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25 October 2020
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20 October 2020
13 October 2020
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02 October 2020
19 September 2020
30 July 2020
One of eleven surviving short stories/novellas I wrote in a roughly five-year period (2004-2008).
In comparison to the last three stories, "Lazarus Tower" is a downright competent story. It's still bogged down in purple prose, but at least it isn't overwhelmed by sexism/antisexuality. It's essentially Poe-Lite (or Poe-Lite-Lite), making it ... digestable.
"Lazarus Tower" was written at the tail-end of my prose writing period, making it one of my final prose works. Paradoxically, it's the only one existing in fragmentary form; the ending is missing.
Original spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, omissions, and alterations have been preserved for your reading pleasure. Where the original text is missing, a descriptive summary has been substituted.
* * *
"I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE; HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME, THOUGH HE DIE, YET SHALL HE LIVE, AND WHOEVER LIVES AND BELIEVES IN ME SHALL NEVER DIE."
It was those words, from the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John, that I had had engraved into the surface of the silver plaque, which I had placed above the door frame which led to the staircase that
climbed stretched the length of the tower to the sole chamber above; I had thought that whenever we climbed those steps to the apex of the tower, we departed the living death that was existance on Earth, brought to true life when we reached the top, and could step out onto the balcony, brought closer to heaven. Despite the rich colour and the resistance to the actions of time's progressions, I had declined to fashion the plaque from gold; Gold had always seemed to me a boastful metal and colour, full of pride for self, lacking in soul what it did not lack in its power to allure the eye. Silver, however, was far more a mute substance, a humble metal; while its colour attracted, it held not the gaudy intense awfulness terror of its rival, and its sheen clouded in time, obscured by tarnish, while the pride of gold keep it from accepting the slightest morsel of humility and submitting itself to the forces of change. I made the plaque in honour of her, to commemorate the complesion of the building's construction; she was like silver to me, beautiful, yet humble, willinging to trade her outer beauty for the lines and wrinkles of age when the time eventually came without a fuss, avoiding the lusts of vanity and pride, refusing to consider any attempts to obscure her changing features as she came steadily closer to old age. Those words inscribed upon the plaque were in honour of my Lord, who had blessed me with the love and company of my darling Suzanne.
For the first eight years following the complesion of our home and the wedding that followed I kept that plaque shined, keeping the sheen like that of newly molded metal, in remembrance of my gift. After the event in the tower, however, I contined the upkeep no longer; as the years passed, the silver lost its brillance, and grew the dismal flat grey of ashes.
I shun the tower and its uppermost solitary chamber, as do I the entrance that comes before. At the best of my ability, I avoid areas that take me to close proximity to the door and that accursed plaque. I sleep no longer in our original marriage bed, which now remains many decades cold from emtiness, and have taken residence within a former guest room at the far end of the mansion, opposite the door that stays locked, that leads up a sole flight of stairs to a sole room which in turn only opens out onto a balcony, from which the tops of the buildings nearest to us can be seen. I spend many a night awake; when I do rest, it is in unease, with many an unpleasant dream attached.
As of this moment, after a period of several lengthy years, the door to the tower stands unlocked, and open to me. I sit now within the comfort of a large leather-upholstered chair, trembling in fear, my eyes fixed upon the doorway which opens out into the cooridor [?]t which's end stands the open door. Before it is too late for me, I will tell you the whole story, from the beginning. Everything is clear to me, every memory vivid in my mind's eye. I will recall all with complete accuracy. This is not the insane ram-blings of a man driven to madness by guilt and shame; this is the truth.
I was born Steven Edward Queene to Edward Sameul Queene and Melissa Johanna Queene, a rich English couple which owned a series of textile factories, in the city of London, April fourth, 1861. Cursed with ill health at a young age due to the fi
flthy air of the city, I was sent away to live with my uncle Richard Milton Queene, in the United States of America, Maine. Unlike my parents, who forever remained frigid toward me, Uncle Richard was a kind, loving soul, who lavished me with gifts and affection through-out my younger years, spoiling me rotten in the process. I remained in America for the remaining majority of my life; I communicated scantily with either my mother or father through letters, and I made only two return visits to London, both in the wake of their deaths.
