~7,000 words, complete story. Cookies at the end!
It was a golden autumn day when I first beheld Octavia drifting through the winding woods, her small footsteps crunching over the fallen leaves. Burning crimsons, fiery oranges and washed-out browns all lay about her feet. Her hair was long, flowing auburn; her face and figure brilliant and dainty, with some elusive mesmeric grace whose origin I failed to trace. But it was her eyes that held me; they were dark liquid pools of eternity, their depths unfathomable, mysterious and serene. In those wells of midnight wonder, something wild, pagan and mischievous seemed to lurk; it was in the subtle shades of light that played across their lustre, making them flash amid the waning rays of coming dusk.
She stopped before me, seemingly arrested by my gaze. It was this that brought my senses flooding back to me. I realised, with a shock, how rudely I'd been surveying her as I lost myself in contemplation of her bewitching beauty.
I uttered a brief, jumbled apology and strove to move on, but she held me back with a gentle hand upon my arm.
"Please don't apologise, I recognise you...Mr Silverquay. My friend Lucy has a wonderful portrait in her dining room. When I enquired of it, she spoke of you. Only last week she pointed you out amongst the morning crowds... I suppose it's perfectly natural that an artist of your talents should be more observant of the world that surrounds us than most."
She smiled at me sweetly and, with this cleverly-crafted speech, turned my absent-minded blundering into a compliment. But her smile was tinged with a careless recklessness that faded swiftly before my eyes. When it was gone, it was hard to believe it had ever been there.
So we walked through the dimming woods together; the sound of our steps upon the fragile leaves, rattling about the empty branches, echoing into the approaching darkness. I enquired after Lucy, made small conversation about this and that. But as we trailed onwards, I became more and more fascinated by my new acquaintance. She told me that she taught piano; I replied that I should like to hear her play, but she merely laughed and turned away.
Finally, we came to the fringes of the woods, where our paths divided. As we parted, she pointed out the old lighthouse on the cliffs above the bay.
"That is my house." she said. "If you come by next week, sometime after seven, I shall play for you."
Then she was gone, slipping into the darkness like a spirit. In her absence, I shuddered. There was something ill-defined and haunting in the music of her voice, in the lustre of her eyes; her very scent seemed like an half-forgotten perfume of some other world.
The following days passed by in strange succession. I longed to see Octavia again, but something kept me from her door. I sought her in the streets, the shops, the morning markets: but she was not there. I called on Lucy, under the pretence of adding a few improving touches to her portrait. It is well that I did not stay long, for in a short time I very nearly ruined my masterpiece: every stroke I made seemed to go astray, every colour I mixed seemed the wrong shade.
Fortunately, I saw what was to be if I persevered longer. I made my excuses and left quickly, leaving the portrait imperceptibly worse-off than before. I say imperceptibly, because it is only the artist and the expert that notice such minor alterations. Lucy, being neither a great artist or a fine critic, was of the opinion that the portrait was very much improved, and thanked me very kindly for my attentions.
Alas, in the days that followed, my art, once so beautiful, seemed to wither away and die. Everything I turned my hand to seemed to go awry. I left my current projects untouched and began new ones, afraid of undoing what I had started. Every piece I commenced ended in an unintelligible mess of colour and shape; like nothing I had ever made before. Failure was new to me. I was one of those few gifted artists whom the world loathes and adores: I knew instinctively where to place my brush, how to contrive the shading, my palette and the subject. Disheartened, I took to wandering the woods for inspiration...and Octavia. But if she ventured out, I never met her.
After a week of this wearing failure, every trace of artistic ability seemed to have left me. I gazed at my blank canvasses, with sunken eyes and empty heart. The white expanses seemed to bore into my brain and rob me of reason. Instead of spilling my creativity upon them, they seemed to pour their nothingness into me.
I flung down my dry brushes and empty palette, and rushed out into the streets. It was eight o'clock and the last struggling remnants of daylight were rapidly passing away. I found myself skirting the forest, heading for the coastal path that led to the old lighthouse. The wind whipped sharply about my face, cutting at my ears and making my eyes water. The great expanses of thrashing water, boomed below. Mournful cries of seabirds, heading homeward for the night, echoed out across the waves. Jagged rocks arose from frothing spray like fearsome fangs. Yet still the little place in my heart, which inspiration always kindled to a blaze, remained unlit and cold.
