BY DR. AGONSON
Even inside, far from any lightening flash or din of rain, you could feel the storm. It had seeped into the very air, a damp atmosphere infecting every room. Hubert didn’t like it; it was cold. He hadn’t liked the rain since it started, hadn’t liked the cold darkness suddenly usurping the warm noon light. It had made the proceeding business much more difficult, and he was soaked before he could return home.
He left his jacket dripping in the anteroom, and thought then that a change of clothes would do much by way of uplifting his spirits; an empty house was a hard thing to bear. But even now washed and redressed, he was not refreshed. The noise of the rain hounded him until he retreated into his room, but something, something still, he could not run away from.
He was pacing. With a thick rug over his shoulders, he walked and retread the span of the fireplace, studying the logs as they were slowly dissolved into ash. All flesh is as such, he reminded himself, by the end it’s all ash, and what has it but travail—to be burned—until its end? Shouldn’t I have pulled myself free of the fire? He shivered, still cold.
Peeking from the corner of his eye, he time and again glanced at his writing desk. Grumbling, he left the impotent fire, rounding the little table.
I’ll burn this page, he wrote, before I finish writing, and long before any soul should ever, malchance, read it. It was today I killed her, and when she looked at me, as the light in her eyes faded, it was then a storm overshadowed all. It started to rain, and cracks of thunder shattered my heart with fear; but I would not from this charge leave, I would finish the task. The body is hid quite neatly, and no one shall ever know where. I’m alone.
He looked at those last words in shock, and scratching them out, started on a new line.
It is a great humor that I feel timid; why should I hide my deed? What could be done to me now? Lock me up? Kill me? Little matter. I followed the book perfectly, did everything as was prescribed, and I did see him. Why should I burn this page? I feel compelled though. There is little point. My life is eternal now, nor age, nor death shall touch me. I shall live forever in the cold, and the rain, and the darkness—
He struck those lines as well.
I am so cold, he wrote, it’s like all the life in me’s been sucked out, and my blood’s replaced by ice. I’m so cold, so cold, so cold, so cold . . .
And for seventy years Hubert stayed in that room, writing again and again the word, cold. Until there was no more ink, until he had scratched his fingers raw, even unto the bone, to mark his walls, until he knew that there was never again going to be warmth for him, he wrote the word cold. And when he knew what he had wrought, what he had exchanged for this eternal despair, he left the room to wander ceaselessly, never speaking but to time and again—when he thought he saw her face in a stranger’s—to time and again mutter, “I’m cold.”