Monday. When I awoke yesterday morning, after the exorcism, I lay in bed and listened. I heard nothing but the ordinary sounds of Maine in llte autmn -- the wind, the water, the occasional distant sound of a csr or truck on the road. I looked around the house and everything was in its place -- the hallseat and the wardrobe, the fire, died to ash, in the fireplace, everything but the picture over the mantel. I went to look at the spot, and then I looked down into the grate: I saw the outline of a frame laid in ash. The canvas was entirely consumed.
I dressed and went looking for Cara. She was in the basement, just coming up the stairs as I entered the dining room. Without words, we greeted each other, and f kissed her. While she was making breakfast, I went up to the library and got out The Book of Common Prayer. Opening it to "All Saints Day," I read, "And f saw another angel ascending from the east…and he cried out with a loud voice to the other angels…, ‘Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.’ And I heard the number of them which were Sealed; and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand, of all tbe tribes of Israel.
"Of the tribe of ,ludah were sealed twelve thousand.
“Of ths tribe of Reuben, were sealed twelve thousand.
“Of the tribe of Gad were sealed twelvs thousand.
"Of the tribe of Aser were sealed twelve thousand.
"Of the tribe of Nepthalem were sealed twelve thousand.
"Of the tribe of Paneesee were sealed twelve thousand,
"Of the tribe af Simeon were sealed twelve thousand.
"Of the tribe of Levi were sealed twelve thousand.
“Of the tribe of Isaac were sealed twelve thousand,
“of the tribe of Joseph ware sealed twelve thousand.
“Of the tribe af Benjamin were sealed twelve thousand.
"After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all. nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, stood before the throne, before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.’ And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders, and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen!”
Rafe joined us for breakfast, snd he patted Cara's hand as she served us. "Everything okay?" he asked. Cara nodded, and he turned his eyes on me.
"Yes, " I said. "I think everything's all right now."
"Good. but I want to continue the sessions for a while, just to be sure." I must have looked alarmed, but he laughed, holding out his cup for Cara to fill. "Don't worry about it, Charles." He pushed the hair out of his eyes. "The first is the worst. f'rom here on out, it's just insurance. I'l1 be along next Saturday night, and we'll have another go."
When ilafe had left, I went out for a walk in the fields. Csra was on the porch, calling for Wesley Cetch. I came up to her and asked what she was doing.
"Calling the cat, of course."
I felt a cold shudder run down my spine. "'Whatever for? He isn't coming back, not after last night."
Cara looked strangely at me. "Charles, what are you talklng about?
"You were there too," I said. "Didn't you see him run up the chimney?" I could not understand why she began to look-frightened. "The exorcism,' I said. "It worked. Asmodeus is gone."
She took me by the hand. "Charles," she said, very gently, "there was no exorcism, what are you ssying? Rafe put you to sleep and tried to make you see for yourself what was botherlng you, He didn't let you remember consciously this time, but he'll start to next time, now that he knows, and slowly you’ll be able to — Oh, Charles. he told ne all about it. You can't remember anything."
But I told her what I remembered, and she is feigning surprise. She must be, I havc worried about it all day. A while ago, I asked her why she thought Wesley Catch has disappeared.
"He’s just run off," Cara answered. "Toms will do that now and then, you know.”
When I: came into Uncle John's study to write this evening, I found a letter Iying opened an the desk:
"Lowell, April 10, 1860
"I received your letter last week, but I trust you will excuse me for not answering it before, I had to write home last Sunday and I was too 1azy to write any more. Miss Tilly Huckford arrived here last week, I have not seen her yet I went to see the H…. O…. last Sunday evening had a nice time, Ellen Harrier is coming home in about three weeks I presume you will be happy to see her, William Weston was here about three days ago, I did see him. As I was looklng over the Boston Journal I saw that the Knotting house has burned last Saturday. I think you had better have a fire engine as they have one here that goes by steam.
