October 3

The Wanderer

 

The street isn’t a part of the city recognize.

It might not even be your city.

You’ve been transported here against your will.  Either instantaneously, through some heretofore unknown necromancy, or you’ve been drugged, plied with alcohol to induce unconsciousness, then your body lifted, carried, pushed into some rattling contrivance then dumped into a random street.

Instead of waking you properly, your captors had twisted some wind-up key in your back, until the springs and coils of your muscles responded.  Before your mind similarly sprang to life, they pointed you in one direction, gave you a push.

Your mind is still in a fog, your vision unsteady.  The street sways beneath you like a ship’s deck during a violent storm.

If this is a ship, the other passengers are foreign and strangely dressed.  Some of the men look like they have an extra pair of arms beneath their jackets. The women glide across the ground like spectres, their faces blurry beneath wisps of dark hair.

You pat your own jacket, afraid to find an extra pair of arms beneath.  A different uncanny detail assaults you:  this is not your jacket.  Your fingers trail over unfamiliar threads, searching for pockets — and you realize you have no money, and no identification.

The people around you seem oblivious to your plight.  Their costumes seem even more absurd, as if they’re dressed for a masquerade ball.  A harlequin with a belled hat passes by, with a small child rushing behind him.  You realize the child is actually a dwarf.

Across the street, you mark a figure standing upright with perfect confidence.  He is wearing your clothes, and your face.

Before you can accost that gentleman, demanding the return of your possessions and identity, a large hairy shape passes between.  The ourang-outang, even hunched over, stands in excess of nine feet tall.  In one hand he carries a straight razor; with the other, he drags a young woman by the hair, her dress and skin covered with dark chimney soot.

Finally someone acknowledges your presence.  One of the gliding women floats towards you, her hand out as if asking for alms.  Her face comes into focus, and when she smiles, you notice she doesn’t have any teeth.  Reflexively, you  reach into a newly discovered jacket pocket and instead of coins, you feel the rattle of rough pebblestones against your fingertips.  The pebbles seem to bite into your palm as you collect then toss them away in hopes of banishing the approaching apparition.

All the horrors of this unknown street converge on you, a rush of memories or nightmares, and you cry out a single name, “Reynolds,” again and again before you collapse.

 

[October 3, 1849 — Edgar Allan Poe, who had been missing for several days, turns up in Baltimore, disoriented and needing medical attention. He dies 4 days later at Washington Medical College.]