***(out of four stars)
What triggers our morbid fascinations? Why is it when we see an automobile accident we must take a quick glance, no matter how awful or fatal the crash may be? Is it something we really must see? Or is it just morbid curiosity? And really, where does the crowd of spectators come from? Have you ever noticed that people flock in groups when something horrible has happened to somebody else?
These observations are handled lightly in Ray Bradbury's short story called, The Crowd.
Here is the gist of this story. A man named Mr. Spallner is in a car accident. He can vividly see what is happening as the crash occurs. He screams. The car crashes into a wall and pain radiates throughout his body. Then a sudden silence. A crowd emerges from nowhere and begin talking. He sees the faces of some of the people. They wonder if they should move him. He hears sirens, police activity and he's loaded into an ambulance.
He spends some time in a hospital. When he's released he observes another accident; this time with a different victim. He notices the crowd again, gathering around the victim. The same familiar faces are seen in the crowd. They move the victim; proving to be a fatal mistake.
Soon, Spallner witnesses yet another car accident with the same crowd gathering around the victim. After gathering some newspaper clippings, Spallner finds out that the same crowd is gathering around different accidents over and over again.
In the end, Spallner is involved in yet another crash. Once again, he's the victim and once again the crowd gathers around his body. He hears the same voices, and sees the same faces. He can't speak or cry out as the crowd contemplates moving him. When they finally do move him he dies.
This is a classic ghost story. In the story, it's hinted that the crowd chooses who to move and who not to move. Once they decide the fate of the victim, that victim becomes one with the crowd. The story is written with Bradbury's typical brilliance. It's a quick read (only about 12 pages long) and the story is very entertaining. I love short stories because you don't have to dedicate much time to them, yet you're rewarded just the same. I read this story from a collection of Ray Bradbury's short stories called, The October Country. If you pass by this book and/or the story, give it a read.
Bradbury said that this story was inspired by a true event. He witnessed a car accident; the victims all stumbled out of the car and fell over dead. There was a crowd that came from literally nowhere. The weird thing is, Bradbury says that there was a cemetery nearby. Therefore, where did that crowd come from?