At last, I reached the little path that curled up to the weather-beaten door; all scarred and flecked with faded, crumbling blue paint. I raised my hand to knock. I could see the warm glow of cosy lighting, issuing from the cramped windows. I hesitated. The wind grew stronger, black clouds raced across the sky, the moon bore down upon the scene like a restless, roving eye.
I knocked. And waited.
Almost immediately, the door swung open with an easy 'creak', and soft candlelight diffused outwards; spilling into the night's darkness. Octavia stood, silhouetted in the doorway. Her wonderful hair seemed almost on fire, as the warm rays of flickering light, clustered through it like stained glass, or poppy petals against sunrise.
I stood awestruck and speechless. The little place in my heart that inspiration always kindled into art, erupted up into an all-consuming inferno of fiery passion! I felt that I could achieve anything; I could outstrip the masters: their greatest works would be but cheap mockeries when compared with my future triumphs! Oh! She illuminated my soul like every poet's dreamt-of muse; but here she was - real!
She must have gathered my delight (I did not conceal it very well) for she welcomed me with a laugh and an outstretched hand of greeting. I grasped her little fingers eagerly; they were smooth, long and elegant...but dreadfully cold. My head whirled as I heard the door close behind me, and I found myself in a comfortable little place, where peaceful quiet, contrasted pleasantly with the blusterous winds and crashing waves outside.
She brought me into a snug dinning room, and I seated myself upon an shapely, yet faded, ottoman. Having made myself comfortable to her satisfaction, she left to prepare drinks.
In her absence, I occupied myself in surveying the room and all its bizarre little details. In one corner stood the piano: it too was was carefully worn, but of a good make, and fine construction. There were various shabby little knickknacks and quaint curios, all dotted about the place very oddly. Most of these were of hardly any, or no, value; there were fragments of twisted driftwood, weird shells, various coloured pebbles and all manner of strange books. Even in this domestic setting, something raw and animal seemed to lurk amid all the carefully-chosen decor. The air held a slight tang of some strange aroma, the bare fire blazed and crackled in the hearth; through the parted curtains, the wild sea raged and tossed, stretching out beneath the hard white light of the frowning moon.
A clink of cup and saucer announced Octavia's return. I roused myself from my picturesque musings, and thanked her warmly. She smiled like a flower greeting the first rays of morning's light...yet, there was something...else. I pushed these odd thoughts to the back of my mind, and opened the conversation upon a matter which lay very heavy upon my mind:
"You have a very charming place; the view must be one of the finest of any...it really should inspire me, but do you know" -I smiled with bemusement at my own foolishness- "that since last week, I haven't been able to paint a single thing? Not one."
I stirred my tea thoughtfully, my spoon clinking noisily against the porcelain.
Her mystic eyes viewed mine tranquilly, and her pretty lips formed a slight line of vague inquisitiveness, but no frown marred the calm brow.
"Yes" I continued thoughtfully "one might almost say a curse has fallen upon me." Here, I regret to say, I cast a sidelong glance at my enchanting hostess. I fear she noticed it, for the very depths of her dark eyes seemed to spark with some dreadful wrath, and a slight crimson flushed to her cheeks; only to disappear in an instant.
"How strange." She murmured; her eyes, once more, calm as breathless ebony lagoons.
"Yes." I assented "I've never known anything like it. I have four pieces that I need to complete by next month at the the latest, but I confess I'm afraid to even touch them. One of them is for the vicar of Whitbridge, I dare say you know him? He's the most impatient man I know, and a fearsome critic. If I can't complete the centre-piece for the chapel in time, I'm sure it'll be my ruin. He's well-connected and very vociferous in expressing his displeasure."
She hesitated, her dark eyes following the fluctuations of the heaving waves outside.
"Perhaps..." her eyes met mine. I waited. "perhaps" she continued "you could bring your work here. I'm sure, in time, you would find the view more inspiring."
My heart leapt at the suggestion! Somehow I realised that this was what I'd been hoping for; this was the purpose of my visit. I had sought an opportunity to paint in her presence. I felt instinctively that her influence would rekindle my faded artistry.
