This next entry begins an irregular series of posts in which I will be publishing for you the readers some of my favourite obscure pulp horror stories from the dark days of the first half of the 20th century. Today’s story, ‘Rough- Housed In the Razor-Pit’ is one of just two published stories by Edward St John Limbo, a financial clerk from Manchester, New Hampshire. Both stories – ‘Rough-Housed’ and its brother, ‘The Gray Door’, were published in 1939 through Cosmos’s brilliant (and prolific) ‘Adventures Into Mystery’ series of collections (‘Rough-Housed’ was the first one, in collection 12; ‘Gray Door’ followed three months later in collection 14). Furthermore, both feature some strikingly disturbed vaginal imagery. Here, the protagonist is kidnapped by two giant goons on the verge of consummating his marriage, only to be thrown into a heaving, pink, elliptical and somehow organic pit, complete with deadly teeth. Meanwhile, in ‘Gray Door’, behind the titular door in the protagonist’s house lurks an ancient crone so old that whenever she moves parts of her flesh fall off and turn to dust: in order to revive herself she proceeds to devour the protagonist and have him re-born through the house’s fireplace. ‘The Gray Door’ is well worth reading too and I will publish it eventually but first, enjoy ‘Rough-Housed in the Razor Pit’, here:
Rough-Housed In the RAZOR-PIT
by Edward St John Limbo
(Originally published 1939, Adventures Into Mystery 12)
I had been five years living in UNMOUTH when I took a wife from the village. Unmouth was a quiet, out-of-the-way place, and I had always thought the locals merely typically unfriendly. The small shop I had set up selling periodicals was never frequented by people from the village, and I had always had to rely on the sadly hardly regular traffic of those passing through just to stay afloat. In truth I should have known better, for back in my home town, the small port of ALLITYVILLE, Unmouth was always somewhere that there had been dark whisperings about. But in truth I had never believed them… if only I had given heed!
Her name was Catherine, a dark-eyed wench of 18, the daughter of one of the longest-established families in the village, the Trasks. Cedric Trask was indeed the current Mayor of Unmouth, a position which rotated bi-annually, usually between the patriarchs of three families, the Trasks, the Taylors, and the Coppingers. Unmouth being a small village, and hardly welcoming to new arrivals, this meant that almost everyone living there was (through their families, at least), accorded their share of representation. And, it was within these families that the children were expected to marry. My advances as a suitor were hardly to be welcomed.
And yet from the first moment I saw beautiful Catherine I was transfixed, and she with me. I caught her eye as we walked in opposite directions as I went to buy my weekly groceries (sold to me at a premium rate, of course, as my presence as an outsider was unwelcome). I did not have much to do with the village and she had never seen me before, nor I her. She looked at me with those shimmering black eyes and they seemed to blaze inside me. My heart raced, and I felt like I was going to collapse, but I managed to steady myself, and went on my way.
I was distracted all night thinking about her. The next day, half-asleep at the counter of my shop (where, it should be noted, I also lived), I heard a soft tapping at the window round the back. Her perfect young face was smiling through it. I went round to the back door to let her in.
“Sorry about that,” she said. “I couldn’t be seen going into your shop through the front entrance. It’s not allowed you see, because you’re an Outsider.” She pronounced that last word with a profound force.
“I understand,” I said. “I’m surprised to see you. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since yesterday when we passed each other in the street.”
“Nor I you,” she said. And then I couldn’t stop myself any longer. I grabbed her and pulled her full, plump lips up to mine for a kiss.
“No,” she said, though softly, drawing away from me. “Not now. I am of marrying age. My father wants to marry me off to Stanley Coppinger, as he has always planned, but I would much rather marry you. Would you like this?” she asked.
O, one thousand times my heart, beautiful Catherine! (although, at that point, I did not even know her name)
Either way, she informed me all about the matter, and the next day I marched over to the Trask house, where I was shown in to see Mayor Cedric, and he received my request for his daughter’s hand with grave countenance. Nevertheless, when Catherine, who was stood in the room with us, took it upon herself to express her wishes in this situation, he seemed swayed, and granted me her hand, though he was not happy at giving it away to an Outsider such as I.
The wedding was hastily arranged, and sparsely attended. Even though about to be married to one of their own, my status as having moved to the village from outside remained apparently too great a taint for any of them to deign deal with me.
“Don’t worry about it,” said dear Catherine. “Its just the way its always been here.”
O dear, darling Kitty! Sadly the way it had always been was all too terrible indeed.
Despite the general boycott of the wedding, myself and my darling bride returned to my shop in a giddy mood of passion for each other. No sooner were we home than our lips were locked in deep battle. We fought our way across to the bedroom, alternately embracing each other and tearing off bits of formal clothing, and when we were there I threw Catherine with full force onto the bed. She landed, giggling, on her stomach, as I climbed behind and hitched up her skirts to feel in my hands two soft, plump buttocks, and between them–
Suddenly, in the midst of our revels, a crash from the shop room, as the front door was kicked down, and now into the bedroom crashed two giant thugs, topping 7ft the both of them. One was wielding a wooden bat, which he proceeded to swing with a mighty wallop into the side of my head.
I don’t know what happened immediately after that, but the next thing I remember was coming to in a dark room, chained up-armed by the wrists to the wall, and my beautiful bride nowhere to be seen about me. My arms had a horrible numbness to them, and my hands in particular, the blood cut off by the cuffs round my wrists. There was a strange sound coming from the centre of the room, that sounded like air rushing fast into a deep hole, then being blown out slowly. After a time, one of the giant thugs entered the room through a distant door, from which blazed a crack of seemingly brilliant light (or, at least it seemed in the gloom), and paraded towards me.
I wanted to ask what was going on, but when I tried to speak my mouth felt like it was full of raw meat and all I could manage was a strained murmur.
“The girl is safe, if that’s what you were asking,” said the thug. “Don’t worry. It wasn’t a real marriage.”
I spluttered some more.
“You’re from outside the village,” said the thug. “You wouldn’t understand our ways. We’re just doing what we have to do.”
He unchained me. My arms flopped to my sides, the blood rushing back into my hands. I gasped for breath. He grabbed me by my forearms, from behind.
“Wha- what are you doing?” I choked out.
“We are taking you to be executed as all Outsiders have been who have attempted to have their way with women from our village. You will by taken to death… by RAZOR-PIT!”
The mere words, spoken by this huge man, caused a spark of terror to run through me. I struggled somewhat in his grip, though completely vainly- even in the fullest flush of health, I would never have been strong enough to fight away from this giant. I realized that he was rough-handling me in the direction of the horrible sound coming from the middle of the room. As we approached, it got louder, and more terrifying. There seemed to be something mechanical to it, like a chain being pulled slowly round a cog. But as I came nearer to it, I could see even in the faint light that it was something pink, even in parts hairy, and organic, at least ten yards across and elliptical. It was raised around the sides, but in the middle – which was where the noises were coming from – was a dreadful, panting row of huge, vicious teeth that seemed sharp and eager for the devouring.
“Die, stranger!” shouted the giant, as he threw me into the Razor-Pit. From above me in my final moments of something that might be called clarity I could see far above me a great gallery of people from the village, clutching candles and peering into the pit. Their faces stood stone-still and satisfied. My final, dying thought, as those horrible teeth tore into me, was that my beautiful Catherine might be amongst them.