∞ I ∞
Know that last night was quite a close call, and I am sad to say that it has postponed our next meeting. Do not blame yourself, however, I was aware of the risk and still I basked in the moment like a naive schoolgirl. Mr. Colby sat in the same chair, spoke the same windless greeting, yet he possessed a new light in his eyes. He is well aware that I consider him a dullard, and as such he has come to realize it is his greatest advantage. It would not be a crime of passion, Charlotte, even if I am this pathetic creature’s meal ticket. If that light is anything, it is not of hope, but the drive of thanatos.
Be this the end, my love, I do not want you to think you were ever a simple mistress. My family hounded me for years to marry a nice, mundane, and protestant man with whom I might bequeath their heirs. At the very least, I have managed to avoid that latter fate. Perhaps in another life I may have made a decent mother, but the torment of life has precluded me even from such simple daydreams. If I have something to be proud of, it is that befuddled look in all their eyes, the absolute impotence of my “significant other” in the face of my own success. He enjoys the increased revenue, yes, along with my inheritance, but I know deep down that he resents how I stole his name. The only thing “Colby” brings to mind is either cheese of the pulp fiction of a haggard, old lesbian. You have been my only beacon of joy in this bitter world, and the one real solace I might take to my grave.
I’m not dead yet, though, and if we can keep on for a little longer, then I am sure I can uphold my estate in the divorce. My lawyer is currently drafting up the papers, but you understand that the whole process is further stretched once you become a public figure. The best thing for us now, Charlotte, is to focus on our respective professions and lay low. Speaking of which, and I know you think it is melodramatic, but please burn this letter once you’ve read it to your satisfaction. If it were, somehow, to get intercepted, it would become a massive obstruction in the legal proceedings.
Anyhow, let’s speak of something a bit more engaging than these nuptial matters. I am working on a new novel. Well, perhaps I am just in the inspiration stage. It will most definitely be horror, of course, I have some reputation in that genre. Moreover, I cannot thank you enough for your recommendation, The King in Yellow, for it has proliferated into a garden of budding ideas. Before I even finished the first tale, my mind was racing with so many macabre possibilities. I want to write a story about an author trying to adapt his novel into a play, detailing his slow descension into madness. A bit derivative, yes, and wholly masturbatory, but as age has taught me, self-indulgence is the mother of invention. Besides, I’ve been meaning to be more reflective in my autumn years.
I want your name in the acknowledgments, Charlotte, I want to say “sayonara” to Mr. Colby and reveal my true muse to the world. I’m not kidding here, you are my everything, even if my works can only match your beauty with morbidity. This book will be my masterpiece, a story that mirrors the devotion I have for you, so that the world might peek upon the depth and sincerity of my love. Do not think me saccharine, I mean every word I write, and my whole world would collapse without you.
We will wait until this final day of June to meet again, at the usual nocturnal hour. As always, please write back with a confirmation and an address. I might need a new post box, so wait a few weeks just in case I have a different post office address.
I will always love you,
∞ II ∞
It’s great to hear back from you, and I have some grand news myself. I am having those dreams again, and they are more vivid than ever before. What may be chilling for the sleeping me is perfect for the wakeful, the one that keeps a legal pad next to her bed. It has gotten to the point that I am doing most of my writing in shorthand as soon as I wake up. Admittedly, almost all of it is incomprehensible, but what else are second drafts for?
Let me provide you an example by way of my latest dream. A stage stands before me, though I am not me, I am my as-of-yet nameless protagonist. Imagine some balding, mid-fifties man with tired eyes and you won’t be far off from me. I should be in a theater, an auditorium, but I am neither standing or sitting, nor is there anything but silence to accompany the show before me. There is just my vision and the stage. Without warning, the lights dim and the curtain rises, two marionettes appear where there was once stale air. They are indistinct, dressed in gaudy masquerade, and they gallivant around a strange, dead world. The prop design is abstract expressionist, something out of a Fritz Lang picture, yet fantastical. Near-human Valkyries hung limp from the ceiling, spires of ivory-white hands jutting from between the floorboards, all swaying rhythmically with the dancers. I suppose the closest comparison I could conjure up would be to the film “A Trip to the Moon,” for it was just as alien and pointed, if more vivid in color. The marionettes danced and twisted about, assuming poses that would dislocate any human figure with spasmodic choreography. They were meant to convey something, but their message lacked an integral piece.