So with this is in mind, I made a little show of indecision, so as not to appear over-eager. I voiced my concerns that I and my canvases, supplies and general mess, would inconvenience her. But with a weird, unearthly smile, and a dismissive little flick of her wrist, she waved all obstacles aside. In short, it was settled that I would return the following evening to try my hand at the Reverend's piece.
I left that night, striding back by the same coastal path. Strange to say, I already felt assured of my success. The work would be a masterpiece, and far from ruining my career, it would launch into incredible new heights of praise and acclamation. But She still disturbed my thoughts, not least because of the incredible power she seemed to have already gained over me. Already I felt myself dependant upon her, and I didn't like it. Beautiful as she was, I felt her beauty was of some deep, evil force put upon Earth to destroy me.
The following day, I returned to the lighthouse with all my supplies and work. Octavia's little living room became quite cluttered with all my artist's paraphernalia, but she bore it with good grace, perhaps even a tinge of delight; her eyes seemed to roam with strange enthusiasm over all my bottles, brushes, pencils and paints. When I unveiled the beginnings of the Reverend's piece, with its cherubim, seraphim, harps and scrolls; her eyes positively flamed with adoration, and I found myself blushing with pride.
She sat quietly as I set to work. Usually, I preferred solitude and silence when painting, but she seemed to radiate some strange charm that guided my brush unerringly. Her voice brought colour to my canvass.
As the last rays of day swept the sky, I found myself standing before a complete masterpiece. It was perfection. Every stroke spoke of a skill, almost unsurpassable and unimagined. Accomplished artist though I was, I could scare believe it was my hand that had traced those wonderful strokes; here and there, touches of genius that felt foreign to me, flowered and bloomed upon the canvass. Exultation and pride burst to my heart, but deep in the very depths of my being, a horrible repulsion crept and slithered in the darkness; 'Plagiarist' it whispered, 'Theif' it hissed. It was true, I felt that that the work wasn't mine, but Octavia's; I felt her soul had guided my hand. The finished piece wasn't in my usual style, there were too many touches of wild and brilliant imagination. But I stifled these ridiculous thoughts, and basked in the glory of my own appraisals, and Octavia's exclamations of wonder and disbelief.
Needless to say, Reverend Whitbridge was stricken speechless when I unveiled the work. He shook my hand with an earnest strength that threatened to dislocate my shoulder, and forced many extra bank notes into my hands. He would hear of nothing less than a triple payment of the original sum. But his generosity did not end there; if he was vociferous in his criticisms, then what was he in his praises? It seemed that within the space of few short days, my name had spread up and down the country. Galleries clambered for my work, my pieces sold faster than I could produce them, glowing reviews burst from every paper: in short, I had 'made it'.
The intoxication of success rippled through my mind, and my life was forever changed. My name was known, my face recognised as never before. The town even elected to have a small plaque placed upon my house, detailing my occupation and achievements...with a little blank left for my date of death.
Touching as all these various attentions were, I longed to hide away from the public eye. Constant exposure to dinner parties, soirées and social gatherings, left me exhausted and disillusioned. I felt I was the darling of the day, and the nobody of tomorrow. The public's shallow praise left me disgusted. I recognised many faces, who had passed my works by when they were cheap and unknown, now delving into their pockets; proffering vast wads of cash for the merest scribble. With satisfaction, I flatly refused their offers; selling my works for next-to-nothing to the few who had supported me all along. This behaviour did not damage my reputation, it increased it: I became recognized as an eccentric of strange tastes and unfathomable genius.
Octavia saw all this with joy and happiness. We grew much closer, and soon it came to the point when I spent my days walking along the tufted cliffs, hand in hand with my beautiful enchantress. When the days' light faded away, we retired to the lighthouse and I fell to sketching and painting her in her every attitude. In her, I found a challenging subject; her eyes lit with a thousand emotions, like the sea shaped by a thousand waves.
At first, everything proceeded smoothly: my mind swam like a dream-mist of twisting silks as I painted. I felt partly unconscious as I worked, as though only half my soul remained in the realm of the living, and the rest was transported to some mystic, daemonic, whispering cavern, deep beneath the earth. Her eyes, I came to realise, were the gateway to the Underworld. They sucked and consumed my being away, leaving me empty and numb. Still, her face was another world, foreign and unknown; all who saw it, did so with amazement and reverence.
