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Art, Graphics & Creative Writing => Horror Fiction => Topic started by: unknown on March 11, 2007, 09:12:02 am



Title: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 11, 2007, 09:12:02 am
My name is William Hargrove, The year of our Lord 1827, October, the seventeenth, I do solemnly swear upon my honor and before almighty God, that this is a true and accurate account of the events of my life.

I do freely and willingly confess to all the unspeakable acts of villainy and debauchery revealed in this written statement. These acts are largely the result of various defaults in my character, defaults that show me to be a base, and vile creature. You will not hear from me vain justifications for what I have done, or pleas for mercy. What I have done, I have done.

Oh, brothers, dear sweet sisters let not the ravings of the insatiable beast we call emotion get its claws into you too. Lock the ravening beast away that rages with carnal desire. Lock it away in a cage of adamantine will. Then cast away that key forever.

An untamed beast lives and breathes just below the surface of us all, straining against the confines imposed on it by our polite and mannerly society, that beast waits beneath the mask, gentlemen.

Pay heed to the warning in my sad tale, and hereafter build your lives on the rock of reason, and take every advantage from this sure and sound footing. This is both a warning and a plea to those whose lives are ruled by passion.

***

I drift back in my mind now to happier days, when I was filled with youthful innocence. It was less then a year ago today, and yet it seems that it was another man entirely that stood on the steps of the grand and magnificent auditorium at Baneford Academy, waiting to receive my doctorate in the literary arts; in my time there I had made something of a reputation for myself as a writer. The Head Master, Professor Perkins was a dear and gentle soul, but prone to emotional outbursts, just as I was. In this and in our love for the written word we where kindred spirits. The dear old gentleman was so happy it was as if he were receiving the diploma, instead of conferring it upon me.

It seemed to me as if I had waited a dozen eternities for this moment. Unlike most of the other students my parents had not been wealthy or aristocratic, in fact it was something of a miracle that I had been allowed to attend at all. I struggled endlessly with finances, because my parents died when I was quite young and although they had provided for me in their will, it was in the form of monthly allowance, which was not nearly enough for the tuition.


***

But my mind was not on these things, what the diploma meant to me was that at last I could marry my beloved Suzette. We met at her coming out party. I had not been invited to this affair, aristocracy only you understand. But Charles Sterling, a dear friend from the Academy brought me along as his guest. Charles was a noble fellow who never held it against me that I was a commoner, the way most of the other students did.

But I digress, what an unforgettable day it was, from the very first moment I saw her, I adored her, I worshipped her, and I was filled with a glowing love light, my feet disdaining the coarse and crude earth beneath them. My soul enshrined an image of her forever, my dream of love always and forever my sweet Suzette. When my lips met hers for the first time what a rapturous thrill, sharp currents of pleasure coursed through me overwhelming my senses, stirring in me a wild and erotic fascination. It raged inside me like a hurricane at sea, buffeting my emotions about with waves of wild desire.

Her father vehemently disapproved of me, since that very first afternoon at her coming out party. So we met secretly every Sunday evening when she was supposed to be at piano practice. Her piano teacher didn’t mind. She was still being paid; and as Suzette explained to me laughing, she just couldn’t stand the “God awful racket.”


***

With my diploma in hand I would at last be able to face her father and legitimately ask for her hand in marriage. I road to the Brettel Estate, a grand and imposing five story Victorian manor set amidst a lovely eighteenth century style hedged garden and enclosed by an impressively tall and imposing iron gated stonewall. One of the servants took my horse the other led me inside. “I will tell Colonel Brettel you are here sir.” I stood in the grand entrance hall. A winding staircase led to the second floor, above me hung a magnificent golden multi-tiered seventeenth century chandelier. Upon the freshly waxed floors were set busts of some of the great men of British history there was... Wellington, Chamberlain, Cromwell, Shakespeare and many others all waiting there with me. I waited and waited…and waited, I must have stood in that hallway for an over an hour. Finally a servant appeared and said, “The Colonel will see you know.” The servant led me to the library. The colonel sat near the fireplace drinking sherry and smoking one of the biggest cigars I had ever seen. “What can I do for you Mr. Hargrove?” He asked.

“Sir, I have just received my Doctorate from Baneford Academy, your daughter and I are very much in love and I have been assured that I a very promising future, all of my Professor’s recommend me highly. I have come to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

The Colonel jumped from his chair his face flushed, his eyes blazing fiercely. “You little bastard, you have been sneaking around with my Suzette, haven’t you! Is she pregnant? By God I’ll kill you with my own bare hands.” He lunged for my throat, He was built like a bull with huge hands but I was much faster. I blocked his arms and swung around behind him in the same motion grabbing him in a headlock.

“Calm down Colonel. Suzette isn’t pregnant, I haven’t touched her.” I pleaded with him.

“You get the hell out of here, and if I ever see your face again I shall sick the dogs on you!” Now I was consumed with rage myself and sorely tempted to snap his damn neck.

“Be reasonable sir” I said releasing him, restraining myself from further violence.

“Get out now,” he said in a low even tone, he was deadly serious.

I turned and walked slowly out. I was flooded with grief and anger, well that did not go well, I said to myself. As I steeped out of the double doors of the entranceway I heard the Colonel yell, “Grab him!” The two doormen tackled me and held me face down in the entranceway; from here I could see the Colonels boots. Then I heard him say, “This will teach you to keep your damn hands off my daughter!” I felt his hands in my hair, and then he began to slam my face into floor. More of his men must have shown up because I felt them stomping and kicking at me with their heeled and pointed riding boots. I passed out, after the third time my head went into the cold stone floor.

***

I came to in a ditch alongside the road, one eye was swollen shut, I felt my lips, and they were as big lemon wedges. I ran my tongue around inside my mouth and I discovered several of my teeth had been chipped. Well there go my boyish good looks, I thought laughingly. Beside the road stood my horse Uncas, whom I named after the fierce Indian in J. Fenimore Cooper’s “The last of the Mohicans.” I had hell of a time climbing back into the saddle, my mind wouldn’t focus and I was awkward, I couldn’t get my foot into the damn stirrup. Every moment sent sharp pains through me. I think one of my ribs was broken because it always gave me trouble after that. I don’t remember making it back to my flat.

***

I awoke three days later naked atop the sheets that were covered with vomit and stained in blood. I limped around trying to clean it up as best I could. I was starving. But because of my swollen lips I could not eat, it was just too painful. My Mind went racing out to Suzette what would her father do to her? I had to see her. I threw on a long overcoat and headed out the door. I couldn’t ride, but if I could get a message to her, perhaps we could arrange something. As I walked out into the street I saw a thin, taunt and lively gypsy girl with long straight raven black hair falling to her waist, she had the most incredibly intriguing coal black eyes that seemed to peer into your soul. Her mouth was exquisite, ripe, plump and succulent with the most enticing little gap between her top two front teeth.

“Oh you poor man, what happened to you.” she asked

“Well I got knocked around pretty good, it doesn’t matter…My Name is William, would you please do a favor for me, and I’ll give you whatever you ask, within reason.” I replied.

“What do you have in mind, sweetie,” she said as she winked at me.

“Oh no, it’s not that, I need you to get a message to someone, will you help me,” I replied.

“To bad," she said with a wicked little smile. “Sure I’ll do it, ten pounds up front,” she said.

“Five now, five when I get a message back saying the note has been delivered,” I replied.

“All right William, I’ll do it. My name is Myra, a pleasure.”

With Myra’s help I was able to get a message to Elisa, one of Suzette’s old friends from finishing school, and then arrange a rendezvous.

***

I saw Suzette standing in our secret meeting place; It was just beneath an old and distinguished gentleman of an oak, the last surviving member of the forest that once covered these rolling hills, It stood well over a hundred feet tall, its branches forked out at twenty feet above the ground, it stretched one mighty limb across a small stream that ran lazily through the manicured grounds. A dove cooed somewhere in the high grass in the field beyond the stream.

"Oh, William, your face! Did my father do that?"

“Yes, him and a couple of his men.” I said.

“Why did you do it William? Didn’t you realize what he would do? I am practically under house arrest now, he has men watching me night and day, oh I do hope I haven’t led them to this place.”

“I did it because I love you terribly. I want you to be mine forever and always sweet…Suzette. Come away with me tonight, we’ll leave the country. Lets go to America Suzette, we’ll start a new life together.”

“Oh, I am so torn up inside, I can’t marry you now William. He means to marry me to some wealthy and powerful aristocrat it's all business with him. If we ran off together he'd have you killed. I just couldn’t bare that William, I do love you so. I can’t even see you now! He has his spies everywhere.”

“This is not the end Suzette. I shall find a way for us to be together always and forever," I said as I held her gently in my arms.

***

“Well tell!” Myra said poking me in the ribs, which were still sore as hell. “I want to hear all about it, you romantic devil, you.”

“She won’t marry me. She says her father would have me killed, after what happened last week, I think she’s right. I am half out of my mind Myra, I don’t know what to do.” I said.

“Why don’t you just kill the bastard?”

“You’re not serious.”

“No William, I know you don’t have the stomach for that. But maybe I can help.”

***

I saddled up Uncas and we road together to Myra’s camp just as the sun was setting in the sky. It presented us with an amazing display of the maker’s art, broad strokes of smoky deep purple and splashed nonchalantly with a melancholy vermilion, you out did yourself tonight old man. I said to myself as we drew closer to the wagons of her vagabond tribe. A violin played soft and haunting strains somewhere in the night. She made a series of hand signals as we neared, obviously to communicate with men guarding the camp. The campfires were already burning in the fading sunlight and the women folk were cooking the evening meal, in heavy iron pots hung from tripods, over small stone encircled fires. The men were gathered in small groups talking with each other, or were sitting on the steps of the circled wagons enjoying an evening smoke.

She walked up the back steps of a red and yellow painted wagon. It was longer and taller with more elaborate scrollwork then the rest of the wagons in the little caravan. Myra knocked. The round windowed door swung open slowly and there stood an elderly women, her white hair contrasting sharply with the red paisley kerchief she wore about her head. A string of gold necklaces about her withered neck, but what held my attention were the eyes she peered out at the world with, the same coal black knowing eyes that Myra had, “This is Esmeralda…William… Grandmother I have brought this man William to you, he is in need. Will you help him?”

