Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Edgar Allen Poe's "The Red Nose"

Two years ago, I experimented with what might happen if gothic horror scribe H.P. Lovecraft had written "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." This year, I bring to you a follow-up of sorts, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" as told by Edgar Allen Poe.

A FRAIL and unassuming creature, the newcomer gave no insult or injury. Always cordial and congenial, with a pleasant demeanor. Given his own devices I am convinced he would like nothing more than to frolic and play from morning's light well into the veil of night. I fancy it unthinkable that one might wish harm upon this light and innocent soul. Though, be warned, for he carried with him a horror most foul that I shall recount in this narrative.

When something is amiss, once perceived it cannot be unseen! Many profess the anomaly to not exist -- and some may even force it into the confines of normalcy -- but the discomfort never abates. Perhaps my senses might be more honed to the abnormal, but he possessed an irregularity I could never forgive. It consumed my thoughts until waking nightmares plagued my slumber! Whether a slight of birth or a curse of the most egregious order, it mattered not. This otherwise friendly and innocent boy had been marked with an abomination upon his delicate face – a demon red nose that would glow as angry as the eye of the devil!

Perhaps from the start I knew what had to be done to rid myself of my tormentor, but being of sound mind, I at first worked feverishly to avoid such madness. In carrying out my daily routines, I would examine any intended path for his absence before proceeding. On the rare occasions that he did, indeed, find me, I would return his pleasantries with cold indifference, refusing to acknowledge the devil's eye. When compared to the transgressions suffered to him at the hands of my contemporaries, my emotional neglect might seem almost a blessing. Perhaps it was this which endeared the boy to me. Though I never included him, it may be a greater injustice to intentionally exclude him. I am certain that my callous disregard only strengthened his desire for friendship. An aberration craves nothing more than acceptance, though he regrettably did not comprehend the nature of my avoidance.

Gradually, my simple mistrust of the bedeviled abnormality grew into an obsession. No matter my insistence to ignore it, occasionally my eye would be drawn to the fiery glow of the red nose, contrasting the arctic backdrop of virginal white. With great consternation I would watch it glide along the horizon as if a disembodied phantasm. I found myself considering the nose as its own entity, separate from the boy. The boy was innocent and good, and this thing -- this damned nose -- was possessed of an evil most vile! As I watched it, so would it watch me! In the light of day, it would follow me about my business. At night, it would sit upon its tainted perch and regard me as I slept, fitfully, tormented by nightmares of its inevitable assault.

One night, an aggressive envelope of fog had overtaken us. This sooty haze obscured all that could be seen past the edge of the nose. On the advent of our most important task, it seemed we would be deterred by the unpredictable whims of nature. Oh, woe of woes! But how utterly appropriate is it that, of all things rendered invisible by the brume, the one beacon that could be seen, in the distance, would be the glowing ember of the Red Nose? The foul thing that had once earned my enmity might now be our very salvation!

How quickly notoriety can transform animosity into distinction! The hypocritical sycophants now praised him for the aberrance they, only the night before, reprehended. Not I! I would not be fooled by his sudden call to favor! The demon eye, not satisfied merely with my vexation, now thought to mock me! It was then that I made up my mind to rid myself of the vile nose forever!

A plan of such consequence must surely not be made in haste. Hours ran into days ran into weeks and months while I devised a perfect system. I wished the boy no harm, only the demon entity which chose to rest upon his face. Alas, I fear it would cause the boy grave injury to complete this task. So be it that, to carve the cancer from my conscious, he would have to parish alongside it. Just one more injustice added to the litany against the wretched thing!

I understood that I must maneuver cautiously so as not to draw suspicion, neither among my colleagues, nor from the devilish nose. As the evil nose openly taunted me, so did I mock it with my brazen openness! For I knew that a thing of such diabolical influence could see into my bitter soul. Day and night, I joined with my friends when they frolicked with the boy. For weeks I laughed and joked and yelped alongside them, careful not to raise even the most cynical eyebrow that my folly was but an act.

Despite a performance worthy of the most distinguished stage, the evil nose would still follow me about my daily tasks and keep sharp watch over me at night. It must have suspected my intention of malice! Weeks carried into months as I prayed to the most merciful of gods that another fog might envelop us as it had previously. In this frozen wasteland, I was certain the murky haze would be the solitary cover allowing me to approach the baleful thing undetected. Meanwhile, never was I kinder to the young one and his freakish anomaly, reminding myself constantly that it was a mere charade -- that the sinful thing must be purged!

I awoke once in the depth of the darkest of nights to a feeling of something amiss which had somehow seeped into my slumber. As I cast my eyes about the room I realized the sickening glow of the red nose had been extinguished! The demon eye, which had kept such diligent watch over me through the night hours, had suddenly, and without preamble, vanished! I found its absence strangely alarming -- for the first moment since its arrival had the damned thing not been available to monitor my repose. At first, I thought perhaps the boy had carried the evil thing away from the premises, but I soon realized that the demon nose had not, in fact, departed. No -- it was obscured! Blessing of blessings! The fog for which I prayed had once again returned, stronger and thicker than before!

