The story unfolds in a series of journal entries written by an anonymous narrator. Over four months, the narrator recounts his growing uneasiness over strange incidents occurring in his country house near Rouen, France. It is apparent that he is a man of considerable wealth. He mentions having several servants, he refers to an idyllic childhood in a large country home, and he enjoys a life of leisure throughout his narrative.
On the evening of May 8, the narrator is delighted to see a Brazilian ship sailing down the Seine. In the days that follow, however, he finds himself afflicted with a strange sense of malaise. He suffers from a slight fever and becomes increasingly depressed. He is convinced that he is facing some unknown misfortune, and his condition worsens whenever he walks along the river or as night approaches. The local doctor who cares for him cannot find a physical reason for his malady.
Soon the narrator reports that he is having nightmares. He dreams that an invisible creature approaches him as he sleeps and tries to strangle him. Each time he has this dream, he awakens in a cold sweat, only to find that he is alone and that his door is still locked. In despair, he leaves his country home and spends several days at Mont Saint-Michel. While he is there, his malady appears to vanish entirely, so he returns to his country estate believing himself cured. Almost immediately, however, both his illness and his nightmares return.
The narrator now believes that an invisible creature enters his bedroom each night, draining the water from the carafe near his bed. After he finds the carafe empty several mornings in a row, the narrator decides to conduct an experiment. Before going to bed each night, he sets out a carafe of water, glasses of milk and...
(The entire section is 731 words.)