All holiday mayhem aside, this has been easily the most difficult story I've done to date on this project. The keen of ear will be able to guess at why.
Also, it is the shortest, due in no small part to the aforementioned difficulties... but with the subject given, it did seem to come to a natural ending there. Anyway, enjoy.
Quoth the Raven
Twas indeed a midnight dreary when I came upon his chamber. But days as these are not uncommon in the month of dark December. That this one should be remembered hardly seems quite worth the time. And yet he spoke of it at length, and so shall I presently. For there is more that should be told than madmen can recount in verses. Listen now, and I will tell.
There are many tales abounding about ravens and dark places, of worlds beyond and worlds below, places humans only travel once the coin is on their tongue. I tell you that such tales are true; the underworld is close for us, and easily we pass into it and come back, should we desire. How, you ask? That is our secret, for it is not our place to tell how to pass the gates of hell and heaven and return again once more to lands of living things. And as for why, well that depends quite a bit on the bird, and circumstances that each finds itself come into.
For me, of course, on this occasion, it was because of fair Lenore.
Many days and nights I spent on my perch in darkened lands. For there I found more solace than in shining sunlit days. It’s not so strange as you might think. My kind are often drawn to darkened things, just as moths are drawn to flame. I do not say we forget beauty, sunlight, living lands, for they do hold their own delights. But so the dying lands hold beauty, if a beauty of a different kind.
The fair Lenore was one such beauty, hair like ink and eyes like fire, well suited to her human form. So it shined that even Death could never dull its glistening glamour. Thus I found her in Hades’ home, sitting by the river Lethe, and staring in its swirling depths.
At first I thought she meant to drink, for many do when Lethe they find, but she did not. Instead, she simply looked, as if Narcissus at the pond transfixed.
I now must tell you of the Lethe, for few who look upon it quite remember what they saw. Or few of your kind, I should say. A swirling blackness it is not, but more a sieve that holds such things as thoughts and dreams of waking worlds. Not all it holds is of the dead, for memories of living things that wish for respite, or perhaps are careless with their thoughts, also find their way in there.
And it was these that fair Lenore looked upon. Her own such thoughts had not yet fallen in the waters; those she saw were his, the memories of mad and senseless sorrow, as soon forgotten as conceived.
How strange to see her face in placid waters, not reflected, truly seen as another sees it! Imperfections missing, overlooked by lover’s eyes, certain features in clear focus, not how one would see themselves. So long she watched, and surely knew the source of all these thoughts.
Minds are strange and fragile places. His had cracked when she had passed. But many suffer loss and pain, and they do not collapse. Perhaps he simply lacked the strength to pull himself from memory's firm grasp. Perhaps his own swift death he sought for reasons that I do not know. And so she watched him, sorrow written on her face. And so approachéd her did I, for lingering in such a place when sorrow could be left behind does little good for soul or mind.
“Fair lady,” said I, “Why stay here? Why hold to such dark visions? Pass away through Lethe and be at peace.”
But gently shook her curling locks. “I cannot pass,” she said to me. “Not while his sorrow flows so deep. If only I could but return and thus bring comfort to his pain.”
“A choice as that one,” I replied, “is not for you to make. Your time has passed and his goes on. Pass away, my lady fair, and think on such things nevermore.”
“I cannot, dark bird,” she said, “though you are right. I cannot back to that life go, nor forward into peaceful bliss. What then, raven, can be done?”
“But linger on you have long done, staring into mem’ries swirling. May it well be he feels you still, your presence on the edge of life.”
“Are such things so, o shadowed friend?”
“From time to time,” I so replied. “When deepest love has taken hold but then is snatched by grave and cold death’s hand.”
My words were true, and she believed. Death had not dulled her senses yet, despite her hours next to Lethe. I clicked my beak and bowed my head. Though such as her are not an altogether foreign sight to our black eyes, it is not always easy to behold such human pain.
Her eyes, half-closed, reflected Lethe, her own unmirrored image there. “If only once I could speak to him, bring him comfort in his pain.”
A thought had come into my mind, though not so lightly do my kind involve ourselves in matters of the human worlds of life or death. “If so the lady wishes it,” said I after long thinking, “could I relay to him a thought, a brief and simple token, that perhaps his heart might find relief.”
She turned to me. Her fire eyes with hope were filled, but then she turned back to the waters. “Ghosts he chases in his mind, and I a ghost for evermore. Let him no longer grasp at mist, but turn his eyes to new horizons. Let his sorrow pass away, as I will also pass away, and let him know that I am gone, and will be with him never more.”
I dipped my head and ruffed my feathers, never doubting she would pass when finally the message was delivered. Wings unfurled, I took to flight and passed from darkness into light. The world of living things I entered, following her mem'ries clear, back to places she had seen, hunting for some sign of him.
And so it was I came upon his house so darkened, filled with grief. And only was one window lightened, in his study where he sat and pondered over pages many, pages that he barely saw as vainly tried he chase away the thoughts of lost Lenore.
And yes, I tried to tell him of her, speak the words that from her lips had come, but things as these do not so easy come in places wherein dwell the living. Try I might, but one word spoken; from my beak I could convey the sentiment so briefly spoken, the gentle words of his Lenore, the maiden fair and fairly broken, who in this life would be so “nevermore.”