To celebrate the occasion of the day I present the following short horro story.
Last year this was turned into an audio reading by Jessica Burkhart and my podcasting partner David Tavolier for our podcast TRIO SIMPATICO but I realized I never posted the actual text anywhere. So here you are, I present to you in full Unrequited Death – 1870 by me, Joshua Scott Witsaman.
If you’d like to listen to the podcast featuring the reading simply go HERE!
Journal entry April 30 1870
Some men perpetually focus their thoughts on industry and production and the prosperity and legacies which they can acquire through those corporate means. In particular I think about the recent news of this Standard Oil business which is taking hold just north of here. There has been so much discussion and grandstanding along with debate and derision that one would think that it was a matter of unprecedented import.
However there are subjects far more complex and uncannily commonplace which could change the course of human existence if we as a people would only be so wise as to take notice of them. Love is one such subject, another is Death. I have become well acquainted with both, and recently the two have intersected in a beautifully tragic way. Love and Death have altered me on an intellectual as well as physical scale.
I have been changed for the better, my eyes opened to worlds beyond worlds.
Love and Death.
Though Rockefeller and other men of industry believe themselves to be brokers of true global power they are but petty dabblers, for their authority can not compare to the love I have felt, the enduring passion I’ve held for Virginia Howell.
And when it comes to the true power of those masters of capitalism, for all their pompousness even they can not escape Death.
Recently my thoughts dwell on Death, as they have for so long. I have been so preoccupied with the concepts of Death that I am unable to regularly maintain this accounting of my personal thoughts. I think and I pace. Pace and think. Finding myself nearly too deep in drifting thought to put those thoughts to pen upon this page.
I pace relentlessly these days. It seems as though I am constantly shuffling throughout the manor staring out into the adjoining ravine without truly looking upon its scenery. To and fro, up and down I wander the hallways contemplating almost as many hours as I actively spend on my field of study.
Perhaps my feet unwittingly will not stop for fear that I will dwell too long on my dearest Virginia and fall into a self-indulgent trap. Though she is dead I can never truly miss her for she will now forever be with me.
I dare to speculate that Virginia’s death was perhaps for the best.
She is now preserved always as she was, a tender beauty of unmatched purity. Now she will never know pain and the agony of age. Virginia will never toil over affairs of economy or state. Her brow will never again furrow with worry or flush from fear.
And she will never again entrap herself in selfish judgements which kept her away from me.
What most eases my pain is that her spirit is now with me, haunting me, though not yet to the degree I would prefer. For though I hear her ethereal voice she does not speak to me, or commune with me as much as I would wish.
I hear her as clearly as if she were standing beside me, the words echoing throughout the walnut paneled walls of this great estate.
“Let me go.” She whispers. “Let me go.”
Though I would wish to hear a greater variety of her words, her spirit stubbornly repeats the same phrase unending. As I paced the dismal halls I heard her on the breeze and accompanying every creaking board across which I stepped.
“Let me go.” She says.
But how could I ever let her go when she occupies the very fibers of my heart? Each drop of blood within me, filtered through the chambers which she occupies. Thus my very physical form yearns for her and I can never be without her despite her ghostly pleading.
“Oh my sweet, gentle Virginia!” I seem to find myself repeating to the shadows.
When within my private study I speak with her detached spirit, though it is but a one sided conversation. The presence of her is there, I can feel it, sense it around me and her ghost is looming and unsettled.
“Calm your ethereal pangs my dearest, for I am here!” I call into the emptiness of my rooms. “I am here and willing to love you in any form you take. Spirit, voice, or ghoul! I could never let you go, never forget you, nor abandon you to the emptiness of death!”
Within the thick walls of these elevated rooms my discussions and readings are concealed from outside listeners. Mercifully muffled are the dialogues I attempt to initiate with these spirits which have gathered near me, especially my beautiful love Virginia. Up here in my seclusion I hear nothing and my activities, which I’m sure already seem eccentric and frightening to some, are kept from the prying ears of those who might think me mad, or worse.
Those of the county elite most likely assume me a young lover driven insane with grief.
I’ve written before how here, within my sanctum, within the uppermost floors of the manor, not even the servants are allowed to venture and the state of it suffers accordingly. Dust and cobwebs have gradually come to coat my books and artifacts.
Though my study may seem a crypt, blanketed with grime, there are a few exceptions. Though most of the paintings and relics accumulated here over my long years could admittedly do with a thorough cleaning, the books and laboratory equipment which I engage with the most are kept quite clean. The orbs and crystal spheres atop my shelf for instance remain free of dust thanks to my regular engagements with them. Those spheres of course hold great significance within the context of my greater works.
A fact my dearest Virginia realized all too late.
I hear her voice again. As I sit here writing Virginia communes with me once more.
“Let me go!” She seems to weep, slow and mournful.
I clasp my head in despair as the echo of her words again defines her haunting. Tears well in my eyes as I contemplate Virginia’s shattered life and the stubborn refusal of her voice to speak beyond those same three words!
Let. Me. Go.
My emotions develop into defiant laughter, for I will never let Virginia go, she will forever dwell within my thoughts and so long as my mind remains commanding and her spirit calls out to me I will have her here in one form, if not another.
With the echoing whisper of Virginia’s words swirling around me I approached the dustless orbs at the center of my sanctum and delicately plucked one from the small stand it rested upon. At my touch the light within faintly glowed again and the interior of the sphere swirled as though filled with a bluish smoke.
Outside my gabled window a trident of lightning split the sky, followed quickly by a quaking burst of thunder. The first of the night, no doubt heralding an approaching tempest.
