Author Topic: Death Be A Lady  (Read 1193 times)

TeteoInan

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Re: Death Be A Lady
« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2011, 11:06:17 AM »
     The tales begins with the dreams of a fisherman who worked on the gray waters of the northern coast. he was a young man, vigorous and red-cheeked from days in the cold salt air, but the time came when his eyes grew dull and his hands trembled. He lived alone and made no one welcome in his cottage. Something had begun to haunt it, and night after night he dreamed of things he could not tell by day.

     One night, resisting sleep with all his will, he met his tormentor. The hours passed silently, save for the creaking of the house and the rattle of the windows as the north wind beat against them. He lay without a light, but even in the darkness, he saw the fingers of mist that drifted in from a crack in the stone wall beside his bed. Luminous and curling, the vapor lay on the air; with delicate tendrils, it searched among the bedclothes.
     The fisherman leaped into action. He flung himself from the bed and slapped his hand over the crack through which the mist had entered. It was easy to plug the crack with fat from his lamp, easy to light the lamp with a spill flamed at the hearth. When the little light steadied, he peered at the place where the mist had been.
     But it was gone. In its place a woman stood, and she was no ruddy village maid. Her flesh was so pale it seemed translucent; her hair was a cloud of darkness, and she gazed at him with liquid, knowing eyes. The fisherman put out the light.

     In the morning she still lay beside him, unsleeping and watchful, trapped by daylight. He told her roughly that since she had chosen to haunt him, she could serve him as a wife: She was pretty, he said, and she gave him pleasure. She could set to the work that other wives did.
     The woman obeyed silently, without demur, and the tasks he assigned were admirably performed. She cooked and mended the nets. With her white hands, she hung his catch of mackerel and herring over smoking, seaweed-lined pits to dry.
     His neighbors asked the fisherman where he had gotten his obedient wife, but he rebuffed such questions sharply, and soon the matter was mentioned no more. Still, the people did not fail to notice how the pale woman grew rosy and strong. They saw the small smile that trembled on her red lips when her eyes rested on the fisherman. As for him, each day he grew more sullen and withdrawn. he seemed to fade: His face paled to a dull gray, marked by the hectic glitter of his eyes.

     During the sunless winter hours, no windows glowed in the cottage. Inside, by the dim firelight, the fisherman each night surveyed his prisoner and said,
"Tell me what you are and where you came from."
     But she was the stronger at night. She smiled a secret smile at him and invariably replied, "I do not know." Then she beckoned, and helplessly he obeyed.
     The fisherman became wraithlike; he took to drink and to staring at his blooming captive with hate-filled eyes. Always, he asked his nightly question:
"Tell me what you are and where you came from."
     "I do not know."

     Anger saved the fisherman. One night, when he had drunkenly asked his question and received his answer, he ignored the beckoning hand. Instead, he stumbled to the wall and, with clumsy fingers, picked at the hardened fat that sealed the chink beside the bed. When he felt the night air, he turned to the woman and mumbled thickly, "You entered by this portal, lady. Leave by it."
     The woman trembled; her pale flesh wavered and dissolved into vapor. Ribbons of the mist streamed upward, and light as a sigh, out the chink in the wall. The last the fisherman heard of his nightmare was a single, drifting, mournful wail that might have been the winter wind.
"Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle."