Image: Kentucky Storm © shockits on Flickr
Author: Arthur Margot
It was on a sombre night that my objective was reached; the sky was replete with clouds and the coldest and harshest of winds beat away at the windows. Again, I had found myself exiled in my study, working away as the night’s hours waned on. Oh, the nights had quickly become too numerous to count, and I felt as though my constant need for candles was arousing suspicion in the minds of the village folk. Just like old friends, the slow fever I had once contracted and the anxiety which gripped at my every fibre had returned. Yet, this time around, the excitement which had previously kept me alive felt all but drained from me. My efforts were no longer driven by passion and thirst for truth and discovery; but intense dread and paralysing fear.
So long had I toiled in this abhorrent endeavour that doubt beyond any I had ever felt corroded my every thought. Was one of these monsters not enough to curse the world of the living and plague my life thus? Yet how was I to refuse the damned wretch after so vile a threat, after such manic insistence to have a companion of its own? No, truly, there was no other way than to bend to its will, not after such maintained mistreatment of my person and its warning that it would continue forevermore.
This night, much like every other night I had been working on this unspeakable task, I felt observed. I would inch my way to the small window systematically, hoping in vain to find a great, blackened figure, standing in the night somewhere on the grounds and looking up at my study. Each time, I was disproven, as no trace of the wretch could be found in the black of night. My investigations at the window helped me not, and my mind was ever the more haunted with the uneasiness of being watched.
Adjusting the candles which adorned the worktable, I stared down at my instruments of life. Once before they had performed the impossible, once before they had consoled my tortured mind in proving how my scientific intuition was beyond measure. Now they were to be set to work again and doom my soul further than it had been already. Oh! how I dreaded for this assembling of limbs to shudder to life as the wretches had on that most fateful night! This horror gripped at my stomach, and the pain upon my psyche was such that I feared I might collapse at any moment.
I paused and observed with utmost contempt the fruits of my labour which lay before me. The yellowish tone of the new creature’s skin which had merited my admiration on its antecedent counterpart now inspired in me a great sickness, and the lustrous black hair which I had once been so mesmerised in arranging now draped itself as a tide of horrid locks over the worktable. All too much was I reminded of my initial creation, and at once I turned away, fearing it would stare back at me as the other creature had on that dreary November night. The deed was not yet done, however, and many adjustments needed to be made before it could be startled to life. The weariness of a hundred nights tugged away at my eyelids, and I had great trouble arranging my tools correctly. After struggling and hesitation, both external and internal, as I had seldom felt, I finally sparked life into this second creation. How might I describe the horror which filled my heart as its eyes opened in the same way the first’s had, or how its limbs convulsed, mirroring that of the original’s?
This overwhelmed me to the point that my legs gave way and I toppled over onto the cold, hard ground. When I came to, I took no time to glance over at the worktable, and hurriedly fled through the study’s only exit. I retreated into my quarters, and disappointed by how little solace my bed would offer me, I tended to what little sanity remained in my body. Over time, the wind hushed somewhat, and the sounds of the night could be heard more and more distinctly. Suddenly, I heard a thundering crack of iron and a monstrous creak. The castle’s great doors were being opened and the reverberations were due to their being closed for so long. At once I knew that this unwarranted entry could be nothing but the wretch; somehow it had found out that tonight was the one on which I would uphold my promise. I sat in the dark, as the doors scraped shut and smaller ones opened and closed throughout the castle. It was making its way up to the study. Knowing its ability to find me in the most barren of places, I refused to hide in my chamber any longer and decided to step down to meet it. However, when I arrived at the study, I found that the door had been closed and sound was coming from within.
From behind the bolted door, I could hear muffled groaning, followed by the distinct voice I had come to dread from our numerous encounters, although I could not discern what was being said. It seemed as though they were communicating, almost having a discussion. This went on for some time and were it not for my fascination with the creatures I might have dozed off, leaning on the door frame. After many unintelligible exchanges, they abruptly stopped and began shuffling towards the door. With a bolt of shock, I started up to my feet and darted towards the top of the spiral staircase and away from the door. As I settled, peering around just enough to perceive the study’s entrance and extinguishing my candle’s flame, the doorknob turned, creaked slightly, and gave way.
They exited the study together and made their way down the staircase without a sound. Overcome by curiosity yet wishing that, for once, my cowardice might have the better of me, I followed with as little noise and as much care as I could muster. Winding their way down the stairs and through the many rooms and antechambers, they finally arrived in the courtyard. The once omnipresent clouds had now parted to allow the moon to bathe the scene in a pale but sharp light. I surreptitiously shifted into the shadows of the courtyard’s side alley and hid behind a column, watching intently as they came to a standstill in its centre.
I could now hear the words the creature spoke to its companion; however, they were unlike any language I had heard before, and I could not say quite what they were now. I watched with fascination as they stared into each other’s eyes and listened to the wretch’s incomprehensible monologue. The scene unfolding before me felt frozen in time, as neither hinted to any movement at all, yet somehow, they inched closer to one another constantly. Finally, seeming so close to each other’s face that they might merge into one, their blackened lips met, and their arms locked together in a passionate embrace. I could only watch on, fascinated by the scene unfolding before me. However natural it may have been on the whole, I felt a great uneasiness at it, and the doubt which had become so familiar to me these last months erupted back into my consciousness. Again, thoughts of an irreparable mistake overpowered me, and weakened by all those nights of endless toil, I felt myself swooning again.
I awoke to see both creatures slowly departing through the castle gates. He had his arm around her side, while she rested her head on his shoulder. I watched, my mouth agape, as without a sound, they stepped out of the moonlight, through the great entrance, and into the world beyond.