I need a nice excuse to go over to the river since Louisa has movsd. I can stop over there when I come home. Wont that be nice
Charle? Is Ssrah Allen in Lowell? If she is let me know for I should
like to see her. How are all the boys in Frankfort? Have they begun to think about shaving yet? It smells kind of fishy here sometimes when the factory girls are out.
"Today business has been very good for a rainy one we have taken on the cash sales besides what we have cleared, I had a letter from Laura Jack last week of Richmond Me. I hear the steamer G was burnt at her harbor, I suppose they will have another on the river pretty soon.
“Give my respects to all. the girls & boys
"You will have to excuse me for not writing any more it is all most time to shut up.
Tuesday, 3rd. I am overwhelmingly relieved to be rid of Bodman. Tomorrow I will try to get back to my novel.
THE BOOK OF THE BLACK HEART
The Gunner's Story
It was the Gunner's mount the sailors were using that night to spin their sea stories on, as the carrier plowed through the star-bitten Pacific, and it was the Gunner's turn.
"Looking back on things," he said, "I guess life had been pretty good, at least for me, until my old man kicked the bucket. I might've even been able to live with that if I hadn't've found out how he died one night when my mother thought I was asleep and got yakking to her best friend, somebody she'd known since she was in school.
"Dad used to take me out to the lake for a day's fishing. We'd float around out there, just dangling our lines and hauling in the black bass. When we got tired we'd lie back in the bottom of our big, flat-bottomed scow, pull our straw hats down over our eyes, and let the sun beat down on us. Man, that was the life. We'd be stripped to the waist and sweating like horses. I could feel the sun soothing the muscles where they ached from being bent over the side of the boat. The smell of the fish we'd caught mixed with the pinewood smell of the scow. It was sort of like a nice form of ether and made me doze off.
"Every now and then a shore breeze would blow by, and we could smell the woods that bordered the lake. The breeze would rumple around our heads for a few minutes, and just as we'd be getting used to it it would stop and the sun would beat down as hard as ever.
"Once in a while a horsefly would buzz around me and finally decide to land. You have to slap 'em fast or they get away and pretty soon come back to pester you again.
"After a while the breezes would start to come up more often and the sides of the boat would block off the sun, and we'd know it was time to go home. Dad would row all the way to shore while I sat and watched the last of the sun glint on his skin. There would be purple splotches in the sky over the wood, and the ripples in the water were gold.
"I was always first out of the scow. I'd sprint over the side, splash into the water, and wade the last few feet to the beach. The sand felt good. And then I'd watch Dad as he got our gear out of the boat and walked toward me. Before he caught up with me I'd stretch till I felt my bones creak, and then lead the way along the path through the woods.
We had to walk along this pine-needle path to get to Dad's jalopy. Sometimes we'd stop and listen to the wind in the big trees, or look for animals or birds. Sometimes there was a stray bee on its last trip back to the hive.
"But then he died. I was there when they brought him in off the lake. After that I used to have a hard time getting to sleep. I'd go to bed and just lay there listening to my heard pump blood. If my mom checked on me I'd keep my eyes closed and make like I was in Dreamland.
"One night I heard my mother in the hall whispering to somebody, and then she opened the door a crack and I heard her say, 'Doesn't he look cunning, all curled up in bed like that? Oh, you wouldn't believe what an imp he can be sometimes, not when you see him like this, the little angel. You'd never believe he has bad dreams sometimes, poor dear, ever since his dad died in that accident.' I heard her sigh.
"'Poor Sally,' her friend said — I think her name was Smith, Alice Smith. 'You've had a hard life, but it's coming out all right, isn't it? You've hooked another one, haven't you? That's why I dropped in. I'm dying to hear all about it.'
"'Oh, all right,' I heard mom giggle. 'But you've got to promise never to tell anybody. Some people might misunderstand, but I know you won't. I stirred. 'Sshh,' she whispered. "Come into the living room before he wakes up. Honestly, I never get a minute to myself any more. Come on. I'll tell you how I reeled him in.'
"When they closed the door again I got up and snuck out to the hall. I heard them in the living room, so I eased on down to the doorway and listened.
