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Thursday, October 9, 2014

"At the Bottom of the Garden" by David Campton

First appeared in Whispers. Reprinted by Gerald W. Page and Stuart David Schiff.
Mrs. Williams, a mother, preoccupied with being a good housewife and cook, neglects to understand her daughter, her needs, and her daughter's friend, Ineed. She mentions Ineed's furry teeth, but Mrs. Williams ignores this as her daughter's imagination.

She thinks she sees her daughter dismantled with another, unknown child but suspects her vision's wonky. The daughter shows up without braces and with straightened teeth.

Commentary & spoilers:
The parents catch Ineed, the ugly "child," who appears quite aged amid their dismantled daughter. We leap out of Mrs. Williams' POV to an omniscient narrator to see the daughter's breathlessly begging that the parents allow her friend Ineed to do her thing. She dies that way.

Despite the semi-gruesome ending, I don't read this as horror. It's more like SF--the alien out to help the hapless humans, but the humans misunderstand to their own detriment.

Although Schiff collected this among various mad-scientist tales, his reasoning may simply be the strangeness of the being and its unorthodox healing. Also, it probably provided variety to his collection. It doesn't really show us the madness and/or problematic ethics of our scientist. It really doesn't touch on the issues that bringing up mad scientists delves into.

But perhaps it does show how people can misunderstand someone perceived to be a mad scientist, to their own detriment. The parents are perhaps too oblivious. It would have been nice if Mrs. Williams were a little more observant. We can, however, safely project ahead in time to discover that Mr. and Mrs. Williams went to their grave believing they just missed saving their daughter's, rather than being instrumental in its destruction. Perhaps limited understanding carries its own madness and problematic ethics.

I tried to show above that the name Ineed may simply be I-need. The mother keeps changing the name to Enid, which effectively wipes out not only the friend but also the child's various needs--ultimately to the child's demise.

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