Dear Shadow

My pen glides silently over the paper, but my soul cries out with sorrow. Only the hope of eternal redemption can propel my hesitant hand over these words. May God strike me dead this instant for cowardice and folly! Perhaps you are not certain of my thoughts? Perchance you wonder what I speak of? That is the awful beauty of this thought: to think, and dare to hope.

Are you innocent of the red blood about to be shed?

You remember that night, all those years ago, the darkened room crowded with humanity -yet just as lonely and cold as this barren cell. You were so small and weary, so helpless and frail. I took instant pity on you, standing there, hands clasped in grief. Those eyes, dark and fierce, they held me, as surely as a rabbit in the jaws of a wolf. You were so innocent, so damned innocent. From that moment, fate and chance have held my feet to this crooked path; dealing death, in the past and inevitably the future.

What thoughts were in your mind? What purpose did you have? Did you speak the truth, or a pack of lies like those to follow? Only you my dear will ever know, I scarcely care anymore. My path is set in resignation. You hated him, of that I am certain, hate with passion and with care. You may smile as you read this, grin with foolish certainty, for my life is over, or will be in scant few hours at least. Will you gloat when my hour comes? Will you feel pride in your cleverness, and security in your safety? Or, for my sake will you shed one small tear? One pure and true emotion in a sea of deceit.
I hope for the latter, I do not hide that. Perhaps in the far beyond I shall see that moment through some devine mirror. Would you act differently I wonder, knowing that I was watching…

Those dark marks –blemishes to your beauty– struck my heart to the core. I felt pity and sorrow to see a creature so incredibly beautiful hurt in such a brutish manner. And love, that too, I can see it now; though I could not then. I came to hate the animal of a man that could so mar you, so small and frail. From your tear filled tales told over wine and dinner, I believe I came to know a small piece of you. Why you walked the streets only in darkness, hiding those scars from the eyes of others. Though why you chose to confide in me, I scarcely thought to wonder, perhaps if I had then, I might have seen the danger and fled. Were you searching for just such a fool as I? Or was it pure chance that brought us together, and your conniving mind that hatched this diabolical plan, using me as a pawn in chess. A sacrifice in mid game for some greater cause or final checkmate.

You told me how you suffered torture at the hands of the beast you called “My Love”, until the last moment of my life I will remember your words to me that night. “My Love” you never failed to call him. Even in your apparent pain you gave him the honor of that endearment. Damn the futility! The hopeless pain of my self inflicted wounds, yet the stone floor grows colder and the ceaseless tick of the clock echoes down the hall. My hour draws closer.

Those seeds sown within my soul that night sprouted and grew with twisting thorns and briers over the fortnight that followed. I searched for you those nights, in every dim tavern, in every narrow street. I searched for your eyes, and for your fiery head. But I could never seek you out, it was always you. You found me that first night, and after those fourteen nights and days of ceaseless searching you simply appeared. Sitting down at my lonely table as if you knew I would be there waiting.

The patchwork of bruises on your face and arms had been replaced with another set in a new design. But your eyes were the same. They never changed, when sad, when happy, in laughter and deceit they never altered. Always the same.
I told you then of my plan. The scheme to murder your love, the very fruit of the seeds you planted in my heart. I expected you to plead for his safety; thinking you would wish to save your love in spite of his cruelty. My bold proposition had merely been designed to show sympathy and love by offering to end your pain and suffering. But you only sighed and spilled tears upon the white tablecloth.

“You would do that?” She asked me then, frail hand gripping mine, in mock display of sympathy for a deed as yet undone, for a punishment not yet metered. I would be your savior from the hands of the monster. We said little that night; there was nothing to say, on the white napkin stained with tears was this simple address:

112 South Main.

This, I seized with all the fury of a madman, thrusting it deep and securely within my pocket. You may think it funny, but for the next three days I scarcely could touch it. I felt as if death held my hand when I thought of that small scrap of paper hidden in my pocket. It plagued my thoughts, a thief of smiles, a source of dreams and imagination.

When I finally drew it from its abode my heart was set, my resolve firm. Yes, my dear, you knew well the path to which my feet were set, for you had opened the gilded gates and drew me through them.

I watched that house incessantly for three long days. I never saw you, though I felt your presence clearly. The man that inhabited those quarters drew my hatred as surely as a dog to meat; I hated his life, his manners, even the mail delivered every morning. I hated the very essence of him. Why did I desire so fervently to kill him? You know the answers to that question my sweet darling.

Because of the lies you planted.
On the night of the third day, late by the moon, I stole silently into the yard and let myself through his unlocked door into the shadowed pantry. Behind a sofa set against the wall I hid and waited patiently for my prey.

I killed him the next morning when he rose from sleep and drowsily meandered into my liar, smashed his face and skull in with a bat. I had no sorrow or remorse for his cold body on the floor, felt none then –nor do I now, try as I might. The house was empty of you, I searched every room. You were not there, I wonder if you had ever been.

Again I wandered from tavern to tavern looking for the waif of a woman I had killed to love. You found me one night, lost and sunken deep in the stupor of spirits. I felt a cold hand upon my shoulder and knew it could only be you. The battered bruises were still upon your face, only their pattern had again changed, but my clouded mind failed to grasp that simple fact. I only smiled a foolish drunken grin and the night faded in a blur of lights and two dark eyes….

When I awoke you were gone, only my pounding head and trembling hands proved the memory. What had you spoken? What secrets were revealed? I can never know, for I do not remember. Perhaps you explained it all to me. So in some distant dark corner of my soul I know the answers to the questions that haunt my mind in the darkness.

They found me out. This you know, a watchful neighbor, a bloody print. I scarce can remember how. It has all faded in a messy blur of strangers and judges, of lawyers and trials. Only two things can I remember from that hodgepodge of events and faces.

The man I killed lived alone, spoke to no one, and loved none.
Your eyes staring me down with nameless love and hatred from every jurors face, your eyes sparkling with purity from the stern visage of the judge as he pronounced sentence. “For surely” he said, “Thy sin shall find thee out.”

And the years have passed my doom drawing ever closer, each night I lie and stare at the darkness with unspoken questions. But the answers never come and my punishment draws nearer with every tick of the clock. The day dawns now, I can see its light clearly through my window. In the yard below, I see my tree. The awful gallows tree, with no green leaves to comfort the wicked, or shade his tortured brow.

So much more I would wish to say, but my hour draws nearer, and my eyes droop with the weight of unshed tears. My pen runs dry of ink.

-Ezra Hilyer