Sunday, December 18, 2016
THE WHISTLE, THE GRAVE, AND THE GHOST by Brad Strickland
Teenage Lewis Barnavelt is on a Boy Scout trip in the woods near New Zebedee, MI, when he stumbles on a boulder with the inscription HIC IACET LAMIA. Nearby, he finds an tubular object under a stone he's picking up for the camp fireplace. That night, his tent is shredded by an unseen force. Lewis is having troubles with bullies again, as well as an unfriendly priest at the local Catholic church he attends.
The whistle has the words SIBILA ET VENIAM inscribed on it; Lewis cleans it off and hopes to learn the history of the strange object. He opens up to Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmermann (thankfully, the days of pointless secret-keeping are over) and they investigate. However, Lewis is chased by the bullies one night and blows on the whistle in a panic...and a strange being shows up...
It's clearly an extrapolation of the classic M. R. James story "Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad," and this time the spirit is explicitly vampiric and forms a body from whatever is handy...bedsheets, dead leaves, whatever. There's discussions of "deep magic," stuff from outside our dimension that is so rare that the magicians in the story won't sense it or know how to combat it. (Of course, it ends up being part of the story!) And the grumpy priest turns out to have his own secret as well.
It's good fun, solidly written, if not especially artistic. There is a late-story revelation that kind of comes out of nowhere, but it works well enough, and the creature is eerie and memorable. Good reading for an autumn afternoon.