What do you think happened to the two men in "August Heat” by William Fryer Harvey?
Hello! William Fryer Harvey (1885-1937) was a writer who wrote mostly psychological thrillers, mysteries, and horror fiction. A devout Quaker, his work explored the themes of violence, death, and terror that were seemingly antithetical (contrary) to his religious beliefs. Harvey served during WWI and was awarded the Albert Medal for gallantry for saving the life of a petty officer who was trapped on board a damaged and sinking destroyer ship. Note: for your convenience, I recommend using the 'find' button on your browser to search for Harvey's naval rescue at the link above.
It seemed that Harvey was not afraid to explore his own Quaker beliefs regarding pacifism, predestination, or free will. His stories appealed to all the common fears of our subconscious, and he was a master of the abruptly hanging finale. The ending is what you make of it; the terror stemming from your own private fears is only limited by your imagination. To that end, Harvey's short story endings are very effective. So, I suggest some possible endings below:
1)Withencroft eventually recognizes Atkinson as someone from his past. Could Atkinson have been a malevolent influence or some sort of threat years ago? It could be for any reason; let your imagination take the lead here. Has Atkinson had any plastic surgery? Does Withencroft recognize who Atkinson is from a chance view at a birth mark, or identifying feature? Will these two men fight?
a)If they do fight, will the 'prophecy' of Withencroft's death come true?
b)If they do fight, will Withencroft's death be symbolic? Perhaps Withencroft becomes a new man because he now dares to confront his nemesis to the death.
c)If they don't fight, will Atkinson and Withencroft make choices which render the prophecy powerless to affect the actions of the two men? Ask yourself what predestination means to you: does prophecy decide anyone's fate? Will your actions decide your future or are you powerless to battle someone else's decision for you? Does free will matter?
When Harvey went down into the damaged compartment of the destroyer to rescue one lone officer, he made a choice. To all accounts, the petty officer was a lost cause. However, Harvey didn't think so. For his courage, he suffered for the rest of his life due to the fumes from the escaping oil that his lungs took in. I would say that as a Quaker, Harvey courageously explored uncomfortable themes; he delved into aspects of human nature most of us would rather not think about. He confronted the possibilities of evil in our natures. So, could Withencroft or Atkinson display hidden evil or sadist natures? The answer would be up to you to decide. That's the beauty of your assignment.
d)You could also decide to make the whole thing a dream sequence, playing on vague fears from Withencroft's past. Perhaps he wronged someone in his past, and his subconscious only allows him to parse the affair in his nightmares. Could the man in his dreams be Atkinson?
For your interest, here is a nice article on how you can add the elements of horror to any of the above scenarios. The unknown, the unexpected, the unbelievable, the unseen, the unconscious, and the unstoppable- these elements are necessary to horror fiction.
Thanks for the question!