“The Hill and the Hole”

Don’t worry. There will be more on Arthur Machen. I have read and will be reviewing more of his work.

However, a few months ago, two to be exact, I watched a rather mediocre movie on Amazon based on this story.

Being a Fritz Leiber fan – at least of his non-sword-and-sorcery, I looked it up.

Review. “The Hill and the Hole”, Fritz Leiber, 1941.

Unsurprisingly, this 1942 story was first published in Unknown since it partakes of that magazine’s mixture of science and rationality with horror and fantasy. 

Our protagonist, Tom Digby, is somewhere in the Midwest surveying for the US Geological Service. 

He encounters an anomaly. He can’t get an accurate reading on a hill’s height using a transit and altimeter. 

A girl who lives on the land the “hill” is on, warns him that it is, in fact, a hole as his instruments say. Furthermore, “They” live there, and They don’t like to be disturbed.  She even tells him another man went up the hill a couple of years ago and “They made him dead.” 

Digby meets his boss, Ben Shelley, for lunch, and Ben shows him the last topographic map for the area. It does, indeed, show a hole instead of a hill. 

Digby asks Shelley to help him take another reading. Ben mentions some oddities about the death of the last man who tried to survey it. He was suffocated. 

Digby remembers the girl’s warning, but he is determined to assert rationality – here symbolized by cartography – and not give in to superstition. 

And, so, he goes up the hill for an adequately weird ending and somewhat memorable conclusion.

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