She looked me over carefully, as if weighing my soul on scales in her old head. “Give me your hand, William,” she said finally in a tired, world-weary voice, “Oh you poor man.” She sighed, “Be careful of this one Myra,” she warned. “You are a very passionate man William so very passionate it is killing you, eating you alive inside. Here I shall show you.” She traced a path with her wrinkled finger over my hand as she spoke. “You are unlucky in love your heart line is so deep, so strong, but severed. You are torn between two paths the lifeline diverges, both paths you deeply desire but the paths do not intersect. You shall be offered a choice, I have never seen the like…I cannot help you my boy, but you have my sympathy.”

“Is there no one who can help me?” I asked.

“Perhaps there is one, but I warn you it is very dangerous and foolish.” she said

“I can’t live like this!” I said.

“Very well, come back tomorrow night.”

***

I returned to the Camp the following afternoon, Myra ran out to greet me. “Hello William, It is all arranged. I will take you to the man who is to be your guide.”

“But where am I going Myra?” I asked

“Ha, ha, ha why to see Old Kate of coarse! She knows things William, she maybe able to help you.”

I kissed her cheek and said, “Well, wish me luck.”


***

Black, muck clung thickly to my boots as we trudged through that foul smelling fen. Whopping cranes were calling out in that lonely, long and mournful way of theirs somewhere out there… in the dense rolling fog. Foul shapes seemed to hang and glide just out of the reach of perception on that dim and moonlit moor.

We waded through waist high reeds from stranded hillock to narrow ridge. Stunted and twisted, little sharp-limbed trees took on the aspect of gruesome sentinels, as if guarding some unwholesome secret known only to themselves. Every now and then my guide would lift his lantern high and wave it slowly from side to side reminding me of a lonely lighthouse on the shores of a fog enshrouded sea.

I could see no path at all. How my guide found his way through this, I shall never know. Perhaps it was merely his familiarity with the region, or perhaps this was his natural element, for I never saw anyone who looked so much like they had just stepped out of a penny dreadful.

He was broad shouldered, thick limbed and short legged, perhaps six and a half to seven feet tall, if he had stood upright that is. For he was bent and twisted, one shoulder higher than the other, his back bent as if crouched to spring. His crude and roughly hewn features only added to his apelike appearance, thick lips, a wide-nose, no chin to speak of and a low protruding forehead. Add to this primitive picture of a man, one baleful eye entirely white. A scar stretched over that eye, from the middle of his forehead, to just below the left cheek. His hair was a thick and wiry mop that sat unruly atop his head. He wore a horsehair tunic bound about the middle with thick rope, knotted in front and from which hung a long deadly looking curved dagger.

“What the hell are those? See over there?” I asked.

“Em’s Corpse Candles,” he replied with a grunt.

“What pray tell are corpse candles, my good man,” I asked.

“Hain’t your man, I be Kate’s man. You’s to keep your eye's open, lip's shut.”

***

As the night drew on the scenery began to change we started to encounter more clumps of trees standing on lonely hillocks, the path more rocky. Eventually we came to a wood and after some searching my guide located a trial. At the head of the trail, a totem was set, upon a stake in the earth. It looked as if the bones of various creatures had been cobbled together to form a scarecrow. The head of this scarecrow was a mountain goat with long twisted horns. The torso that of a man’s but from its wrists and ankles hung the claws of what must have been a gigantic vulture, the wings sprouted from its back rising high into the air above us. If the purpose of this twisted scarecrow was to scare away-unwanted visitors this skeletal freak was more than equal to the task; I almost begged my primitive guide to take me back across the moors. I would have but then I considered the deadly looking dagger that hung from his belt.

We walked through this wood for what seemed like hours, several times I was startled by a sudden caw, caw of a crow and the heavy beating of wings as it flew off. Now I began to notice bones strewn along the path, I could not shake the sensation that I was being watched. Finally I saw ahead of us in the clearing a crude thatched hut surrounded by torches burning in the darkness, the ground strewn with bones. Two human skulls were mounted on posts in the ground outside her door. I began to seriously wonder about wisdom of this little excursion.

As we neared the hut she emerged moving with an unnatural slowness and grace. I looked into her eyes, the pupils of which were narrow, not round at all and of a greenish yellow cast. Her head had a peculiar v-shape to it. She wore a long black robe decorated with curiously wrought white symbols around the neck and about the sleeves, the tail of the robe disappearing into the depths of her primitive hut. The hut itself was decorated with shrunken heads, weirdly carved figurines, and candles. Long strings of beads formed a primitive doorway inside the hut before which sat a stack of ancient looking leather bound books. A parrot sat high upon a perch as snakes wound there way across the dirt floor.

“Ah Master Hargrove, I have been expecting you, what a vain and passionate man you are William, just my type,” she said as her eye slowly winked at me. “Ha, ha, ha,” she cackled. A shudder rippled through me as she spoke, for her voice had the sibilant hiss of the crafty serpent.

“Auuugghk, passionate man,” squawked the parrot.

“Quiet Paracelsus,” she said. “He’s always sticking his nose into things that are better left alone, ha, ha, ha” she cackled. “Now where were we?”

“Auuugghk, ****,” squawked the parrot.

“Why have you come to old Kate, William Hargrove, a love potion perhaps? No I see you’re after more, much, much more. I have something that may be of use to you William.” She said in her hissing voice as she lifted a pen up before my astonished eyes. What is it you see William.”

“It is a pen,”

“Yes, it is that and much, much, more, it is also a weapon perhaps the most powerful weapon of all for with it you can sway minds, move armies and crumble empires. I thought that you being a writer, might understand this.”

“I understand,” I said.

“No William, I don’t think you do, but never mind that, you did not come here for a philosophy lesson now did you? You came here because you are obsessed with a woman. This pen produces only masterworks.”

“What do you want for it?”

“Ah, all artists know the sacrifices that must be made for their craft, the power of the pen exacts its own price, William.”

She then presented me with this most exquisite instrument of the writer’s art, long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped.

***

The power of the pen I discovered soon enough. I began by writing love poetry, long essays about the wonders and beauties of the natural world, and long epic poems based upon the wondrous complexities and ironies of Greek mythology. My work was hailed as a triumph. I was the new darling of the literary world. Soon I became wealthy man and offers poured into write novels and plays.

Which I produced in short order increasing my wealth enough so that I was able to buy up the majority of stock in Brettel family business and acquire the mortgage on the estate. I was able to do this in part, by writing glowing praises of the Colonel's competitors and stinging criticism of his company, which they richly deserved for labor abuses, bribery and other nefarious practices. This helped lower the cost of the stock and caused more people to sell, further lowing its value in an ever downward spiral. This was a technique that served me well in accumulating wealth.

When the day came that I owned the majority of his company I simply road to the estate with my new band of gypsy body guards and I gave him a choice, either he gave me Suzette’s hand and I gave him back his company or I would ruin him. The Colonel made a very wise decision, I believe.

***

I will never forget that day. Suzette was more beautiful than ever the sun was shining and we decided to visit our secret place. She began torturing me with kisses that flowed warm and sweet like summer wine, intoxicating me with passion.

I then held her from behind, holding her tender waist pulling her slowly against me once more nuzzling my face in the tantalizing sensuousness of her hair. Breathing heavily almost panting, pulsating with pleasure, my mind enthralled by the sinful suggestiveness of this embrace, I begged, “Please Suzette, let me, I love you more than any man has ever loved a woman, I would die a thousand agonizing deaths for you, I would sell my everlasting soul to win your love.”

My heart pumped; my loins ached and my head reeled in delirium. I could stand it no longer. I hiked up the long ankle length gown up over her back reveling the white-gartered stockings beneath. I explored her luscious long flanks with my greedy hands. As she held on to the gentlemanly old oak tree for balance her firm hindquarters were before my hungry eyes taunting me with their ripeness, insane with lust I had to have her.

“My God William stop, what has gotten into you?” I did not stop. I took her then and there, it was not until I finished that I realized what I had done, Oh, I thought my dreams of loves sweet bliss were shattered, like the sparkling glass upon the jagged stone. I thought she would hate me always and forever. I thought my dreams would vanish before my very eyes, all because I was unable to contain my lust for her.

Suzette dropped to her knees before me and put her arms about my legs, “Oh, you are a real man, you are…you do not know how long I have dreamed of this William,” she wept in joy. We were marred two weeks later, and I bought a lovely old three story Victorian.

***

Now my days were filled with the fawning, demanding and angelic Suzette, my nights filled with aggressive and adventurous she-devil Myra, who I hired as “personal advisor” to help with research for my novels, I don’t think anyone ever bought that one. Myra was just too gorgeous to be taken seriously, even though she was smart as a nine-tailed whip.

***

I wanted to visit my old Professor I missed him. I entered the upstairs office of Professor Perkins, Head Master of Baneford Academy, as I entered he got up from behind his desk, rushed over and began shaking my hand vigorously, “We all wondered what had happened to you my boy,” He said excitedly, “locked yourself away in some dingy room some where writing your novel, Eh.”

“Well sort of Professor, I have come to make a donation to the Academy Professor and of coarse to see you.”

“Wonderful, William, I must say I always expected great things from you, your passion showed through in all your works. But your writing now far exceeds anything you have produced in the past, it’s almost as if it were written by another person. Such tremendous style, such elegant phrasing, you have exceeded all my hopes for you, I am so proud of you, son.”

“Thank You, Professor.” I said. It was then that it hit me hard for the first time I was a fraud, a complete and utter fake. My fame, my new home, everything rested on an illusion. It was not I who had produced these works even though it was my hand that held the pen.

***

I slowly began to realize to my horror that the pen had a mind of its own. I could no-longer write dreamy love poems or about nature and the Greek Gods…now my writing turned to the dark side of life. Murder mysteries, horror novels and political tracts for my mind became filled with visions of crime and vice. But not just that, my mind also followed along as armies marched to carry out the brutal business of war; wandered onto bloody battlefields and listened in horror to screams of agony and death.

Now to my everlasting surprise these works were hailed even more highly than my previous works. What wonderful diversity what comprehensive ability and insight into life, the critics raved, each trying to see who could lavish the most praise on me. I was truly disgusted I don’t believe a one of these critics had ever given a decent review to a horror story or murder mystery before.

I began to notice strange things happening… several publishers had committed suicide when they failed to secure the rights to my latest novel. Several businesses that I had criticized where looted and burned. The longer it went on the stranger it got, my name and face were everywhere in the news. People were taking everything I said as gospel; with one word from me in the press I could destroy a man’s life. The Royal family almost insisted that I be knighted in a grand ceremony with a parade, which was unheard of. With my notoriety it became harder and harder to go anywhere in public, I could not even go to my own plays for fear of being ripped to shreds by adoring mobs. All this that damn devil pen had set in motion for it’s own evil designs which I was not to learn of until much later.


