Demon in My View
by April Young
He was on the bathroom floor when I got up that morning—not him, really, but the swirls on the tile hinting at the black-and-white pictures I’d seen, the thick wave of dark hair, deep circles under the eyes, the coarse mustache.
“It is time, Annabell,” he announced, his voice raspy with disuse. “Today we begin!”
I shrieked and reeled backward, and the tile swirls vibrated with his laughter.
I ed the house in terror, but I hadn’t really escaped him. As I dove into the driver’s seat of my car, I found him on the steering wheel, a bit clearer now, the tan leather revealing his sunken cheeks and rounded chin. He hurled demands as I drove, urging me to press harder on the gas pedal, to ignore each red light, to nd my destination. I tried to fight him, but it was useless; he murmured a hypnotic chant that stripped me of control.
I’d only driven a few miles when he ordered me to turn down an unfamiliar road which ended at a gravel lane. Icy fingers of fear clawed my throat. “This isn’t where I work,” I protested weakly, even as my hands turned the wheel and my tires bounced over gravel.
“Your errand is long overdue,” he snapped. “Here—this is the place. Out!”
A white Victorian loomed in front of me. My legs shook as I approached the porch. The doorbell chimed through the front hall before I realized I’d pushed it.
“What am I doing here?” I gasped, willing my leaden feet to run away.
When the door opened, I was relieved—and then horri ed. A woman stared at me, her smile taking up most of her face. Instead of smiling back, I snatched at her brown hair, jerking her outside.
Her screams matched mine and shattered the peaceful morning air, but he was shouting louder than both of us. His voice rang out clearly now, so strong it pulsed through my body. Two words, over and over again, tore through my brain: “Do it!”
In anguish, the woman lashed out, raking her nails across my arm. The slight trickle of blood seemed to wake me from a stupor, and I released the child and stumbled back to the car.
His outrage was so great that it pulled the air from my lungs. I drove home in blind terror, and all the while he swore in strangled rage.
“Curse the Conqueror Worm!” he spat. “Heaven hath me not in its sacred keep these 176 years!”
I hid in my bed, the door locked and the blinds drawn, for days. I didn’t sleep, for he taunted me every hour, railing against my weakness. I lost the will to question him, to beg him to end my torment. At times, he was quiet—only to start anew just as I’d begun to believe he’d gone. I’m certain I tried to resist, but I cannot recall it now. Nearly two centuries of fury, of mourning the ruin of his legacy, had given him bitter determination.
When vitriol failed, he moved to poetry, calling me Annie and tempting me out of my gloom with the promise of rest. What else could I do but submit?
Some nights later, as I lay there still, the skies opened, unleashing a rare October storm that bathed my room in light. I opened my swollen eyes and heard a new sound, melodious and enticing, and I strained my ears to decipher the
“Ah, the crisis—the danger is past, and the lingering illness is over at last,”
he crooned. “And the seraphs will not be half so happy as I when we are through.
A giggle escaped my lips as I made my way back to the Victorian on that
gravel lane. A ash of lightning cut the clouds and rested upon my arm. The thin scratches of days before had become an angry red tattoo, his mien now fully formed upon my fresh, and I knew what I, Annabell Poe, was to do: avenge myself—and him, oh, yes, I’d avenge him—for that hateful travesty of slander.
Ravens circled the darkened sky above me, heedless of the slashing torrent, as I mounted the steps and rang the bell. He and I were outside of space and time now, but the family was inside; I could hear their unsuspecting laughter over the thunder.
“It was lies, all lies,” he hissed from my skin. “Purloiner, philanderer, abuser, executor—ha! My executer! Now he shall cry perennial tears from that unmarked tomb!”
Just as the front door opened, I peered through the black; the mailbox at the end of the lane filled me with fresh anger, for it had no right to exist. Together, he and I would rectify the injustice, eradicate the hated name—Griswold—from the tortured earth.
Morning had broken by the time I left the house, and he allowed me a moment’s satisfaction—but it quickly dissipated when I thought of the work left to do. Until I had driven the last Griswold to awful eternity, he and I could rest— NEVERMORE!
Author’s note: Since 1849, Edgar Allan Poe has been unable to speak for himself. He could not have had a more mendacious, perfidious, and unctuous biographer than Rufus Wilmot Griswold.