Written by: Matt Molgaard
I felt it time to tackle another short story, and seeing as how I’m a complete stranger to the legendary Saki’s works, I thought it appropriate to seek out some of the man’s work. The first tale to take to my screen was the incredibly brief ghost tale, The Open Window.
It’s always a bit of a shock when I discover a story brief enough to be labeled a glorified synopsis, but it’s an even greater surprise when works of this truncated nature not only serve to spark chills, but actually resonate beyond reading. Saki’s, The Open Window may just be a simple blip on paper, but it’s really rather eerie, and ultimately a very rewarding read.
The story focuses on a man in a foreign town who’s come to deliver a letter to one Mrs. Sappleton. But upon arrival, this man – Framton Nuttel – picks up on an awkward atmosphere in the home, drawn particularly to one specific open window. A window, as told by Mrs. Sappleton’s niece, that is kept open in the hopes that one day her long gone family might reenter.
See, Mrs. Sappleton’s husband and two younger brothers exited that window long ago, only to disappear, swallowed by tumultuous landscape. Gone forever, or so it seems. But this lady of the house is an optimist to the bone, and she ensures that her family will return. Indeed they do.
But therein lay the mystery of this story. As all three men return, there is little surprise on Mrs. Sappleton’s part, and her niece Vera isn’t overtly stunned by the visit either.
Saki leaves a lot to the imagination with this tale. The climax is fine and fitting, but questions emerge: just who was this Nuttel fellow, was he crazy, haunted, or completely sane and taken aback by this mysterious arrival?
This is a story meant to be interpreted in many ways. It’s easy to fall into the idea of a trio of ghosts once more making their presence known. But it’s equally as easy to see Nuttel as a quirky, not-quite-there individual. His endless complaints of illness raise questions, and with passages such as this: “He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him. Enough to make anyone lose their nerve,” it’s up to readers to determine exactly what transpired in that old home.
I’m sticking with the standard ghost tale, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find something deeper in this piece of fiction. One way or the other, it’s well worth a read, and you can do so for free right here.