An accounting of the evening of April 30 1870
My night was made worse shortly after the first crash of thunder moments before the heavens opened up and poured down upon me. The storm was relentlessly fierce and gave no sign of a weakening. By this point I was alone and did not bother to cover my head or shield my dress from the elements. It didn’t take long for my garments to become soaked, down to the bodice and the dress hung heavily upon my shoulders. Thankfully I had enough foresight to don a pair of my sturdiest riding boots or else my shoes would have quickly filled with mud. Regardless, each step I placed upon the road was agonizing but my determination was stony and I’m sure my expression was even more so.
I couldn’t be sure how far I’d trudged along that narrow road. Earlier I’d been forced to leave the carriage and the driver warned me of the black sky and imminent storm, telling me I had at least three miles to go before I’d reach the Trent mansion and warning me against going.
After that it was only a handful of minutes before the rains and wind struck.
When finally the lighted windows of the estate faintly came into sight it seemed like a different dawn.
Chilled to the bone, pained, and exhausted I pushed onward until the light of those windows fell upon my face.
Shaking and unsteady I rapped furiously upon the front door of the grand house. Thunder crashed behind me and winds howled overhead as I knocked with a maddened ungloved fist. After a few moments of such a clatter the door opened to reveal a flustered servant within.
Behind the suited butler came rushing the master of the house, Mister Perry Trent industrialist and county magnate of considerable wealth and prestige.
“Who is it?! Who is making such a racket at this hour!?” Mister Trent was yelling ahead to the answerless servant.
Before the butler could complete his initial stammering Mister Trent’s eyes widened with recognition.
“My God!” Perry Trent exclaimed. “It’s you!” He said rushing to my side. “Please come in Miss . . . .”
I quickly waved my arms to silence Trent.
“Do not speak my name!” I demanded breathlessly. “There are dark forces about and this storm itself may be a part of it!”
To his credit Mister Trent only allowed a fraction of his confusion to show, pausing but a moment at my strange command.
“Well please come in!” He insisted. “Come sit down by the fire. Jones, Please get our guest some dry blankets.” Perry Trent instructed his man as he lead me inward.
“We haven’t much time!” I panted, begrudgingly allowing myself to be ushered over to the brightly lit drawing room of the great house. Sitting down I barely felt the warmth and comfort of that roaring fire, my body was nearly numb from my frantic state. I sat staring at the wavering light of the flames until finally I abruptly shouted.
No doubt my sudden outburst startled my host but I continued.
“It’s about Virginia Howell!” I said
Mister Trent’s brow drew tight with confusion. “Howell?” He asked thoughtfully. “The young woman who went missing?”
I nodded quickly.
“Well what is it my dear? Have you word of her, have you found her?”
I looked at Perry Trent’s thoughtful expression and could see him working through any number of eventualities related to my appearance at his home and the mention of Virginia Howell’s name all of which he condensed into the a single question.
“Is she hurt?” he asked.
I nodded as tears began to pour from my eyes, the watery streaks mixing with the beads of rain already dotting my features.
“She’s dead!” I sobbed. “Virginia is dead!” Though quickly I shook my head looking Trent square in the face.
“No she isn’t dead.” I amended. “Something worse than dead!”
He listened with an expression of abject horror. I’m sure the expression was a mixture of this sudden news and my highly agitated state. The kind of emotionality which most men so weakly find unsettling.
“Please, my dear you aren’t making any sense.” He told me. “You must calm down and explain to me what happened!”
At that moment his butler Jones returned to the room with an armful of woolen blankets.
Trent stood and delicately draped them over my shivering shoulders and across my drenched lap.
Waving Jones away the stately Mister Trent urged me to continue.
“Virginia Howell was brought back!” I whispered through clenched teeth. “That man, the one who lives above the Medvedeff Ravine killed her!” I blurted, admittedly disjointed. “And then in the woods he brought her back. In that circle he laid her body down among the trees and the two emerged together!”
Even at the time I knew how I must have sounded.
My words were barely audible amid my quaking and labored breathing. Strange phrases and eyes filled with terror. I only knew we had to act quickly and there was no moment to spare.
Perry Trent’s expression was allowably confused.
“You’re saying that the Master of the Medvedeff estate, mister . . . .”
Again I held up my hands to silence his naming of names.
“. . . . the Master of the Ravine house, assaulted Miss Howell before she went missing?”
I shook my head and stared into the crackling fire.
“Assaulted?!” I spat angrily. “Did you not hear what I said?”
Throwing off one of the blankets I spun where I sat to face my host.
“The two of them, Virginia and him, were walking, talking together, which was strange because Ginny had told me not a day before, that she wanted nothing to do with him. That he frightened her!”
Perry looked upon me intently though clearly perplexed, yet I continued.
“That man had made advances at her several nights before, confessed his love for her, asked her to marry him even and be the mistress of Medvedeff House!
But Virginia wanted nothing to do with that man, she’d told me she loved . . . . another.”
I trailed off at that moment remembering my surroundings and remembering Ginny.
“Needless to say I found it strange when I spied the two of them together and I immediately knew something was wrong.
Their voices were hushed but their movements were hasty and agitated.
I followed them to the edge of the northwest woods where the great mound of the Hopewell had been discovered. It was there that their hushed discussion clearly became an argument. Virginia made to leave his company but he grabbed firm to her arm and quickly pulled her into the woods.”
