Mind Caviar Presents:
Our Special Halloween 2001 Fiction Feature
by Marilyn Jaye Lewis
-- Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
Curiously, as I lay here dying in the anonymity of a Baltimore charity ward, trapped in the watchful gaze of a stalwart nurse who seems, from time to time, to regard me as if I'm already dead, I find I have not a shred of remorse. In fact, if my vocal chords, if my entire larynx weren't paralyzed by my rapidly deteriorating condition, I would even go so far as to confess to my warden-nurse what my true motivation had been. Why I'd departed -- no, fled -- the train when it reached Baltimore, never proceeding to Richmond where I was to wed Eloise Whitmore within the next fortnight.
I've ceased to feel shame over any of it, yet I can't recollect when the shame abandoned me. For the longest time, since the death of my first wife seven years ago, it seemed the shame was my sole companion. When did it leave? Why is it gone so suddenly?
I've no doubt now that somewhere during my debauched excursion along the wharves of Baltimore this very weekend, I ingested a large quantity of poison. Whether it was in the opium or the cocaine; who gave it to me, and whether or not any of the prostitutes I'd paid handsomely during the course of my debauch, who'd perhaps watched me consume my fatal indulgence, knew about the poison. Well, these are the final mysteries I'll be taking with me to the grave.
Funny how, normally, I'll pounce on a good mystery, unable to leave it be until I've worried it like a bone, picked it clean and solved it. Now, as the end arrives, I find I'm oddly ambivalent. These last mysteries are too meager, too petty to trifle over when compared with the grander mystery that always fueled my life: my unconquerable and insufferable destiny.
Every muscle in my face has now grown rigid with paralysis. I can't so much as blink an eye. I'm terrorized by thoughts that I will die with my eyes open. What horror will I see as one light dims and perhaps the fires of Hell emerge? Whose face will be my final vision as I pass over to the next realm? If God were merciful, it would not be this dour face of my warden-nurse, a memento only of this wretched charity ward. It would instead be the face of an angel, my child-wife, a reminder of the beauty that could have been Life had I been born to a more regal fate. I fear I'll know the extent of God's mercy soon enough. As it is surely imminent, my release from the fever of living. I lay here unable to move as the paralysis creeps slowly through me. How many hours has it been? When did they bring me here? I no longer know.
There's a certain timeless euphoria brought on by abject misery. Meaning, time passes strangely, an hour becoming an unfathomable depth. In a way, life has always been a one-way tunnel. Still it never seemed quite as linear as this certain encroachment of death. Deeper into the tunnel I'm drawn, though, helpless to fight death's pull. My mouth brimming with a bitter, corrosive taste. Not just from the hours spent vomiting up poison down by the docks, but the bitterness of a final acceptance, a reluctant understanding. A bleak awakening, if you will, to a truth too unnerving to allow me ever again to know the blessing of sleep.
Had I been courageous enough to carry through on my vow to marry Eloise Whitmore, had I proceeded on the train to Richmond, done the honorable thing, I wouldn't be in this hideous predicament. I know that. I'm always well aware of my failings. However, the drive to satiate my deeper urges pushed me from that train.
The youngest, freshest girls one can hope for often begin their lives of ill repute along those dank, rotting wharves of Baltimore. Some girls so fresh, they still carry the scent of home in their undergarments. To me, it matters little--their inexperience in the varied tastes of carnal lust. I've long since tired of the meaningless couplings of body touching body. What I've come to seek is a peculiar sin, cultivated from the emptiness of too many years. A sin I can only re-enact with the youngest of women, for I was with a young woman when my need first began.
My now dead wife, once the love of my life, was a child of thirteen when I married her, though her mother had given us her full consent to wed. Then, I was a man of twenty-four. Unlucky in my studies and my military career; unlucky in much of what had already passed as 'my life.' Yet my literary prowess had begun to emerge. From the meager earnings I secured with my writing, I supported my child-wife and her mother, and we persevered. Hiding--successfully, I should add--a certain secret from the world.
