I saw Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now years before reading the short story on which it’s based, so the film was there like an undercoat as I read – I love them both anyway. John and Laura are holidaying in Venice in the wake of their daughter’s death, and John hopes to coax Laura out of “the numb despair that had seized her since the child died”. When they cross paths with twin sisters – “a couple of old girls” – who relay a psychic vision that the child, “poor little dead Christine”, is right there with them, Laura is “so happy I think I’m going to cry”, but John is troubled by the twins and their persistent presence.
The twins were standing there, the blind one still holding on to her sister’s arm, her sightless eyes fixed firmly upon him. He felt himself held, unable to move, and an impending sense of doom, of tragedy, came upon him.
Du Maurier’s story is intensely uncanny and increasingly sinister, with a brutal and haunting ending.
First published in Not After Midnight and Other Stories, Victor Gollancz, 1971. Also collected in Don’t Look Now and Other Stories, Penguin Classics, 2006