Submitted into Contest #119 in response to: Set your story in a silent house by the sea.... view prompt


Horror Contemporary

He’s watching me. His stare creeps up my spine, tingling the wispy hairs on my nape. Muscles tense and shoulders hunch before I turn my head discreetly, expectantly, worriedly, in terror. I see his shadow and my breath catches, a sticky gasp in my throat. Slowly, I unglue it. My heart scrabbles in my chest, but I must not panic.

He’s inside the house.

He knows what I’ve done. He must have watched me in the water with her. Somehow, on a cliff overlooking the sea, in the blue of night, he watched below as I held her body against mine in the surf. He did nothing, said nothing. But I knew he was there.

He must have followed me home. I could sense someone at my back, stealthily, rapidly, maliciously. I dismissed him as a guilty conscience or paranoia. But I heard him sneaking up on me.

I ran as fast as I dared. As fast as any out-of-shape forty-nine-year-old man can run. Faster, even. My speed was such that I believed I would trip, fall, tumble to the ground. I hurtled through space as though death followed; but I was running from myself because looking back, nobody was there.

He knows where I live. Perhaps she told him. She sent him to come for me. Her version would have her blameless, seduced, innocent. Instead, she was bitter, scorned, vengeful. Behind her angelic smile lay a wily adulterer.

Eleanor, my love. My sinful, tormented love.

We had many blissful nights. Her passion was unmatched—my heart ached to satisfy her while suspecting I never could. My insecurities were met with teasing, torture, laughter. I pleaded for her to remove the golden band from her finger; to shed its curse upon her heart. She refused, and so the shadow remained.

I pretend I don’t see him, but I hear him gurgling in the other room. He must be rabid. Or hungry. Hungry for my soul, no! My manhood. He wants to pluck it from me and render me impotent. She has long since emasculated me; his action would be symbolic.

I pour my tea and ignore the pounding against my ribcage. My chest moves with breathing, sobbing, fear. My eyes are wet, and it makes him harder to see. I don’t want to die. I pour blurry milk into my cup with a shaking hand and regret the steam that rises. The cooling tea is a lost opportunity for self-defence.

He chooses this moment to move into the light.

I shrink away, holding the cup before me like a ward. Brown liquid sloshes over my fingers, hot, sticky, burning. I try to speak, but my throat can only croak. Mocking me, he croaks back.

I throw the cup at him, and he squawks his dismay. I run upstairs. It is only fitting that we should face off here, where it happened. I reach the bedroom. I hear him chase me and my bravado melts like ice, leaving me chilled. With a cowardly shriek I slam the door shut and press against it, laughing, crying, hysterical.

Beneath the sounds I make, I hear nothing. I gasp and hold my breath, fighting, willing, struggling for control. A fluttering silence. My eyes are large and round, but I can’t see much. The room is too dark. On the dresser is a lighter and two rows of her scented candles. My heart aches for Eleanor, who is no longer in my bed, my home, my life.

Eleanor, my love. My twisted, murdered love.

I take the lighter and the closest candle with trembling hands and touch the flame to wick. I hold it away from me like a torch. Wax drips onto the carpet, and I smell a mingling of peaches and vanilla. I step forward, my gaze travelling with the feeble, flickering, aromatic circle of light. The bedroom is just as we left it; clothes on the floor, ropes tied to bedposts. I see the overturned bedside table and a broken lamp, the one she reached for when she took her last breath.

My hands were loving, caressing, worshipping her body as she writhed beneath me, screaming for more. Pleasure turned sour when she couldn’t have what she wanted. I was not enough; I am never enough. The day I put the ring on her finger was the day I cursed us both.

Too late, I notice the open window. He’s already perched upon it, watching me with black intent. Locked out of my bedroom, he found another way in. I can’t escape him because he saw us, because he knows. Because she sent him, her spirit animal.

Harbinger, thing of evil, voice of the dead. Knowing my thoughts, the raven laughs at me. Its caw is a frightful thing; like a grimace of a clown or a recoiling woman.

