BY DR. AGONSON
So this is what you have become.
Your crimes in the night I have seen.
No one would have thought you’d succumb.
The dark you embrace is obscene.
The frost gathered about the ground while around me the bodies snug and warm—I’d wager some over-warm, though their bodies’ cold—were interred against the dread of night. I hid behind a stone, a poor bed board for sleeping, but I’d no sleep for years.
The sight of me frightened children: my hollow sunken eyes beneath the wide brim of my musty hat were not to be met lightly. Some would think me drunk—decrepit after years of guzzling the demon down—but no; this was the face of sobriety, a terrible sobriety.
You see, I’m quite dead. No pulse. Prick me and I do not bleed. I’m over dead. In a valley, a dale of my youth, in the brightest of sunshine unable to evict the mired shadows of my heart, it was some light finally found its way to me, Lenora. And I promised her, and that promise has taken me darker, lower, than I’d ever been before.
Hush, she’s here. O Lenora, do you now bear that name?
While the ice is diamonds upon the wintery field, her tread makes no step through the graveyard. I buried her in her wedding gown, and it flowed about her in beauty and silk. Ribbons as white as snow trailed behind her form. Perfection. That’s what I’d see when she walked, when the grass bent beneath her bare, simple farmer’s feet. I see it no more though she like an elf through the night walks.
O Lenora, how dark you’ve become. What once was life over lives.
She sings; don’t listen. I knew her voice enchanting. I remember it broken, singing high and proud, and beside her I sang. Don’t listen now. What are those chimes from her? What are those glass chimes? Not her, not her really. I know the beauty of her voice from the bells that ring on hallowed days, but what are these? What is the song she sings?
The ice is growing even now. Look, she’s want of a napkin and about her mouth you see her crime. Blood. Oh no, dear friend, not her blood. A child’s perhaps, a beggar’s. She’s done them in every night, and I didn’t know. I moved; I was away. I couldn’t return knowing she wouldn’t be there. I went out to sea, to other lands, a voyage to the frozen end of the world where monsters live.
O Lenora, if I had known.
This town has grown since I was here, since I was born. Brick and mortar overgrown fields of amber grain. But here is the same, this cemetery and church. I have found her again, and must keep my word. We’ll wait for the light, for the ice to melt, for her to sleep.
What was my promise? It’s fair you should ask. I said she’d taken me from my living death when she smiled at me, and breathed life into me with a kiss. I told her I’d do anything to repay that life.
We danced, we sang, the years away,
but night fell hard upon our day.
I dreamed you dreamed along with me,
but disp’rate paths I now can see.
The night had no strength left to it, and soon we felt the warmth of the sun. Those crystals of ice, a treasure scattered by unmindful nature, fades at the kiss of the morning light. Come with me, I’ll show you Lenora. The ground is hard to our feet, but the grass rejoices in its short life. Take your shovel; we’ll begin.
Down, yet down again I go, into a grave. She’s here, she’s low, I put her here myself. Come dig with me. The winter earth will fight us hard, but I waited through the summer. The fall I spent wasting my time, and spring I flitted away. All that’s left to me is winter.
O Lenora, why not die? You died a long time ago, and we all mourned. But you keep me up.
Hark! Hear that? What has my shovel hit? And yours, it strikes something too. Listen. Hear the wood. Yes, we’ve come to the bottom of her grave. Up, watch if you must, but I must keep my promise now. Get up, get out. Thank you, but leave.
Long in the mud, the coffin’s wood is grown soft, and caves inward upon Lenora. Come with me, my darling, my love, the morning light has come. The splinters covering her I brush away. Their pricks stick to my hand. Lenora, o heart of my heart, let me take you from here. Under her head I reach my arm, while the other I hook about her knees. I pick her up, holding her as when on our wedding day I carried her into my house, into our bedroom, into each other’s intimate embraces.
Let us go into the light
—dear, you have no need of fright.
Red are your stains, but made white.
Come. There will be no more night.