***

I was less and less able to control the words that flowed from that monstrous pen. It was always there calling out to me like an addiction. The pen began to seriously intrude upon my mind. I began to drink myself to sleep every night and started up again as soon as I awoke. I was slowly becoming a drunken leach an evil wanton cynic.

I had the means, and a driving compulsion to live out the sick but wildly erotic fantasies inspired by the devil pen. With the ever-wicked Myra on my arm, I strolled into each and every new and more unwholesome escapade. Myra was such a wicked little temptress, “What has gotten into you William, you’re a changed man, I like it,” Myra said giving me that oh… so libidinous little wink of hers.

I tasted each and every vice, every one that struck my depraved and fickle fancy. But I shall not try and recall them all here, all the meaningless nights of drunken debauchery, of the wild and often dangerous search for forbidden and sinful pleasures. Suffice it to say, I have spent many a night in gambling halls, opium dens and the like. I chased every winking barmaid. I fondled every firm, round and tempting bottom. I mercilessly attempted to seduce every female old, young, thin, round, dark or fair, I didn't care.

What purpose would it serve, to recount violent, desperate back alley couplings, or the nights dancing naked as a savage at sabot bonfires, the unholy orgies in the Mortimer Family Crypt, that filled to overflowing with the delightfully degenerate and the irrepressibly depraved. Why should I confess every detail of the nights I spent reveling in strange carnal delights with knowing, warm and willing ladies of the evening? I couldn’t even tell you for sure how much coin I extravagantly, carelessly cast away at Madame Rousseau’s House of Pain. Ah, what a wonderful venue it would have made De Sade himself blush. Suffice it to say, that of these things I am guilty and much, much more. What purpose would it serve to enumerate my arrests for drunken brawling, public indecency and the like? All of these where easily swept under the rug because of my new wealth and fame.

***

One evening returning from a night of drunken debauchery with Myra, I heard a low and piteous moaning coming from the dining hall, “Yes, yes, oh God, yes,” As we rounded the corner I saw Suzette lying on the end of the long formal dining table, her dress rumpled and scattered beneath her. Balancing, one elbow at her side, her hand clawing at the hair of the man that was holding her long shapely legs aloft and feasting hungrily between her gartered thighs.

“Suzette?” I asked quietly, She quickly jumped of the table. It was Charles Sterling my old friend who turned with a shocked and frightened look in his eyes.

“Well, what of it!” My sweet Suzette screamed. “Your always out with your little ****!”

“I am so sorry William, but I love her, I have always loved her,” Charles confessed.

“Then you take her Charles,” they walked out hand in hand together, Suzette crying.

“Well now I got you all to myself,” Myra said smiling with a Cheshire cat grin.

I slapped her ass hard, “Ouch” she said, “you know I like it when you play rough,” she said putting her arms around me.

“Shut up, Myra.”

She mockingly pouted at me.

My will and heart had been broken. I felt like a puppet whose strings had been cut falling to the stage, never to rise again. The last good and wholesome thing had been driven out of my life forever, I knew that under the influence of the devil’s pen I would only end up hurting her, destroying her, perhaps even killing her. I had to let her go while I was still able, for her sake, because of my love for her, Oh...always and forever my sweet Suzette. It had taken her from me, my heart felt as if it was being squeezed in vice. I should have found some other way, if only we had gone to America when I wanted.


***

Here, I sit at my roll-top mahogany desk writing by the warm glow of gaslight lanterns set about the opulence of my personal study, staring at it. The pen; exquisite, long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped. It begs to be held, to wind and whip its way across the page, like a ballerina upon the stage and just as fluid, graceful and sure as any prima ballerina. But I shall not hold that wondrous shaft in my hand again, no, for it is the devil’s pen.

***

I awoke this morning my head throbbing my throat parched from God-awful hangover. I went to get a bottle of wine from my desk, when I noticed a stack of papers that I did not remember writing. I began to read them. They were political tracts about the glories of the British Empire, how it was Britain’s destiny to rule not only the waves, but also the world. I have no doubt of the devil's pen ability to sway public opinion and lead the country to war.

This pen is the devil's very own right hand, it contains the will of hell’s master and with me as his instrument, the world will never be safe. In my imagination I see the horrific war playing out, men marching beneath the banner of the pen's true master, as civilizations crumble and fall crushed beneath his heel.

It has taken everything from me, my love, my pride, my honor and my innocence, as its power had grown, my will to resist it has weakened. I have decided that I must die, what is one man’s life to save countless others? No, I haven’t fallen that far yet, not far enough to allow all the suffering and death of war, just so that I might prosper. But it's only a matter of time before that damn pen takes over completely and I become the personification of its evil will. I must end it. I must end it while I still may.

William Hargrove

PS: If you value you lives, leave the pen where it lies.





This is the original, for comparison, and so that all the wonderful commnets I recieved still make sense, to those who may at some point read this.

The Poet’s Pen


William Hargrove
September 16, 1789
Personal Journal

I flew to sweet Suzette, to unfurl my love before her like a glorious banner. To wrap her in the tender folds of love’s sweet embrace forever, as my bride. The moon poured rapturous light upon the heavenly charms of sweet Suzette, for all the world to envy. Warm kisses flowed from her sweet lips like summer wine, intoxicating me with passion. I could wait no longer and fell to my knees before my Goddess, sweet Suzette; then and there, I did propose our engagement.

“But what means this, William?” she says, “I cannot marry you. You know my father cannot abide a poet! He thinks them the lowest sort of man. He is most practical, William. You know you must prove yourself to be a man of station; a man of MEANS before he shall consent to give you my hand.”

Oh, then and there, were my dreams of of love's sweet bliss shattered, like the sparkling glass upon the jagged stone. My hopes raised to the heights of glorious Heaven, then cast to the lowly, barren earth below. If God sees this in his vain and glorious realm and lets such injustice stand… what fouler things shall he bear witness to and yet stay his mighty hand?

Oh strange and cruel fate, that casts its baleful eye upon me. Why have you cast the bright and beautiful light of sweet Suzette into my life? Only to hide it away from me now? Only to wound me! God has no love for me; no for if he did, he could not bear to witness my sorrow, my unhappy shame.

I will do anything to have her, anything foul or fair, I do not care. Sweet Suzette shall be mine, forever.


William Hargrove
September 16, 1789
Personal Journal

I have been to the pub. My head floats in an unruly sea; tempest tossed and lisping from taking on, to much wine. Can I trust these base born and malodorous men? Is there any truth in these commoners who swear by heathen Gods? It does not matter, for I am lost man without her. Lost without my sweet Suzette. I shall seek out the Witch of Derby.


William Hargrove
September 19, 1789
Personal Journal

My guide was as black hearted, a scoundrel of a gypsy, as one would ever hope to meet. One had but to look into his eyes to see, he would cut your throat for a half-pence. The eerie song of the whippoorwill accompanied us upon that long strange journey through the mists, far out upon the moonlight moors. Midnight was long since past when we reached the Witch's thatched and squalid hut. I feared.

“What dost thou seek young master? Why, What bringest thou to ol' Kate, a love potion perhaps? No! I see thy need is greater by far.” Hissed the thin lips of this creature, it chilled me to the bone, shuddering with revulsion. I shall not say woman, for her tongue had the sibilant tones of the scaly serpent, the bridge of her nose far too wide, the pupils of her eyes too narrow, too yellow, to be a daughter of Eve's line, alone.

“It is not me thou seekest, William but another. HE shall be there, waiting for thee at the crossroads, he knows of thy plight and the impotence of thy God.” “Ha, ha, haaa,” she cackled.

How did this thing know my name? I doubted not her powers, an instant after being in her cold presence. She has given me a time and a place where HE maybe found. I have sworn a solemn oath not to reveal this to a living soul, on pain of her vengeance. That vengeance I fear worse than Black Death itself.


William Hargrove
November 1, 1789
Personal Journal

I shall not speak further of the crossroad, nor of whom I met there. Nor of what waits upon the threshold of the void. None shall hear from me of winged and taloned fiends screeching in the halls of outer night, nor of dark shades that ply the chill waters of sulfurous chaos. Nor of the fiendish things that... that crawled, that clawed, that gnashed, that fed upon my tender soul whilst the unholy deal was struck.

No, I shall not share the madness that infests my soul with the world. The madness that feeds upon the dwindling remains of my humanity, like maggots on a dead dog. Let humanity dream, its naive innocent little dreams. For the evil of men is as nothing compared to that which I have witnessed in the nightmarish realms in which I walked, to offer up my soul in trade. The knowledge of which could only shatter their sanity, as it has mine.

In one year, I shall be able to buy Suzette’s father a dozen times over, HE has promised. I shall have more honors and respect than a dozen generals, HE has promised. Here in my hand, I hold the PEN I took from his. From it master works shall flow, HE has promised me.

All this, I have done to win your precious hand, my sweet Suzette.

My soul is doomed for your sake, my sweet Suzette,

All this, I have done because I love you, my sweet Suzette,

More, more would I do, for you, my darling, my beloved, my sweet Suzette.

But what more can a man give than is very soul.

William Hargrove
November 1, 1790
Personal Journal

HE has kept his bargain. I am Poet Laureate, I wear the coveted laurel leaves upon my crown, honored and celebrated throughout the land. I am rich beyond Midas's dreams of avarice. But what matter's this to me now? it matters not at all… not at all. I write out the tale of this day’s tragic events as a warning. A warning to others against letting their passions rule.

I shall use no flowery words, no fancy phrasing, no clever tricks of sound and pacing. For they are the tools by which my life, my unhappy soul has been undone. Only the barest of facts shall I now convey.

I had but one thought, Suzette’s father cannot refuse me. Sweet Suzette would be mine at last.

As I entered her house, her father greeted me thus, “You are most welcome here William. It has been ages, why have you stayed away so long? Suzette has missed you terribly; she cried her eyes out for months and wouldn’t even speak to me! I hear you have become quite a prominent man, I always new you would be. Suzette has been dying to see you. She has some news for you, go to her.”

As I ran up the stairs, I wondered what news she had? Her door was open. There she was my beloved sweet Suzette. My heart leaped with joy, I ran to her and sweep her up into my arms, and she kissed my cheek. “My William, I am so happy to see you again. I have such wonderful news, I am to be married. I want to ask you a favor you, mustn’t say no," she pouted. "Will you be the best man?”