We had passed from autumn into winter, and now it was January. The harsh light scarred the empty landscape; leafless trees reared into the acid blue sky.
I took the train to the Angelica Gallery: a massive monumental cathedral, converted for the purposes of art. Huge stained-glass windows towered up into lofty arches of grotesquely carved stone; the rafters creaked with the shifting winds; crowds chattered and swarmed about the paintings, like lazy flies. I spoke with a few old friends, who drifted out from the mingling assemblage at odd intervals.
It was at this point that Edward Burnside, a good schoolfriend of mine, made his way over and grasped my hand with all his usual strength. We fell to talking upon the usual subjects, and he enquired of my paintings: the little bridge over the water by the mill; a pale forest with sheep flocking in the low hills; meadows flecked with wildflowers and strewn with corn, then he noticed a portrait tucked away in a shadowy corner.
He wandered over and adjusted it slightly, so the light fell full upon it. He stood, motionless, contemplating the subject with quiet awe.
"Who is she?"
Of all the paintings upon my display, the one of Octavia was the finest; yet I had hidden it away behind the others, as something shameful. So it was with some annoyance, that I saw Burnside hold it up carefully to the sun's dreary rays, as they filtered through the great glass windows; admiring the surreal face with undisguised pleasure.
In a few words I described Octavia and how we had met. He was particularly interested in the quaintness of my failing artistry, and its subsequent rebirth. When I mentioned that Octavia taught piano, it struck me that I still hadn't heard her play; I noted this and decided to remedy the matter at the next available opportunity. As we chatted, I never once hinted at the strange feelings which Octavia conjured in me.
Burnside seemed very interested indeed in my young muse, and I concluded the conversation with an invitation to my studio, and the promise of an introduction to Octavia. He accepted gladly, and seemed utterly delighted at the prospect. Misgivings beset me at once, along with a strange mingling of jealousy and pride. But I shook his hand warmly as he departed, and he failed to guess the conflict that battled in my mind.
So it was that, three days later, a hearty knock rang out upon my door, and I found Burnside waiting for me; hands shoved in pockets, a smile flickering in his bright-blue eyes. He thumped a friendly arm upon my shoulder, and squeezed my hand in greeting, almost until I began to think the bones would break.
"Good to see you!" he barked "Lead the way! Let's see this Octavia of yours."
His was always a blunt and forthright nature, but he had a wonderful energy and charming honesty which made him a good friend, but a formidable enemy. I had never had the misfortune to cross his path, but I'd heard stories from those who had - they were unpleasant.
So we strolled along to Octavia's lighthouse, as the biting January winds chaffed us and whistled over the barren hills. The sea was grey and frigid; sandpipers, curlew and oystercatchers huddled on the rocks; while sanderlings hobbled back and forth, just out of reach of the tidal waves stroking the sands. Gulls and terns wheeled overhead, screeching and screaming, chasing crashing waves. There was a hard beauty in the cracked coast, lit by the sun's unforgiving light.
The lighthouse loomed ahead. It had begun to hold a strange terror and mystery for me. 'Octavia's Lighthouse' seemed like a haunted turret, or a sorceress's tower; some strange relic of some other Place. Nevertheless, as soon as Burnside clapped eyes upon it, he declared it 'picturesque'; obviously very pleased with its rural beauty and lonely situation.
As we approached up the path, Octavia came out to greet me; her brilliant hair whipped around her face by the sharp winds, driving colour into her cheeks; her long, skirts ruffled about her, like the waves of the bay. With a bitter stab of jealousy, I noted she halted when she observed Burnside's presence; though no doubt, this was because I had failed to inform her of his proposed visit. He, for his part, was gazing upon her with undisguised admiration - as he had upon her portrait.
As soon as we were seated in Octavia's drawing room, I glazed over my feelings; throwing everything into a jovial and eloquent introduction of Octavia and Burnside to one another. Nevertheless, some dark thoughts remained, and these I sought to disperse by requesting that Octavia play us something upon her piano. She was delighted, and consented immediately.
