Dark Carnival 75th anniversary Retrospective: “Interim”

[For the previous Dark Carnival post, click here.]

 

“Interim” (1947)

“Shortly before dawn,” there comes a “kind of dim pulsing and whispering under the earth.” The setting is gradually revealed as a graveyard, and the noise turns out to be an afterlife telegraph “code”: buried bodies beating upon their coffin lids. That night’s stirring message concerns the deceased Mrs. Lattimore, who came to the graveyard a year ago “just before the planned birth of her child,” and now somehow is about to deliver the baby belatedly.

This two-page story (which today would be classified as flash fiction) is hard to find; it was never carried over into The October Country, and perhaps for good reason. “Interim” strains the suspension of disbelief: would the corpse of a nine-months-pregnant woman be interred with her unborn child still inside her? And why is she coming to posthumous term just now? Even the other inhabitants of the graveyard are riddled with “questioning hysteria,” wondering “How can this thing be?” The story does evince Bradbury’s tendency to wax lyrical over the morbid (he describes the coffins as “each a womb for silent, stiffened contents”), and the premise of underground gossip via coffin thumping is intriguing, but one wishes that Bradbury had constructed a better narrative around the idea.

 

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