The Prophet of Elysium

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

A man consumed in grief; a re-telling of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven."

Submitted: June 03, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 03, 2018



All was still inside my bedroom chamber as I sat and skimmed through ancient and fanciful texts. The air of the room was silent, even the hearth beside me seemed to flicker quietly. I flipped through towers of tomes in this quaint and serene world that I was enveloped in. It was calm and tranquil like an undisturbed body of water, with not a single ripple or wave. But then, there was a knocking.

Cutting through the silence were spurts of tapping that beat against my front door. I looked at the clock on the opposite side of the room; it was nearing the midnight hour. I had not noticed, until then, the time. I did not realize the extent of how consumed I had been within these books. I slowly opened my bedroom door and peered down the staircase, waiting for another round of rapping.

It was in the dead of winter, a few days since a terrible storm. The town was engulfed in pale snow and the sidewalks were far too obstructed to traverse through with ease. Since said storm, I had not left my home, for leaving it would strip me away from my warm fireplace. I stepped down my staircase carefully, tilting my head to see if I could spot this late hour guest through the windows beside the door. Many thoughts swarmed my mind of potential possibilities of who this visitor could be, but I placed all those thoughts aside in thinking that, if someone were to knock upon my door at this hour, that it would be for an emergency.

“I am dreadfully sorry, sir,” I called out to the door, “Or ma’am, I was in the middle of sleeping. I do hope you have some good reason to disturb me at this hour.” I reached out and opened the door.

The chill of the night whipped through the open doorway, brushing past my skin and slithering through my home. I looked out into the night and found nothing but darkness. My immediate thought was that it was some trickster playing a practical joke on me, but from what I could see, I found no footprints in the snow. That only left my mind to muster up two other possibilities: either there had not been any knocking at all and it was only my imagination or it had been some other-worldly thing to have done the deed. Upon pondering over the ladder, my heart leapt at once! Consequently, a single word struggled to form, fluttering up my throat and flying out from my parched lips:

“Lenore?” I asked. I let that word float in the air like a desolate feather waiting to be caught in the wind. I had half-hoped that I would hear some response to my call, but my senses could detect nothing more than a deafening void. In peering out into this endless sea of night, I noted that the outside world seemed just as quiet as my bedroom chamber—the only difference being the temperature.

I locked the front entrance and proceeded back to my chamber where I sat, sinking into my cushioned seat, midway through lamenting over my unanswered call. As I was reaching to return to my theological texts, I heard another set of knocking. However, this time, the noise did not emanate from my front door. I turned toward the single locked window of the room and slowly ventured in its direction. It must be the wind, I thought, for nothing else could logically explain the cause of this tapping. It knocked again and I unlatched the shutters shortly after.

With another torrent of the night flooding in, in too came a swift black bird that burst past me and floated around the room. It flickered in circles before finally descending, and perching, upon the wooden heel of my bed frame. I stood as far as I could from the creature, both marveling in its presence and fearing what omens could have come with it. Of course, my first inclination was to assume that it was simply some stray bird, so I left the window lattice open if it would later decide to leave.

“What brings you here?” I asked the bird, “I may be no expert, but are you not a raven?” It looked at me with its ebony eyes and, as expected, gave no response. I paced around the perimeter of my room, still keeping a safe distance from the corvid, wondering the significance of this encounter—if there even was any at all. Once I realized where the bird was sitting, the truth started piecing itself together in my mind. For this raven was not only perched upon my bed, but it sat at the foot of her side! I latched the window shut and quickly turned back towards the raven.

“Lenore,” I beamed, staring at the bird, “Is it you? Oh, it must be you! It has to be you! By God, it is a miracle! I knew we would reunite before the afterlife; I knew that you would not leave me by my lonesome forever!” I inched closer, brimming in a newfound euphoria. The bird was silent but cawed at my nearing approach, so I kept my distance temporarily.

“Or maybe it is not you, per say, but a messenger—ah, a messenger! A wise and ancient creature sent from the Elysian Fields, or even the Valhallan Halls, to deliver some message onto me! Is it to assure me of our reunion? Oh Lenore, of course! There is no way for you to have read my mind! You must not have known that the thought of seeing you once again—even if only in death—is all that keeps me going.” The bird made no response to my claims.

“Is it not that?” I asked, “Then what is it? Do you need to write it down?” I quickly swept my mythological studies off my nightstand and placed a parchment and pen on its surface before pushing the table closer to my bed. The bird seemed apprehensive, so I furthered my distance. I stood with my back to the fire, eagerly awaiting the magnificent raven to perform its duty to both our god and to my angel, Lenore.

Only, the bird did not move an inch closer to the parchment. No matter how long I waited, it stayed still. Of course, I was not content with this, but, then again, who was I to understand the ways of heavenly things? I clasped my hands together and worryingly wrung each separate finger as I waited.

“Oh, wise raven,” I called out to the prophet, “please; I know you have some message to deliver. I may have been reading these texts, but I do not know what you require before you are able to speak. I do not even know if you were sent from Pallas, or Odin; from a goddess who hails further east or from the God we both praise. Please forgive me, great raven, for my unfamiliarity. Would you be kind enough to at least leave me a clue?” Whilst talking, I had unintentionally decreased the distance between us and its feathers began to furrow. Its wings extended and the bird secreted a callous caw at me.