“I was alarmed, terrified!” I explained to Perry Trent
“I’d watched them walk and followed them into the trees, concealing myself as I kept them in sight. The two of them only had to march into the trees a short way before the thick forest was enough to blot all of us from outside observation. Yet the master of the ravine house dragged sweet Virginia deeper into the grove. He held her tightly by the arm yet she only rebuked his grip slightly and when I was finally able to catch glimpses of Virginia’s cherubic face I recognized a glazed horror in her eyes which I could not explain and her half-hearted attempts to tear herself away from him were like a doctor’s fitful patient unsuccessfully fighting a powerful anesthetic.
“It is when they reached a clearing within the heart of the trees that the unforgivable and most disturbing events took place. It was in that grassy circle carved out from the heart of the forest where I saw that accursed man twist Virginia’s pliant body around in his grip so that her wide unblinking gaze was fixed on him and he grabbed her! With such sudden and forceful violence, he grabbed her Mister Trent! Wrapping his sinewy hands around her neck he began to strangulate her and immediately it was as if whatever catatonic spell had been enveloping her was suddenly broken. Virginia stiffened, flailing and clawing at him with an intense fury.”
I paused once more in my recounting as my throat cracked and my thoughts turned inward.
“It is here that my shame is paramount Mister Trent, my falsity of character revealed. For I consider myself a strident individual, an honorable woman, and a woman with a strength to match most men, in will if not always in physicality, but I am certain I could have given a hearty fight to that sickly lank of a man from the Ravine Manor.
However I instead hesitated.
Frightfully I crouched there and watched, I watched Mister Trent, watched as he choked the life from my lovely Virginia!”
With those words Perry Trent’s expression melted from confusion into horrified shock.
Slowly he gathered his thoughts.
“Do you mean to say my dear that you witnessed the murder of Virginia Howell?!” He asked at last.
Staring down at the dark paisley carpet of the parlor I nodded remorsefully.
Perry Trent straightened dutifully as he spoke again.
“Well certainly you realize that if you have a firsthand account of such a crime we must get you to Judge Mathers immediately!”
Quickly I raised my hand to interrupt him.
“There is more.” I added. “And it is here, in what I tell you next which may lead you to question my credibility as a witness. I certainly have come to question the entirety of the world around me!”
Stoney faced and hesitant Perry Trent nodded and urged me to continue.
“She was dead Mr. Trent of that I have no doubt. I have seen death, I am sure you have heard of my volunteering as a nurse during the war. Something my family was abjectly opposed to but needless to say I know death and I know the pale escape of life that overcomes a body upon death’s arrival.
“I know she was gone by the way Virginia’s frame slumped away from the maddened grip of that man, falling to the ground.
The way he stood there for a moment erect and triumphant as she fell!”
“Quaking in horror I watched what came next, even as a lurking ghastliness urged an overpowering nervousness within me fearing that he’d spy me there or that he might somehow sense my presence huddled among the brush.
However even if I had been espied I’m sure he knew that any tales told about what I saw next would be thought of as ravings of a lunatic.”
Perry Trent offered no opinion on that but solemnly incited me to continue.
“From his jacket pocket the master of the Ravine house extracted a book, some small glass bottles, and what appeared to be several strange instruments the manner of which I could not identify. His movements seemed rehearsed, following some sort of wretched choreography.
My vantage was not ideal but I could see he repeatedly gesticulated, moving his hands with strange practiced motions as if performing some eerie ritual. The ceremonial nature of the act was accentuated by the hushed recitation of words, oh those words, Mr. Trent! Those detestable words!
Though they were inaudible to me the mere vibration of them in the air crawled cold across my skin and drove wild my already panicked sense of dread!
How long this demonic rite played out, there in the woods, I could not say. Perhaps minutes, perhaps tens of minutes, my demeanor was so distressed that such concepts as time were lost on me.
But at the end, oh here is the worst, at the end Mr. Trent that monster rose to his feet and with him he had Virginia, and I do not mean to say he dragged her or beheld Virginia in his arms, she arose as well or at least that which was once Virginia Howell!
Yes Mr. Trent there have been rumors about the things which take place in that mansion overlooking Medvedeff Ravine as I’m sure you’ve heard, but this is absolute proof of the diabolical practices of which the men of the county have feared!”
At these words Perry Trent’s expression transitioned from concerned interest to wide eyed panic in a matter of an instant. Whether his shift was a result of the realization that the evil he’d feared was true or the fact that I, a woman, was privy to these rumors I could not be certain.
Rising to his feet the good Mr. Trent stared down at me sitting before him in those heavy blankets and he examined me with pensive, accusatory glares. Fixing me with looks of angry trepidation for which I can not quite explain.
“How do you even know of such things?!” He asked with an uncharacteristically harsh voice. “Those discussions and those fears of which I will not name in this house, were only ever spoken of between a handful of men from the county!”
At this I thrust myself up to my full height to match his posture.
“I am no fool maiden Mr. Trent!” I exclaimed. “When my father still lived I kept myself closely familiar with his affairs, even those he wished to keep secret from his family! I know of the necromancy and other magics of the dead which are being worked within that dreary old place above the ravine. What I’ve just explained to you is, least of all, definitive proof of that man being the killer of Virginia Howell and confirmation of his involvement in evil practices of the forgotten old Gods!
Virginia was dead, strangled before my eyes, and yet that fiend guided her from those woods as he delicately clutched one of the occult bottles he had extracted during his ritual!”
Becoming suddenly agitated and visibly more nervous Perry Trent began to pace back and forth before the warmth of the fire place.
“And why have you now brought all of this madness to my doorstep?” Trent asked. “What would you have me do about it?”
