Prompt: Write about what is secret
When I read this prompt, I had a few story ideas, but every time I sat down to write them, I couldn't write anything worth sharing. To take my mind off the prompt, I started to go through my creative writing folders from college. I found a writing exercise that I enjoyed doing, and thought with some editing would be perfect for this prompt. The writing exercise was to take a work of Edgar Allen Poe and edit it to tell the story in our own way. I did a little bit more editing and here's my story about what is secret
Edited by Amelia Rodriguez
“Can you state your name for the record?”
“My baptismal name is Edward; that of my family I will not mention. Yet there are no towers in the land more time-honored than my gloomy, gray, hereditary halls. The recollections of my earliest years…”
“Sir, enough.” The nurse placed her hand on his shoulder. “His name is Edward Willard Alfred Gracechurch the Fourth.”
I nodded my thanks.
“I was told you could tell me about a woman called Berenice.”
“Berenice and I were cousins, and we grew up together in my paternal halls.” His voice took on a dreamy quality and he stared off at a random fixed point on the wall. “Yet differently we grew --I ill of health, and buried in gloom --she agile, graceful, and overflowing with energy! Ah! vividly is her image before me now, as in the early days of her light-heartedness and joy! Oh! gorgeous yet fantastic beauty!”
He paused, and I was about to interrupt him but he went on.
“And then disease --a fatal disease –“
“Yes,” I interrupted him now before he went off on a tangent. “I know about her sickness. She had epilepsy.”
“She had a species of epilepsy not infrequently terminating in trance itself --trance very nearly resembling positive dissolution, and from which her manner of recovery was in most instances, startlingly abrupt. In the mean time my own disease, grew rapidly upon me, …”
“Mr. Gracechurch,” his name came out with more exasperation that I meant to reveal. “If we could stay focused on discussing Berenice that would help move this discussion along.” He went on as if he didn’t hear me.
“It might appear a matter beyond doubt, that the alteration produced by her unhappy malady, in the moral condition of Berenice, would afford me many objects for the exercise of that intense and abnormal meditation, …”
“Mr. Gracechurch.” I leaned forward in my seat, hoping to grab his attention. His nurse put her hand on his shoulder and he stopped talking and seemed to remember I was there. “Mr. Gracechurch, I have been told my time with you is short, as much as I would enjoy the full story you are trying to tell me, I have to get to the information about the disturbance in your family tomb. I hopped you could tell me of your relationship with Berenice.” I looked down at my notes. “I’m told you two were closer than just being cousins.”
“During the brightest days of her unparalleled beauty, most surely I had never loved her. In the strange anomaly of my existence, feelings with me, had never been of the heart, and my passions always were of the mind. Through the gray of the early morning --among the trellised shadows of the forest at noonday --and in the silence of my library at night, she had flitted by my eyes, and I had seen her --not as the living and breathing Berenice, but as the Berenice of a dream. And now --now I shuddered in her presence, and grew pale at her approach; yet bitterly lamenting her fallen and desolate condition, I called to mind that she had loved me long, and, in an evil moment, I spoke to her of marriage.
And at length the period of our nuptials was approaching, when, upon an afternoon in the winter of the year, --one of those unseasonably warm, calm, and misty days, --I sat, (and sat, as I thought, alone,) in the inner apartment of the library. But uplifting my eyes I saw that Berenice stood before me.
Was it my own excited imagination --or the misty influence of the atmosphere --or the uncertain twilight of the chamber --or the gray draperies which fell around her figure --that caused in it so vacillating and indistinct an outline? I could not tell. She spoke no word, I --not for worlds could I have uttered a syllable. An icy chill ran through my frame; a sense of insufferable anxiety oppressed me; a consuming curiosity pervaded my soul; and sinking back upon the chair, I remained for some time breathless and motionless, with my eyes riveted upon her person. Alas! its emaciation was excessive, and not one vestige of the former being, lurked in any single line of the contour. My burning glances at length fell upon the face.
The forehead was high, and very pale, and singularly placid; and the once jetty hair fell partially over it, and overshadowed the hollow temples with innumerable ringlets now of a vivid yellow, and Jarring discordantly, in their fantastic character, with the reigning melancholy of the countenance. The eyes were lifeless, and lusterless, and seemingly pupil-less, and I shrank involuntarily from their glassy stare to the contemplation of the thin and shrunken lips. They parted; and in a smile of peculiar meaning, the teeth of the changed Berenice disclosed themselves slowly to my view. Would to God that I had never beheld them, or that, having done so, I had died!
The shutting of a door disturbed me, and, looking up, I found that my cousin had departed from the chamber. But from the disordered chamber of my brain, had not, alas! departed, and would not be driven away, the white and ghastly spectrum of the teeth. Not a speck on their surface --not a shade on their enamel --not an indenture in their edges --but what that period of her smile had sufficed to brand in upon my memory. I saw them now even more unequivocally than I beheld them then. The teeth! --the teeth! --they were here, and there, and everywhere, and visibly and palpably before me; long, narrow, and excessively white, with the pale lips writhing about them, as in the very moment of their first terrible development.”
He had gone off on a tangent, but this one greatly disturbed him. His nurse stepped in front of him and blocking my view proceeded to calm him down. A few minutes passed before she moved away from him and things seemed calm again. She gave me a nod.
“Mr. Gracechurch can you tell me about Berenice’s death.”
“I was buried in meditation. At length there broke in upon my dreams a cry as of horror and dismay; and after a pause, the sound of troubled voices, intermingled with many low moanings of sorrow, or of pain. I arose from my seat and, throwing open one of the doors of the library, saw standing out in the antechamber a servant maiden, all in tears, who told me that Berenice was --no more. She had been seized with epilepsy in the early morning, and now, at the closing in of the night, the grave was ready for its tenant, and all the preparations for the burial were completed.”
For once Mr. Gracechurch was silent. I waited a moment or two for him to speak, but he said nothing, just stared at the fire.
“Can you tell me what happened next?”
“I found myself sitting in the library, and again sitting there alone. It seemed that I had newly awakened from a confused and exciting dream. I knew that it was now midnight, and I was well aware that since the setting of the sun Berenice had been interred. But of that dreary period which intervened I had no positive --at least no definite comprehension. Yet its memory was replete with horror --horror more horrible from being vague, and terror more terrible from ambiguity. It was a fearful page in the record my existence, written all over with dim, and hideous, and unintelligible recollections. I strived to decypher them, but in vain. I had done a deed --what was it? I asked myself the question aloud, and the whispering echoes of the chamber answered me.”
“What had you don’t Mr. Gracechurch?”
He didn’t speak, he just pointed in my direction. On the table beside me laid a little box and a book. The box was of no remarkable character, and my eyes at length dropped to the open pages of a book, and to a sentence underscored therein. The words were the singular but simple ones of the poet Ebn Zaiat, "My companions said to me that my troubles would in some measure be relieved if I would visit the tomb of my sweetheart." As I perused them, the hairs of my arms stood on end.
I picked up the box and Mr. Gracechurch spoke. He spoke to me in a voice tremulous, husky, and very low. He told of a wild cry disturbing the silence of the night --of the gathering together of the household-of a search in the direction of the sound; --and then his tones grew thrillingly distinct as he whispered me of a violated grave --of a disfigured body enshrouded, yet still breathing, still palpitating, still alive!
As he spoke my attention was divided between opening the box and what he was saying. But I could not force it open; and in my tremor it slipped from my hands, and fell heavily, and burst into pieces; and from it, with a rattling sound, there rolled out some instruments of dental surgery, intermingled with thirty-two small, white and ivory-looking substances that were scattered to and fro about the floor.