Initially, I didn’t plan to write a story to submit to Quoth the Raven, an anthology of contemporary tales and poems inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I’d seen the call for submissions from Camden Park Press floating around the interwebs, and it sounded like a cool project, but I hadn’t had that lightbulb inspiration moment.
And then, I read a story a friend of mine planned to submit, and as I read her incredible manuscript, I thought, Wow, this is a brilliant retelling…and now I want to be part of this project. (Spoiler alert – my friend’s story, “Marcela,” was accepted for the anthology, because like I said, it’s brilliant! Penny Paling, I owe you, girl!)
So, I did a quick Google search for stories by Edgar Allan Poe, promising myself that I would only invest in writing a new story if I got an idea that melted my face off. That jolt of inspiration came as soon as I read a synopsis and then the full text of “Berenice.”
Here’s a brief description of the story from Wikipedia:
“‘Berenice’ is a short horror story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1835. The story follows a man named Egaeus who is preparing to marry his cousin Berenice. He has a tendency to fall into periods of intense focus during which he seems to separate himself from the outside world. Berenice begins to deteriorate from an unnamed disease until the only part of her remaining healthy is her teeth, which become the object of Egaeus’ obsession.”
Now, I didn’t post the full description of the story above, because it contains spoilers for the creepiest, crawliest parts of the narrative, the parts that didn’t jive with readers when Poe first published it. That’s right, folks complained that Poe had gone too far with this particular story. Because of mass public upset, Poe ultimately decided to self-censor the work to make it more palatable to polite society.
So, I’d found a story that had a conclusion so horrific it was censored? Yep, I decided that was the story I wanted to resurrect and give new life.
And it was the right choice, because “My Love, In Pieces,” which you can read in Quoth the Raven (out today!) is one of the scariest stories I’ve ever written.
Here’s a little taste:
“I wasn’t ready to see you like that, broken and bandaged and so very ashen. Your skin, once the color of fresh cream, was the color of dirty snow. Your face was swollen and bruised, a misshapen fruit, thanks to the airbags. Your leg was broken in two places, but it had been reset and shrouded in plaster. The doctor said one of your lungs collapsed and you had a concussion. Your injuries were many. Thus, the medically induced coma. They had you on painkillers and steroids and other medications that had so many syllables, I wondered if the doctor was making them up for my benefit.
The worst part was that wretched plastic tube down your throat, the contraption responsible for your breathing, since you could no longer manage that on your own. I couldn’t see you. I couldn’t see my wife, the shining constant of my life.
My chest grew hot as a branding iron, and I feared I’d spontaneously burst into flame. My flesh would drip from my bones, and then…then, I’d be unrecognizable to you, too. Maybe that would be better.
“She’ll wake up, right?” I managed.
The doctor gave me a kind smile. “In time, yes. We’ll take her off the barbiturates that keep her under as soon as possible, but she has a lot of healing to do. I can’t give you a definite timeframe. Of course, we’ll do everything we can to help in her recovery.”
It wasn’t the answer I wanted. My fists curled and hardened at my sides, ready to fly.
I told the doctor thank you and shook his hand, though my palm was cold and clammy. He left the room, and we were alone. I sunk into a chair, ran my hands through my hair, and listened to the metallic beep of your heart.
It’s cliché, but it all felt like a bad dream.
I thought of that morning, of the time before. You’d surprised me, climbing atop my hips in the gray light of dawn, bringing your finger to your lips while grinning mischievously. You’d bit my shoulder to keep from waking the girls. You smiled at me. You gnashed your teeth in the throes of our lovemaking. You were so warm and alive.
A fine pressure mounted in my chest, and I tucked my head between my knees to alleviate a sudden swoon. As I gulped in sour hospital air, an object on the floor near your bed caught my attention. It was blindingly white, slightly round with distinct grooves, no larger than a fingernail.”
Y’all, you’re so not ready for what happens next! Pick up your copy of Quoth the Raven HERE and see how this creeptastic story unfolds.