"'Beer?' mom asked, 'or something stronger?"
"'Stronger,' Mrs. Smith said. I chanced a look around the corner and I could see them sitting sideways to me. I could see Alice was all ears. 'What's he like?' she asked.
"'Oh, he's great!' Mom got up to mix martinis. 'He's a big brute of a fella, with fat freckled cheeks and a grin as wide as a pound of bacon. Rrrufff!'
"'Tell me more! Where'd you meet him?' Alice took her drink as mom settled into the scatter pillows on the couch. She rolled her eyes and faked a look around her for spies. I ducked.
"'Don't tell a soul, now promise?' Alice gave a nod full of quick breaths. 'Actually,' mom said in what was supposed to be a low voice, 'I met him before big Mark died. Oh! He swept me right off my feet one day at Danny's Lunch downtown. He just up and sat down at my table — the place was crowded, and the next thing I knew, his knees were nudging me so cute-like while we ate our noodle soup. Oh,' she laughed, 'he's such a card. Just like a little boy, even though he's so big.' She rolled her eyes again. I sat down on the floor in the hall and didn't look at them any more.
"'Goodness, that's so romantic,' Alice Smith said. I could imagine her teats bobbing and her face flushing. I didn't have to see. 'How I envy you!' she said in little breaths.
"'Till then I'd just been feeling like any old sack. Mark never paid any attention to me, you know. All he ever wanted to do was take junior fishing. Honestly. Two ten-year-olds in the house was too much.' She giggled again and was quiet while she sipped her drink. In the corner the teevee belched and flickered — I could see the shadows coming out into the hall. Then mom said, 'So, while my two boys were out fishing, Harry would come visit me. I fell for him hook, line, and sinker.
"'Well, this went on for about a month. I was getting about ready to get a lawyer when what should happen one day but Mark — big Mark I mean — walked in the door early from work.'
"'No' said Mrs. Smith. I took a quick peek — the one eye I could see what as big and bright as a light bulb.
"'Oh, yes,' said mother, 'and there we were all over the parlor rug, my skirts up around my hips and Harry huffing all over me, snorting like a....'" The Gunner stopped a minute to listen to the sea. Then, "Bull," he said.
"'In a minute it was all over,' mom told Mrs. Smith. 'Mark got all red in the face and Harry got up. He was laughing. Oh, he knows how to take things. He zipped himself up and got ready for a fight.'
"'Then what happened?' I heard Mrs. Smith gasp.
"'Nothing. Mark just walked over to the closet and got his rod and things.'
"'Rod and reel.' Mom was quiet for another second. Then, '"I'm going fishing," Mark said. In his business suit, no less. '"In your business suit?" I asked. By this time I was decent again. But he didn't answer. He just walked to the door and out, and that's the last I saw of him.'
"'Alive, anyhow.' I heard mom sip her drink and saw the flare of her lighter as she lit a cigarette. 'After big Mark left, about ten minutes later, maybe, little Mark came in just as Harry was about to leave. He just barely missed us finishing up the job big Mark had interrupted. I think he suspected something anyhow. He gave Harry a funny look and said, "Pop home yet?" I told him he'd gone fishing.
"Without me?" Then he was out the door like a flash.' "I got up and went back to my room then," the Gunner said. "I slammed the door — I didn't give a shit if they heard me. Mom came in 'What was that door slamming?' she asked me, but I didn't answer. I just kept laying on the bed staring and remembering that day. I don't know how long mom stood there asking me how much I heard, I didn't even do anything when she shook me and bounced me up and down in the bed and slapped me. She finally stopped screaming and crying, and after a while there was the lake again, and it was late in the afternoon. something was wrong. I'd been running, or maybe pedaling my bike. I don't know how I got to the lake, because it was quite a way — I just knew I had to catch up.