I looked at him confused and threw back my shoulders.
“I mean for you to help me of course!” I quickly shot back. “You’re a well-respected man of the state and even more so in the years since the war. My father spoke highly of you and considered you an ally in his own . . . . peculiar studies, which others may have spoken of grimly at times.”
To his credit Perry Trent was quick to defend the reputation of my father.
“Your father studied in depth the works of Paracelsus!” He rebuked me. “And he worked to deprive all manner of darkness the chance of using their evil to overtake this world! He applied his mystic studies in the defence of life and I very much wish your father were here now!”
I nodded my agreement.
“And now is precisely the time we must continue my father’s work.” I explained. “For the very things he feared to be among us are now brazenly rearing their unholy heads!”
I looked to Trent with a determined gaze and attempted to urge him to action.
“Come, let us go now!” I prompted my host. “We can doubtlessly gather some other men fairly quickly with your reputation, and be ready to make way for that wretched place whenever this storm passes, at least by days break!”
His eyes were empty however and he stared into nothingness as he shook his head negatively.
“No.” He told me with a tremor in his voice.
“If it truly is as you’ve described than things are already too dangerous!” He explained “It would be best now to let matters play out as they are meant to, for there are powers and affairs we are not meant to interfere in.”
Confused and utterly incensed by this apparent cowardice I stepped in front of Trent forcing myself into his view.
“Surely you don’t mean that!” I shouted. “If we act with surprise on our side we can . . . . “
Perry Trent interrupted me, grabbing me by the shoulders. Instinctively I recoiled as he bent down pulling himself face to face with me.
“You do not understand!” He shouted back to me. “Perhaps if your father was alive we might attempt such a thing, but to do so now . . . . it just can’t be done. It is far too dangerous!”
I started to protest further but was again quieted.
“Leave my house now.” Trent ordered sternly releasing me before turning away thoughtfully, clasping his hands behind his back. “Return to your home, forget this nonsense and pray that such dark matters do not spread to your own direct family.”
“But it already has.” I explained. “I loved Virginia Howell and I will not relent until I have justice brought down upon her killer!”
“Listen to me!” Perry Trent suddenly demanded in a scornful, paternal way. “If you have any chaste, prudent sensibilities left within you, do as I say! Forget these raving fever dreams you attest to and return home! Such matters will and MUST resolve themselves. To act against such men is to upset delicate balances of power for which you do not understand.”
His patronizing tone fueled my anger more than any of the specific words he spoke and the heat within me evaporated the last of my self-restraint. I planted a foot defiantly and stepping forward slapped Perry Trent across the face.
Though not immediately outraged by my attack I did see the man clench his jaw fiercely as he blinked away the strike.
“You will find no help from me.” He began again in a more collected voice. “And I must admit that I am not wholly glad you brought this affair to my estate. These phantom menaces are things which I’d prefer went unheard of and it is because of such things that I proclaim my devote faith. I must not partake in any unnatural practices so that no such travesties befall me or my house.”
His voice was calmer then but quieter, breathier as his eyes darted lowly to the floor.
I stood agape scrutinizing the man who was now such a reversal of his previous anger from moments ago. It was strange to me, confusing. Until at last I realized what I was seeing.
“You are afraid!” I exclaimed at last. “You! The wonderful Perry Trent, so great a man in stature and wealth, afraid! And in your fear you choose inaction in lieu of justice!”
I sneered in spite of myself as I looked up at him.
“So great your faith must be Mr. Trent!“ Was all else I could say.
“Leave here now!” Trent snarled through clenched teeth. “Jones! Jones!” Perry Trent called toward the shut parlor door.
As the man servant arrived Trent did not hesitate with his orders.
“Jones escort this woman from the house if you will!”
From behind the tall lace curtains a jagged bolt of lightning streaked outside briefly filling the parlor with a bluish flash followed by a monstrous crack of thunder that shook the entire house. As I heard the rain spatter against the windows I knew there was no further reasoning with that great magnate of the county for his fear and impotency in the face of a power greater than his own was abundantly clear, and would effectively paralyze him in this matter.
If I wanted to strike any sort of victory in this cause for Virginia Howell I knew I would have to do so myself.
Journal Entry April 30 1870, evening of.
“Oh my dearest Virginia speak! Let me hear once more your delicate trill of voice.”
I plead repeatedly with the spirit of my haunting love once more though now she is silent.
Before me, where I sit, are my orbs. The precious trophies of my research. In my grasp I hold the orb of Virginia and peer into it.
“Speak! You will speak!” I find myself shouting. “I command it!”
Oh how it pains me to be so rash but she is still in transition, confused, and vainly rebellious.
Briefly and almost imperceptibly the orb glows and I hold it closer, delicately placing it atop the wooden stand upon the table within my sanctum. Sitting down at the table I raise my hands over top the orb and speak again:
“Ithuna kaburri Virginia thanatos khund!”
The phrase is one I have been practicing recently and repeat it several times as my books and studies dictate, finally repeating my initial command.
“Speak Virginia, I call upon you now, speak!”
Satisfyingly the orb suddenly illuminates with a bright blue glow and her voice emerges with a shrill vibrational scream.
“Be calm my dear, you are safe. Perfected now, here with me. Do you understand?”
There was a long pause before her reply.
“No, I . . . . do not understand.” He voice faintly floated to me. “You must let me go!”
She moans and wails repeating those words I have so often heard from her since she joined my collection.
I can only laugh in response, a hearty full guttural laugh the likes of which I have not experienced in decades.
“You are with me now!” I repeat, laughing. “You’ll never again be free from me, never again loose to return to the unnatural embrace of that woman you misguidedly cherish!”
I continue to laugh. A dangerous uncontrollable laugh that brings to the surface a manic state within me, a madness of innumerable years I so often fight to keep at bay!
At that time Virginia’s orb flashed brightly with a heretofore unseen radiance which momentarily illumes the entirety of the room in that bluish light. I have to shield my eyes from the glow of it, but she is unable to maintain such a feat for long.
There is an outburst from Virginia’s spirit, what begins as an audible scream, ending with a long series of vibrations radiating outward from the crystalline orb.
“Oh don’t waste your efforts my sweet Virginia!” I assure her as I continue to laugh. “You’re quite secure where you are and I would much rather have you exhaust your energies by relaying to me your secrets and the mysteries to which you are now privy!”
When she had eventually calmed I raised my hands once more over her indigo-streaked orb, purposeful motions which the charlatans and buffoon occultists reenact in their attempts at crystal gazing with their glass rods and crystal balls! Of course those carnival acts and wandering gypsies are all missing the critical component with which is required to make such ceremonies at all effective, a captive spirit which is capable of seeing in all directions, and beyond.
With her calmer I began my line of questions for Virginia and we gradually discussed many tantalizing subjects regarding life and death and the activities of individuals in both of those planes of existence!
I have also given her another test, a task for her to accomplish when next I deem to release her on one of my guided excursions of consciousness.
Perhaps this time she’ll be honest regarding the sights she has spied and the events that she witnesses. It is all a matter of her willpower and I must instill the idea that such willpower is futile in her current state of existence.
As my instructions continued and our discussion went on Virginia’s voice dimed to a monotone growl and I believe she is more deeply realizing the full extent of her circumstances and the strength of my power and the enchantments which I have ensnared her with.
As the others before her have done, Virginia too will submit to her fate.
When she was whole, she deemed herself strong willed and above the discourse of other gentile young women of her stature, but now, here inside the orb my powers and ephemeral prodding are the only force and experience her soul can now relate to!
After this next task was explained to her Virginia and I spoke for a short time, however her responses largely remained flat and distant. When she had not interrupted our discussion with any further outbursts, repeatedly begging for her release, I believed we’d made some progress and I ended our time together.
I carefully placed her crystal sphere back on the shelf between the spheres of my other servants. I find that I am extra cautious with her, for though she is now one minion among many, there remains a deep attachment for her.
My thoughts then drifted to the other half of my work with Virginia Howell.
It was a simple matter really, a procedure from the earliest days of my Necromantic studies. These days it is a power I seldom find myself reverting to except in the few instances when I could find use for an extra pair of hands in my experiments or had a call for brute strength. And in those instances I tend to raise up the body only temporarily until they’ve served their purpose and can be put down again.
Reconstituting and activating the flesh of the dead is simple, for the body is weak and pliable but such things require constant upkeep or they become corrupt and decay upon the reborn frame devolving into shambling creatures of rot.
Such things are generally seen as horrific amongst the commoners.
But when a specimen is enchanted exceedingly fresh, the process can be much easier to maintain. If separated from the astral elements at exactly the precise moment and the corpse not allowed to rest more than a day or two the processes of the reanimated body can be maintained almost indefinitely!
I again became interested with this physical necromancy when I first caught sight of Virginia Howell.
It was while pursuing my secluded nightly pursuits, of which I need not discuss here, when I wandered near to the Howell estate. While stalking about the edge of their land I serendipitously spied Virginia within her upper bedroom window. Barely dressed she seemed to glide across my view, a vision of grace and beauty.
Shortly after that night I decided that she would be the next subject of my great work but I also decided it would be a tremendously trivial waste to simply dispose of such a lovely body in my typical manner.
Thusly my study of corpse reanimation was brought back to the forefront.
Though completely unnecessary and not without its dangers to my greater goals, I have allowed myself this one flight of fancy.
Leaving my study I crossed through into my personal chambers, entering the space where absolutely no others in this house dare venture. My single lamp provided a subdued visibility into the otherwise impenetrable bleakness of that room with its heavy curtains and windows of blackened glass.
In the dim light she is there waiting for me where she has been these many days since her release, her separation of body and spirit. Motionless on the lounge lays the body of Virginia Howell.
Though how foolish of me I should not call it a body, for it is no longer a corpse. It breaths and the blood again courses beneath that alabaster flesh. However it can no longer be considered human and it is certainly not Virginia Howell but more accurately what is left of her.
With a snap of my fingers the eyes flutter open though the gaze they cast does not search or express anything more than a simple animate presence. A human shell without faculties, personality, or soul.
I however have repurposed it in order to satiate the base desires of my own flesh.
Laying there nude and motionless in the lamplight until, with a quick practiced motion of my wrist, I mystically command the shell of Virginia Howell to stand. There beside the chaise is a ceramic jar of salve, a balm of my own concoction which I must use to prevent open sores from forming upon this mindless slave, which spends most of its days laid out across the lounge. Though despite my efforts three such wounds have developed, two along her back and one upon her lower right hip.
I must remember to come in and turn her more often.
Liberally applying the salve I take a moment to further examine the body and I allow myself a few self-indulgent moments to explore its elegant shapes, allowing my gaze to catalogue the physical beauty of the form.
Like a work of art captured for eternity as the Gods had chiseled it.
As I gently rubbed the homebrewed paste across her flesh I was reminded of the deep pervasive heat that radiates from beneath her flesh, much warmer than a normal human body, not feverish of course, but hotter to the touch then one might expect for a body which otherwise has the appearance of a corpse.