I met the young poor Suzanne MacAdams in the summer of 1884, at the age of twenty-three. Around my home had been a large section of forest, a thick nigh-on impenetrable growth of trees, the only traverable ground a featureless path worn into the earth. As a pastime, I fre
gquently enjoyed walks in the woods, making my way steadily on the path, observing the unspoiled nature about me. It was on one such walk that I came upon a still form, lying tangled in the foliage. At first, I had not a clue as to what I was seeing; I krept close to it, making soft steps as I neared, until I was close enough to know what I was looking gazin upon.
It was a young woman, at an age in no way significantly different from my own, beaten and bloodied, her clothes torn and much of her body exposed to me; she had been abused violently, visciously raped, then [?]left for dead by the animals which had committed the horrid crime. She was still alive, a fact I knew from looking upon the rising and falling motion of her chest.
With great care, I took her up in my arms, and make the journey back to my home. As I forced my way inside, the weight of the girl in my arms, I called out to the servants for assistance. They came, and ushered her to a warm bed, retrieving at my request towers and water to clean her wounds; I sent away immediatly for a doctor. In time the medical man arrived, and examined her; he found fractured ribs; internal bleeding, and a concussion amongst her injuries, and informed my that though the damage done was severe, it needed not the
attention services of a hospital; after that all she truly needed the most was considerible rest; after setting her broken damaged bones, he departed.
Needless to say, I was present at her bedside when she first regained consciousness. We explained to each other the circumstances which led her to this bed, before she returned to the land of the unconscious She grew stronger as the days, weeks, and months passed by. We became fast friends; holding conversations together between us. When the time
came arrived when she had recovered fully from her ordeal, she proceeded to leave, to return to homeless-ness, to prostitution. I refused her exit; I had fallen in deep love with her.
As she had with me.
She stayed there. She kept her room. I bought her clothes, suitable for her and her generous nature; as well as aquisitions which suited her fancy. Uncle Richard oppossed her prolonged stay, however, as she had been a prostitute and my uncle had been slow to forgiveness. He came to accept her prescence in time, however, and learned to love her as an additional member to the family.
We stayed together, Under Uncle Richard's roof, for four years; we had not come to know each other intimately yet, as I was saving myself for marriage, and she had come to reproach the caresses of others.
In May of 1888, I made a proposal of marriage to her. She accepted. the May of the following year, we got married. Our daughter, Lauren Emily Queene, was born to us nine months later.
The years On her first birth-day, construction began on our new dream home; the foundation was layed in the city.
I personally designed the house. Using knowledge I had obtained about
engineerin construction, I drew the sche-matics for the building. The tower was meant for my wife, for Suzanne. Her own small paradise, a place where she could look out, and gaze upon the whole wide world stretching beyond. It was for her. Only for her.
It all went wrong
few short years later, when she began having an affair with Chester Arnold Keaton.
I do not understand how, why, it occurred. I cannot explain it. She became withdrawn, no longer confiding
with in me. She began to send time away from home for hours at a time. She claimed to only be going on walks, to escape the atmosphere of the mansion. A resonable explanation, if not for the unrealistic amount of time yet I could sense something amiss.
I began to suspect the existence of the affair when in contact with the Keatons, as I witnessed the looks of un-easiness that they exchanged. The existence of this affair was confirmed when I spied them together, on the bed within a guest room, her atop her under the sheets, grasping and squeezing her body. They failed to spot me. I stole away to another area of the mansion, well away from their act of adultery. I wept then, shfting cries of anguish and
morose melancholy, able only to thank God that Lauren was away at school, unable to ever witness the abom-ination that was proceeding under the roof of his very own home.
I never revealed my knowledge to her, though I began to suspect that, within her, she had come to know that I knew of the affair. I grew morose, and no longer spoke to her. I was angered, yes, but more than anything truly saddened. Our marriage was over, figuratively if not literally. Yet I continued to love her. To the last second together, I continued to love her.
It came to a climax on October seventeenth,
18[?] 3 1900.