"By the time I was standing on the strip of beach I could feel the night starting to come on — the moon was already up flopping around in the tops of the pines like a sunfish. My legs hurt, and I couldn't breathe — it was like there was water in my chest. I looked for our scow, and it was out there, but there was something funny about it. And then I saw — it was upside-down, and there were a bunch of heads bobbing around it, and another boat. I started in to yell, 'Dad! Dad!' but nobody paid me any attention. Only when I took off my shoes and started to run into the water somebody grabbed me and said, 'Stay here, boy. They'll have him soon.'
"But the moon was high before they brought him in, all soggy, and his eyes staring at me in the dark. His feet were all wound up in line and his metal gear box was caught in the line too. They all just stood around and looked at him, and sometimes they'd look at me too, and then away. I waited for something to happen, but nobody did anything. 'Why don't you all do something? Help him, help him! Jesus!' I said, but they all just shook their heads.
""'It's no use, son. He's been down there for three hours anyway, ' somebody said, a cop I think. 'The ambulance will be here soon.'
"But I looked at him and I saw something. 'No, no, he's alive, don't you see?' I said. 'Look, his heart's beating, his heart...'
"I managed to rip away from the guy that was holding me, and I fell down beside Dad and put my ear on his chest. I could feel it. His heart thumping, almost jumping out of his chest, trying to keep going. It was slimy wet against my ear, it was wriggling and squirming, even though you could see his face was beginning to bloat and it was all blue. I hugged him and looked up at them all standing around. 'Oh, Jesus, won't you help him!' I screamed. 'Look, his heart!' I tore open his shirt, still with his tie on.
"And you could see it squirming and wiggling, see it with your naked eyes, — a fish caught in his undershirt, a big black bass, fighting to cut loose but losing, its head stuck out near the armpit, its bulgy eyes like to moons staring down at me out of the sky, out of the pines that reeled off into a dark voice that said, 'I wonder what mom will say when we get home for supper.' And then no more dreams, nothing," said the Gunner, "except night and the smell of pine."
I can think of nowhere to go from here. I look ahead, and Nothus slips into nothingness; the ship looms across the indecipherable and unfathomable ocean without a helmsman. My books gather me in as though to say, "Time for a rest," but I am resisting them with all my power.
I have had another letter from Wesley Court, thank God:
"Lowell, May 10 1860
"The top of the morning to you
"How do you get along courting the girls now since the Snow went off. Last night we had a splendid fire about twelve O’Clock but did not go I can tell you X liked to lay abed too well. I went to see where if was this morning. Dont let any one see this I will tell you where it was.
"It was a house of ill fame where they keep pretty Girls I saw two of them & the lady of the house this morning.
"The old lady was telling how it caught afire.
"You say it is very dry down in Frankfort, but not dryer than it is here. We have not had any rain for the last two months until yesterday. We had a slight rain of about four hours.
"But I think real estate will rise to day again.
"I suppose you still stick to the Sons of Temperance dont you. I had rather stick to the Daughters for my part.
"The bells begin to ring & I must close
"Give my love to all the girls
"Burn this as quick as you read it."
Thursday, 5th. Rafe stopped by for coffee this morning, and I joined him and Cara. He looked very cheerful.
"Cara tells me you've been working on your book some more. How's it going?"
Cara sat down with us, next to Rafe. "He typed all day yesterday, but he won't talk." She looked up at me and smiled. I love her eyes when they look like that — the color of clouds on a day like this one: gray, and a touch of blue sky behind them.
"I wrote chapter six," I said. But I could not tell them the book will never be finished. I have reached the center of the circle, the eye of calm, and my voyage has ended in nothing, where it began in the heart of my protagonist.
Rafe was happy. "The best therapy in the world," he said. "Write it out. It's good." He stretched like a cat. "I'll go over around ten Saturday evening for another session. That all right with you, Charles?" He shook his blond forelock back into place.
"I won't be by tomorrow morning," he said. "I have appointments all day, and I'm going to have to get to school early."
Cara looked disappointed.
"Sorry," he said. "There are a bunch of kids who need draft counseling. The war's still non, you know."