I was bound to an eternity of anguish for the love of sweet Suzette. I would not spend that eternity, thinking of her in the arms of another, no she must die. Sweet Suzette in the arms of another would be worse to me, then all the tortures hells grim master's could ever devise upon my chained and naked soul.

I grabbed her, by her lovely swan like neck and strangled her to death, with these two hateful hands. I calmly walked out of my beloved’s bedroom, out of her house, down the narrow cobbled streets to my own door. I love her yet. I shall walk upon the bright and beautiful earth, I shared with her no more. It is to painful to even contemplate.

I have prepared the noose for myself. I shall simply stand upon a chair and jump.

P.S. If you value your soul leave the PEN where it lies.

The End



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Pagan on March 12, 2007, 01:13:35 am
A new one!

This one was a bit on the depressing side, either that or it needs a bit more irony! Personally, I think this one needs some necrophilia.  He can't have her in life?  Fine, he can have her in death.  So, he still leaves the house, but this time takes her body with him and the two of them live happily everafter.

Gee, isn't that romantic?


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 12, 2007, 01:16:20 am
Hiya Pagan

Oh thats wild...

Really dark and creepy, thats brilliant...



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Zodiac on March 12, 2007, 02:55:22 am
I liked it.   Not that it isn't good already, but the end needs to be either a little more tragic (like Poe) or grisly (like Lovecraft), just to give it that added "punch."


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 12, 2007, 03:01:53 am
Zodiac

I think I'm going a rewrite and do it a little different, A little longer set up with the romance, I think I'll have him gradaute from the university then have him ask her to marry him, a little more about his trip to the witch on the moors. I think I'm gonna go for a little more Poe like fell at the end and have him lure her to his apartment at the end. then see where the writing itself takes me.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 12, 2007, 03:25:38 am
Zodiac

I just love this line, I think I'll use it as my sig.

My head floats in an unruly sea; tempest tossed and lisping from taking on to much wine.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 12, 2007, 10:25:26 pm
The Devils Pen...lets try this again



William Hargrove
September 16, 1789
Personal Journal


What a tragic, fateful day this- why must my greatest triumph come upon the same day, the very same hour as

my most bitter defeat! Oh cruel and wicked fate that casts it's baleful eye upon me, that brings me to the

threshold of heaven's glorious gate, then sends me crashing head long into ruin against the muddy mundane

earth.


But wait... Let me recall the events of day, I stood before that plump and pompous, pious, soul Professor

Thadius J. Peacock, as he handed me my long awaited Diploma. He shook my hand with vigor

saying, "Congratulations William, I should say Mr. Hargrove, you are bound for a bright and distinguished future, I

and the other professor's have gathered together our meager resources to buy you this." He then presented me

with the most exquisite instrument of the writers art that I had ever beheld; long and flowing, gracefully

balanced, sharp and golden tipped. "This is for the marvelous outpouring of inspiring and profound works you have

produced while attending this University, and we hope it will remind you of your alma mater when you become

rich and famous! We also hope it will inspire you...to give generously!" he said laughingly. The crowd cheered as

he grabbed me and lifted me from the floor hugging me in his bear-like grip.



When he finally set me back upon my own two happy feet, I blushed profusely, and stammered some words of

thanks and appreciation to my doting professors and the cheering student body. But my mind revolved around

Suzette, always Suzette, sweet, sweet luscious Suzette whose wondrous charms could enchant the devil

himself and that delight me beyond--what even the most noble efforts of the poet's sibilant pen, could ever

hope to paint upon a literary canvas. I could not stand to be away from her another instant, each fleeting

moment a torment, an agony without my sweet Suzette, my mind pleaded, my heart ached-oh, I must be with

her at once. I ran from the auditorium not even stopping to congratulate the other students, who tried to

draw my attention as I ran past, not caring; I flew along the winding narrow streets to her door, the door

that held behind it my hearts ambition, my life’s desire, my dream forever, my sweet Suzette.

***

We stood in the garden beneath a tall and majestic old oak, the moonlight played a rapturous sonata of soft

and soothing light upon the angelic charms of sweet Suzette, Her twirling, dancing, flaming hair capturing

every glint of light and magnifying it a thousand fold in dazzling brilliance. Her eyes of green torturing and

tormenting me with their mischievous sparkle and those lips-oh the sweet lips of Suzette; so full of the

promise of sensual delights and when those lips move to speak; the angels are amazed, to hear the silky

hushed, soft wondrous trebled tones of sweet Suzette, "Congratulations William, I am so proud of you." 


I held her tenderly, "I love you Suzette, I love you more than a man has ever loved a woman or shall ever

again, I would give my soul for you!"



"Oh, my William, you are such a romantic devil!" She laughed playfully. Torturing me with kisses that flowed

warm and sweet like summer wine, intoxicating me with passion, my blood pumped, my loins ached, my head

reeled. I could stand it no longer. Then and There, I fell down groveling at the feet of my Goddess.



"I have graduated from the University with honors, everyone insists I have a bright and promising future.

sweet Suzette will you marry me!"



"William you know I love you, I do. But I cannot marry you without my Father's permission and you know how

he feels about poet's! Why, he thinks they are the lowest type of man, all light headed and dreamy eyed,

practically useless. No you must give up these foolish dreams William, you must go to work as a clerk in my

father's warehouse and in a few years he may give you his consent."



"Suzette, I am nothing if not a poet. Could you marry a man who was nothing, I cannot wait years, I can

hardly wait another day, one more hour is an agony you cannot fathom," I said.



"Hah, William you lying scoundrel! You claim you would give up your soul for me, and you will not even go to

work for my father, to win me. It is but a small thing I ask. You know my Father! He is a very practical man

and you must present yourself here, as a man of station and of MEANS, I don't want to see you again until you

are willing to either go to work for him, or have found some other way to satisfy him."



Oh, then and there, were my dreams of bliss shattered, like the sparkling glass upon the jagged stone, a small

thing, A SMALL THING! to her perhaps. But If I gave up my art, my poetry then what have I to offer her, for I

would only be a hollow reed of a man, a ghostly shell, a puppet from which the strings had been cut falling to the

stage, never to entertain, never to rise again. I knew I could never make her realize that what she asked from

me was more than my soul. What she asked of me was to relinquish the divine spark entirely, to become

nothing forever. I would do anything for Suzette, anything foul or fair. But this, this I can not do, it would

destroy us both in the end. It would turn my all consuming love to burning, cruel, vengeful hate. 


The pain is too bitter, the grief like bile eats at my heart. I fear my soul has already turned sour in this hour of

dismal despair.




William Hargrove
October 1, 1789
Personal Journal


My head swims in an unruly sea, tempest tossed and lisping from taking on too much wine. What matters

it?--What matters it if my soul be stained with vices unnumbered and inequities mounting up so high they

topple over on the astonished moon. I have lost that which gave purpose to my life, that drove my once

ambitious self to strive, to win approval from the world. I have lost all that gave meaning to my life. It has

destroyed my faith. It has revealed the fanciful lies they tell to children, lies of justice ha, and of

righteousness of chastity and purity, for what are they really but coercion. No, the illusory world of honor, no

longer holds any allure for me.



The man without a vice is a man who hasn't given it a decent go yet-. For I have now tasted each and every

vice that stuck my fickle fancy, and I shall do so every BLOODY chance I get.



But I shall not try and recall them all here, all the meaningless nights of drunken debauchery, the search for

forbidden and sinful pleasures. Suffice it to say, I have spent many a night in gambling halls and opium

dens since my graduation, I have chased every winking barmaid. I have fondled every round and tempting

bum within arms reach. I have mercilessly tried to seduce every female old, young, thin, round, dark

or fair, I didn't care, for what matters it?--it matters not at all.


What purpose would it serve? To recount violent, desperate back alley couplings, the nights dancing naked

around bonfires, the orgies in the graveyard. Why should I confess the nights I spent reveling in strange carnal

delights with knowing, warm and wanton, willing ladies of the evening. What matters it?--it matters not at all.



What purpose would it serve to enumerate my arrests for drunken brawling, public indecency, or contributing

to delinquency of minors. I could not even tell you for sure how much coin I spent this evening, at Madame

Rousseau’s House of Pain. But I can say, that the last of my meager inheritance is gone, but what matters

it?--it matters not at all.


Now I shun with a passion all my former associates, all the tall up standing men, all the polite and chaste woman

who used to call me friend. Their world is foreign to me now, it is far to full of cheerfulness and pleasant looks, to

full of dreams and quaint ideals, that turn my stomach so. I prefer the company of base born and

malodorous men, and loose women who sell their charms for good honest coin, stamped by the realm, and not for

a vow and a band of gold to display around a finger.



William Hargrove
October 13, 1789
Personal Journal


I have been evicted from my flat, it was only a matter of time. I gathered up what meager belongings I still

had or could carry with me, and took one last look around. There upon the table lay the pen, the reminder of

another life. I should be able to get quite a bit for this beauty, perhaps I shall get drunk tonight after all. I

made my way out into the streets the pretty little flower girls were pedaling their flowers, the street vendors

shouting out in practiced harmonies to lure the buyer to their wares. As I wandered aimlessly, unbeknownst to

me, my feet chose to tread a familiar coarse and I stumbled upon the old church on Harrington Lane, where I had

spent many a Sunday morn. I saw her, sweet Suzette her father was handing her up into a carriage. Then all

my pain and anguish came flooding back, my head throbbed, my breathing short, my heart squeezed in a vice.

I fell to my knees in an agony indescribable, people gathered round they wanted me to see a doctor, how could

they know how useless a doctor was for what ailed me? I was only fooling myself no matter what depths of

depravity I sunk to, I could never forget her, it wouldn't matter. No it wouldn't matter at all how low I sank.



I knew she would always be there, Her eyes taunting, her lips smiling, her hair dancing in the moonlight. She was

the cause and cure, for my fall from grace. I must have sweet Suzette no matter the cost, no matter the price,

but how? Sweet Suzette shall be mine forever. I swear this by all the God's in the heaven's above and all the

tortured fiends beneath.


To be continued...


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Heather Delaria on March 13, 2007, 01:39:18 am
Wow, that version is much better than the first one, which read a little too quick for me!  Remember, the more emotionally invested we are in the characters, the more punch the ending will pack for people.  The second version brings us along just fine.

