My body hurts as I lay on the hospital bed, staring at the walls, waiting for her to visit me, to comfort me. To see her in all her beauty again would bring joy to my sick heart.
Virginia stands in silence in her white dress against the hospital’s white-tiled walls. She doesn’t say a word, even when I implore her to speak. I need to hear her soft voice; I need it to soothe the pain that rings through my head and down through my brittle bones. When the sound of one of the nurse’s footsteps grows louder towards my room, Virginia tilts her head to the side, listening and waiting. Intermittently, I reach out to her, to feel the gentleness of her skin, but she disappears before my finger tips can touch.
Turning on my side to face the window exhausts my body as I meet the eyes of the raven that squawks and screams from a naked tree.
Suddenly, from somewhere near I can hear scratching – slightly muted at first but then louder and louder and louder. It is that blasted bird or someone, somewhere scratching at a piece of paper with ink and quill. It echoes all around me, tormenting me.
Why won’t it stop? Make it stop!
I close my eyes, wishing for her to come back, and then the sound of the church bells grow with each passing hour, keeping in strange time with the scratching. As my vision wanes, the longing call of death sounds more and more like heaven’s chorus, or is that hell’s hounds? I just want the pain to stop and to finally be with her, to stop seeing her in every other woman alive.
That night, that awful night that brought me here, to this bed, where I lay in a puddle of sweat, continues to loop itself through my diseased mind. I had had far too many drinks, and then suddenly Virginia stood in the form of some other woman. She spoke so beautifully as she laughed and smiled with those other men. I was in a state; it wasn’t my fault.
The three men, they did not like the way I approached the young lady, and I was soon out in the rain, staggering my way back to Richmond, bruised and broken.
Virginia appears again in her white dress and a sweet scent about her. She steps to the side, in front of the window where she looks faded, like a lost memory. The raven squawks, angry.
Her brothers were angry; they did not approve of our marriage, but we paid them no heed as we were happy.
“We were happy, weren’t we?” I smile as her face stares blankly back at me. We had loved with a love that was more than love and I can tell by her piercing eyes that she still feels the same, even in death.
When I had returned to Richmond, I found further drink to keep my company, and soon found my way into a scheme. The punches and weapons forced me to dress up and cast my name into the election box. And I continued to drink beer after beer after beer.
Alone, I was left and forgotten on the streets, pain and drink consuming me. I wish I had died that night: where I laid drunk, beaten and soaked from rain and urine. It would have been a fitting death for one such as myself – to die notorious and alone in the street.
The bells ring.
‘Bells bells bells. The bells the bells, the stupid bells,’ I mutter and close my eyes, letting the tears crawl down my withered face. The pain consumes my whole body as every muscle tenses and the infernal scratching noise mocks me.
“Shut up!” I yell. Hoarse and scratchy, my voice is nothing but a deafening screech of chalk on a chalkboard.
Virginia visited past the midnight dreary, her eyes soft and welcoming as she stepped forward and touched my forehead with the back of her hand.
‘Lord, help my poor soul,’ I whisper.
A smile paints Virginia’s lips and she speaks, she finally speaks.
“Come now,” she says, soft and smooth and right.
Edgar Allan Poe: January 19th 1809 – October 7th 1849