It was an almost forgotten aftereffect of the enchantment and is an essential part of the process for preserving the condition of the flesh and ensuring its agelessness.
Such a body is indeed worthy of preservation.
The smooth skin, the delightful curves, and the fullness of those lips are attributes of the divine. And how enthralling that supernatural warmth feels when pressed against my body is utterly indescribable.
Though the spirit of Virginia Howell may not yet be ready to bend to my desires, nor does not yet willingly meet me in full conversation, her physical shell at least brings me great corporeal pleasures.
Being within such close proximity I of course could only resist my baser urges for so long and soon found myself disrobing beside her and with another commanding gesture of intent Virginia’s body laid itself down once more upon the lounge, then I upon her.
She breaths with steady motion and occasionally blinks but remains otherwise entirely unresponsive to even my most depraved desires, which for some might be discouraging. Yet I however find it to be darkly relaxing.
An accounting of the evening of April 30 1870, continued
When I finally reached Medvedeff Ravine and that horrible grotesque of a house which squats above it the storm was in full effect. Water fell so hard that I was splashed not only from the drops that fell from the sky but doubly as other drops splashed up from the small pools across the water soaked ground.
Coming presently on foot from my disappointing visit with Perry Trent I was coated with mud up to my waistcoat. Every bolt of fabric in my dress was soaked in mixed layers of frigid rain at the outermost and deeper penetrating layers of warm perspiration within. Torn and tattered I’m sure I was unrecognizable with a countenance of shivering madness. I was by that time no longer affected by the weather conditions around me, instead urging myself forward by sheer will power and heat of my own temper.
I shambled up to the windows of the house under the cover of the chaos which was all around me. Thunder and curtains of rain shielded my approach as I tempestuously peered through the glass, finding only darkness. Soaked and wholly numb I stepped away from the house, back into the rain, and looked to the upper floors of the estate where I at last saw several thin bands of light glowing through cracks in the strangely blacked out windows of the top floors.
Picking up a large stone from the yard I stepped to the front door and waited there, watching over my shoulder at the swirling black sky.
Waiting, waiting. I watched that black mass of clouds for just the perfect moment. When at last a pair of thick bolts of lightning split the night in quick succession I finally acted. I paused only a moment knowing my timing had to be perfect. Then as the growling sardonic thunder of those twin bolts clashed overhead I plunged the stone into the glass of the front door allowing the verbose boom which shook the air around me to mask the sound of my forced entry.
With a fumbling blind reach I thrust my arm into the broken pane and sought out the latch, which I found easily enough though cut myself fairly badly as I did so. The rivulet of warm blood that ran down my cold lower arm reminded me just how chilled I was.
Drenched and afraid I entered.
The house was dark and the air was thick with more than warmth. There were seemingly no lighted lamps anywhere on that first floor, nor any lights at all that I could find. With the aid of the lightning from outside intermittently revealing my surroundings I did eventually find a small candelabra and some matches.
I was able to light the candles despite my shaking hands and illuminate my way as I sought out those uppermost floors from which I had spied upon my approach to the house. As I swung the candelabra around I moved as stealthily as possible though my boots were heavy upon my feet and my soaked dress made each step that much more cumbersome. My shivering was heightened by my increasing fear the deeper I walked through that benighted house of dread! For although the place was lightless I still feared coming across some wandering servant making their way amongst the shadows, or worse if the rumors of the house were to be trusted.
Though I did not come across another person on those lower levels I did find the face of that hellish ghoul of a man repeated across almost every wall of the mansion. Surprisingly there were no photographs that I could see but spread out along the halls and parlor were instead rather large, grandiose canvases with his portrait painted upon them.
It all seemed incredibly extravagant and pretentious but also quite unnerving.
Each painting similarly showcased the ghastly form and features of that estates owner, but his stoic piercing eyes were not what I found most disturbing, what was most odd however were the styles and settings of the paintings themselves.
One portrait showcased an artistic technique of the late Renaissance while others were clearly inspired by a neoclassical source. These paintings displayed that vile man in varying fashion and details reminiscent of bygones centuries. There were more than a few that showed him in the dress of the 1500s depicted posing in ancient decadent European locations while others showed scenes and places of the American colonial days.
Why this man would adorn his house in such an array of conceited eccentricity was ponderous enough but thinking of the cost and incredible authenticity of the enormous portraits induced an intangible sense of dread within me.
I did eventually pass a tintype placed upon shelf and though the light was far too dim to make it out perfectly, during flashes of the brightest lighting I was able to make out the shape of what seemed to be an ancestor of that swarthy Necromancer, or someone of strikingly similar features, standing in front of this very estate as it was being constructed, which would have placed it some 70 years earlier.
If I were to take these paintings and images as any type of credible evidence it could be proposed that the dark haired, black eyed murderer was ageless, or else in some way extending his life through some dark necromantic means. However despite the unexplainable terrors I’d seen in the woods along with all the evil rumors whispered by my father and his colleagues, in that moment I refused to allow myself to think too deeply on such matters.
Although the whole journey through the manor was relatively short, every second was a torture to endure. Each step was an infuriating mix of anxiety and anger.
As the storm raged outside I feared the constant flaring lighting would somehow give away my advance through the halls, increasing my anxiety. While likewise each new portrait of that damnable Necromancer which I came across renewed a seething anger inside of me which redoubled my purpose.
