This week’s weird tale.
Review: “The Daemon Lover“, Shirley Jackson, 1949.
The story occurs during the wedding day — or, at least, the planned wedding day — of its unnamed protagonist. Her intended, Jamie, seems to be a would-be writer she plans to support until he becomes famous. At first, I thought this was going to be a story about a particular form of parasitism practiced by men get women to financially support their artistic pursuits. But it does in a very different direction.
I read this story online, and one of the suggestions in the comments is that Jamie is a ghost.
There is nothing overtly fantastical about the story. The title suggests something supernatural, but it doesn’t require it.
Jamie seems to have had sex with the protagonist given the line, when she is changing the sheets on her bed, “working quickly to avoid thinking consciously of why she was changing the sheets”. We also know that Jamie was at her apartment until 1:30 AM. There is an insinuation that the 34 year old (though her driver’s license only says 30) protagonist may have been a virgin before meeting Jamie.
The story’s real horror, for me, comes from its element of urban isolation. Most of the story is the woman asking various strangers about Jamie after he doesn’t show up at her apartment at 10 AM as promised. She can only describe him as a tall man in a blue suit – sometimes with flowers, and if they’ve seen him. Understandably they are amused or annoyed or contemptuous at such an irrational request. Why should they note what is probably a common sight? He may be the center of the woman’s thoughts, but Jamie is just a background detail to them and of no importance.
There is also a sadness at the inherent desperation and loneliness of the woman. She agrees to marry a man whose place she has never visited and knows only as a would-be writer.
The story ends with the woman tracking down what may be another apartment Jamie went to, with flowers no less, on her wedding day. She knocks on the door. It’s never opened in all the times in all the days afterward she visits. Only laughter and low voices are heard beyond it.