By Jeremy Lambert
Ask not how my story ended. That is soon to be well known, or at least, thought to be. What will be whispered in the ears of many is quite far from the truth. Rather ask how it began, for that I fear, is more frightening than any conceivable end.
Yesterday I buried my wife of three years. The woman that was more to me than the God before whom I kneel. She now lies paler than the pages upon which I scrawl these words, and I am told it is of her own accord, a darker reality than the clouds that hang above me now. The begrimed skies of London offer too little for my future. I will leave this place, my home … our home, to escape the fate that pried her from my fingers.
She was put to rest in the earth outside Saint Dunstan’s Church on a day where the heavens opened and poured their grief for her loss. The sun denied me comfort, hiding behind the black clouds as the tears of the angels fell from above, weighing me down, pushing me down, tempting me to join her. The sky was bereft of all hope, offering little more than the promise of sustained darkness, the only light coming from the torches casting shadows that danced across the coffin, creating impressions of life where there were none. A weight grew heavier on my heart with each packing thud of the earth, and then she was encased in the ground. Gone.
I stood, staring at the monument of her passing until each word was engrained in my mind. They seemed so foreign to me, on stone. I do not know when I left the sepulcher, but I did. I walked with no purpose, other than to escape the house of the Great Abandoner, for the place had become barren of life and more bleak by the turn of the hand. I moved through cobblestone streets, paying no attention to the carriages that rolled along returning their owners to loved ones. I continued on the path as the fog began its descent on the city. The roads appeared more and more desolate as I walked onward, leaving me to travel these streets in solitude. As I went on, I became aware of my surroundings through the sounds of the night. The crackle of a fire was audible from an unattended window, the light tapping of raindrop on rock, the clicking of nail on stone as rats scurried across the path, and drowning all other sound as I turned the corner, the lewd, pleasure-ridden shrieks emanating from the brothel.
What drove me down that street I cannot be sure. Women, if I may be so bold as to call them that, started from the house, their tattered garments revealing more than a man in my position needed to see. The road grew longer, and the houses that followed the street leaned menacingly over the road, cutting the night sky from my view, the light of the moon abandoning me to be cast in the crimson glow of the street. I attempted to ignore the libidinous offerings of these women, when I saw a man exiting the place—a young, well-dressed man. He rushed to the gate, stopping only to glance in my direction. The doleful night became colder as he did so, and in that instant I was able to look upon his face. A scar adorned his cheek, identical to the one I now caressed on my own face. Vacant expression. Drooping eyes. A moustache. My moustache.
The overwhelming sense of cold fear grew stronger and overcame me as he disappeared behind the house, leaving me alone, again, with the women of the night. Immediately making to follow him, I questioned my own sanity; how could I possibly confront this stranger? Yet as I rounded the corner of the house the man was nowhere to be seen. Raindrops began to flood the empty street as I glanced around, searching for any trace of the man, but no sign of him remained, leaving me to forego the chase and head home.
At last, drenched and shivering, I came upon the house. Its towering form combined with the dead, overgrown ivy prickled the still lingering sense of dread within me. I did not want to enter, but I knew of nowhere else. As I neared the door I noticed the flowers and bushes that line the walkway, now drowning in the water. Their caretaker was gone, leaving no one to care for them; I for one would not have the heart.
I opened the door and as it shut behind me, I walked to my writing desk, the finest Irish whiskey bottles scattered all over. Ah yes, the last place that offers some level of comfort. Riddled with half finished letters, writings, and stories, it resembled more of a post office in Dublin than a writer’s desk. Pouring myself a glass, I realized I could not have been in the right mind. Still, I drank and contemplated theories, each one as unlikely as the next, while the glass quickly emptied. The whiskey seemed to have no effect on me anymore. I glanced at the worn, empty chair next to the desk, where she sat as I wrote. Bothersome, but endearing all the same. She always did little things like–
A noise. Where? A creak, from behind me. The door. I whipped around, sending whiskey everywhere, unsure of what I expected to see. The flow of a black cloak peaked and disappeared into the night as the groaning door came to a halt. Fear compelled me to rush to the door and slam it shut. My heart racing now, threatening to pound out of my chest, I stumbled over my fallen chair as I hastened to the window, and saw him. No. I saw me. I walked down the street with no sense of urgency, with my hat and my quite recognizable black cloak pulled tightly about me, as I watched from the window. But no, that cannot be. I am right here, My cloak is–
“Here!” I shouted, as I grabbed my cloak and hat from the rack. “They are here! This is some trick of the mind…” I said as if saying it would make it so, while the man, me, walked into the fog and out of my sight.
Then came thoughts that are truly odd in nature. “What if it is not? What if this man has come with a message, a warning? Is he my ghost, an omen of the grave?” I pondered aloud, continuing to search for answers. “Why am I having such visions, a double of me? No, I must regain my composure; this foolishness is caused by the feelings that plague me … because of her.”
Then again perhaps not. You could be wandering the streets of London, while standing here.
“Impossible.” I reasoned to myself. “These thoughts are mere delusions. Yet … he seemed so real …”
With the shock of his appearance—of my appearance—still lingering in my head, and my body still shaking, I slumped into my chair. The whiskey became even more enticing than before, as I drank more and more to kill my fear and loneliness. The way my heart rapped against my body reminded me of why I did not pursue him. How could I? Hours passed as I stared into the bottom of an empty glass, questioning my mind, lulling myself to sleep with my own thoughts.
The slam of a door woke me. Coming to, I threw myself out of my chair to see the trespasser. A grim-faced man stared into my exact, emerald eyes as the corners of his mouth stretched to reveal a grisly smile. I cannot describe the chilling affect. I was being mocked. Taunted. In a fit of uncontrollable rage, I charged the man, fearful of this unknown, and crashed into the wall, splintering the wood. He remained still. Ignoring the pain, I reached for him, but somehow missed. A hideous cackle erupted from behind me. My head throbbed with searing pain as I turned to find its source, but I could not see him. Even still I made out only dust and scattered shards of wood on the floor.
“Who are you? Why have you come here?” I howled to no response.
This is all in your mind. Your fondness of drink has dulled your wits.
“NO!” I yelled, “He was right here! I looked into my own face, I saw him!” Blood crept from my mouth.
No one is there. You are alone. You have lost everything.
“Elizabeth!” I screamed, to my heart’s only love. Throwing my eyes toward the heavens I shouted, “What is this? What message do you send?” More blood. Images of her raced through my head, I could not think clearly.
Who says you are not? After all, the only one you loved is gone. It has always been about her has it not?
One cannot live without the other.
No, they cannot be apart.
Hear me now, I have but one cogent thought––the only one I have maintained since her passing. This is no insanity consuming me, which would render all of this in vain; I believe myself to be of sound mind, and it is love that has compelled me to this point.
Elizabeth- I will soon be with you.