"It'll be on forever," Cara said, touching her cup with her lip — a voluptuous gesture.
"Well, Saturday night, then," I said.
Rafe rose and waved as he went out to the kitchen. He stood a moment with his hand on the doorknob. He looked back at us, and a slight, troubled look overcast his blue glance. Then he smiled again and waved. "Be happy," he said, and left. We heard his car back out into the road and drive away.
I have spent the day walking in the fields. I went to the falls and watched the water come down over the stones from Blind Man's Hill; I crossed to the cemetery to visit my family and my friend, but all was still — only a winter sparrow or two looking for seeds among the headstones and monuments. In the late afternoon I returned to the house and sat with the books awhile, not reading, just listening to the soft murmur of voices rising out of the leather covers and falling to silence in the house among the tickings of the clocks and the chimes, Cara humming softly in the rooms among her plants — watering and feeding the green life in this landscape of coming winter.
"Burn this as soon as you read it Charles.
Lowell may 30, 1860
"It is with the greatest pleasure that I now attempt to answer your kind letter which I received this afternoon
"If Mrs. Small has got the P———— it is quite sure that they have been doing or try to do something for there Country. I did as you requested me to do with your letter & I want you to do the same. Wednesday night only comes once a week & that I have to do myself.
"We are having a few drops of rain here to night & it is not very pleasant to be on the streets so I thought I would answer your letter as you requested me to write soon
"I do not know as I have much news to tell you, but Ile try & scrabble a few lines
"Yesterday there was afire over in Belvedere Charley Deming our book keeper & Mr. Washburn was ringing the fire bell. Some of the fixing gave way & it come through the floor, had it not hit upon some of the timbers it would of come through all the floors & probably killed them both. Another Accident I have to tell you but not of that kind, Mr. Loomis one of our customers hung himself yesterday about three O’Clock in his own shed, he was at the store to settle up his account the day previous. Another sad accident I have to tell you Mrs. Alden another of our customers fell down her steps and broke her hip. I believe she is doing well now.
“Well Charles, that is all the sad news I have to relate to you, but I have some few lines more to say. There was two young ladies walking out the other day, & a young Gentleman wrinkled his nose as they passed. One of the girls looked around. Says She, ‘f you don't like the fashion, you may stick your nose in my arse.’ That is about the stile of one half of them. Do you have any such mistresses?
“You say you have not heard from Fred Hawkins since you wrote me last. I have not written him since I have been in Lowell. I have forgotten how to superscribe my letters to him but Ile endeavor to write him a few little ditties. You said Frank was home, what made him so? You did not write half enough about him. I should like to here him spin some of his long yarns, I suppose he wlll have as much to say as old Sam Little ever did. Has Brad White got home yet? He wrote to me when he was in Charleston S. C. He wanted to buy my tools, said he would be home in the spring. As this is the 3Oth day of May I thought I would see whether he is ea home or not.
''You said you went on a ride last Sunday over on the neck did
you see any of the pretty girls that I should have looked after if I had been there? How are all the Carney girls do you ever see them except when they are at the division? Give my respects to them when you see them.
“Charles to tell you the barest facts I have not been home with but two girls since I have been here.
"It is getting along towards ten O’Clock & I must go over to my boarding house and go to bed
“I still. remain your honest friend
"Write soon as you told me to; I did so. I shall be home for a visit before Thanksgivings day. Look for me at your door Charles I shall knock loud."
Cara has come up behind me, holding two cob pipes, and she is waiting.
Friday, 6th. It is all very clear to me now. I must try to write it clearly as well, so that you may be prepared, reader, if by chance this journal should be spared, which I shall make every attempt to ensure. Last night, when I was done with my entry, I turned and followed Cara to her room. I lay down on the bed fully clothed and began to smoke. I felt clear enough of mind, so that I thought perhaps this time the leaves would not adversely affect me, as they are wont to do, strangely. At first, such was the case. As I inhaled and held the smoke in my lungs, my feelings began to rise, and Cara and I began to exchange quips. They were silly in nature, and we began to giggle like school children.