This dream was voiceless, Charlotte, as all my dreams have been voiceless as of late. There is sound, yes, the faint sounds of cranks and pulleys managed just beyond the stage, but there are no words, no songs. To put it simple, and in a way that would never suffice for my readers, it was an eerie banality. This is the frustration of my author, what will gnaw away at his once stoic mind until he is left as little more than a gibbering marionette himself.
I envision this book conveying itself by way of theatrical language, yet it should be unadaptable by its very nature. My author has always had a neglected passion for the cinema, and he hopes to one day translate his masterpiece to the silver screen. He is stubborn, pig-headed, and so he rejects the specificities of the theater. Even before the spectres of madness begin to envelope him, his inability to adapt his work and himself ultimately insures his inevitable failure. I am sure by now you’re sensing some familiarity, which I can only excuse as the resultant of writing from the hip. I will forego the gothic structure of similar speculative novels in favor of something paralleling the Hellenistic tragedy. Don’t be surprised if introduce a Greek chorus.
As of now, the most pressing issue is what actually makes up my author’s beloved tome. It is horror, I am sure, for I know beyond a doubt that my author inhabits the same genre as I. Paraphrasing, of course, I believe Thomas Ligotti once said that every horror protagonist is essentially a horror writer, though it may well have been one of his protagonists who said that. I think I should include some sections from my author’s novel as thematic interstitials, even foreshadowing events in the story proper. Hell, I must think of the man’s name as well, it’s going to drive me mad if I have to keep referring to him as “my author.”
In case you are concerned, my withered husk of a husband has not been a problem, nor will he be my problem for much longer now. I have officially served him the papers and made up a little nest in a hotel nearby. It was a relief, honestly, when he made such a fuss, even resorting to calling me a “heartless bitch.” I don’t know if I would have been able to keep myself from just turning tail and running if he had maintained his characteristic calm. Perhaps I overestimated him. Perhaps his wormy, pathetic manner was never a facade to begin with. I am the author here, after all, I could have easily just thrown a pinch of spice into life’s mundanity.
Once again, and with love,
P.S. I've included a quick sketch of my dream, I think you might find it amusing.
∞ III ∞
I went down to the beach today, though I had no particular reason to do so. I think I was somewhat hot, but not really, it has been overcast since noon and I just felt the need to take a walk. After about half an hour of strolling and aimless ocean watching, I barely kept myself from stepping on an imposing crab. If I had followed my usual urges and prodded it, I would likely have lost a finger, which, needless to say, would very much hinder my writing ability. I was frightened, of course, yet my terror was intertwined with curiosity. There are schools of horror, same as with painting, ranging from classical to gothic, from surrealist to experimental, even dadaist. Horror, like all art, is meant to synthesize meaning out of the disparate refuse of reality, while, at the same time, question how and why we perform this procedure. My own philosophy of fear came to light in that single moment. I aim to combine that immediate horror and fascination of the angry red crab with the indescribable dread of something like the concept of love.
By next month we will be free to find an apartment together, which I find myself giddy just at the thought of. Do not take it personally when I claim that I dread love. It is simply that the closer I am to you the closer I am to love, and that fills me with endless anxiety. I don’t mean to blame you for the delay of my book, on the contrary, I blame you for its absolute magnificence. I have not had this much passion writing anything in years, partly because I feel much less mercenary. This work has not been scrambled together in order to support a miscarried marriage, nor am I doing this to fuel the divorce case, I am mastering it out of my own convictions for the craft.
I still have not invented a name for my author, so, like some anonymous cadaver, I have taken to just calling him “John Doe.” He may end up permanently attached to that name, but leaving him like that feels cheap. As well, I know that names are vital things, they shape our character as well as take its form. “John Doe” may reflect his fear of being forgotten, his alignment with the faceless marionettes ever present in his dreams; however, it seems so on-the-nose that it would simply obscure every other theme. I want to combine everything: the insane puppets twisting unnaturally and manipulating behind the scenes, bursting at their seams with unspoken gore and ichor; the dread of inadequacy and failure; the horror of creating an abomination through grotesque detours. In more ways than one, Doe’s book and mine are both in the heritage of Frankenstein. Within each a monsterous reflection of its creator develops a mind of its own, and much too human suffering, and thus chooses its creator as the recipient of its terrible vengeance.
∞ IV ∞
The thumb of the prince rested deep upon the ruins of his castle, popped like a pustule and leaking sweet smelling pink. What god may have once watched over this wretched piece of earth had long abdicated his throne, though perhaps he simply fell through his own rotted seat. The promise of paradise, the preaching of Jeremiah, the fruits of calloused labor, all swung from the rafters and minarets. This was the final product of my journey. It spat in my face what it had drunk of my once lovely Delilah. There was no hope of redemption for any of us.