“Please, please forgive my ignorance, Messenger of Lenore,” I bowed my head, “I am not educated in your holy conduct. I am unaware of the correct mannerisms I should be bound to. You must understand my excitement in wanting to hear word from beyond the grave. Lenore left no final will or any good work for me to cling to. I beg for you to speak so that I can receive solace!” The bird fluttered its wings and pointed its black beak around the room. My gaze followed with it and, soon after, the raven took flight.

My bedroom door had been ajar, so it was easy for the corvid to fly out into my hollowed hallway. I followed after and chased the creature as it swam through the quiet air of my home. I knew, of course, that this was the bird attempting to communicate in an unorthodox method. The first place it perched was in the den, sinking its talons into the velvet lining of a seat sitting in the corner of the room.

I looked at the chair, then at the bird, perplexed in the significance of this seat that it has chosen. I stared at those two things in the room, shaking my head at every guess I gave. The answer needed to be obvious, otherwise this creature would not have picked such a throne.

“I must implore your forgiveness once again, raven,” I defeatedly spoke, “this seat, while perhaps once used by either me or my late maiden some time before, has no sentimental value that I am overtly aware of. I know that you are trying hard to fulfill your heavenly duty, but I do not know what to make of this. My angel had not sat in this room since the start of her illness and I have not been in here since then either. Please! What is the key to this mysterious omen you wish to hand over to me?” The bird departed from the chair and darted to another destination.

I followed faster as it landed on the back of a Cypress stool in the dining room. I peered around the area and, again, I found no intrinsic purpose to this place. I began becoming frustrated with these antics and passively scoffed at the messenger.

“Prophet,” I called out, “Prophet of God and Messenger of my late Lenore, I find this room as meaningless as the last. While there may be some significance that is unseen, I partly wonder if there is some mischief at play. Do you come from rolling meadows filled with fauna or from a black Stygian shore? I am in dire need of assurance as I have not overcome my grief and the loss of my one and only love. My angel sent thee, and you must abide by the angels you serve, so, once again—with clarity I implore—deliver your sacred message onto me!” The bird did not speak, not even a whispered caw left its beak. It sat still and turned its neck to and from the corners of the room, never looking straight onto me.

I needed an answer. My heart was sinking with every second of silence that had passed. I thought horrible thoughts, thinking that perhaps I was unworthy to receive such a message. However, those horrible thoughts were clouded by my thinning temper. This bird was the last link between me and my beloved and it was withholding something that I desperately needed to hear.

“Prophet,” I said again, “Great Raven of the Night, sacred being cast down from the Ten Holy Spheres above, I will not fall victim to any of your tricks! Either you have come down to assure me of my place in Heaven beside the heavenly Lenore, or you have come up from Hell to torment me! Is there even a message you bring? I have been stranded here, waiting and waiting for Lenore to walk back through my front door and here you came knocking not a month more since her departure. Was I wrong to think of you as a sign?” The bird did not respond, it simply stayed stiff in that one spot, making not a single gesture. I could not bare this pestering silence anymore.

“No matter,” I cried, “your presence here is welcome no longer, your soiled feet have touched too many of my possessions. Leave this home forever, for I was better off alone in my sorrow!”

Instinctively, I ran at the corvid with my arms outstretched. I threw over the wooden stool onto the floor and swung at the raven as it hurried away. I chased the foul thing through every room, screaming obscenities at the beast. I flailed and followed the thing as it whipped its wings around the corners of my home, through every doorway and then up the great staircase. The bird flew back into my bedroom chamber and perched onto the chair beside the fireplace. I unlatched the window of my room and flung it open.

“Fly back into that void from whence you came!” I shrieked with a shrill voice, “You have brought nothing but pain into my home! I had once admired you as a messenger of my angel, Lenore, but now I can see that you are an Erinys of the Tempter! You are a pestilence which shall plague me no longer! Your silence will ail me no more! Take that feathery form out of my bedroom chamber and return to your nest in darkest pit of Hell! Leave this home, away from me and the haunting memories I bear for my dead wife!”

But the bird stayed still. It did not caw or flutter its wings or even shift its feathers. It only sat perched beside the hearth, looking at me. From its ebony eyes, I could see my reflection and that reflection melted onto the floor. Behind me, the grand clock grew louder and louder with each tick sounding greater than the last. The fire, too, seemed to swell, loudly flickering its embers into the air. The chill of the night swirled in from the open panes, beating hard against each lattice. And the bird, that small bird, seemed vast from the shadow it casted.

And I laid within that great shadow, my body folding inward, curling and withering on the hardwood floor. My vision waned as the room grew dark—everything besides the bird blurred together. Visions of Lenore, sitting by the sea at sunset or sitting, reading her favorite novellas, passed through my visage, only to return to the sight of that avian black reminder.

The room was warm but within that shadow, I was frozen. I laid sprawled across those floorboards in tears, writhing in agony and sorrow. I cried out into that endless night, begging for something great and godly to answer me, but all that answered was a voice in the back of my mind that felt personified by the creature perched in my chamber.

I asked: Will I ever meet my love in the flesh again before my end? Will I ever overcome the great despair brought on by her premature death? Will I ever be able to live on with my life without my angel, the lovely maiden named Lenore? 

And it answered: Nevermore. Nevermore. Nevermore. 

© Copyright 2020 Franklin Rayeski. All rights reserved.

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