It was a mistake. She played across the keys like a nymph flitting through fairytale woods. Tinkling sounds filled our ears, painfully sweet and sorrowful, yet raucously joyous. Tears sprang to my eyes, and I looked to Burnside to see the effect the playing had produced upon him: his eyes glittered with merriment and a careless smile spread itself across his handsome face. It was strange that the same music could produce such different responses in its two listeners. It had been a mistake asking Octavia to play, because it was to water the seed of infatuation that was already sewn in Burnside's breast: I saw the truth in his eyes, probably before he knew it himself. I hated him for it, yet pitied him for his folly - a folly which I shared.
Octavia was oblivious to all this, and when she had finished playing, she turned to face us. She was charmed by Burnside's smile, but saddened by the wet tears that still lingered in my eyes. I reassured her that they were tears of happiness - a pretty lie that made her smile with joy. She loved me, of that I was assured: she told me of it every day with those black, mocking eyes of infinite darkness. I loved her in return, but with a devouring repulsive love; as of something rotten and impure. I felt that in loving her, I was strangling my soul.
The fact was, that I had become completely dependant upon her: she was my narcotic. I succeeded in nothing without her, she had consumed my art and become it; surpassed it and embodied it. It had become a fever to seek to capture that elusive, wild pagan beauty that lurked in her eyes. At first, I thought that I had achieved it, and nothing could rival the pride in my success which I felt. But gradually, I saw that I was mistaken. I had only captured the tip of the iceberg of that ethereal madness which was her reckless, feral essence.
I spent whole nights pursuing that strange spark that fled before my brush. I made her sit for hours in a fixed pose, and flew into a wild rage if she shifted her posture in the slightest. She was a demon; I saw it when the hours passed by in the stillness of the night; when her black eyes goaded me for my failure, and a taunting smile flicked about her lips. But she was everything; my talent was gone without her. I loved and detested her.
Perhaps it is easy to imagine with what jealousy I witnessed Burnside's passion for Octavia awaken before my eyes. They chatted innocently enough, but her demonic laughter pierced my heart like fiery knives, while his blue eyes grew round with wonder at all the pretty enchantments he discovered in our damned sorceress.
Gradually, it grew late and I volunteered to walk Burnside to the train station. As we marched along, side-by-side, he chattered giddily of Octavia. I listened quietly, with little pangs of pain throbbing in my heart. At one point, he looked up unexpectedly, and caught the seething hatred raging in my eyes.
"Oh Silverquay, I do appologise! It was quite wrong of me to talk so warmly of Octavia, but she really is so wonderfully gentle and kind: it's very hard not to. I meant no harm."
I forced a smile to my lips and told him that my mind had wandered to some other matter; that I hadn't heeded his words at all. This lie seemed to satisfy him, and he laughed at his silly 'mistake'.
We arrived at the train station, just as the train was pulling into the platform. We exchanged a last few words of hurried parting.
"Silverquay, it has been marvellous to catch up with you again, and very pleasant to make the acquaintance of Octavia. She really is charming... You really are a very lucky man."
He left me to board the train. As he alighted upon the steps, just as he was about to withdraw his head into the carriage, a sudden impulse seized me, and in a strange, sharp voice I cried across the crowds:
"I'm a damned man Burnside! ...A damned man!"
I entered the lighthouse, to find Octavia gazing out upon the frothing sea. Wordlessly, I motioned she resume her sitting. I filled my water jar and seated myself behind the canvas, but her black eyes overflowed with emotion. I frowned until she felt compelled to express herself vocally.
"I love you Gerard." she sighed, sweetly and sibilantly.
I turned to the canvas, making small adjustments to those luminous raven eyes; trying in vain to capture the glints and flecks that played amongst their depths.
My brush stroke went awry. I began to correct it.
In agitation I threw down my brushes and kicked over the water, letting the cloudy liquid seep into the cream carpet.
"Hells' teeth!" I cried "Satan be damned! What do you want?"
Her long lashes lapped against her cheeks as she suppressed a shudder.
There was witchcraft and devilry behind that mask of beauty. Had she not stolen my inspiration? Had she not robbed me of my art? Was I now, nought but an impotent wreck clinging to her - my muse? Was she not just now, with her distractions, trying to derail my work and ruin my career? I saw through all, right to the bleakest depths of her diabolical scheming hatred.
"G-Gerard? A-are you angry with me?"