"This won't work, Charles. We've goat to cool it if we're going to get serious." She tried to force her face into repose, but was not successful. We laughed again. But, after repeated efforts, and more deep draughts of the fumes, at last we quieted. I began to experience a sense of excitement, as did Cara, I believe.
"Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee."
"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is an iniquity and idolatry: because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king."
"And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards. He wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger."
"And it came to pass when He saw John, that he said, Is it peace, John? And he answered, What peace, so long as the wickedness of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?"
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."
And in another book, Infernal Conference or, The Legions of Devils by "The Listener," published at Leominster for Josiah Thomas in 1808, this:
"Know, then, that not far from this humble cot, there is a widely extended, most tremendous, and Lonely Vale, first formed, as is supposed, by some dreadful earthquake, or some other remarkable convulsion in nature. The confines of this valley, on the outside are every where nearly level with tbe surface of the ground; but the precipice within is to the last degree horrible, insomuch that few have had fortitude enough to approach it. The ancient bards very justly called it Horide Vallis, and we, from them, the Vale of Horrors. This horrid vale has long been supposed, by the credulous vulgar, to be the haunt of infernal spirits; and some people imagine that it is the only place on earth where they freely converse about the dark designs of their maladministration.
"My curiosity continually prompting me, I at last conquered my native timidity, and I resolved, if possible, to find an entrance into this unfrequented, unknown, and dreadful place.
"But many months, I may say some years, were spent in this fruitless search, and I despaired of success. At length, however, having entered a very eerie and unfrequented wood, one side of which led to the very edge of the precipice, as I walked a few furlongs down a steep descent, gloomy beyond whatever I had seen before, I came to a large rock, all overgrown with ivy and moss. It had the appearance of an ancient ruin, somewhat in the form of a pyramid; The bottom occupied a considerable space, and the very top was nearly concealed by the highest branches of the tall and ancient oaks, which surround it. Near the ground, by chance, I discovered an opening, almost choked up with baleful hemlock and nightshade.
At first I thought that this could be no other than the cave of some ancient Druid; but approaching it, and having, with much toil, cleared away the noxious weeds, I found what I had long sought for, an entrance into the dreadful cavity.
"Here my resolution almost failed me, and I was at the point of relinquishing the long projected enterprise. At length I recollected myself a little, and resolved to descend into the place, though, as I thought, not much less horrible than hell, The passage, a little within the entrance, led downwards almost in a perpendicular direction; but its straitness, and the natural unevenness of the rocks that formed it, rendered my descent more practicable and safe than I first expected. Down, however, I went, fathoms I know not how many, ere I found myself at the bottom, and from an easy opening entered the gloomy vale."
I can read no more of it, remembering last night, despite its light and rational style, for it recalls to my mind a piece in the scrapbook Norine sent me out of my own childhood past:
"Satan sat on the peak of a tall mountain. Around him Great black clouds twisted and writhed, and the rain poured down, cooling the fire-fevered earth. Satan looked down from his throne. A mourning wind whispered along the once great forests of splintered trees. Not a breath of life stirred on all the Earth. The bodies of men and animals littered the ground in all directions.”
Cara responded as I lay upon her, my arms and legs held by hands I could not see, and I was forced into her from behind. As Cara worked, I felt something round, with sharp edges, forced into my anus. Then, with a great cry, a rod of flesh plunged into me, crushing. In a moment I felt the semen rush out of Ally and into me, and I was no longer conscious of anything.
Saturday, 7th. I have laid my plans careful1y, in veriest secret. I have not spoken to Cara about last night, and she has gone about her business as though nothing had happened. I have spent all day on my books, reading and thinking, and I know what I must do.
I have been examining Uncle John's 1816 Bible, and within it I have found these:
"Know not them that have familiar spirits, neither be defiled by these: fear the LORD your God."
"And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.”
"A man also or a woman who hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stonc them with stones, their blood shell be upon the earth.
"There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or en enchanter, or a witch, nor shall ye use or seek after wizards.”