From a practical standpoint, he should have just gotten a job with the university, preferably the classics section. That way, he wouldn't have had to take her dad's because he would already have one, and still be working in an envirnonment that nurtures creativity.

Bright Blessings!

Heather


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 13, 2007, 02:44:03 am
Heather

Yah, but then I couldn't torment the poor lad, and drag him through the pits of hell and madness :'(


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Heather Delaria on March 13, 2007, 03:02:18 am
Well, it's working just fine now.  Why do I get the feeling this has something to do with your personal experiences?


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 13, 2007, 03:11:58 am
Hi Heather

I am not really trying to make it about personal experiences, but I do have a certain affinity with the character. We do have certain things in common.







Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Gwen Parker on March 14, 2007, 12:46:33 am
Great work, Unknown! This one is your most suspenseful so far and the characterization is right on.  Can't wait to read the rest of it!


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 14, 2007, 01:42:56 am
Hi Gwen

Thank you so much, I have high expections for this one as well. I think I am going to wait till I have it all finished product before I post again.

I am so glad you enjoyed it, I am kinda of in suspence myself to find out what happens, because I never really know! until its actually written.

but I am going to change the original ending, so people a new twist to look forward too.

Thanks Again


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Gwen Parker on March 14, 2007, 01:52:17 am
Was this a second draft?  If so, I didn't see the first one!  I'm told by the writers I know that the best stories seem to write themselves and the characters themselves decide what direction they should go.  So I guess the secret is to be instinctive.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 14, 2007, 02:12:49 am
Hi gwen

The one at the very top of the page is the first draft,

I think you must have read the one that says be continued at the bottom right?

I tell you it is weird, I mean you should have total control over it its your story, but sometimes it does seem like they have a mind of their own.

Like in the Obliate, I wasn't going to write about a thousand tentackled monster at all, it was going to be more of a ghost story.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Stacy Dohm on March 14, 2007, 03:52:27 am
You know, I heard that Robert E. Howard only wrote his Conan stories cause the ghost of Conan was standing oover him, "haunting" him. Cool, huh?


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 14, 2007, 04:16:39 am
I tell you what I wouldn't want Conan breathing down on my neck, the guy Howard wrote about makes arnold look like a, forgive my french a "****."

Well, He did think that the stories were coming from outside of him, but all writers do (I shouldn't say that, it is to broad a generalization.) He was fascinated by the picts and cast then as the oldest type surviving race from the antideluvian world.

Almost all his heroes where cast in that conan type mold, kull and bran mak morn for instance. He did speculate about it having to do with his own past lives.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Jennifer O'Dell on March 15, 2007, 03:09:53 am
I read both versions of the story. The second version kicks ass (so far anyway).  The first version you might actually be better off turning into a poem, Unknown, as it has all the elements needed - irony, violence, stuff like that...


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 15, 2007, 03:29:20 am
Hi Jennifer

How are you, hon? ;D

It would make a good poem wouldn't it?

I'm glad you like it so far Jennifer, I changed it around a little bit again, but I am little unsure about what I am going to do with the ending.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 15, 2007, 12:34:59 pm
The Devil's Pen  1


My name is William Hargrove, The year of our Lord 1827, October, the seventeenth, I do solemnly swear upon my honor and before almighty God, that this is a true and accurate account of the events of my life.

I do freely and willingly confess to unspeakable acts of villainy and debauchery. Which are the result of various defaults in my character; defaults that show me to be a base, and vile creature. You will not hear from me vain justifications for what I have done, or pleas for mercy. What I have done, I have done.

An untamed beast lives and breathes just below the surface of us all, straining against the confines imposed on it by our polite and mannerly society, the beast waits beneath the mask.

This is both a warning and a plea to those whose lives are ruled by passion. Pay heed to the warning in my sad tale, and hereafter build your lives on the rock of reason, and take every advantage from this sure and sound footing. Oh, brothers, dear sweet sisters let not the ravings of the insatiable beast we call emotion get its claws into you. Lock the ravening beast away that rages with carnal desire. Lock it away in a cage of adamantine will. Then cast away that key forever.

***

It was a less then a year ago today, and yet it seems that it was another man entirely, that stood before the podium receiving awards, an acclamations. My future seemed as bright and hopeful as any young man’s and I was filled with exuberance as professor Peacock handed me my Doctorate in Literature. I remember the words of the balding and rotund old scholar, as if they where spoken yesterday, “"Congratulations William, I should say Mr. Hargrove, you are bound for a bright and distinguished future, I and the other professor's have gathered together our meager resources to buy you this." He then presented me with the most exquisite instrument of the writer’s art that I had ever beheld: long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped. "This is for the marvelous outpouring of inspiring and profound works you have produced while attending this University, and we hope it will remind you of your alma mater when you become rich and famous! We also hope it will inspire you...to give generously!" he said laughingly. I stammered some words of thanks and appreciation to my doting professors and the crowd cheered as he grabbed me and lifted me bodily from the stage in his bear-like grip.

It was the glorious climax of my youthful life. A lofty height of self-fulfillment and pride that I would never reach again, but my mind was not upon this once in a lifetime moment, no my mind revolved around Suzette, always and forever-sweet Suzette. I turned my back on my doting Professors, I ran from hard won friendships cultivated over ten long years. Ten long years of hard work and difficult trials at the Academy had finally borne fruit, but I was to blind to see it. I ran off the stage not even bothering to stop and congratulate anyone, I ignored old friends who tried to wave me over and who obviously wanted to celebrate our moment of triumph.

Nothing could stop me from rushing to Suzette, and once their I would unfurl my love for her like a banner and wrap her in the glorious folds of my love’s embrace forever, as my Bride. Oh sweet Suzette, whose wondrous charms could enchant the devil himself and that delighted me beyond--what even the noblest efforts of the poet's pen, could ever hope to paint upon a literary canvas. I flew along the winding narrow streets to her door. Each fleeting moment was a torment, an agony without my sweet Suzette, my mind pleaded, my heart ached-so, I must be with her at once, I must get to the door that holds behind it my hearts ambition, my life’s desire, and my dream forever, my sweet Suzette.

***

We stood where we always met to be alone together. It was just beneath an old and distinguished gentlemanly oak, the last surviving member of the old oak forest that once covered these rolling hills, It stood well over a hundred feet tall, its branches forked out at twenty feet above the ground, it stretched one mighty limb across a small stream that ran lazily through the manicured grounds of the Estate. The moonlight played a soft and wondrous sonata of light and shadow upon Suzette’s lustrous hair as it gently rustled in the breeze. Her eyes of green were torturing me, tormenting me with a mischievous sparkle; Her lips-oh the sweet lips of Suzette; so delicately carved by the hand of God, so rich, so moist, so full of the promise of sensual delights, oh and when those lips move to speak; the angels are stunned to hear the soft and wondrous sweet trebled tones of my Suzette. "William, I am so very proud of you, Congratulations” she said, “My father will be pleased. Perhaps he can be convinced to throw a celebration party in your honor. I have a brand new dress that he bought me and I am just dying for an excuse to wear it."

“Let us not speak of your father tonight Suzette.” I said, “Let us think and speak only of each other.”

I held her soft girlish charms firmly against my body; my soul weeping in joy at her touch, “I love you, I think of you only, day and night. I cannot eat, I cannot sleep, and my mind is on you always and forever, sweet Suzette.”

“Oh my William, you are such a romantic devil, do you so shamelessly use that silver tongue of yours, on all the girls,” she laughed.

She began torturing me with kisses that flowed warm and sweet like summer wine, intoxicating me with passion. My heart pumped; my loins ached and my head reeled in delirium. I could stand it no longer. “I only dream of you, I want you to be my bride, say that we may be together always and forever Suzette.” I fell down on my knees, for I worshipped her above all things in heaven, above all things on earth: she was my earth mother, my moonlit virgin goddess.

“William, I am to young to marry!” She looked down upon me astounded, then pulling away and turning her back to me “Besides I cannot marry you without my father's permission and you know how he feels about poets! He loathes them. He thinks they are the lowest type of man, all light headed and dreamy eyed, practically useless.”

I rushed to hold her once again, I reached out and held her around her tender waist from behind, pulling her slowly against me once more nuzzling my face in the tantalizing sensuousness of her hair. Breathing heavily almost panting, pulsating with pleasure, my mind enthralled by the sinful suggestiveness of this embrace, “You are not to young to marry,” I whispered in husky voice. “I know that you will be sixteen this coming May.” I begged, “Please Suzette I love you more than any man has ever loved a woman, I would die a thousand agonizing deaths for you, I would sell my everlasting soul to win your love,”

“I don’t want to hurt you William. I am very fond of you, I am!” She said breaking free from my arms, she turned and looked deeply into my eyes. “But I cannot marry you. My father means to make the best match for me, in his eyes that means a man of wealth, of power and you have neither, William. Perhaps if you went to my father and asked him for a job, in a few years if you do well, he might consider the match.” She said in a soft and almost apologetic tone.

"Suzette,” I pleaded, “I am nothing if not a poet. Could you marry a man who was nothing, I cannot wait years, I can hardly wait another day, one more hour is an agony you cannot fathom,"

"Hah,” she said angrily, shaking her finger at me, “William you are a lying scoundrel! You say you would sell your soul for me. But to win me, you will not even take an honest job! It is but a small thing I ask.”

“A SMALL THING!” I yelled in my frustration,” To you perhaps, but If I gave up my poetry then what have I to offer you. For then I would only be a hollow reed of a man, a ghostly shell. A puppet from which the strings had been cut falling to the stage, never to rise again.” I knew I could never make her realize that what she asked from me was more than my soul. What she asked of me was to relinquish the divine spark entirely, to become nothing forever.

“You think you can change my mind with flowery phrases and stupid metaphors!” Suzette yelled back angrily, “I am not some brainless twit, William. You either take a job with my father or I don’t want to see you again.”

“I would do anything for you Suzette, anything foul or fair. But this--this I cannot do, it would destroy us both in the end. It would turn my all-consuming love to cruel, vengeful hate.”

“Bloody Christ William, get a hold of yourself, I mean it. You have a choice? Well?”

“I can’t” I replied.

Oh, it was then, and it was there that my dreams of loves sweet bliss were shattered, like the sparkling glass upon the rough and jagged stone. She didn’t love me, I new it then, she was infatuated with the idea of being with a poet, but it was not what she really wanted. Now that I think back on it, perhaps all she wanted was to hurt her father, who she seemed to talk about incessantly.