In Boston, where I was born, I had been orphaned at the age of two. Years later in New York, no one I knew had ever known my mother, or knew that my mother-in-law had been my mother's sister. That she was indeed my aunt; and my child-wife, my cousin. But how I cherished the young girl I had taken for my bride. Not to marry would have been unthinkable. Never to join her, flesh pressed to flesh in the conjugal bed seemed a fate unendurable to us both.
But my aunt had a romantic and sympathetic heart of the most charitable nature so she agreed to let us marry. In that, my bride and I were blessed. And in the facelessness of a bustling city such as New York, our sin-- the incestuous nature of our marriage-- was easily concealed. For a time, we even thrived. In the beginning, yes, she was delicate, my wife. But she did not seem frail. Though her skin was so sheer, so translucent that its pallor was decidedly tinted by the underlying blue-ness of her veins. Everywhere I touched her; she seemed impossibly soft-- an unimaginable velvet-- and too yielding to the merest caress.
It was hard to keep my thoughts fully centered on my work. I developed literary theories, wrote moody, atmospheric poems, which helped me to secure a certain fame, if not fortune, along the eastern coast. But always, the larger portion of my thoughts were devoted to (should I say, tormented by?) my enchanting wife.
Her modesty was such that throughout the course of our brief marriage, I never saw her by daylight entirely undressed. On occasion when we were alone, she might lift her skirt for me, or lower her blouse to bare her breasts. When under cover of darkness, or with luck, if a slash of moonlight would cut through the grimy windowpane at night and reveal her youthful wantonness sans nightclothes beside me in the bed, my eyes would desperately drink in the dim vision of her beauty. My other senses were then driven to overcompensate for the sight of heaven of which my eyes were so deprived. The feel of her in my arms, her downy skin; her soft, tumbling tresses spilling across my chest; the flit of her feathery lashes against my cheek. Or the scent of her, her taste on my lips, the sounds of her awakening desire while we kissed-- this was how my heart created its intimate portrait of her. How it aroused me. It was unspeakable.
For there was yet another sweet agony I endured: my wife was still a child. Her womb had not yet reached womanhood. It lagged behind our eager needs. Our conjugal bliss was to be left unconsummated for two seemingly endless years. Until she reached the age of fifteen, when quite early on a stifling summer morning, the blood finally came.
It's hard to believe, as I lay here, the paralysis approaching my lungs, my chest tightening; my heart, a thin, miserable throb; that I could have once known such unbridled joy as the night my beloved wife and I endeavored to explore at last the full sanctity of our union. She was sweet, but not coy. Determined to let me enter her as many times, and in as many positions, as I desired.
It seemed we were finally ready to face life, to stake our claim in the future. We had spent two years always moving, moving. I chased after employment with first one magazine then another, achieving more fame but still struggling to keep my little family from the jaws of poverty and hunger. But soon enough, it was clear I would remain unlucky in this endeavor, as well. My dear little girl, my wife, suddenly fell ill.
Before long, we knew it was consumption. That lingering, wretched disease for which there is no cure. Malnourishment--a result of the poverty I alone had placed her in--aggravated her suffering. Seven times, she slipped down to the worst depths of the disease. Only six times did she rally. With each of her slides down to the rim of death's abyss, I railed at the night and lost myself in drink. Turning also to the comfort of opium or cocaine. Behaving disgracefully around my peers. My public drunkenness, severely damaging my hard-won reputation at banquets meant to honor me and my celebrated oeuvre.
Still, it was during these terrors, as I helplessly watched my poor wife wither. As I heard her cough and choke on her very blood, and knew without doubt that her release from suffering could come only with our final parting on this gruesome plane, that I wrote my finest tales of sheer horror. Stories that sealed my fate in the pantheon of literature even while fortune continued to elude me.
It was upon my wife's death that my taste for the peculiar sin I earlier mentioned, emerged. I was unable to escape its grasp. While it brought me a few moments of carnal pleasure, it brought me more an abundance of shame. A shame I could never retreat from, nor pacify once my sin had been unleashed.
