A man is haunted by his wife's last words.
|Word Count: 991|
Written for the following contest, AUG 2022 Entry
Rain pelted the window. We shivered despite the fire. The room was small, near Faneuil Hall. The curtains were drawn.
The messenger stood in front of me. Big, fat, wet drops fell from the brim of his hat onto the earthen floor. Long shadows from the beeswax candle nearby cast deep shadows over the messenger’s weathered face. His presence was unexpected.
I unsealed the envelope he had given me and unfolded the paper.
“Lord, help my poor soul,” I read to myself.
“Well, Douglas, what does it say?” asked Simon.
I crumpled the note in my fist. “I have to go.”
“You can’t leave – we have to finish this,” said James.
“You’ll have to finish this without me.” I rushed to the closet and grabbed my tattered black leather coat. “When is the next ferry back to Salem?”
“It leaves on the hour,” replied the messenger. He stood next to the fire, rubbing his hands.
I glanced at the clock on the center table. Forty minutes until the next boat. I could make it – barely.
James placed his hand on my shoulder. “We owe it Josiah to finish this.”
“You can have my store as a front. I will hide the southerners until you come for them. You must settle the rest.”
“Very well.” James replied.
I slid my arms through the sleeves of my jacket, shoved the note in my pocket, and departed. The rain now drizzled, enough to annoy my determination. My boots were slowed by the mud as I made my way to the livery. I needed to get home. My wife was not in the right frame of mind to deal with my mentally addled brother.
I prepared my horse with help from the stable keeper. After payment, I departed for the North Station Ferry.
Fog crept over the wet streets. Visibility was poor. Still, I rode recklessly. Thankfully the horse was well rested. The neighborhoods on the way to the wharf grew poor. Trash scattered along the sidewalks and the stench of urine cut the fog.
A cat screeched. I ignored it. The clang of the ferry’s bells rang out - five minutes to departure.
“Poe, Poe in the wind, nevermore, nevermore.”
“Douglas, he kept repeating that phrase, and he won’t stop. Don’t leave me alone anymore with him.”
“I must attend the meeting, Lenore. The underground movement is important.”
“He pushed me against the wall the other day. Thankfully, only my wrist was bruised.”
“He understands that you are my wife – that you’re important to me.”
“He will harm me – and the baby.” Lenore put her hand on her stomach.
“No, he won’t. Not like that.”
I shook the disturbing memory off, ignoring it – ignoring my guilt. Truth be told, he would harm her, but I didn’t want to admit it, and tonight decisions needed to made – serious decisions. I had to attend the meeting.
Fog slaked over the boat. The ferry gave up it’s last bell.
I delivered the horse to the livery and jumped onto the deck while the crew unfastened the ropes from the cleats.
A crewmember approached. “Goin’ to Salem, Sir?”
“Go see the first mate to pay the fare.”
“How long?” I asked.
“Heavy fog tonight. At least an hour, if not more.”
I pursed my lips. An hour was too long.
A bird croaked and fluttered past my head. I waved my hands.
“Annoyin’ things,” the crewman said. He fasted the ropes as the boat slowly turned away from the wharf.
“What was it?” I asked.
Poe Poe in the wind, nevermore, nevermore.
The words haunted me. My heart beat faster. Lenore.
After paying the first mate, I found a table and stared out the window, trying to focus past the thick fog. I should have never left my wife alone with him. The tone in her voice hinted at fear – raw fear.
Time passed slowly. The lighthouses along the coast lit up the dark. There was no full moon and a chill sluiced through the air. What would compel my wife to write such a missive? What had my brother done to her?
The man across from me ate peanuts and flung the shells on the floor.
“Want some?” He offered me the bag.
“No, thank you.” I waved him off. My stomach twisted.
Poe, Poe in the wind. Nevermore, nevermore.
The ferry docked. Gas lamps lit the wharf. The fog was just as heavy here as it was in Boston. Black scavenger birds flew over the boat, hunting for trash.
I rushed to the livery and found my horse. She yawned. After a gentle, but rushed coaxing, she was ready. The ride home rattled my nerves. Cold spring air stung my cheeks. Black birds skimmed overhead. The fog enveloped the gas lamps, allowing for short shadows. Turning the corner, my house came into view. Angled gables jutted over the landscaped gardens next to the ocean. My wife loved her garden.
I secured my horse to the fence in a rushed fashion. Scanning the façade, I observed candlelight coming from the kitchen area. There was a door that led to the kitchen from the garden. I entered through that door.
My brother sat next to the fire by the hearth. Alone. Drinking from a cup.
“Poe, Poe in the wind…” he rambled.
Ignoring him, I tore through the house, racing form room-to-room, calling her name. My heart pounded in my chest. I could not find her.
“Thomas!” I grabbed him by the lapels of his jacket and pulled him up from the chair, face-to-face. “Where is Lenore?”
“Poe, Poe in the wind, nevermore, nevermore…” His salvia slobbered over his chin.
I snarled. His eyes cut to the window overlooking the garden and further out, the ocean. Rain pelted the glass now.
“No! Lenore!” My heart sunk in my chest.
“Poe, Poe in the wind, nevermore, nevermore…” He rambled.