Sunday, February 02, 2014

Nobody Ever Goes There

   Manly Wade Wellman's story NOBODY EVER GOES THERE is something of an oddity in the writer's work. It's usually collected with Wellman's John the Balladeer stories, and while John does appear, he's not the protagonist. Plus, unlike all the other John the Balladeer stories, which are narrated in first person by John himself, NOBODY EVER GOES THERE is told in third person.
   The viewpoint character for the story is a young man named Mark Banion, who grew up in the town of Trimble North Carolina, hearing the stories about the abandoned textile mill on the opposite side of Catch River in the shadow of Music Mountain. The people of Trimble did not cross the old river bridge to the mill. Nobody ever went there.
   Mark learned a few things about the mill from one of the town's older citizens, mainly that the native Indians who once lived in the area had been afraid of something in the spot where the mill had been built, and that one night everyone who worked in the mill and lived in the houses that had been built by the owners had simply vanished. An entire small community gone.
   Mark left town on a football scholarship but eventually wandered back to take a job as a coach at the local high school. Here he met pretty history teacher Ruth Covell, a young woman with a burning curiosity about the old mill. As you can probably guess, Ruth makes and ill-advised trip over the Catch River bridge, but not before she and Mark run into a stranger who's using an old wood-shop in town to repair his guitar, an instrument with silver strings.
   When things turn bad, John goes into action, but the reader doesn't learn his name until the very end of the story. When NOBODY EVER GOES THERE made its original magazine appearance, many probably didn't realize it was a John the Balladeer story until they were halfway through. At that time (1981) Manly Wade Wellman was writing a lot of Southern Mountain horror tales that didn't feature any of his series characters. I first read the story in the Paizo collection of John the Balladeer stories so I wasn't surprised when John showed up.
   Anyway, this wasn't John's last appearance, and later stories went back to the original format so as I said, this one's an interesting anomaly.


Keith West said...

I read Who Fears the Devil decades ago and don't remember this particular story. I'll have to dig it out and read it again.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Keith, it wasn't in the original version of Who Fears the Devil. Wellman wrote this in the 1980s. It's in the paizo book and in The Valley So Low collection.

Keith West said...

That it explains it, then. I read the Ballantine paperback from the late 60s or early 70s.

OTOH, I have a complete run of F&SF from that period. They contain a number of Wellman short stories, and I may have read it in one of them. The more I think about it, the more familiar it sounds. I'm now almost certain I did read a John the Balladeer story that wasn't 1st person.

I checked my copy of Nightshade's John the Balladeer stories (Owls Hoot in the Daytime, vol. 5 of the Wellman set they did), and "Nobody Ever Goes There" is in it.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I forgot about Owls Hoot in the Daytime, though I have it. Glad you found it.