Its Friday the 13th! As a true lover of the horror genre I thought it only fitting that I share one of my fave horror stories of all time. Has anyone read "The Ring" by Margaret Bingley? I doubt it as its one of those obscure but truly brilliant short stories. Warning: Don't expect ghosts, goblins, vampires, flesh - eating mutants or the other delightful denizens of planet Horror but prepare to be deeply disturbed and you may want to keep some tissues handy. Shall we begin?
A Retelling of The Ring by Margaret Bingley
Kate's sixteenth birthday was caming up. She was an easy - going girl but was somewhat on the plain side, short, and slightly chubby. In other words, she was the quitessential wallflower, always on the fringes and not hated but not much liked either. Kate lived with her mother, stepfather and his two daughters. Her father lived close by with his new wife and their twins.
Kate was searching for the ideal birthday present. A rather difficult task as she was getting only 20 pounds for her birthday. And then she saw a beautiful antique ring with a ruby - red stone set in the centre and surrounded by diamond chips. It was in the new jeweller's store that had opened recently. Kate felt strangely drawn to the ring. It was hard to explain but it was as if they belonged together. Feeling sure that it would turn out to be too expensive, the birthday girl was delighted to learn that it was only 20 pounds and the fit was perfect. It glided onto her finger almost seeming to change its size ans shape to match her finger. Deliriously happy, Kate booked the ring and walked out reluctant to leave it behind.
As she turned back for a final look, a sudden presentiment that things were not as they should be seized her heart. Still uneasy, she walked home. But by the time she got there, heady anticipation had pushed all other thoughts to the background.
D - day arrived and the entire family trooped in carrying presents and cards. Kate tore open the shiny wrapping and put on her ring with a slightly frenzied air. The family stepped closer to study the ring. Coos of appreciation were heard. But Kate could hear other things now.
She lifted her face for her mother's kiss and heard her say quite clearly, though her lips never moved: What a pity her fingers are so fat. Kate gasped and sudden tears filled her eyes. Suddenly her head was crowded with a cacophony of voices. Her mother was thinking: What on earth's the matter with her? Can't she be happy for once? The stepfather 's tone was lighter but dreadfully hurtful: Thank God she is not my daughter. Her stepsisters handed her a tube of foundation cream and Kate heard the sniggering: We thought it might help cover up the zits! In a sudden moment of insight she realized the ring was responsible for her newfound powers and she tried desperately to remove it even as her family looked on in deep consternation. But it would not come off!
Kate decided that what had happened was a freak occurrence. But she knew she was kidding herself. Resentful thoughts were flying all about her. Her mother was disappointed in her, her new husband did not like having her under his roof, and her stepsisters hated her. Kate tried not to scream.
Later on her way to her father's house she continued to tug desperately at the ring. She could not understand how she had managed to get the ring on in the first place. Giving the struggle up as hopeless she turned her thoughts to her daddy. They had remained close after the divorce and Kate felt secure in his love. When she arrived her stepmom greeted her with a cheery wish while thinking: God knows how they could afford that ring! Loise is always bleating on that Brian doesn't pay enough maintenance for Kate, but that must have set them back a couple of hundred. No surprise there, Kate thought to herself, her stepmother had always resented her.
At that point her father's car drew up. Kate rushed out for a hug and a kiss. And then she tuned into his thoughts: Next time Louise comes on the phone nagging for more money I'll tell her to pawn the damn ring. What a stupid extravagance for a sixteeth birthday! Perhaps I should have got her more that thirty pounds from the bank just now. Kate shrank back from the genuine resentment she heard in his voice. There was worse to come, her Dad thought she was boring, stupid, and fat. Unable to hold back the tears she fled.
Almost blinded by her tears she headed for Clare's home. Clare and Samantha were her best friends. She collapsed into Clare's arms crying as if her heart would break. She wished she had never seen that hateful ring. But her ordeal was far from over. The ring would not come off. And she found out that Clare was seeing her secret crush behind her back and her two best friends thought there was not much wrong with her but there was nothing right about her either. Stony faced she told Clare that she could not make it to the disco as they had planned. "Too bad" Clare said while thinking: Samantha will be relieved. Now we won't have to sit around keeping her company just because its her birthday. Kate turned around and made her way home. Telling her mother she was coming down with the flu, she locked herself up in her bedoom.
For hours she pondered her situation. The ring had to go, otherwise she knew she would lose her mind. Kate headed for the kitchen towards the drawer where her mother kept the sharp knives.
Her mother found her dead and cold on the kitchen floor the next morning. Her ring finger had almost been severed in half. Her mother told everyone at the funeral that the ring which had given her so much happiness on her last day on earth was missing. Attempts to find a substitute were in vain as the jeweller had left town
On the very morning of Kate's funeral, Grace wandered along the streets of a small town, many hundreds of kilometres away, arm in arm with her new husband. She was happy, she had found a handsome, rich, husband who loved her. Her husband's thoughts were less bright. He was not as rich as he had led her to believe but he had insured his young wife for a good deal of money and was trying to figure out how to dispose her without any suspicion falling on himself. They passed a jeweller's store and Grace's eyes alighted on a beautiful antique ring. It seemed to be calling out to her.