My wife's mother and I were both at her side when my wife finally expired. My mother-in-law tenderly wiped the traces of blood from my wife's lips, then attempted to remove the soiled dressing gown from my wife's limp form.
"No," I insisted. "I want to be alone with her. You've nursed her all these years. Let me tend to her now."
When my mother-in-law left the room and I eased my wife's thin, lifeless body from the nearly threadbare chemise, my eyes weren't prepared to behold the heartbreaking beauty of her nakedness. A sight I had been deprived of throughout my marriage. How exquisite she was. Dear reader, I know you will be shocked by where my longings urged me! You, who have not known such bereaved misery as mine was; you could not be expected to comprehend the brutal power of love's erotic pull, even after death. I admit it plainly now. As I near death myself, I have no remorse. I hungered to know my wife's body in intercourse one final time. But could I dare it?
At first, I thought no. I let my mind become submerged in the details of the task before me, attempting to let reason override the mounting pressure of my longing. I filled the wash basin and bathed the remnants of sweat from her once fevered brow. Faithfully, I combed my wife's still silken tresses. I sponged the length of her young body clean. Then I anointed her breasts with lavender and rose water. My wife was just shy of twenty-two the afternoon she died. The spectre of her purity, even in death, proved to be my undoing. Though I'd gone so far as to wrap my wife in her funeral shroud, when her mother knocked gently at the bedroom door, I refused to let her re-enter.
"I need to pray," I explained feebly. Then I turned the key in the lock, shutting out my last hope of sanity.
Had I known where it would lead me, the dark alleyways, the rotting wharves, the foul smelling mattresses in vermin infested rooms. Or known that a modest fortune would eventually find me, but not until my soul was too thoroughly impoverished to be reclaimed. Had I known these curses would come closely on the heels of my indiscretion, would I have unwrapped my wife's still supple body from the winding sheet? Would I have allowed my mouth to kiss hers as if she were still full of life and able to offer her lips to me? Would I have deliberately used that kiss as my invitation to cup the fullness of her breasts, then to enter her? And not just enter her, but part her legs garishly and watch my thick member violate her repeatedly, as I pretended she willingly obliged me.
This is why the young whores of Baltimore are so well suited to my proclivity. I don't need experienced, licentious advances. I don't want vulgar women, whose very sexual openings are so well used as to seem lewd in how they gape. Though they needn't be virgins, I need fresh girls with a willingness to say "yes." To lay motionless and unstirred while I fondle and explore their secret places, first with my often trembling fingers, then with the more erotic caresses of my tongue. Not that I had had nerve enough to know my wife's lifeless body in that intimate a manner. No, in the moments of my disgraceful assault on her, my mind was clouded with fever. I was fearful of being discovered at any moment by my wife's mother-- my aunt, my own mother's sister; a witness to my debasement of her only child! Even while I knew the door was locked, in my mind it did not seem secure enough. An iron key in a simple hole did not seem an impenetrable barrier to the towering grotesqueness of the deed I was perpetrating. I kissed my wife's mouth, yes. And I squeezed her breasts which were hardly warm. Yet when my erect manhood, seemingly of its own volition, proceeded on its mission to penetrate her, it was a deed I undertook in haste.
The sweeter subtleties of love making, the gentler acts of fondling and caressing were not part of my assault. Not until the black midnight after my wife's burial, as I lay awake alone in bed, my thoughts tormented by the fresh memory of what I'd done to her, did my imagination give birth to its hideous cravings. But I must explain. The sorrow of my loss was inexpressible. How I ached to have my wife alive again, beside me. How I scourged myself for my financial impotence; my inability to lift her above the crush of poverty and the ravaging disease it delivered to her. It was in this swell of sorrow that I began to regret not having lingered longer over her young healthy body when it had still been a living, breathing vessel next to me; a body full of warmth and eager curiosity. As in the first days of our marriage, when every nuance of physical love was new to her, and each intimate exploration, a delight. Those early days when she was still too young for intercourse, when our nights were spent in ecstasy just the same.
