Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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Torment

by Joseph Arechavala



Oh, Anna, my Anna. How I yearn for you to come back to me. I could not go on without you, and yet fate has decreed I must. My journey toward the light has been hindered, perhaps forever. I do not know. Time has lost all meaning. Seconds, years, day, night. I do not know what has become of them. I only long to feel your hand in mine, touch your auburn tresses, kiss your soft cheek. And yet you are denied me! Will not someone release me from this decrepit state?

Hiram Beech, local businessman and co-owner of Beech & Hargreaveís Emporium on 7th Street, was found in his home by his business partner Jonathon Hargreave yesterday morning. Hargreave became concerned when Beech, who had never missed a day of work except for his honeymoon, failed to arrive to open the store.

I remember feeling the searing heat of the bullet penetrating my brain. I remember seeing, feeling sweet light enveloping me, then slow agony at its withdrawal, the scorn and loathing of it as it left me here, bereft of all hope to enter rest.

I tried to leave, to search for my dearest, but some invisible barrier prevented me. I wandered this house, our house, once so vibrant with love and life, now forlorn and barren. I sensed him come in, heard his cries of shock as he found me, now just a mere shell. Then the rapid drumming of footsteps, many footsteps crowding into my sanctuary, defiling it. I could not tell who they were. I saw only vague, faceless figures that appeared as though wandering aimlessly. I heard no distinct conversation, only formless, meaningless mutterings.

The police were hastily called to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death, and quickly determined he had committed suicide. An officer found the note Beech had left. Despondent that his wife, Anna, had left him for another man, he shot himself in the head.

I wished them to leave me in my anguish. I implored them to go quietly at first, then by turns my voice grew to shouts and finally to shrieks of panicked pleading. My shrieks at last brought a response. Two turned their heads towards me -- how I ascertained this I know not -- and I discerned their sense of fear, bordering on dread. The pitch of those mutterings rose, and several figures vacated the space. At some length, all the figures departed and it grew darker and colder. My heart ached for some person to take pity upon me and reach their soul out to mine to bring this torment to an end.

Later, I do not know how much later, more faceless nameless bodies came to take my shell away, only to come back to see me, laid out in a box, pale and made up like some circus clown, my wound hidden by wax and clever stagecraft chicanery. My harsh visage was the only one I could see, as though I looked into a distorted mirror. Viewing the living had seemingly been denied to me. Any other appeared as a fleeting shadow upon a wall. I tried to touch them, but could not, and felt each personís shudder at my attempt. After they left, the house grew black once more. I could only wander, calling for her and moaning for myself, driven on by some urge I was powerless to fight...

Friends and acquaintances of the couple informed police they had not seen or heard from Mrs. Beech for several days, an unusual occurrence, as she was a most socially active woman.

Much time passed in my wanderings, as I had no way of knowing whether it was days or decades, but finally the door again opened to admit warm sunlight. Figures entered and I waited, this time determined not to frighten them off. These seemed... different somehow. At first I could not discern this difference, but at length I realized it. Their voices, though still meaningless, rang with life and happiness. A happy couple, like the couple who existed now only in my memory. I could not bring myself to sully such joy with my grief. Yet, I could not rest. When their dayís labors were complete and they dreamed happy dreams in their bed, under the influence of this fiendish compulsion I found myself walking through rooms, up and down stairs, calling for Anna and bewailing my fate.

The next morning (I presumed it must be, for they were active again), I sensed the womanís unease. Her figure and face had grown clearer to me than the manís -- at the first I could not tell their respective sexes apart but by the timbre of their murmurings. But now, now she appeared to me as clear as the full moon on a cloudless night, her voice as unmistakable as a bubbling mountain stream. Anna! It must be her! True, her clothing was unfamiliar to me, her hair a bit darker, her lips slightly less full, but she looked as I recalled, the angel of my memory, as beautiful as the first day my eyes beheld her. How I wished to brush my hand against that rosy cheek! I reached out only to stop myself. I knew my touch would engender only dread in her.

By day I followed her wherever she went in the house, by night I walked the house calling, pleading for her to come to me. Each morning, however, found her looking all the more afraid, feeling all the more apprehensive than the preceding day.

The day I tried to touch her was the last I saw of her. I could no longer resist my need, and cruel fate punished me for my lapse. Her screams pierced me to the depths of my soul as she fled from me to the freedom of the outside.

Suddenly, the house was insufferably black once more, and I was left to wander, searching for my love lost for eternity, alone in this torment.

THE END


© 2011 Joseph Arechavala

Bio: A number of Joseph Arechavala's essays, short stories, and poems have appeared online and in Philadelphia-area publications. His story Spring Break appeared in the August 2005 Aphelion.

E-mail: Joseph Arechavala

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