~ the raven chronicles ~ 22

15 Feb

(Chapters are stored chronologically in ARCHIVES.)

Dr. Sylvester Agnostica, MD.
Sterns-Carson Sanitarium
Green Pines, Ohio

November 20, 1932

I slept on the office couch last night, fully clothed save for my suit jacket, and covered with a large afghan that I keep stored in a cabinet behind my desk. My hope that the passage of Nyx would herald the arrival of a new day, where turmoil and strange happenings would not gain a foothold, filled my last thoughts before I succumbed to sleep. Scarcely had I awakened, shortly before dawn, when I saw my humble longing for normalcy dashed.

My slumbers had been deep and dark and dreamless, nigh unto death; waking was akin to a resurrection. I opened my eyes, and for a moment, confusion and a sense of anxiety swirled through me, as if the fact of my very existence had been turned inside out. Gradually, the bits and pieces of my disheveled life poured into my consciousness like rain into a cistern.

As my eyes grew accustomed to the light, I catalogued my surroundings like a traveler just landed in a strange port; the low table beside me, the club chair just beyond, the faint smell and glow of the dying fireplace embers, the wind whisking softly against the window, the chill hanging in the room that indicated the temperature had dropped considerably through the night.

As I lay there knitting my composure, I heard a frail anxious call from outside. I conjectured that perhaps a small bird had become entangled in the bushes that line the outer hospital walls, and now lay hamstrung and dying from the cold. I focused my attention, and silent moments passed. Just as I decided that what I’d heard had either been the last plea of expiration, or merely the wind, the sound came again; but this time, as the mewling characteristic of a newborn.

Electrified, I jumped to my feet and ran over to the side window adjacent to the bookcase. I pulled the curtains asunder and peered out into the nascent dawn, still full of darkness and shadows.

The sound came again, so soft that wherever the origin, the vocalizer had to be nearby. I craned my neck to view the yard below the window, but my attempt was foiled by the shrubbery that jutted out and away from under the sill.

The voice called again, and I deduced that some small creature — I could not accept the fact of it being a foundling left to its own devices in such a bitter climate — indeed lay helpless not five feet from where I stood. The puling arose again, and convinced me that I must act quickly.

In a panic, I went to the coat tree and retrieved my suit jacket, tore open my office door and left it standing wide. I ran up the hall, burst into the foyer and found my progress halted by the front doors; I cursed them for being locked, then recalled the events of yesterday, and gave thanks that they were.

After a moment of being stymied, I remembered I had deposited the Sanitarium’s master keys in my suit coat pocket. I pulled them out and found the appropriate one, fumbled it into the cylinder and finally succeeded in unlocking and opening the door.

I made my way down the front steps as quickly as I could without engendering a fall on the ice-covered treads. My initial caution notwithstanding, after rounding the bottom of the barren stone steps, I recklessly vaulted onto the ice-encrusted lawn. My feet shot out from under me; I stumbled sideways into the bushes lining the front of Sterns-Carson and went to the ground. I scrambled up, dashed away the snow from my clothes, gathered my dignity, and continued onward to the side of the building.

The westerly yard lay in deep shadow, which inhibited a comprehensive view of the grounds. I made my way through the darkness, reached the shrubs that stood below my office window, and performed an urgent search; scratching my face and hands in the process.

Feeling a fool, convinced that the wind had played tricks on my mind and ready to abandon the search, I heard the mewling again, off to my left and further along the side wall. I stood away from the greenery and gazed into the dim beyond and tried to pinpoint the location of the pathetic distress.

What happened next, I will try to describe, but I’m not sure that words will suffice.

As I peered into the misty darkness, about 30 feet away a vapor of some type seemed to rise from the snow. A shape materialized out of it, and I could not believe what my eyes beheld; the figure of a slender, curvaceous, young woman.

My rational mind quickly assembled a probable scenario of this being one of my patients, who somehow wandered off during yesterday’s melee and then got locked out when we secured the building.

Subsequent events shattered that theory.

The woman’s lips parted, very slowly, in an unmistakably seductive fashion, and the mewling poured forth from her mouth in a way that stirred my blood. Then suddenly, she stood but half the distance from me from where she had originated, and the startling details of her visage crystallized.

Save for a shimmering gold and green diaphanous mantle that hung across one shoulder and ran to to her feet, she stood in that sub zero climate, stark naked. She eyed me with an almost quizzical expression, her head cocked to one side like an inquisitive Spaniel. The smell of something like decayed violets seemed to emanate from her.

Then she shrugged the flimsy gown from her shoulder, and she stood unashamedly, fully revealed, from her breasts to her feet. I stood there agape, as a wave of recognition flooded over me; the apparently mad young creature standing before me in nude arctic glory was none other than Eliza Drummond; sans cloche hat, and every other civilized nicety she had been invested with during her previous visit.

We stared at one another for a virtual eternity; her eyes searched mine in a way the seemed to plumb the depths of my being, my heart and my soul. Then she raised her arms wide and beckoned with a voice soft as the gelid breeze; I want you, Sylvester, I do want you so; Come to me, darling, come to me, now.

Even as I write these words, safely removed from enticement, I feel the burning allure of her invitation; and shudder at the lack of hesitation I displayed in my willingness to plunge headlong into her arms, and in all probability, my certain damnation. Just as my foot rose and fell in the first step of the journey to that soft, alabaster body, a voice rang out through the frigid morning air.

Dr. Agnostica, are you out here?

I reflexively turned toward the halloo for the briefest of moments, and when my gaze returned to the vision of that terrible winter maiden, I found nothing but morning mist rising from the snow.

Though the light of day has brought a logical perspective on what might have been my fate if I had completed the short walk from where I stood and into the arms of that effulgent vision, at that moment, I experienced something akin to heartbreak. Contrary to the repulsion wrenching my rational mind, and with a desire approaching something more than the desire for life itself, I wanted to be consumed by that dreadful creature; I stood there nearly bursting with the hope of fulfilling my compulsion, as I frantically searched the darkness for the vanished apparition.

The voice hallooed again and completely broke the spell.
Dr. Agnostica, are you out here?

I turned and walked out of the shadow of Sterns-Carson and saw Mr. Jenkins, rifle in hand, looking off toward the road.

Here I am, I said.

Jenkins swiveled with a start, gun high and at the ready.
He studied me with apprehension, then said, Doctor, are you alright?

I gazed downward and regarded myself, as if to make sure that I was indeed alright, and realized by my appearance that Jenkins would be concerned; for not only was I was out in the frigid dawn, disheveled and without a topcoat, dusted with snow from my fall, I was also in stocking feet. In my haste to answer the siren call outside my window, I had neglected to put on my shoes. At the sight of my icy pellet encrusted socks, my feet suddenly felt the repercussions of my decision.

I looked up at Mr. Jenkins, and merely said, Let’s go inside.

©2012 j.edwardfitzgerald all rights reserved

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