© Horrified Magazine
I’ve just had my first short story published in 2021. Where the Little Boy Drowned, which is attributed to Jim Mountfield, the pen-name I put on my horror fiction, is now featured in the ‘Stories’ section of the online magazine Horrified.
The story belongs to a sub-genre that I like to think of as ‘constant jeopardy’. The main character or characters spend the whole story, or most of it, stuck in a dangerous situation where the odds look stacked against them getting out of it alive.
Examples of constant-jeopardy stories include Jack Finney’s Contents of a Dead Man’s Pockets (1956) and Stephen King’s The Ledge (1976), both of which have their protagonist trapped on a narrow ledge high up the side of a towering apartment building. Two other examples are stories I’ve read by the Spanish writer Vincente Blasco Ibáñez and by Winston Churchill (who very occasionally wrote fiction when he wasn’t politicking) that are both called Man Overboard. As their shared title suggests, these are about someone falling off a fast-moving ship, into the middle of the ocean, without anyone else noticing that they’ve fallen off.
However, the most gruelling constant-jeopardy story I’ve come across is The Viaduct, written by Brian Lumley and first published in 1976. It’s about two boys who, for a dare, decide to cross the titular viaduct not by going along the top of it but going along underneath it – using 160 rungs, which for some reason the structure’s builders have installed there, as monkey-bars. The viaduct straddles a very deep valley and you can predict that this isn’t going to end well.
I don’t want to give too much away about Where the Little Boy Drowned, but one of its key plot elements is a length of rope. There’s also a supernatural element to it, with a faint nod to Japanese horror films – J-Horror – and particularly to Takashi Shimizu’s 2002 chiller Ju-On: The Grudge.