The Dancing Partner


Jerome K. Jerome, "The Dancing Partner" in The Fifth Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories, ed. Robert Aickman (Fontana Paperbacks: 1969).

One important pillar of cosmic horror is the existence of entities that are indifferent to our goals, projects, values, and lives. Even if they take notice of us, which is unlikely, whether we continue to exist or not is none of their concern. This absolute lack of interest in us makes them something to fear. It isn’t that these alien gods show malice toward us or wish us ill; we don’t even register as the least bit interesting or significant.

We see something like that indifference at work in the Jerome K. Jerome, first published in 1893. Here, the detachment isn’t found in anything cosmic but rather in something mechanical. The dancing partner’s total dispassion and indifference intensify the horror much more than if the partner showed outright disdain toward Annette. Such coldness adds insult to injury, but, in addition, the fact that we can be harmed from such indifference proves us more fragile than if intentional premeditation was required to actually cause us harm.


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