I rose to my feet and walked deftly to where the boy would sleep, careful not to wake my neighbors. Not only had I made a show to convince all but myself of my noblest intentions, not only had I prayed for the misty veil to obscure my deed, but I had also plotted every detail of its execution with the greatest care and caution.

I nudged the boy and spoke with the faintest whisper for only he to hear -- "Come with me. Another brume has befallen us, and I cannot see."

Of course, my farce of camaraderie had been so convincing that the boy had no reason to doubt my honest intention. He brought himself up and followed closely behind me.

"The fog is too thick; I fear the reach of my beacon will be too greatly diminished," he worried as we stepped outside into the crisp arctic air.

With the foresight of a witch, I had practiced our path months ahead, until I could literally reach the intended destination without the aid of my eyes! I had chosen a spot with all of the necessary equipment and far enough for sound not to make its way to suspicious ears. On the way, I assuaged the boy's fears as I mentally counted our steps. Finally the moment was upon us! I told him to wait on his mark so the glow of his red nose would beckon me safely back to him.

Though, after I disappeared from his sight, I merely circled back, focused on blighting the blood-red beacon from his face once and for all! Lo, I could see it, but for the first time it could not see me! It had no forewarning as I came upon the boy and shoved him forcefully onto the wire fence. Clenching the wire in my teeth, I wrapped it around the boy's neck and garroted him until his body gave slack.

As if enraged, the demon nose glowed brighter and stronger as the life drained from its companion. The angrier the demon nose grew, the more intense my hatred for it grew until it caused me to lop it off with a nearby hatchet! Only then, as the crimson blood drained onto the powder-white snow, did its anger seem to ebb.

My deed had been done! So long had this devil's eye tortured me! No longer would it keep watch over me! To conceal the body I knew I mustn't act in haste. Oh no, I had planned this as studiously as the heinous deed itself!

I dragged the corpse through the snow for longer than an hour until I reached the center of a deep valley a great distance from any living thing. In this valley I would dispose of the body, packing it under layers of snow and ice in a deep crevice where the blowing wind would not uncover it. I made absolutely certain that no detail could be detected underneath the artificial snowdrift that would be its tomb. Not even the angry glow of the wicked nose could be seen. You might think me paranoid, but such a stark contrast of crimson red on virgin white would surely draw attention. No, I must be certain not even the most trivial detail could be discovered.

Satisfied with the concealment of the corpse within its icy tomb, I made my way back to our encampment. So frigid was it that the blood from the mutilation had frozen on contact with the night air, and not even a single drop had spilled as I removed the body. The only stain demanding my attention was that which resulted from the removal of the accursed nose, and it required no more than a packing of snow. The air never warmed this far north, thus the snow never melted. Anything, once buried in the snow, would forevermore remain buried. Finally finished with my gruesome, but necessary, task, I returned to my bed and settled in for the first peaceful rest since the demon nose had entered my life.

The following morn, I awoke abruptly by the ensuing commotion upon the discovery of our absent celebrity. I feigned my horror as expertly as I feigned my friendship with the poor boy. Not one among us had cause to suspect that it was I who had rid the world of that infernal blight upon his face! I alarmed as they alarmed. I fretted as they fretted. I searched alongside numerous search parties. So confident was I in my execution that I led one search party directly through the very gully where I had only days before buried the corpse! I had no reason to fear; the grave remained undisturbed and blended inconspicuously with the landscape. Once the conclusion had been drawn that the boy was not to return, I mourned as they mourned.

In the weeks following, my sleep was the deepest and most refreshing I could remember. The burden of guilt did not weigh upon my soul! I had expelled from our company a considerable evil -- the death of the innocent boy was a necessary sacrifice! Even it could be blamed on the demon nose, for, had the nose not chosen the gentle youth as its vessel, such a tragedy would not have befallen him! So you see -- I carried no consequence for my actions, and I slept undisturbed by conscience.

Many weeks following the resolution of my secret crime, I awoke one night with a terrible start! I felt as if some evil thing were staring into the depths of my soul. Yet, glancing about the room, I saw not a thing save the blackness of night. Thinking myself a nervous fool, I chuckled and lay my head back down, only to feel the invasion once again. I sat up in my bed this time, more suspicious -- my eyes attuned to scan every miniscule detail of the room to determine the cause of my vexation.

I noticed it, then -- a pale crimson shadow cast over the adumbrated nighttime entities. It seemed to be emanating from the very room I inhabited! Then, out from a pitch-dark crevice crept the very demon eye which I knew to be expelled!

I shrieked in utter horror, waking my companions, who rushed to my aid. "Do you see it?" I asked with an utmost urgency.

The others assured me they could not see anything amiss. The demon eye had returned to collect its vengeance from me alone! I rambled. I backed away from its steady advancement. I cried -- "It has returned, that foul Red Nose! It has come for me!"

The others misunderstood my ranting, mistaking my horror for lament! How truly beautiful a performance I had made if they believe I recalled fondly that which I most despised! It was of no consequence now, for the red nose drew closer, its intensity threatening to bathe the entire room with the sickening color of its hateful blood!

"Devil haunt me no more!" I screamed. "I know you to be dead for it is I who dispatched your evil presence!"

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