About Cara and the priest, in a semicircle, stood many people, some seeming to be solid flesh, others with outlines that wavered in the candlelight. Tituba stood there, and the minister with the noose about his neck, Norine end Melany, and another girl, a little older, with a woman who must have been her mother, both dressed in Puritan dresses. There were others, both men end women, all clothed in ancient garments, and one man naked, his body misshapen, holding a stone, blood running from his mouth, nose, and eyes.
And as the priest spoke the litany, he consecrated the wine over Cara's Os Externum, and drank. Then he took the host, blessed it, and pressed it into the lips of her vagina with his fingers. He rose and stood between Cara’s Iegs, lifted his cassock. Kneeling down, he went into her and, with a loud cry — an oath — plunged deeply and groaned as Cara cried out. When he rose, I saw that it was Rafe.
My eyes were transfixed, and I was struck to rock. It was some moments before I realized that the audience were no longer watching the altar, but were turned and staring at Me. Before I could move, I felt my arms pinioned, The crowd parted to let Rafe through. He approached and stood before me,
“You have sinned in your blood, Charles Ally," he said, his voice hollow. You are one of us.” He reached forward and tore my shirt, my trousers, and I could not move. When I was naked, Norine came forward and gave him a small jar, which I recognized. Rafe opened it and began to prepare me. He rubbed the salve into my genitalia, and I burned. When I was ready, I was propelled toward the altar and forced to kneel between its legs. Then, with a mighty thrust….
I returned to the dining room and sat down at my place, the empty dish before me, so that Cara when she came back up would believe I had eaten her food. And then I heard footsteps in the living room. I was astonished. I knew there was no one else in the house but Cara and me, and I knew she had not come back up out of the cellar. I got up to look, and found Cara in the living room sitting on the couch and looking into the fire.
"If you're in here," I asked, "Who’s in the cellar? "She looked up at me. "There's no one in the cellar, Charles. Come and sit beside me." She sighed. I'm sorry it went all wrong today. I’m sorry." She was weeping.
I went to her and touched her shoulder, "It’ll be all right," I said, or I think I said. "I'll be right back."
I returned to the dining room and went to the cellarway to reach for the 1ight switch, but there was none. There was a deep glow coming from below. I made some sort of hoarse noise in my throat, stepped back, and slammed the door.
When I turned about I saw I was standing in flickering lamplight. There is no possible way to describe those sensations of fear, though I fought them as strongly as I might. I went back to the living room and cried, Cara!"
Cara was Iying naked before the hearth, her legs spread. At her head and at each of her shoulders stood a black candle burning, and another at her feet.
A priest was kneeling, conducting the communion service, using Cara as the altar.
I began to fumble at her clothes, my hands busy with buttons and catches, Soon, she lay naked on the bad, end I lay back. Cara rose to her knees, bent above me, and undid my clothing, pulling and tugging, I gave but little help. As she worked, I began to experience a feeling of foreboding. I attempted to fight the sensation of down, but was unsuccessful. Rather, it wasn’t until I became certain that Cara was some sort of agent for malice, I cannot tell why, that I began to resist her.
"Charles, you’re not cooperating," she said. She looked at me out of an oval frame of darkness, her eyea luminous as grey moons. "Here," she said, "have another drag or two," and she held out the pipe I had put down. I was certain she was trying to poison me — or, no - to use herbs to corrupt me. I pushed her hand away, rose, and restored my clothing. I said nothing, The look of hurt in her eyes and countenance was great.
I left her room and went into mine. I sat on my bed for a while,
how long I cannot surely say. The weeds were still working in my brain – flashes of strange colors and sounds.
“Hello, Cberles," Norine said. Chill struck to my marrow. I looked up, and in the darkness there wes nothing to see but the glow of the fire in the hearth, and its reflection in the hallseat mirror beside the wardrobe, but malevolence was omnipresent in the house. As I gazed into the glass, above the flickering daggers of flame, as it were in the firmament, angels and clouds began to form and to whirl. Finally they resolved thamselves - I vas staring into the mask of Death.