Ha! What a question! As if she could ask it with such a sickening masquerade of palsied innocence. I almost laughed in her spiteful, venom filled-face...but I resisted.
Instead, all the wrath and rage I'd choked down through all my weeks of brutal failure, as my artistry once more began to fade into nothingness, burst out in a massive explosion of wild hatred.
"Angry with you... angry with you...? Beelzebub's blood! - I am furious! Octavia, you are a blasphemy! Yours is a beauty that was never meant to be! They say God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh...but I have my own theory! I have the evidence, the proof - sat right before me: here! I say that when God rested, the devil went to work and made one thing that undid all God's work, and that thing was..."
I jumped up from my seat, gazing down upon my unfathomable tormentor. Every fibre of my being crackled and sparked with energy. My head ached, my brain ricocheted round my skull. Slowly, deliberately, I extended a figure toward her.
"IT WAS YOU OCTAVIA! The Devil made you! Dont' you see? Don't you see! Oh she pretends she doesn't know her own master! What a joke!"
I flung myself upon the floor, laughing hysterically.
"My God Octavia! Don't you see? The Devil made you so beautiful that your beauty might make a mockery of all Gods's work! Everything is mire, filth and squalor against your shining, enchanting accursed beauty! I was an artist before I met you! There was beauty in this filthy world! But now, my God, where is it? gone! Nowhere to be found...nowhere but in you!"
Octavia stared at me in horror; her hideously gorgeous orbs of thunder and flowers, filled with terror.
"Oh do I scare you Octavia? My God, you scare me! I am a wreck! I can paint nothing without you...nothing...and now....now I can't even paint you. You are a vampire Octavia! I was somebody until you devoured me and burnt me up, like a love letter in the flames. Now what am? Nobody - less than your shadow."
I jumped to my feet, my head dizzy, nauseated; throat, dry.
"What do you say to this Octavia!" I grabbed the canvas, and spun it round to face her.
"Yes, yes! My little muse, my enchantress...my demon! Do you think anyone would buy that? Ha! A madman? Perhaps! But nobody else, nobody else. It is a mockery of art, it is obscene, it is disgusting, degenerate, degrading...my God - IT IS YOU!"
I pointed a quivering finger at the cursed thing that sat upon the chair.
"It is you Octavia! It is you stripped clean of all the beauty that enshrouds you! It is your soul Otavia...it is your soul."
I broke down in tears, covering my eyes with my hands so that I might not see the canvas or the dreadful woman which it represented.
I heard quiet footsteps approach, and a small hand laid itself upon my shoulder, like a fluttering moth.
"MY GOD! Don't touch me!" I shrieked, pulling away from the unclean thing.
Silence descended, broken only by my sobbing and the crisp ticking of the clock: slow and monotonous. My beating heart pulsed through my ears, my breathing came ragged and choking. I hated her. I began to see the solution: it stirred up through the mists of my thoughts, like the awakening of an avenging angel.
I smiled in the dark.
"Mr. Silverquay, I think you should go home."
She spoke the words evenly, levelly, and calmly, but I knew the true malice that lurked beneath - like a poison dagger.
I rose to my feet, turned, and faced her. I met those twin pits of Hell embedded in that face of flesh; that brittle cocoon of deceiving flesh, covering the world's Last Daemon. I challenged her, gathering her vicious words to my bosom, to fling them back at her, soaked in vitrol.
"Silverquay? How dare you! You destroy me, then, after I am ruined, you disown me? I WON'T HAVE IT! I won't have it Octavia...I swear it!"
I drew closer and closer to her. All the fire and flame within me arose into a towering molten anger that poured over my mind; spilling out bubbling, searing, scorching; until my vision clouded in a great fog of pure hatred.
I crept nearer and nearer, across that expanse of carpet that seemed to stretch out for eternity between us, in that small, cramped living room. As I approached, I whispered to the demoness of her own kith and kin.
"The Keres of the Greeks, Qarînah of Arabia, Paija of the Inuits, Sye-elth of America, Bean-sídhe of the Gaels, Kikimora of Russia..."
I stood before her now, feeling rushing power surging through my veins as I gazed upon the only true Vampire that has ever stalked this Earth.
It was a supreme moment, and I savoured it thankfully. Tonight, after moths of ceaseless struggle, I would at last be free. Free. Free from the torment of failure and degradation; free from the eternal mocking blackness of those insufferable eyes of Hell.