What a tragic, fateful day it was, why did my greatest triumph have to come upon the same day, in the very same hour as my most bitter defeat! Oh cruel and wicked fate that cast its baleful glare upon me. That brought me to the threshold of heaven's glorious, pearly gate, then sent me crashing head long to ruin against the muddy mundane earth. The pain was too bitter, the grief like bile ate at my heart. My soul turned sour in that dismal hour of despair.

***

I drank myself to sleep every night and started up again as soon as I awoke. I had become a drunken leach, a wanton cynic almost overnight. Strange as it is to relate something very real had changed within me. For the first time in my life I had no desire to write. I gave up the beliefs of a lifetime discarding them like you would an old shoe with a hole in sole. I no longer believed in myself, in God, in love, in honor. In fact I quit believing in anything noble or decent, anything that raises us just a little above the beasts of the field.

My reasoning was that I was a fool to continue to play societies little game for I had already played and lost, and the stakes were quite high for I lost the only thing that really mattered to me. My old life was gone, my world shattered beyond all hope of recall. So what did I care if my soul became stained with vices unnumbered and inequities mounting up so high they toppled over on an astonished moon. So I suppose it is not that surprising after all, that I gave up my belief in the fanciful lies they tell to children, lies of justice, ha, and of righteousness, of chastity, and purity for what are they really but coercion. No, the illusory world of honor, no longer held any allure for me. Yes I had become the lying scoundrel she had accused me of being and more, much more.

The man without a vice, is a man who hasn't given that vice a chance yet. I should know, I have tasted each and every one of them that stuck my fickle fancy. But I shall not try and recall them all here, all the meaningless nights of drunken debauchery, of the wild and often dangerous search for forbidden and sinful pleasures. Suffice it to say, I have spent many a night in gambling halls, opium dens and the like… since the day of my graduation. I have chased every winking barmaid. I fondled every round and tempting bum. I mercilessly attempted to seduce every female old, young, thin, round, dark or fair, I didn't care, for what did it matter…it mattered not at all.

What purpose would it serve, to recount violent, desperate back alley couplings, or the nights dancing naked as a savage at sabot bonfires, the unholy orgies in the Mortimer Family Crypt, that filled to overflowing with the delightfully degenerate and the irrepressibly depraved. Why should I confess every detail of the nights I spent reveling in strange carnal delights with knowing, wanton, warm and willing ladies of the evening? What purpose would it serve to enumerate my arrests for drunken brawling, public indecency and the like? I couldn’t even tell you for sure how much coin I extravagantly, carelessly cast away at Madame Rousseau’s House of Pain. Ah, what a wonderful venue it would have made De Sade himself blush. But what I can tell you is that the last of my meager inheritance was gone by this time. Suffice it to say, that of these things I am guilty and much, much more.

I shunned all my former associates like the plague, all the tall up standing men, and all the polite and chaste woman who used to call me friend. Their world was foreign to me now; it was far too full of cheerfulness and pleasant looks, too full of dreams and quaint ideals that now turned my stomach so. I preferred the company of base born, crude and malodorous men, and loose women who sold their charms for good honest coin, stamped by the realm, and not for a vow and a band of gold to display around a finger.

***

I was evicted from my flat. The landlady screaming and throwing things at me yelling “Get out, get out, you filthy son of a ****!” I didn’t really pay that much attention to her tirade. I guess, I realized all along that it was only a matter of time before I would be out in the street. I gathered up what meager belongings I still had or could carry with me, and took one last look around. There upon the table lay the pen, the reminder of another life. “I should be able to get quite a bit for this beauty, perhaps I shall get drunk tonight after all,” I remember thinking. If only I had sold it then, but somehow I couldn’t bring myself to part with the exquisite, well balanced, long and flowing golden tipped pen.

I made my way out into the streets the pretty little flower girls were pedaling their pretty little flowers, the street vendors shouting out in practiced harmonies to lure the buyer to their wares. As I wandered aimlessly unbeknownst to me, my feet chose to tread a familiar coarse and I stumbled upon the old church on Harrington Lane, where I had spent many a Sunday morn.

I saw her, sweet Suzette her father was handing her up into a carriage. Then all my pain and anguish came flooding back, my head throbbed, my breathing short, my heart squeezed in a vice. I fell to my knees in an agony indescribable; people gathered round they wanted me to see a doctor, how could they know how useless a doctor was for what ailed me? I was only fooling myself no matter what depths of depravity I sunk to, no matter how drunk I got, I could never forget her.

I knew she would always be there, Her mischievously sparkling green eyes taunting me, her delicately carved lips smiling seductively, her hair rustling in the moonlight. She was the cause and cure, for my fall from grace. I must have sweet Suzette no matter the cost, no matter the price, but how? Sweet Suzette shall be mine forever. I swore this by all the God's in the heavens above and all the tortured fiends beneath.

***

I brought the girl into the alley behind the Roosters Tale. A seedier dive you could not have hoped for. I held her luxurious raven black hair in my hand and stared into her intriguing coal black eyes, those eyes fascinated me. I imagined that no one could keep things hidden from those eyes; they must hold the secrets of the stars, of life, of death, perhaps of love itself. Her mouth was exquisite, ripe, plump and succulent with the most enticing little gap between her top two front teeth. Her name was Myra, she was a thin, taunt and lively little wench, and for some reason, I began to fondly think of her as my little gypsy secret keeper, when she had finished using that exquisite mouth of hers to pleasure me, I gave her good honest coin, stamped by the realm.

“My head floats in an unruly sea, tempest tossed and lisping from taking on too much bloody wine,” I said trying to think of something clever.

“You are in a lot of pain aren’t you mister?” She asked.

“Yes honey, but I’m in a lot less pain now, than I was a moment ago.”

“You’re funny,” Myra giggled, “I think I can help you, come with me.”

“I’d love to honey” I said, as I winked at her.

“Stop! she smiled and asked, "Can you afford a carriage?”

No Honey, but I could use a long walk anyway, it’ll help clear my head.”

We came to Myra’s camp just as the sun was setting in the sky. It presented us with an amazing display of the maker’s art, broad strokes of smoky deep purple, streaked with scintillating highlights of crimson and splashed nonchalantly with a melancholy vermilion, you out did yourself tonight old man. I said to myself as we drew closer to the wagons of that vagabond troubadour tribe. I violin played soft and haunting strains somewhere in the night. She made a series of hand signals as we neared, obviously to communicate with men set about the camp to guard it. The campfires were already burning in the fading sunlight and the women folk were cooking the evening meal, in heavy black iron pots hung from tripods over small stone encircled fires. The men were gather in small groups talking among themselves, or sitting on the steps of the circled wagons enjoying an evening smoke.

She walked up the back steps of a red and yellow painted wagon. It was longer and taller with more elaborate scrollwork then the rest of the wagons in the little caravan. Myra knocked. The round windowed door swung open slowly and there stood an elderly women, her white hair contrasting sharply with the red paisley kerchief she wore about her head. A string of gold necklaces about her withered neck. But what held my attention were the eyes she peered out at the world with, the same coal black knowing eyes that my little secret keeper had, “This is Esmeralda…William… Grandmother I have brought this man William to you, he is in need. Will you help him?”

She looked me over carefully, as if she was weighing my soul on scales in her old head. “Give me your hand, William” she said finally in a tired, world-weary voice, “Oh you poor man.” She sighed, “Be careful of this one Myra,” she warned. “You are a very passionate man William, I can easily see that, so very passionate it is killing you, eating you alive inside. Here I shall show you.” She traced a path with her wrinkled finger over my hand as she spoke. “You are unlucky in love your heart line is so deep, so strong, but severed. You are torn between two paths the lifeline diverges, both paths you deeply desire but the paths do not intersect. You shall be offered a choice, I have never seen the like…I cannot help you my boy, but you have my sympathy.”

“Is there no one who can help me?” I asked.

“Perhaps there is one, but I warn you it is very dangerous and foolish.” she said

“I can’t live like this!” I said.

“Very well, come back tomorrow night.”

***

I returned to the Camp the following afternoon, Myra ran out to greet me. “Hello William, It is all arranged. I will take you to the man who is to be your guide.”

“But where am I going Myra?” I asked

“Ha, ha, ha why to see Old Kate of coarse!”

“Why?” I asked confused.

“She knows things William, she maybe able to help you.”

I kissed her cheek and said, “Well, wish me luck.”

***

My guide was as black hearted a scoundrel as one would ever hope to meet. One had but to look into his eyes, to see he would cut your throat for a halfpence. He was a large bulky man with a shaggy mop of brownish black hair, perhaps six and half feet if he stood upright. For he was hunched and twisted, one eye completely white. You could still see the scar from the wound that had taken the sight from that eye. It stretched from the middle of his forehead to just below his left cheek. I have never met anyone who looked so much like he had just stepped out of a Penny Dreadful.

The eerie song of the whippoorwill accompanied us on our strange journey through the reedy marsh. My guide lifting his lantern high in the gloom and every so often he would sweep it from side to side as if looking for the path. How he found that path through that nasty foul smelling fen in the twilight mists is a mystery to me to this day. “What are those lights, there!’ I pointed out to our left.

“Them be, corpse candles. Don’t youse know nuffin,” He grumbled.

“What are corpse candles? My good man.”

“I hain’t your good man, I be Kate’s man, and if ‘n ya got any more damn questions youse can ask um a her. Yah limey bastard.”

***

It was well into the dark of the night when we reached the Witch's thatched and squalid hut. I feared for my life, for they could just as easily have cut my throat and taken my purse as answer my questions.

“What dosst thou sseek young massster? What bringesst thou to ol' Kate, a love potion perhapss, No, now I ssee your dessire, I ssee thy need is far, far greater.” Hissed the thin lips of this creature. I shall not say woman, for her tongue had the sibilant tones of the crafty serpent, the sound chilled me to the bone I shuddered with revulsion. The bridge of her nose was far to wide, the pupils of her eyes too narrow, too yellow. This was no daughter of Eve's. Some monstrous half-breed perhaps but bred with what?

“It iss not me thou seekesst, William but another, HE shall be there, waiting for thee at the crosssroadss, he knowss of thy plight and the impotencess of thy God.” “Ha, ha, haaa,” she cackled.

I doubted not her powers, an instant after being in her cold reptilian presence. Ol’ Kate gave me a time and a place where HE maybe found. I had sworn an oath not to reveal this to a living soul, on pain of her vengeance. The vengeance of this witch I fear worse than the law, worse Black Death itself.