Ever since the complesion of the house, I had never took a step into the tower without her permission, as the tower had been for her, only her. Yet with my happiness gone, I disregarded
wthis unofficial rule, seeking comfort in nostalgia. I came to that door, and, taking one, sorrowful [?]glance up at the tarnishing silver plaque above, I turned the knob counter-clockwise, and pulled the door open. I stepped past the threshold, clos-ing the door behind me, proceeding up the staircase at a leisurely pace, my left hand upon the varnished ebony banister. I soon came to the door which would lead into the tower's single chamber. I twisted the knob, swung open the door, taking a step within.
There, standing in the centre of the opulent room, were they! Keaton and Suzanne!
I had passively detested their horrid affair, and had avoided violent confrontation up to that point. Yet here they were together in this room, in the tower, the physical manifestation of all the love I had ever and would ever have for Suzanne. It was a travesty. It was a blasphemy! It was a desecration, a violation, of this shrine I had designed in the name of my love for her, to have them, him, together here to fornicate! This freakshow would end, now!
I dived forward, taking a heavy oak chair into my hands, bringing it up over my shoulders. As Keaton started, turning to me, I brought the solid wood down upon his cranium.
Suzanne had begun to regain her consciousness as I completed
tying the bonding of Keaton's bloodied corpse to the same chair I had slain him with. Her eyes fluttered open, and muffled cries attempted to escape her gagged mouth as she became aware of her own bonds keeping her secured to her own solid oak chair.
I turned my gaze to her, sorrow clearly etched upon my features. "I've known, Suzanne. I've known for some time now. You shouldn't have come up here. Not with him."
A series of muffled outcries were uttered as she began to rock forward in the seat of her chair. I stepped away from the limp form of my dead rival, a crossed the room to the twin glass doors that opened up on the exterior balcony beyond. I twisted the knobs and pulled the doors toward me, opening them, causing a brisk gust of wind to be drawn inward; I quickly pulled both occupied chairs to the open doors, positioning them at the [?] threshold, affording my Suzanne a sight of the beautiful, brillant sunset.
"I love you Suzanne," I uttered, placing a final kiss upon her forehead. "And I always will."
Her groans and writhings ceased. Within her eyes I saw a grim understanding. As well as an
form of pleading in her eyes, not for her life expression I could not read.
I departed, taking not one look back, and closed the door behind me. I locked it, shambled down the echoing steps, then stepped out once again. I closed the door, pushed the key into the keyhole, and turned it, a resonating click hit my ears. I would never see that door open again until
a number of decades later. decades passed.
I had told Lauren that her mother had left, and that I did not know where to.
For reasons I cannot define, the buzzards never gathered at the top of the tower to devour the rotting flesh which they surely should have had easy access to inside.
Six Decades have passed, and I am now an old man
y of ninety-five. Lauren is sixty-six years old, married to a Joseph Andrew Arquette, and has had two children: Edward Solomon Arquette — twenty-six, David Emil Arquette — twenty-four. Edward in turn has a daughter: Maria Lauren Arquette, who is twelve, and possesses an unfortunate taste for that ungainly "Rock & Roll" pseudo-music. I have one daughter, two grandsons, and one great-grandaughter.
I continue to live in this decaying mansion, despite Lauren's misgivings, cared for by servants as if I were but an infant. I am a feeble ancient creature, mere dry parchment on a brittle frame, slowly decaying. Only my mind is still alert, still alive. I am aware that the lock unlatched itself, without a human hand's touch.
She comes forward now. She is not how I imagined her. As a putrid, bloated corpse with green skin, blisters, and writhing maggots spilling from empty sockets. As an animate skeleton, clad only in decayed rags. She looks much as I do. An emaciated frame, brittle bone covered over with mummified flesh, relatively intact dress discoloured and fragile from age and rot, her hair dry as straw and devoid of its former sheen.
Her eyes, round glassy orbs, which I expected to be filled with loathing and rage, possess instead sadness, regret ... and love.
A grasp the left armchair with my arthritic talons, uttering a large gulp of panic. "I-is your lover with you, Suzanne?"
[Suzanne informs Steven that she has come back alone. She then explains to him that on the day he confronted her and Keaton in the tower, she hadn't brought Keaton there for a tryst, rather to break off their affair and rekindle her romance with Steven. She then tells him she harbours no resentment towards him for killing her. Steven then dies. Later, Steven & Suzanne's bodies are discovered later by family members, curled up together on the floor. The end.]