The Photograph

The following piece was presented at Jersey City Writers’ genre event – The Horror of Love. Please enjoy.

It was dark when I returned to the old house, both outside and within.  As I reached the door, a servant collided into me!  A hand-held lantern illuminated his horror-stricken face.  He pleaded with me to let him pass, ranting frantically about a ghostly weeping heard in the empty house.  Just then, a pained cry echoed behind him.  He dropped his lantern while forcibly pushing me aside, and disappeared into the night.  

I stood stunned.  After searching for so long with only the photograph as my guide… could it be that the beauty whose gentle features had won my heart… had found me?  With the servant’s lantern in my hand and desperate hope in my chest, I listened to the silence.  Soon the sound of crying returned, coming from my own study!  I rushed over and opened the door to find the room unoccupied.  Yet, the sound was louder!  Below!  With my ear to the floor I crept along until…  There!  Using the poker from the fireplace, I hacked at the floorboards violently, dust filling the room.  Panting and coughing, I peered into the large hole I had made.    

A secret room!  I lept down without hesitation and, groping in the dim light of my dying lantern, I discovered a fireplace.  Vermin scrabbled into the shadows as the fire-light illuminated the nearly empty room.  It was the same image from the photograph!  Indeed, that was the chair to which she had been bound! The cords remained knotted, but limp in her absence.

The table and book were there too!  I began looking through the brittle pages of the tome, hoping to unravel more of this mystery.  It was apparent that several authors had contributed to it, each in his own foreign tongue – but there, in the last few pages I found a strange variant of english and was able to decipher a few words:

“…spirit…”

“… bind…”

“…eternal…”

“… evil…”  

Such disturbing words shook me.  Had my beloved been sacrificed in some sort of ritual?  Or perhaps… someone bound her spirit here purposefully?!  I received a pitiful wail as response.  

I would not let death keep us apart!  I must free her… or entrap my soul as well!

I repeatedly recitied the incantation as best I could, but nothing happened.  I untied the cords from her chair and flung them into the fireplace.  Still nothing. Frustrated at the lack of result, I commited the accursed book to the flames, then the table – but the only change was the strength of the fire.  At a lost for further action, I fell to my knees and took out her photograph, my hot tears falling upon its surface… and I begged her for forgiveness.

Then, like an answer to silent prayer, I realized… I was holding her prison in my hands.  There had always been something strange about the photograph: neither my tears nor the elements had caused any damaged.  Resolved to my fate either way, I kissed her image one last time and placed it into the flames.

Immediately they roared high, burning my withdrawing hands.  I reeled back in pain, but when I looked up, I could not have felt more joy!  There she was! Sitting in her rotting chair!  Smiling tenderly at me!  I did not even blink for fear that my slightest movement might make her disappear.  

She stood gracefully, that gentle smile still on her beautiful lips.  It grew wider, then wider still until it stretched across her face in a grotesque manner.  I watched in horror as her body grew rapidly, her shifting form ripped her clothes, exposing the wildly ungulating skin underneath.  The walls echoed with sickeningly loud cracks of bones and wet sounds of flesh sliding over flesh.  Her feet became long and arched.  Hard points began protruding through her skin. Dainty hands became thick and heavy with claws like hooked daggers.  Her jaw had violently dislocated, and was now wide and merciless.  The tenderness in her eyes was replaced by cruelty, burning with the colors and intensity of flame. There was a flash of large teeth, like shards of broken mirrors when her unforgiving maw dropped hideously open to unleash an earthshaking roar, one that had been surpressed for an eternity.  Finally, huge black wings pierced through her back in a grand explosion of thick blood.  

She kept those bloody wings spread like a vulture as she loomed over me, her horrible gaze fixed, standing as still as some perverse statue.  

Fear had no time to inspire action before she was upon me, penetrating my back with her claws, her teeth sinking into my shoulder and side.  I screamed…. in esctasy.  

I found myself clinging to her… willingly, lovingly.  The sounds of my pleasure and her ragged breathing blended together as she fed from my body.  When she was sated, she drew her wings around me, released my shoulder, and held me as I bled.  

And so it has been… for days? Weeks?  I care not.  The violence of her carresses enthralls me. I see her true magnificence and I am humbled.

Alas, my time grows short.  What remains of my body feels very weak.  She is strong enough now to feed freely from any man, and perhaps from the very essence of the WORLD if she so pleases, I know not.  

But I do know this, none of you will love her as I have!  It was by my love she was saved!  From MY flesh she did feed!  OF MY DEVOTION SHE DOES THRIVE!    

Ah, but she approaches.  Come my beloved, for I am eager for you as well! Soon, dear reader, you will know this sweet agony!  You too will cower and beg for her blackening embrace!

 

 

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