***

I waited at the appointed time in the appointed place, an owl was hooting softly when HE appeared as a black robbed and hooded man. “You have something William which I am willing to bargain for.”

“What might that be?” I asked.

“First tell me what it is that you want?” HE said.

“I want Suzette!” I nearly screamed the emotions released just by saying it aloud overwhelmed me.

“That I’m afraid that is beyond even me, free will and all that, you understand. But perhaps I can help you to win her hand yourself. What is that in your pocket William Hargrove?”

“It is a pen.”

“No William it is a weapon, perhaps the most powerful weapon of all for with it you can sway minds, move armies and crumble empires. I thought that you being a poet might understand this.”

“I understand,” I said.

“No William, I don’t think you do, but never mind that, you did not come here for a philosophy lesson now did you? You came here because you are obsessed with a woman.
This is my offer; I will enchant this pen of yours so that it produces only masterworks of the highest caliber. Perhaps then you may discover for yourself the power of the pen.

What is it you want in return?

Come now William, don’t be drool, I shall see you again on the day of your death.

***

Long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped, yes I discovered the power of the pen for myself and it was a bitter lesson indeed, It has brought me wealth and fame. But what matters it…it matters not at all.

For I never really cared about wealth or fame; I had wanted to create, to bring something to life from my heart, from my mind, something that flowed from my own soul. But what flowed from the Pen were not my words and so it had taken from me that which I had refused to give up for sweet Suzette on my graduation day…my poetry, my divine spark.

I had thought the choice the Gypsy woman saw in my hand was the choice I was to make at the crossroads, but it was not. It was the choice I made when Suzette asked me to go to work for her father. I am guilty of being a fool, that and much, much more

So being a hollow reed of a man, a ghostly shell. I climb upon a chair and affix the noose about my neck and when I jump, I shall truly be a puppet from which the strings have been cut falling to the stage, never to rise again.

I love you always and forever my sweet Suzette.



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 16, 2007, 03:46:49 am
hang down your head Tom Dully,
hang down your head and cry,
 hang down your head Tom Duly,
poor boy your bound to die

I met on a mountain, it was there I took her life
I met her on a mountain, stabbed her with my knife

hang down your head Tom Duly
hang down your head and cry

hang down your head Tom Duly,
poor boy your bound to die


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on March 16, 2007, 04:17:01 am
Well, I read the story so allow me to offer you my critique of the revised version.  Had me going till the end, at the end, however, the story loses itself.

He does not kill himself.  Not only is suicide an impractical solution to his problem in this case, dramatically, it simply doesn't work.

Suzette may be cute, but I can see nothing in her for a man to kill himself over. Her character doesn't come across as charming, enticing or even supportive. The fact that she ridicules his profession shows that they really didn't know one another well at all. From a psychological viewpoint, I find it always a bit sad that men (and women) always seem to be attracted to the people who treat them the worst.  That demonstates immaturity.

Now then, if he is killing himself over his inability to express himself any longer, that's a different story, and yet I really don't see that either.  Every writer gets writer's block occasionally, irritiating yes, but hardly worth killing one's self over. Half the challenge is trying to work it out. And yet, if he was actually using that as an excuse, we are feeling nothing of his agony towards the loss of his creativity, nor his loss of self.

Equally, I don't see him killing her either, which was in the earlier drafts. As I said, she simply isn't worth feeling that passionate about.

I think the story needs a new ending.  Perhaps no one kills anyone.  Perhaps the writer becomes quite successful with the devil's pen, Suzette wants him back because he is, and yet, because he sees her as she now is (not what he imagine her to be) he has none of it. That, to me would be the most logical ending of them all, though, I admit it would still need that ironic twist.

Peace,

Veronica



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 16, 2007, 04:30:50 am
Thank You Veronica

Thank you so much for that honest and thoughtful review. This was wonderfull of you, I was wondering whether the ending worked, and now I no.

the suicide doesn't work

the murder doesn't work

what am I going to do now?

Actually we don't really get to know Suzette at all and maybe that is a fault in the story. You have to remember to she is only fifteen.

This guy isn't very rational, he is totally self indulgent and lets his emotions rule him, also obsessed people usually can't think rational about there obsession thats what makes stalkers so dangerous,

Also I don't think the supernatural stuff is working very well either,

I think I need a couple more scenes before the end,


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on March 16, 2007, 04:44:35 am
Don't get discouraged, it just needs a little tweaking is all, but you are right in that a suicide and/or murder simply doesn't work in this instance.

(A murder might work if it was simply a poem, as someone said earlier).

One question, had he been fooling around with barmaids before or after he broke up with Suzette?  If it was prior to that, I am afraid it would be unrealistic for him to have developed such an infatuation.  It's been my experience that most men who practice womanizing aren't snared quite so easily, and they wouldn't be by the chams of a 15 year old.  If she was some type of older seductress, perhaps. Beating someone at their own game, and all that.

His death would only work if, after she left him he was so crushed that he had lost the gift of writing he was so admant to not give up for her anyway.  Depression and death would naturally follow. I don't really like those types of stories.  Not only does it send a bad message, as I said, the girls simply isn't worth it - we are all simply just flesh is all, even the best of us.

Her death doesn't work unless it's done in a poem, and done in some ironic fashion.

The ending needs not something depressing, but "irony," and it doesn't matter in which way you get it, only that it works.

Also, remember a suicide is a bad way to end any story.  People read for escapism, never to be reminded of just how bad the world is.  I think all of us are al quite aware of that already.

Peace,

Veronica


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 16, 2007, 04:50:59 am
He only starts all that stuff after she rejects him

what I want is something really scary, and centered around the pen

About him losing his ability to write, its more like he could write, but he is already known for the stuff that the devil pen writes, so he can't write his own stuff.

your right that doesn't work either, he could just not use the pen and try to make it on his own, after the Pen him really famous








Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on March 16, 2007, 05:17:49 am
I think the story either has to be about one thing or the other - either the pen, or the rejection of the girl.  It could be about both if you were writing a novel, not so much if it remains a short story.

I doubt that he would still be that affected by the loss of her if had all that sexual history by the time he had seen her again.  He might, and we might be moved by his feelings for her, provided she was a nicer person, someone more human herself, and if she was just as tormented by the loss of him - that's love, though, and I'm not certain you really want to write a love story.

I hope I'm not making it sound like it as a lot of problems, it doesn't.  It holds your interest and it is quite good.  I just don't think that material concerning his sexual dalliances works all that well, nor do I believe the ending works.  As I said, it needs a bit more irony. Why not just try and come up with a new ending?

Peace,

Veronica


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 16, 2007, 05:34:07 am
Veronica

Well the girl is the motivation for him to get the Pen.

I'm stumped...



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on March 16, 2007, 06:30:46 am
Yes, but he doesn't seek the pen, it is thrust upon him:

Quote
“No William, I don’t think you do, but never mind that, you did not come here for a philosophy lesson now did you? You came here because you are obsessed with a woman.
This is my offer; I will enchant this pen of yours so that it produces only masterworks of the highest caliber. Perhaps then you may discover for yourself the power of the pen.


Nor does it actually help him get her back, does it? He may become rich and famous, but not very much is made of it. The pen may as well not be in the story at all if it's to be given such short shrift.

Perhaps you should change it so that the pen actually makes him incapable of writing again, that it was all a terrible trick to get him to give up all that he held dear.  He doesn't become rich and famous, he just dies.

Then, you would have some irony back in it again.  It would still be awfully depressing, but you'd have irony. 


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 16, 2007, 06:48:47 am
Veronica

You make an interesting point, there isn't enough about the pen in the story. You are right the pen is thrust upon him.

I am pretty sure he dies at the end, I would half to dump the intro to the story if he doesn't.

Its a question of under what circumstances and motivation cause his death.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on March 16, 2007, 07:01:21 am
That's another thing, don't make him hang  himself!  Hanging is too depressing.  Have you ever seen a dead body that's hung itself? Very grisly.

Pills, a car accident, even a death by firearms are all preferable to hanging, if you need to end it witrh a death (I'm not sure you do). 

I think you have an idea yourself what needs work and what is just fine, as I said, just needs a little tweaking.  Off to bed now.

Peace,

Veronica


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 16, 2007, 08:13:35 am
Veronica

Its supossed to be grizzly its a horror story...at least thats what it was intended to be.

Thanks for all your insight,


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Trent on March 16, 2007, 11:18:07 am
I didn't know that Veronica was such a literary critic. Reads fine to me, Unknown.  If you want to make it more horrific, my suggestion would be to dwell a little more in his deterioration after she dumps him. Maybe he could become addicted to booze or drugs and be found dead in a brothel..? 

Just a suggestion.  :)


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 16, 2007, 05:11:40 pm
Thanks Trent

I think his mental and moral decay after his rejection by Suzette is a very important plot point, which includes his fall into debauchery and sexual addiction.

Veronica wasn't convinced that William should or could love Suzette enough to kill himself, I went out of my way to try to make it clear that he was madly--insanely in love with her.

Perhaps its different with woman, and she doesn't understand how a man can be hooked by the love at first sight syndrome, especially first love. But if the story doesn't work for Veronica then it probably won't work for most women.

I have a horror story with no horror, and a story about a pen, with the pen having very little about it in the story.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 17, 2007, 05:20:53 am
O what a night, late December back in sixty three
what I very special time for me as I remember what a night



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Desiree on March 17, 2007, 06:13:36 am
Quote
Perhaps its different with woman, and she doesn't understand how a man can be hooked by the love at first sight syndrome, especially first love. But if the story doesn't work for Veronica then it probably won't work for most women.

Well, hey, I'm a woman and I understand how that couild happen - it's freaky and a little  weird, but it happens. 

I'm not certain that the love thing is the maor part of the problem.  We are all used to seeing love as a plot device in a story. I disagree that it needs to be made a bigger part of the story.

Like you said, it needs a little more horror at the end. It's a good story, but I also think that the end feels a little rushed.  Maybe just work out a new ending, Unknown?  Other than that, it all seems to work fine.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 17, 2007, 06:35:52 am
Thanks Desiree

I think your right I always do that I spend so much time building up the story, then short change the pay-off/climax at the end.

I think Veronica helped me see some of the weaknesses in the plot, I am trying to work those out and I think it will be a much better story in the end because of that.

I am weaving the love at first site angle into the plot, and instead of him just going completely bonkers on his own, now the pen will play a major role in his fall into depravity, The pen will be in at least half of the story instead of just at the end.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on March 17, 2007, 09:58:23 am
Unknown,

I believe that writers often are guilty of trying to do too much during a story.  Structurally speaking, short stories tend to work bets when they have one central idea and everything else takes the function of a smple subplot.

