hear the sounds of rats scurrying behind the walls. Upon investigating further and through recurring dreams, he learns that his family maintained an underground city for centuries, where they raised generations of “human cattle”—some regressed to a quadrupedal state—to supply their taste for human flesh.

Maddened by the revelations of his family’s past and driven by a hereditary cruelty, the narrator attacks one of his friends in the dark of the cavernous city and begins eating him. He is subsequently subdued and placed in a mental institution. At least one other investigator, Thornton, has gone insane as well. Soon after, Exham Priory is destroyed. The narrator maintains his innocence, proclaiming that it was “the rats, the rats in the walls,” who ate the man. He continues to be plagued by the sound of rats in the walls of his cell.

6He – H. P. Lovecraft


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The story tells of an unnamed narrator, who has moved from New England to New York City and greatly regretted it. One night, while wandering in a historic part of Greenwich Village, he happens upon a man strangely dressed in garments from the eighteenth century. The man offers to show the narrator the secrets of the town.

After bringing the narrator to his home, the man tells him the story of a squire who bargained with Native Americans for the secrets of their rituals concerning time and space which were practiced on the land where that squire had recently taken up residence. After learning their secrets, the squire gave the Native Americans “monstrous bad rum,” so that within a week all of them were dead and only he was left with the knowledge. The man then proceeds to show the narrator visions of the city’s past and future so terrifying, that the narrator begins to scream wildly. The screams rouse the spirits of the Native Americans to take vengeance on the man, who is the same squire from 1768.

7In the Vault – H. P. Lovecraft

In the Vault

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George Birch, undertaker for the New England town of Peck Valley, finds himself trapped in the vault where coffins are stored during winter for burial in the spring. When Birch stacks the coffins to reach a transom window, his feet break through the lid of the top coffin, injuring his ankles and forcing him to crawl out of the vault.

Later, Dr. Davis investigates the vault, and finds that the top coffin was one of inferior workmanship, which Birch used as a repository for Asaph Sawyer, a vindictive citizen whom Birch had disliked, even though the coffin had originally been built for the much shorter Matthew Fenner. Davis finds that Birch had cut off Sawyer’s feet in order to fit the body into the coffin, and the wounds in Birch’s ankles are actually teeth marks.

8Cool Air – H.P. Lovecraft

Coll Air

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In the spring of 1923, the narrator was looking for housing in the New York City and finally settles in a converted brownstone on West Fourteenth Street. Investigating a chemical leak from the floor above, he discovers that the inhabitant directly overhead is a strange, old, and reclusive physician named Dr. Munoz. One day the narrator suffered a heart attack and remembered that there is a doctor living above the floor and started climbing the stairs and meets with him for the first time.

With his medical skills he saved the narrator with a combination of medications. The fascinated narrator returns and regularly sits and learn from the doctor. As their talks continue, it becomes increasingly evident that the doctor has an obsession with defying death through all available means.

The doctor’s room is kept approximately 56 degree Fahrenheit using Ammonia as a refrigeration system. The pumps were driven by the gasoline engine. The doctor’s health and behavior changes slightly as the cooling system is continuously upgraded to the point where the room reached sub-freezing temperatures until one night the pump breaks down.

The doctor went into panic and begged his friend to keep his body cool. Unable to repair the machine until morning, they resort to having the doctor stay in a tub full of ice. The narrator spends his time replenishing the ice, but soon is forced to employ someone else to do it. When he finally locates competent mechanics to repair the pump, it was too late.

He arrived at the apartment in time to see the rapidly decomposing remains of the doctor, and a rushed, “hideously smeared” letter. The narrator read it. To his horror, he learned that Dr. Muñoz died 18 years previously. Refusing to surrender to death, he maintained the semblance of life past the point of death using various methods, depending upon refrigeration to retard decomposition.

9I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream – Harlan Ellison

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

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The story takes place 109 years after the complete destruction of human civilization. The Cold War had escalated into a world war, fought mainly between China, Russia, and the United States. As the war progressed, the three warring nations each created a super-computer capable of running the war more efficiently than humans.