"Do you confess?" I laughed softly "Do you admit, that you are a...monster?"
I leaned down, placing my ear close to her lips.
Even then, even then when I sought to do good work, to remove an antediluvian Evil from this mortal world; I felt her warm breath upon my skin and I hesitated. What weakness! I was born and raised a gentleman, unaccustomed to the prospect of such necessities. I had always thought of the female sex as angelic and spiritual, but this one...My God!
Then she raised her eyes to mine, her lashes brushing again my cheek, the unconquerable blackness in those twin wells of Tartarus leaking in into my heart, a septic vomit of purest blasphemy. Her plump lips parted and a few word fell, sweeping out from her glorious mouth like bats into the night.
"You are mad." she whispered, her breath scented with the moribund fragrances of dead lilies and torn petals.
She called me mad! Oh the glittering irony of it! The admirable hypocrisy of it! The laudable insanity of it! My God!
Thus tormented, chastised, mocked, ridiculed, condemned and goaded; I could stand it no longer! My natural gentle instinct subsided, and I flew at her with my palette knife. Blunt as my tool was, I would hew those black diamonds from the accursed marble visage. What was it, but a malicious mask? A fickle façade? It was not flesh, hers were not eyes!
I screamed and flung myself upon that ghoulish wraith that twisted and turned in my grip, like venomous serpent.
Ah! She fought like no woman - such strength! Her claws dug into my wrists, the veins stood out upon her neck as she hurled her wicked life-blood into defending that repulsive form.
Had she been innocent, she would have accepted my judgement! This resistance, this insupportable retaliation, did it not confirm my blackest thoughts? Yes! As the mask slipped away from my fair enchantress, revealing the hellish apparition that lurked beneath; I was spurred on to greater efforts! I exerted every ounce, every grain of strength...and she fell back! She fell back! Back upon the floor! Shuddering and shaking, tears in her blasphemous eyes!
Then, she dared to beg for 'mercy'.
Mercy! Had I not thrown my soul away upon the jagged rocks of her blackened heart? Was I not destroyed? Was I now nought but a damned thing in her thrall? Ha! What mercy has a demon for his fellow? None! I laughed like a maniac; my spit flecking across her face.
The palate knife rested upon her cheek, pushing against her eyelid. I squealed with delight! Ha! This was to be the finest moment of my life!
Tears gushed from the black abysses of limitless horror.
I pushed the knife...
A high, haunting, cacodaemonic, banshee-like cry, cracked out from her throat and burst into the room. It whirled and shattered round like an evil spirit; sending my eardrums shivering with an exquisite melody of unspeakable agony!
Blackness descended, my mind grew blank, my vision swam. Everything appeared as though through choking clouds of black smoke and soot.
I screamed and sought her with my hands, but she had slipped my grasp. I heard her breathing and sobbing nearby.
Blind, I crept towards her, crazed cackles dripping from my cracked lips.
I found her. I flung my arms about her, and began to squeeze that serpentile, squamous body with all my strength! I heard the joints creak, her scream rattled again from that horrible throat!
Then, I heard the door open; approaching footsteps; a man's scream.
It was Burnisde. He laid me out with a blow to the head. A curtain of blackness descended.
I woke sometime later, I have no idea how many days passed during the interval of my unconsciousness. I awoke in a white room, clean and pristine. No furniture. Nothing. Silence beat upon my ears like needles and pins. My head ached. I felt my jaw: it was swollen and strange. My tongue explored my teeth: three on the right side were missing.
This was nothing! Octavia lived! Burnside, traitorous Burnside!
Hours passed. Finally an old nurse, with wintry eyes, came to see me.
I asked what had become of Octavia, but she would not answer, she merely clucked as she rearranged the blanketed sheets of my bed.
Days passed, monotonous and empty. Finally one day, - I know not if it was a fair day or a foul one, for my room bore no windows- at some hour, a visitor was admitted to my bedside.
I struggled, and raised myself to a seated position within my cotton folds. I realised how weakened I was, both in body and mind. I squinted, and saw that it was The Traitor. Anger welled up within my mind, but my body was to weak to respond.
Burnside seated himself upon a chair; gazing upon me with a mixture of concern and disgust.