Before my marriage, I had known many women-- mostly the sort of women one pays. And I wasn't ashamed of this. In my years of approaching manhood, I learned what I would be expected to teach my wife about lovemaking, and I learned the more carnal aspects of it that I would be expected to shield her from. It was my duty to her and it was perhaps the only duty in which I served her well.
To ready a young woman's body for what will be the more demanding encounter of sexual penetration requires patience. But more, it requires dedication. I dedicated myself to my wife, to awakening her to her own capacity for sexual desire so that she would one day be ready for her final step into womanhood.
Yet how do I describe it, the veritable anguish of my desire? The nearly unbearable restraint I managed, as I explored her youthful body in our bed, her nightclothes lifted for me, her legs eagerly raised and parted but her modesty prohibiting me from seeing her even in the glow of firelight. Her labial folds swelling under the touch of my fingers. My ears filling with the sounds of her passionate moans, her gentle cries, as my mouth between her spread legs urged her deeper and deeper into her own erotic abandon. Never to see her, to truly see her to my heart's content, in the usual female postures of lascivious invitation. Think of it! It must have been what drove me to do the unthinkable when my eyes were finally granted the full sight of her nakedness so soon after she expired.
Yes, it was ghoulish, how the force of my thrusting member so disturbed and rattled her lifeless form. But my eyes shut it out. In the delirium of my sin, my eyes could only take in the beauty of her feminine secret; her vulva--at last exposed, revealed in the light of day.
After my wife was buried, the fevered thoughts that I'd assumed were satiated, regrettably returned. I pictured it over and over in the dark: my thick and aching manhood glistening with my own spit as it pummeled into my wife's snug hole. My thoughts became diseased, replacing ideas of a more rational sexual fulfillment with notions of perverse lust. I berated myself for not having had the presence of mind to take more advantages with my wife's dead body while I'd been alone with it. Time and again, I brought myself to ejaculation from the overwhelming erotic power of the sick urges that were in my head. I became confused by the intimacy I'd experienced with my wife during our marriage and the foul deed I'd done to her after her death. I wanted to re-live it all, but memory and fantasy became jumbled. I wanted my mouth again on her slick, swollen labia with her stiff clitoris, the tiny captive of my tongue. Or my fingers pushing deep into her secret holes. I even wanted the tighter posterior one, a thing I would never have asked from her in life. I wanted to 're-live' things I'd never done with her! I wanted to experience that torrid liberation that I knew only briefly, the feeling that her body belonged solely to my lust. That I could do with it as I wished for she was dead and couldn't deny me.
Soon enough, the intensity of my passion increased. I started to seek the company of young whores in an effort to find release. "Just lay there, you understand?" I would say. "Don't move. Remain motionless while I undress you. Make as if you're dead. Then I want to do things to your body but you mustn't make a sound." At first, each woman would balk at my unexpected request.
I knew I must have sounded mad, as if I meant to jeopardize their bodily safety. I learned to pay the women their money in advance, while making it clear there was more money to be made if they could follow my instructions to the letter.
"You mean you expect me to lay here and let you have your way with me?" each young woman I propositioned would scoff while always, without fail, eyeing the additional money. "Yes," I would insist. "Don't move and don't make a sound." In the ensuing silence of the girl's dank, putrid room, I would block out all things of the more rational world and allow my dark imagination free rein.
My literary pursuits at long last were starting to amass me a modest fortune. It was during a particularly bright period in my career that I met Eloise Whitmore. A decent, loving woman who was more my age, a woman who'd been tragically widowed in Richmond. The younger sister of a writer I greatly admired. It was during a weekend visit to the writer's family estate that he introduced me to Eloise.
It wasn't long before a mutual spark of love ignited between Eloise and myself. For a time, her gentle dignity brought out the best in me. I proposed marriage. On the weekend that she accepted my hand, I fooled myself into believing I was a changed man. I was now engaged in more noble endeavors. I was through with my sick preoccupations. No more time would I waste propositioning whores.