“Get out!” My voice cracks on the second word. Frustrated that it should know my fear, I swipe the candle in an arc before me, as though it is a sword. The flame should have gone out, but something—something keeps it alive. The raven takes flight into the room, fluttering wings impossibly loud. The sound is the one I heard following me all the way from the beach.

Eleanor, dear Lord, why? Why send this thing, this creature, this devil? She confessed her unhappiness; life was unbearable. She told me of her misery from sunrise to sunset. She begged me for an escape. I offered her my version.

The raven lands upon a pile of books, stacked on top of one another and tied with brown string. It inspects me before its beak pecks at the knot.

“No!” I lunge for the bird, to shoo it away. I jab the candle at it and it squawks and takes wing. Whirling, wax flying, I watch it cry at me while circling the ceiling. It is a banshee, a ghoul in flight.

The room is brighter now, adrenaline improving my vision as I chase the raven. I leap on the bed and swing my arms, still holding the now extinguished candle. As I take another swipe, I hear the groan of springs. The sound sobers me enough to stop moving and shouting. In my silence, the raven returns to the windowsill, watching, waiting, warning.

Our bed, our marriage bed, the place I lost my Eleanor. I feel the warmth of her touch on my back, the heat of her passion upon my skin. A mixture of scents assaults me, and I turn to see a rainbow assortment of candles melting on the dresser. Fire crackles and reaches liquid fingers up the wall, blackening everything it touches; lighting and darkening the room.

As I stare into the blackness of his eye, listening to the doomsday of his cry, I knew the ending of my life, to spend eternity with my wife, the beautiful, vindictive, critic that was my Eleanor. While she is slowly sinking, drifting, soulless corpse unblinking, she and I will join in matrimony once more. My death comes with burning fingers, the raven beckons as it lingers, and together we will join in death, me and my Eleanor.

To be forgiven, nevermore.

(Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Raven')

November 11, 2021 01:20

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Jon Casper
11:05 Nov 11, 2021

Here is my virtual standing ovation. What a tremendous piece you have created! // His stare creeps up my spine, tingling the wispy hairs on my nape. // Muscles tense and shoulders hunch // a sticky gasp in my throat // My heart scrabbles in my chest -- Boom! First paragraph. One gem after another. // Behind her angelic smile lay a wily adulterer. // I pleaded for her to remove the golden band from her finger; to shed its curse upon her heart. // She has long since emasculated me; his action would be symbolic. -- More Amazing lines. They ju...


Delia Strange
03:25 Nov 12, 2021

Thanks, Jon, so glad you liked it :) That 'adrenaline' is one of my writer's fingerprints, I usually get that one wrong - my fingers are not in the habit of typing the 'e'. Thanks for the catch! :)


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Kevin Marlow
01:44 Nov 19, 2021

E. A. Poe lulled me to sleep many a night on that forlorn stygian shore. I look forward to reading more.


Delia Strange
02:34 Nov 22, 2021

Ahhh! Love it! Thanks for reading and commenting so cleverly ;)


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Molly Quinnell
08:12 Nov 18, 2021

Wow! This is great! Before I even read the end, I thought "this is very similar style to Edgar Allan Poe." So glad to see it was inspired by "The Raven." Excellent job!


Delia Strange
20:54 Nov 18, 2021

Thanks for reading, Molly :) I appreciate your comment. Yeah, I love Poe's work... horror with the anticipation, not with the gore. My kind of horror ;)


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Keya Jadav
05:06 Nov 15, 2021

Delia!!! You write so amazing! seriously. Beautifully igniting the thrills and spooks, I couldn't take my eyes off this. There are so many beautiful lines, just like Jon mentioned them. # returns to the windowsill, watching, waiting, warning. I loved the rhythm of this line. A great take on the prompt giving us the best to read, as always! :)


Delia Strange
17:35 Nov 15, 2021

Thanks so much, Keya. Poe's 'The Raven' is my favourite piece of literature, ever. I'm so glad that my nod to it is appreciated :) Always scary to tackle something you personally admire.


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