I turned my head away. He had deceived me - a false friend in league with the devils!
"Silverquay...you... you look very ill." His voice was halting, dry and fractured.
Silence fell, awkward and terrible. I enjoyed it, and made no attempt to break it. Burnside, however, did:
"I still don't...understand. What could have possibly possessed you to behave in such a way to such a wonderful woman?" he sighed "It's a mystery. In all the years I've known you, I never imagined you'd turn into one of those fellows one hears about; one of those...crazed men. I didn't want to come here today; knowing what you're capable of; knowing how dangerous you are; but, I have to know what made you do it! Was it simply the stress of an overworked mind, or...?"
He left that hideous question hanging in the air like an invisible noose. Oh! He questioned my sanity, did he? He thought I was mad, did he? That witch! Her spells! My God.
"Are you listening to me Silverquay? ...Gerard? Come on man! You're locked up in this place like a...like a..."
He trailed off, and started out on a fresh track, in wheedling tones.
"Well never mind about that: you're here, and here is the best place for a man of your...condition. Now I see you're not going to talk, and that's fine. I suppose you're wondering how I came to suddenly burst in on you and...the Lady, out of the blue? It's a damn good job I did! - A moment longer and God alone knows what would have happened!"
"When you cried out to me 'I'm a damned man' at the station, it set my mind churning. I thought it a dashed odd way of parting, and I couldn't put it out of my head. To cut a long story short; I got off at the very next stop and made my way back to your house - but you weren't in. I realised you must be visiting The Lady. I rushed to lighthouse as fast as I could. As I came up the path, I heard those dreadful screams..."
"Good God! Octavia had a lucky escape: she was barely hurt. She's completely recovered now; not a scratch to show for it...still in shock though..."
I turned to face him; silencing him with my burning eyes.
"Never. Ever. Say her Name in my presence. She is a Demon and must be destroyed! But I can't do it...not now! Don't you see Burnside? Don't you see! They have me locked up here! The nurses are her minions, all in her thrall! She is a witch-queen, a vampire, an enslaver of man! She is the beast! She is unclean... She is HELL!"
I shrieked, pulling the bedclothes about me, to protect me from the evil forces that lurked in every corner; the Evil Forces Burnside had brought with him. He was contaminated by Her... He was Her!
Burnside sat, viewing me with open horror, tinged with a mocking pity. He too was a blasphemy. I tried to extract myself from the horrible bed where I lay, to destroy him; but I was weak, and fell to the floor with a clatter and a shriek of pain.
The hellish nurses dashed in; their faces blank as spectres. They dragged me back into my bed....back into my prison. They whispered words to Burnside, and he nodded and left without another glance in my direction.
Months must have passed since that event, perhaps even years. I have never seen Burnside or that Demoness since. There are no papers here for me to read, no friends for me to confide in. I am locked up in this place, this Asylum, as if I were deranged: as if I were mad. But, yet, I am not mad! It is She, the demon-empress who haunts my dreams, it is She who is mad! That such a Monster should roam the world while I, a man who would cleanse the world of evil, am left to rot with lunatics and madmen...!
Once; many weeks ago, before what the hideous nurses refer to as my 'worst episode'; I found a stray newspaper lying in the communal washroom - one of the staff must have left it there by accident. Greedily, I devoured every word...
What was my horror when I came across an announcement of marriage? An announcement of marriage between He and She! A union of Devils!
I tore at the walls and screamed myself hoarse. I bit the nurses as they tried to recapture their wretched prey and bring it back to its dank Prison - my private Hell! They were more servants in in Her thrall! My ghastly keepers cloaked in human form!
Since that day, my strength has weakened and weakened. I am dying and, that I will die without cleansing the world of the growing legions of demons that swear their allegiance to Her, is a terrible agony that draws death on quicker with its torments. Fever burns my mind. Even the ghastly things that guard me here, in their white starched uniform, even they have shown some little pity to me. They have allowed me pen, paper and ink - that I might record my reminiscences.
I have finished now. I shall not live many hours more.
Let me say one final thing.
Yesterday, I tried to draw: but I could not. I could draw nothing... Nothing save my own face; my own face made grotesque by a twisting smile of infinite evil. And, upon my head, two horns of The Devil.