When I finally reached the upper floors I had no plan beyond avenging my dearest Virginia. I ascended steep flights of stairs slowly and undetected through the intermittent darkness. Eventually finding myself in a large room which I can only assume was some type of macabre study. Black musty books were packed across lines of bowed shelves along with strange verities of equipment, the likes of which I dared not identify, set out in a ponderously meticulous fashion.
At a central table within that study sat a lit, though dimmed lamp which gave me a moment’s pause and tensed me with a revived caution. This was clearly the light I had spied from outside. The oil of the lamp was nearly gone and lead me to think that it had been abandoned for some time, though I knew then that I was near to that fiendish Necromancer.
Adjacent to that table was a cabinet of black wood the panels and doors of which were carven with elaborate gothic figures and exotic scripts. Along the upper most shelves of the cabinet were crystal spheres, reminiscent of the glass balls employed by soothsayers at circuses and carnivals. The waning light of the dying lantern played tricks across the surface of those crystal balls, each flicker was intensified as it reflected across their surfaces so that it appeared that the spheres themselves contained some sort of internal movement, as though there were a swirling translucence emanating from within.
Though most likely a trick of the light, the effect was nonetheless eerie.
The raging storm just beyond the drawn curtains did nothing to ease the horrific aspect of the place. The blowing winds and antique construction of the building leant the impression of voices floating throughout the room. It was as if dozens of chocked whispers languished around me and more than once it seemed as though those vague syllables were forming my name!
Clearly my hysteria was worked into such a state that I could no longer trust my own senses.
Yet how those impossible whispers were a torment to me!
As I cautiously explored that room my thoughts were occupied by their strange aspect of human speech. The only thing which eventually drew my attention and refocused my thoughts was a muffled rhythmic thudding which sprang up from an adjoining room. Accompanying this new disturbance was another voice, a distinctly physical and human speech which was clearly present, though muffled by the walls between. A hideous chocked laughter was mingled with this new voice and knowing now what I was about to discover I shudder where I sit. Moving through the miasmal study I traced the source of the thudding and the voice to a shut doorway on the far side of the room.
Clutching the candelabra in my hand, prepared to wield it as a weapon should the situation require it, I approached the door.
Lightly laying a hand upon the tarnished knob I took a deep breath to calm myself.
Easing the heavy ancient door open I could immediately see that the room beyond was fully lit and I could then better hear the rhythmic thuds and greedy chuckling.
Silently I slunk into the room at which point the source of those noises became regretfully apparent!
Though I allowed myself only a second or two to view the horrible scene of debauchery it was enough to sear it into my memory!
It was he! That vile twisted man, the Necromancer who had killed Virginia!
Oh my sweet, dear Virginia. Such a terrible fate, which even now I feel partially responsible for!
For there with the black eyed man whom I feared was Virginia herself, at least that which had once been Virginia Howell!
Laid out nude upon a divan couch the body of Virginia remained motionless with that vile twisted man atop her! With back arched like a retching cat the Necromancer loomed over Virginia’s body as he maniacally thrust himself into her.
It was a level of atrocity I could not withstand for more than a moment and as I became overwhelmed by unsullied emotion I let loose a wild scream and charged across the room, candelabra raised violently as wax and smoke were flung wildly about me.
My outburst unsurprisingly caught his attention and that horrid dreg looked up at me and I could see recognition in his eyes, a recognition for which I knew I should fear but it instead delighted me. It meant that deranged bastard would know who it was that caved in his skull.
But alas he was damnably quick!
Like a spider-rat he scurried! Up from his necrophiliactic rape he crawled across corpse and couch with supreme dexterity. With his hands the Necromancer waved strange signs as he mumbled elusive mystic words and instantly I found myself brashly assaulted by an invisible demonic force which sent me careening backward. I lost my grip on the candelabra before crashing against the opposite wall.
Thankfully it was a small room.
The pain wasn’t terrible, not much worse than the abuses from my brothers growing up, but it certainly caught me unawares. Stumbling to my feet I was quickly struck by another battery of sorcery. This time it was as if I were being raked across the chest by what felt like burning talons!
As I recoiled the Necromancer strode toward me wearing nothing but a confidently malicious grin.
The air knocked from my lungs and no longer able to calculate all of the various points of pain across my body I slumped forward, falling into a nearby case of shelves.
My heart pounded within me like pistons of a driven locomotive. My jacket and the top of my skirts were soaked with crimson, though from exactly where I was bleeding I couldn’t be certain. Worried that the sight of blood would further arouse that monster I clung to the case as I attempted to hastily pull myself up before he reached me. However as my hand slapped the cluttered surface of those shelves I touched something cold and rigid. Looking down I saw the reflective edge of a long bladed knife. The handle seemed to be made of an aged ivory or bone and was grotesquely carved into the shape of a spine which terminated with a gape mouthed skull.
In my pain and repulsion I acted more out of instinct than any sort of directed thought.
I took up that knife and almost immediately I was satisfied with the decision.
The scrawny, pale Necromancer recoiled angrily when he saw the weapon in my hand and a spark of strange panic withered the edges of his eyes. Lunging forward I swung insanely toward the monster, however his speed was astounding. Twice the vile fiend harshly struck my forearm in an attempt to disarm me yet I refused to allow the weapon to leave my grasp!
Yet still I was weakened.
Through a combination of my pain, the struggle, the weight of my water logged dress, and the mass of horror surrounding me I was quickly feeling myself growing faint and dizzy. Each thrust of the blade I attempted and missed stole more vitality from me. That demon of a man clearly feared the knife and was deftly avoiding it.