A thunderclap resounds throughout the cavern. Behind me is my companion, Garcion, laughing at my utter devastation. All five of his obsidian eyes reflect the effigy that I have become. I raise my spear, still entwined with the turgid entrails of the priest, and scream at the beast. His membranous fingers one by one arise from his back, and they point at the heart that I had once claimed as my own. More and more glass horns expand from his carapace until spanning the floor to the ceiling is a gigantic shroud of dancing light. Reds, greens, blues, and all the colors in between shine down upon me from the light that seeps out of the gaping hole. Peacock feathers adorned with the immortalized scenes of every single man, woman, and child I have gored for my foolish dream. One of these figures steps out from her prison and takes on the visage of my ultimate fear.
There she is, my wife. Her once flaxen hair now black from the blood that mats it. From the craters where once her brown eyes sat now arises a smog of sulfur. I drop my weapon and reach out my wooden palm to her armless torso. She may wish to respond, but all she can do is gape open her toothless maw. I wrap her in a stilted embrace, maneuvering my new joints so as to hold her against my hollow bosom. This is all that remains of the great Valkyries, a poor spirit silenced in her prime, and a despicable lich under the sway of a dead god. If I possessed tears within me, or anything but void, I know I would cry.
Garcion turns away and flies with the dust. Once again, we are alone, left to our devices and the echoes of our memory. I have not the heart to move. Delilah shakes her head until the serrated horns pierce out from her skull. With one swift motion she tears my belly, and the humor forever envelopes us.
∞ V ∞
I am so sorry. I wish I could have given us a home. There is no time, nor do I care to burden you with my madness. The first draft is almost finished and you tell me I can always go back, insert some new name, but you cannot understand. No painter could leave just a corner of his canvas, filling out the scenes and details everywhere else, only to return once the mood strikes him. You would have me think that a man’s name isn’t pressing, but a name cannot be overlooked. Our names tie together all the disparate, random elements of existence into a concrete anchor for the mind. You too, Charlotte, would be left adrift in the sea of existence had you not your beautiful name.
As of late I have taken to forgetting my own name, at least in pieces, and I become concerned as to whether I am awake or asleep. Some weeks ago I wrote another letter, one much more eloquent than this, and on the way to deliver it I found that the paper was blank. I fear that the theater is real, that John Doe is real, and you and I and all of this world are just actors in his schizophrenic performance. The theater no longer employs any actors of flesh, all have become the marionettes, with masters above the curtain who are just as wooden. The puppets are you, I, Mr. Colby, all dancing and biting our hands and enacting an orgy of mindless chatter and melodrama. I even saw that copy of myself attend a session of psychotherapy, where you doppelganger accosted me dressed up like Sigmund Freud.
When I find myself awake, which is becoming more and more rare an occasion, I hear something shuffling around my hotel room. I will be typing away at my writing desk, and a glass will shatter, a can will clang against the floor, but I refuse to flinch or even postpone my work to turn around. Once I do look, I see nothing, and I whisper to myself “they have been pulled away with their strings.” The only real options I can see is that I am developing a psychosis, or my husband is sneaking about my room waiting for the opportunity to kill me. I can hear your mounting concern, and it is justified, but allow me my rationalization.
We always knew there was something more within the confines of his grey head. That there is a terrible, plotting malice which resides there. He must have known all along of our affair, my plans of divorce, and set out to drain from me all he could until the day came to dispose of me. He wanted me to have hope, to think I could ever be free, so he could watch it all disappear from my eyes as he dashes my head against the rocks. None of it is tactical, none of it is rational, he is only fueled by his quiet hatred for me. If I can just survive until I finish this book, until we can really be together, then perhaps I can stop him once and for all.
Charlotte, please respond as soon as possible. Just tell me whether or not you have received this letter. I know you want to come here and comfort me, but you must not. No matter what is happening, you will not be safe.
∞ VI ∞
The spinning midnight has come to take me, and it is a wonder that for so long I disobeyed. You will remember me as nothing, just the empty shell I now proclaim. I wear a mask of driftwood adorned with a thousand carcasses of bloated flies and dismembered crustaceans. It did not fit well before, but I have been freed from the constraints of the flesh and must simply obey the strings.
The play is finished and it is perfect. I see now that its name could never be written, not by its own hobbled puppet. I have always been a masque for its brilliance. Terrible and uncaring of our plights, he is nothing but his own desire, and I am its icon. It pulls me towards the house, towards my abandoned writing desk. He pulls me toward the knife which I hold here.
I still bleed, and so does he.