Dear reader, although the hour late, and my inkwell low -- I cannot replenish it until the morrow -- I pledged to you a few lines tonight and obligation compels me to deliver them to you. But please do not presume that I feel unduly burdened: quite the contrary! The story that I unfurl fetters my heart, and with each word I set upon the page, the bonds are loosed a bit.
Having confessed to me his love for Shannon Storms Beador, a love so violent that it had led him willingly to his own ruin, Mr. John wept inconsolably, his face obscured by his hands; and I saw a man at the end of his life, his aspect as the sun at the inception of evening, when the shadows extend long and lengthened over the land, when dusk threatens but does not yet emerge, when the day's delights and sorrows begin to weaken and recede into the crevices of memory. Unable to mitigate his sorrow but needful of the details of his tale, I stood poised to listen, to etch his story into my mind for later consultation, the story you find now before you. But a noise at the door jolted us from the task at hand, and we looked together with horror.
Oh reader! It was Shannon who stood before us. Her diaphanous gown fell loose upon her emaciated frame, like a thin sheet draped over the skeleton in a surgeon's study, and her agrestal hair called to mind a lunatic in a madhouse. Her appearance betrayed the horrors she had witnessed. Given her acute consumptive state I could scarcely believe she mustered the will to leave her bed and travel down the long, drafty hallway to Mr. John’s study. But when I looked closer, I noticed her gown was torn, and that a jot of blood appeared below the rip. She could not speak, but the abject horror in her eyes conveyed the extent of her distress, and when she moaned -- oh, reader, how her cries pierced my poor heart! -- I thought the exertion would drain the last drop of life from her wasted body.
Mr. John beheld his inamorata and sprang up from his small chair. “Oh God!” he explained, “if you thou dost reign within the heavens, then you will clear for me the path of vengeance and forgive me of this sin! But if you cannot, then you cannot; no matter. I will exact my revenge on Mr. David Beador nevertheless, who has so ill-treated my beloved, and will then cast myself into the bowels of Hades, will throw myself headlong into the unquenchable fires below!”
His voice joined with Shannon’s plaintive moans, creating an almost unbearable cacophony in Stormy Manor, reverberating against those damp walls, indeed, casting their echoes over all of Orange County, nay – over all the world.
And then, uncannily and unnervingly and above all, unaccountably, everything returned to its former silence.