In my most desperate moments I, for some unknown reason, recalled my extensive reading. My thoughts were drawn to Ivanhoe and Sir Walter Scott’s descriptions of swordplay in that book, particularly the use of feints to unbalance and vanquish opponents.
Though the thought was fleeting I had few other options in the face of oblivion.
As best I could, I established a quick pattern of attack which the Necromancer dodged or slapped away in his heretofore typical manner until at last I repeated my pattern again though ended it in a quick feint. I made to thrust left but stayed my hand, yet that monster reacted against it.
He reached out to block my strike only to find I wasn’t there.
He instantly knew his mistake.
I victoriously thrust the blade into him. The steel met him just below the ribs with a sickening bursting which I felt through the handle of the knife. Then with several more enraged and viscus strikes the Necromancer was dead.
Where the fatal wounds were made upon his body the flesh immediately corrupted and turned black. As his body slumped down upon the floor a stench of rot wafted up from the corpse. Whether this reaction was the result of some enchantment upon the blade I wielded or some result of the evil powers which fueled the Necromancer’s work I will never know. But by the time I exited that prison of the dead all that would remain of that fiend was a tar-like pile of festering meat strewn about a bloody, yellowed skull.
However as soon as I was assured of my victory I ran to the divan where the living corpse of my secret love Virginia laid motionless. Kneeling I wept for a long while, there beside the couch. Loud quaking sobs were loosed from my lips, as a torrent of emotions boiled over within me. With the relief of no longer having to conceal my presence within that house I found myself wailing as I also let go of my grief and terror.
All the while that undead façade of Virginia remained unresponsive except to blink dumbly at the ceiling.
At that moment it was assuredly certain that that which was before me was not Virginia Howell, the lover I’d held through long nights whenever we could arrange the hours together. Nor was it the face of the woman who unbeknownst to her made me hope to attain a more perfect femininity. For that face was bright and perpetually animated by an arched brow or crooked smirk. Not the placid immobile stare of that living corpse.
I remembered our time together and my heart crumbled.
Our summers had been breezy and ecstatic. Our autumns crisply contented. The winters of our love were never frozen and to us each kiss was spring.
I stroked the cheek of that face which had once been hers and quickly recoiled at how hellishly hot the flesh was!
Without another thought I again raised that terrible knife which I still held and plunged it deep into her chest. I forced myself to watch, gasping with grief until I saw the light once more vanish from behind those beautiful eyes.
Leaving Virginia’s body and that sick pile of what had recently been a body where they were I left that room. After stepping back out into the study I was overtaken by what I can only describe as blind rage.
With nothing left and no other outlets for which to violently take my emotions out upon I began tearing through the rooms of that foul manor. I destroyed as much as my strength and reach would allow. Hastily I tore pages from leather bound tomes and worm eaten volumes. Mystic baubles and trinkets were thrown against walls or crushed beneath my boots. Portraits and photographs of that abhorrent Necromancer were ripped from their hangings and torn or shredded as much as I was able.
All the while as I smashed my way from top to bottom my mind swirled wildly perpetuating my anger.
Anger toward that vile beast who did this to us. Spiteful rage at Perry Trent and his hesitant fear and impotent inaction. But perhaps the greatest fuel for my animalistic crushing, and smashing and stomping was an anger toward myself. My very own inactiveness, paralyzed with fear behind those trees as I watched the murder and unholy rites which enslaved Virginia.
For during that terrible crisis when Virginia was taken from me I still can not be certain whether my inaction in those moments was a result of my own fear which left me quaking in hiding; or whether my entropy was instead the result of some occult power emanating from that man as he worked his evil upon Virginia.
With him dead I was assured that I would never know for certain, and that uncertainty too powerfully urged my rampage!
Completely evaporated was my initial fear of that house, replaced instead by an unattainable desire to rip it asunder, panel by panel, board by board with my own two hands.
For a moment I paused when I once more reached the tall case which housed the strange crystal balls with their swirling iridescence. Again those haunting whispers reached my ears but I refused to give heed to them instead grabbing up those glass spheres and quickly smashing them onto the floor with all the force I could muster.
I was surprised when, after smashing the spheres, columns of strange mist rose to the ceiling from the shattered remnants. The mists remained only an instant or two before completely dissipating into nothingness.
Thinking on it now I should have been more apprehensive of those mists, worried that they may have been a type of poison or some kind of wizardly enchantment, though I have experienced no ill effect and don’t believe I would have cared much at all in those moments regardless.
The more of the crystal balls I smashed the quieter the whispers became, for which I was thankful. After smashing one of the last of the orbs I distinctly thought I heard the voice of my dearest Virginia. She was saying “Thank you!” and “I love you!” and it sounded as though she were under duress, being pulled away from me, her voice fading as if disappearing down an infinite corridor.
Although I know the voice was but a delusion of my own traumatized mind, or worse a magical hoax created by that dispatched mage, it nonetheless was a comfort and for one last moment it felt as though Virginia’s arms embraced me and her thin fingers were stroking my cheek.
How much longer I remained in the manor above the Medvedeff Ravine I can not accurately say. An hour or several hours were spent in my pursuit of destruction.
Eventually however I stumbled out through the front door of the house to find that the storm which had been my herald had broken and quieted; and I was exhausted.
What will I do now? I made my way home long enough to smuggle away some money for a train. I made the dubious decision to pack away that bone handled knife which brought low the Necromancer. Whether it will provide protection or become a curse has yet to be seen.
For now though I hope to ride away from all of this madness. Perhaps I’ll ride west as far as the rails will take me, to a place where I can forget. Though I suspect there is no ride long enough for that.