Philadelphia – February 1842
Shadows moved along cobblestone. Shadows that morphed into a dancing cat, then a beating heart. Edgar stared at the heart until his vision blurred and the voices he tried to suppress threatened to overcome his senses.
Words. He only needed words before he could rest. Sissy waited upstairs, pale, but with a hint of blush to her cheeks.
His darling. His wife.
Always she coughed and rasped his name in the dark.
Hand in hand. Unshed tears. Desperate fever in the night.
She was but a wilting flower. He knew this. All who saw the taint on her cheeks knew death waited.
He glanced at the completed parchment before him. Every verb, adjective, and preposition leapt from the page and yet the story felt incomplete. He ached with an unmet need he tried not to acknowledge.
No longer can I delay. Winter is bitter with cold.
And yet, he ached. Always, he ached.
A man removes another’s heart with a glass, sightless eye following his every movement. There is sound. At first a subtle rhythm of the man’s heart through wooden beams, turned thunderous in the man’s ears.
He placed his head in his hands. Always strange incessant thoughts plagued his mind. But he needed to eat, needed to sell.
Two candles burned to the nub and he sat in the glow of the single remaining candle. The shadows became thicker, crowding his walls.
Sissy, let me gaze upon your fingers while they move deftly over our piano. Your face is always so attentive; each note played with such concentration. When you smile my heart loosens a fraction. But then comes night. Damnable, wretched night when blood taints your lips and your mouth is but the cusp of a wound.
The feathered quill, worn and stained black with a dull endpoint, rested motionless on the manuscript.
There were too many thoughts, too many restless voices.
He read his final revisions then extinguished the remaining flame.
In the darkness, whispers beckoned from shadows and creaks of the floorboards sounded overhead. He hurried to the stairs and imagined red eyes watching him in the dark. With shaking hands he reached for the stairs and made his way to his sitting room. Hints of unspoken laughter followed his footsteps.