The machines are each referred to as “AM,” which originally stood for “Allied Mastercomputer”, and then was later called “Adaptive Manipulator”. Finally, “AM” stands for “Aggressive Menace”. One day, one of the three computers becomes self aware, and promptly absorbs the other two, thus taking control of the entire war. It carries out campaigns of mass genocide, killing off all but four men and one woman.

The survivors live together underground in an endless complex, the only habitable place left. The master computer harbors an immeasurable hatred for the group and spends every available moment torturing them. AM has not only managed to keep the humans from taking their own lives, but has made them virtually immortal.

The story’s narrative begins when one of the humans, Nimdok, has the idea that there is canned food somewhere in the great complex. The humans are always near starvation under AM’s rule, and anytime they are given food, it is always a disgusting meal that they have difficulty eating. Because of their great hunger, the humans are coerced into making the long journey to the place where the food is supposedly kept—-the ice caves. Along the way, the machine provides foul sustenance, sends horrible monsters after them, emits earsplitting sounds, and blinds Benny when he tries to escape.

On more than one occasion, the group is separated by AM’s obstacles. At one point, the narrator, Ted, is knocked unconscious and begins dreaming. He envisions the computer, anthropomorphized, standing over a hole in his brain speaking to him directly. Based on this nightmare, Ted comes to a conclusion about AM’s nature, specifically why it has so much contempt for humanity; that despite its abilities it lacks the sapience to be creative or the ability to move freely. It wants nothing more than to exact revenge on humanity by torturing these last remnants of the species that created it.

The group reaches the ice caves, where indeed there is a pile of canned goods. The group is overjoyed to find them, but is immediately crestfallen to find that they have no means of opening them. In a final act of desperation, Benny attacks Gorrister and begins to gnaw at the flesh on his face.

Ted, in a moment of clarity, realizes their only escape is through death. He seizes a stalactite made of ice and kills Benny and Gorrister. Ellen realizes what Ted is doing, and kills Nimdok, before being herself killed by Ted. Ted runs out of time before he can kill himself, and is stopped by AM. AM, unable to return Ted’s four companions to life, focuses all his rage on Ted. To ensure that Ted can never kill himself, AM transforms him into a large, amorphous, fleshy blob that is incapable of causing itself harm, and constantly alters his perception of time to deepen his anguish. Ted is, however, grateful that he was able to save the others from further torture. Ted’s closing thoughts end with the sentence that gives the book its title. “I have no mouth. And I must scream.”

10The Metamorphosis

The Metamorphosis

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The story begins with Gregor, a man who single handedly supports his family, waking up in bed and finding out that he’s just turned into a vermin, probably a roach. Despite his state, Gregor feels that he can still go to work. However, he proves unable to do this when he finds he has so much trouble getting out of bed and opening the door. Furthermore, no one can understand him.

Gregor’s employer who had come to Gregor’s house to fetch him to work, leaves in a very nervous state and Gregor worries about losing his job. His family, however, cannot believe that the bug is Gregor and shoves him back into his room when Gregor tries to step out, badly bruising Gregor. Gregor returns to his room and goes to sleep. The family is now faced with the problem of the lack of money since Gregor was the only member of the family that worked.

Luckily, the father had saved some money which the family would be able to live off of for about a year. Also each member of the family got a job. Herr got a job at the bank, Frau got a job knitting lingerie, and Grete got a job as a store clerk. In the meantime, the only person who enters the room is Grete who comes by and feeds Gregor twice a day. After some time, the maid was fired and a charwoman was hired to do the cleaning.

The family took up three lodgers to help pay the rent on the flat. These lodgers, however, did not know about Gregor. One night after dinner, Grete began playing the violin which lured Gregor out into the dining room. The lodgers caught sight of him and Herr pushed them into their room out of sight of Gregor. The lodgers threatened to leave without paying. Gregor was pushed back into his own room. Early next morning, the charwoman came to clean and found Gregor dead in his room. She told the rest of the family. Herr ordered the lodgers out of his house. The entire family then wrote letters to their employers requesting a day off to relax. They then took a train trip where the family realized that it was about time that Grete got married.


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