Though Eloise was an upstanding woman, the fact remained she was also a widow-a grown woman, well acquainted with the delights of the marriage bed.
In what seemed at the time a harmless tryst-- for it was understood we were soon to be married-- Eloise and I decided to make love. I stole into her room late one night, where she was eagerly awaiting me in her bed. The rest of the household had long said goodnight. The entire house was in darkness.
In Eloise's room, the lamp was still lit. She lay naked in among the sheets and the eiderdown. She had a robust, womanly figure that surprised and excited me. Full breasts, a voluptuous ass. So different from the young bodies to which I had become addicted. I slid into the bed beside her, kissing her ardently; entranced by her naked splendor. She put a delicate finger to my lips to hush me. "Remember, we can't lose ourselves tonight. We have to be very careful," she whispered. "My brother's room is right next door. We don't want him to hear us." Then she proceeded to accept my unbridled sexual advances. Allowing me to know her in every position, including her mouth, but keeping silent the entire time.
It was her silence that unnerved me. It was her silence that baited me, even while I understood its necessity. It triggered the dark passion in me and provoked me to challenge her. I began to put her through her paces roughly, to see if I might elicit so much as a moan from her lips. She endured all my brutish passion with a compliance that bordered on subservience. Relentlessly, I drove the thick power of my manhood into her. She accepted its full force without a whimper. I even put her through the unthinkable-- introducing my member to her anally. She struggled only briefly, then acquiesced.
It soon became apparent to me that even without the formality of the marriage vows Eloise regarded me already as her lord and master. It was a heady feeling. One I hadn't known since my first wife had died. It made Eloise Whitmore more enticing than ever. At the end of that weekend, I couldn't wait for Eloise to be my bride.
Why then, you must be asking, did it come to this? My imminent death by poison in a charity ward when I should be enjoying my most celebrated period of literary fame. And why my inability to resist the drink, the opiates, and the lurid pull of the young whores of Baltimore, when a woman of substance, of good breeding and a respected family, was waiting in Richmond to be my devoted wife?
The paralysis now squeezes hard about my lungs--shredding my final breaths. My warden-nurse has taken my right hand in hers, her fingers pressing firmly against the faint pulse in my wrist. As my eyes remain frozen garishly open, surely lending a mask of obscene horror to my face, I know now that God will have little mercy on me after all as I depart this miserable plane.
"It was to save her, you see!" I try vainly to scream at my nurse. But no sounds come. My mouth won't move and my tongue seems gone. My thoughts are wedged tight against the thin ledge at the back of my barely sighted eyes. It was to save Eloise Whitmore, who was so full of life, from ever discovering what I knew I would always hunger for.
Who is it who comes now? A sudden face when all around has drifted into darkness. Listen to my tale, whoever you are. It was the body of a dead girl I cherished! It was the world between her legs! Not to marry would have been unthinkable, and so I took my cousin to be my child-bride.
© 2001 Marilyn Jaye Lewis. All rights reserved. Do not copy or post.
About The Author
Marilyn Jaye Lewis won the “Erotic Writer of the Year” award in London, England on July 28th 2001. Her current novel, The Curse of Our Profound Disorder, is a finalist for The Evans Harrington Prize in the William Faulkner Writing Competition in New Orleans. She has written Neptune and Surf, a critically acclaimed collection of erotic novellas, as well as numerous published short stories. Marilyn Jaye Lewis is an author, publisher, editor, webmistress, and generally overworked gal-about-town. She resides in New York City.
Please visit her website for more information http://www.marilynjayelewis.com/home.html
About The Story
the story is based on a few facts surrounding Edgar Allen Poe's brief life,
Marilyn Jaye Lewis claims the entire piece to be fictional, including all
characters and events. Mind Caviar considers this work to be an erotically-tinged
homage to the dark genre which Poe pioneered.
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