“You see you've not gotten rid of us after all. Cara has seen to
that. How are you, Charles? How far have you gotten with The Book of the Black Heart?" And the mask grinned coldly out of mercury and glass.
I rallied all my willopower and tried to dissipate the force of the
fumes. To some degree I succeeded, I think, for I rose and left the room. As I passed Cara's door I looked in. She had gone downstairs, but there was something peculiar about the light. Then I realized what it was — the house was filled with old lamps converted to electricity, but the one in aroom was burning with a flame, not a filament.
The hall was dark. I groped for the light switch, intending to go to the library, hut I could not find it. Instead, I went downstairs. I went into the dining room, and Cara was there in electrical light, holding a dish.
"Charles," she said, "you didn't eat your dessert at suppertime. Have some. It'll make you feel better. We shouldn't have smoked. I'm sorry. The stuff's no good for you," and she proffered the dish. I took it, feeling shamed. I realized at that moment that I had been hallucinating, and the knowledge came with a sense of relief.
I took the dish and sat down. Cara passed behind me. I heard the cellar door open, I thought I heard her footsteps as she descended. I took a spoonful of the pudding and lifted it to my mouth — but all my premonitions returned ten-fold. I could not help it. This was another attempt to put me in her power. I had barely escaped once, I could not succumb now.
I went into the kitchen and disposed of the pudding, feeling again no sense of relief — but at the same time a corner of my mind told me I was being foolish and that I mustn’t let myself be deceived by appearances conjured out of leaves. Back to my reading in the library:
“Correction. The corpses could not even decay, for all life, even the tiny microbes and bacteria that decompose flesh, had been destroyed in this last war-to-end-wars. And because of this Satan sat brooding on the mountain top, for now there was no-one for him to tempt into sin, and his future was bleak.
"Satan gazcd down upon the blood-soaked fields, fields which but a few days ago had flaunted ripe ears of corn like flags of peace end prosperity, but whiich now dolefully bore up mutilated csdavers, the fruit of war and hate.
"As Satan watched, a titanic river roared along a new course and swept the land clean of the mangled remains of a futile civilization. Rusted masses of metal began to rust under its turbulent surface, a last
memorial to the warped genius of men who had once forged this same metal into tcrrible weapons and implements of destruction,
"Great waves dashed against the base of Satan’s mountain, and the spray cooled his fevered brow, A boulder broke away from the side of the mountain and splashed heavily into the wate., From ths gash in the mountain where the boulder had been, a atream of crimson burst and plunged into the muddy river. Clouds of steam rose end swirled about the mountain.
"The flashing lightning cast a glare on Satan’s throne, and the
whirling mist twisted into grotesque, contorted likenesses of men, the ghosts of s once thriving world.
"The falling night made the scene even blacker then it had been, the thunder rose end filled the sky with its might. The night fell, and the thunder rose and Satan hearkened to what the thunder seemed to be saying. 'It is written that men shall one day destroy himself. And amidst the clash of the elements Satan sat and brooded on his fate."
I blush for the easy mysticism and self-serving sentimentality
of the piece, as I blush for the mysticism in The Book of the Black Heart. The difference between them is only immaturity of style in the latter, which reveals: not a black ile•rt, but a heart that is nearly empty. I have written two more pages longhand of the novel, but I will not paste them here, for I will never finish anyway. At least I have come to a point in my life where hardness
of spirit required a necessary act to be performed.
The clocks of the house have just begun to strike ten. I have tied Cara to her bed and scattered the coals from the fire about the house. I can hear flames behind me, and Cara crying out. At the kitchen door someone is knocking. I know who it is: Wesley Court has just come from Lowell, but he is too late.
As soon as I have done, I will put this journal into uncle John's safe, with his Salem journal and the other documents of the house, and I will wait.
Now there is pounding, and glass, and blue moons in the center of the circle, Ouroboros spinning in darkness, devouring himself.