So, I guess, decide which is your main theme, unrequied love, or athe devil's pen and go from there.

I'm glad that I could help you. As I said earlier, it id a good story, and it holds your interest, it just needs a little tweaking for the ending to make ultimate sense.

Peace,

Veronica


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 17, 2007, 05:28:52 pm
Thanks Veronica

I have decided its not a love story

I think I have the elements of a love story, but that I think thats a different story

then the one I intended to write.

 :'(Auuuughh....


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Pagan on March 18, 2007, 03:52:40 am
What if Suzette gets the pen and it turns her into a wild sex freak?

Wouldn't that be ironic?


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 18, 2007, 07:37:13 am
Hi Pagan

Thats a very interesting idea


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 18, 2007, 07:38:24 am
The Devil's Pen B

Here, I sit at my roll-top mahogany desk writing by the warm glow of gaslight lanterns set about the opulence of my personal study, staring at it. It is a pen; exquisite, long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped, it begs to be held, to wind and whip its way across the page, like a ballerina upon the stage and just as fluid, graceful and sure as any prima ballerina. But I shall not hold that wondrous shaft in my hand again, no, for it is the Devil’s Pen.

My name is William Hargrove, The year of our Lord 1827, October, the seventeenth, I do solemnly swear upon my honor and before almighty God, that this is a true and accurate account of the events of my life.

I do freely and willingly confess to all the unspeakable acts of villainy and debauchery revealed in this written statement. These acts are largely the result of various defaults in my character, defaults that show me to be a base, and vile creature. You will not hear from me vain justifications for what I have done, or pleas for mercy. What I have done, I have done.

An untamed beast lives and breathes just below the surface of us all, straining against the confines imposed on it by our polite and mannerly society, the beast waits beneath the mask.

This is both a warning and a plea to those whose lives are ruled by passion. Pay heed to the warning in my sad tale, and hereafter build your lives on the rock of reason, and take every advantage from this sure and sound footing. Oh, brothers, dear sweet sisters let not the ravings of the insatiable beast we call emotion get its claws into you. Lock the ravening beast away that rages with carnal desire. Lock it away in a cage of adamantine will. Then cast away that key forever.

I drift back in my mind now to happier days, when I was filled with youthful exuberance, naiveté and innocence. It was less then a year ago today, and yet it seems that it was another man entirely that stood on the steps of the grand and magnificent auditorium at Baneford Academy, waiting to receive my Doctorate in the literary arts; in my time there I had made something of a reputation for myself as a writer. The Head Master, Professor Perkins was a dear and gentle soul, but prone to emotional outbursts, just as I was. In this and in our love for the written word we where kindred spirits. The dear old gentleman was so happy it was as if he were receiving the diploma, instead of conferring it upon me.

It seemed to me as if I had waited a dozen eternities for this moment, I had struggled endlessly with finances, because of my parents death, they died when I was quite young and although they had provided for me in their will, it was in the form of monthly allowance, it was not nearly enough for the tuition. Unlike most of the other students my parents had not been wealthy or aristocratic, in fact it was something of a miracle that I had been allowed to attend at all.

***

But my mind was not on these things, what the diploma meant to me, most of all was that I would at last be able to marry my beloved Suzette Brettel. We had met in the fall, the year before at her coming out party. I had not been invited to this affair, aristocracy only you understand. But Charles Sterling, a dear friend from the Academy brought me along as his guest. Charles was a noble fellow who never held it against me that I was a commoner, the way most of the other students at the Academy did.

But I digress, what a unforgettable day it was, it changed my life forever, from the very first moment I saw her, I adored her, I worshipped her, I was filled with a glowing white love light, my feet disdaining the coarse and crude earth beneath them. My soul enshrined her image forever, my dream of love always and forever my sweet Suzette. When my lips first met hers what a rapturous and devastating thrill, sharp currents of pleasure coursed through me overwhelming my senses. Stirring in me a wild and erotic fascination that raged inside me like a hurricane at sea, buffeting my emotions about with waves of desire. We had been meeting secretly since that first afternoon at her coming out party. We forced to because her father vehemently disapproved of me. We met every Sunday evening when she was supposed to be at piano practice. Her piano teacher didn’t mind. She was still being paid; and as Suzette explained to me laughing, she just couldn’t stand the “God awful racket.”

***

With my diploma in hand I would at last be able to face her father and legitimately ask for her hand in marriage. I road to the Brettel Estate, a grand and imposing five story Victorian manse set amidst a lovely eighteenth century style hedged garden and enclosed by an impressively tall and imposing iron gated stonewall. One of the servants took my horse the other led me inside. “I will tell Colonel Brettel you are here sir.” I stood in the grand entrance hall. A winding staircase led to the second floor, above me hung a magnificent golden multi-tiered seventeenth century chandelier. Upon the freshly waxed floors were set busts of some of the great men of British history there was... Wellington, Chamberlain, Cromwell, Shakespeare and many others all waiting patiently with me. I waited and waited…and waited, I must have stood in that hallway for an over an hour. Finally a servant appeared and said, “The Colonel will see you know.” The servant led me to the library. The colonel sat near the fireplace drinking sherry and smoking one of the biggest cigars I had ever seen. “What can I do for you Mr. Hargrove?” He asked.

“Sir, I have just received my Doctorate from Baneford Academy, your daughter and I are very much in love and I have been assured that I a very promising future, all of my Professor’s recommend me highly. I have come to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

The Colonel jumped from his chair his face flushed, his eyes blazing fiercely. “You little bastard, you have been sneaking around with my Suzette, haven’t you! Is she pregnant? By God I’ll kill you with my own bare hands.” He lunged for my throat, He was built like a bull with huge hands but I was much faster. I blocked his arms and swung around behind him in the same motion grabbing him in a headlock.

“Calm down Colonel. Suzette isn’t pregnant, I haven’t touched her.” I pleaded with him.

“You get the hell out of here, and if I ever see your face again I shall sick the dogs on you!” Now I was consumed with rage myself, and sorely tempted to snap his damn neck.

“Be reasonable sir” I said releasing him, restraining myself from further violence.

“Get out now,” he said in a low even tone, he was deadly serious.

I turned and walked slowly out. I was flooded with grief and anger, well that did not go well, I said to myself. As I steeped out of the double doors of the entranceway I heard the Colonel yell, “Grab him!” The two doormen tackled me and held me face down in the entranceway; from here I could see the Colonels boots. Then I heard him say, “This will teach you to keep your damn hands off my daughter!” I felt his hands in my hair, and then he began to slam my face into floor. More of his men must have shown up because I felt them stomping and kicking at me with their heeled and pointed riding boots. I passed out, after the third time my head went into the cold stone.

***

I came to in a ditch alongside the road, one eye was swollen shut, I felt my lips, and they were as big lemon wedges. I ran my tongue around inside my mouth and I discovered several of my teeth had been chipped. Well there go my boyish good looks, I thought laughingly. Beside the road stood my horse Uncas, whom I had named after the fierce Indian in J. Fenimore Cooper’s “The last of the Mohicans.” I had hell of a time climbing back into the saddle, my mind wouldn’t focus and I was awkward, I couldn’t get my foot into the damn stirrup. Every moment sent sharp pains through me. I think one of my ribs was broken because it always gave me trouble after that.

***

I awoke three days later naked atop the sheets covered with vomit and stained in blood, I limped around trying to clean it up, but I couldn’t do much. I was starving. But I could not eat because it was too painful to get food pass my swollen lips. My Mind went racing out to Suzette what would her father do to her? I had to see her. I threw on a long overcoat and headed out the door. I couldn’t ride, but if I could get a message to her, perhaps we could arrange something. As I walked out into the street I saw a thin, taunt and lively gypsy girl with long straight raven black hair falling to her waist, she had the most incredibly intriguing coal black eyes that looked right into your soul. Her mouth was exquisite, ripe, plump and succulent with the most enticing little gap between her top two front teeth.

“Oh you poor man, what happened to you.” she asked

“Well I got knocked around pretty good, it doesn’t matter…My Name is William, would please do me a favor for me, and I’ll give you whatever you ask, within reason.” I replied.

“What do you have in mind, sweetie,” she said as she winked at me.

“Oh no, it’s not that, I need you to get a message to someone, will you help me,” I replied.

“To bad," she said with a wicked little smile. “Sure I’ll do it, ten pounds up front,” she said.

“Five now, five when get a message back saying the note has been delivered,” I replied.

“All right William, I’ll do it. My name is Myra, a pleasure.”

With Myra’s help I was able to get a message to Elisa, one of Suzette’s old friends from finishing school, and then arrange a rendezvous.

***

I saw her standing in our secret meeting place; It was just beneath an old and distinguished gentlemanly old oak, the last surviving member of the forest that once covered these rolling hills, It stood well over a hundred feet tall, its branches forked out at twenty feet above the ground, it stretched one mighty limb across a small stream that wandered lazily through the manicured grounds. A dove cooed somewhere in the high grass in the field beyond the stream.

"Oh, William, your face! Did my father do that?"

“Yes, him and a couple of his men.” I said.

“Why did you do it William? Didn’t you realize what he would do? I am practically under house arrest now, he has men watching me night and day, oh I do hope I haven’t led them to this place.”

“I did it because I love you terribly. I want you to be mine forever and always sweet…Suzette. Come away with me tonight, we’ll leave the country. Lets go to America Suzette, we’ll start a new life together.”

“Oh, I am so torn up inside, I can’t marry you now William. He means to marry me to some wealthy and powerful aristocrat its all business with him. If we ran off together he'd find us and have you killed. I just couldn’t bare that William, I do love you so. I can’t even see you now! He has his spies everywhere.”

“This is not the end Suzette. I shall find a way for us to be together always and forever.

***

“Well tell!” Myra said poking me in the ribs, which were still sore as hell. “I want to hear all about it, you romantic devil, you.”

“She won’t marry me. She says her father would have me killed, after what happened last week I think she’s right. I am half out of my mind Myra, I don’t know what to do.” I said.

“Why don’t you just kill the bastard?”

“You’re not serious?” I asked.

“No William, I know you don’t have the stomach for that. But maybe I can help.”

***

I saddled up Uncas and we road together to Myra’s camp just as the sun was setting in the sky. It presented us with an amazing display of the maker’s art, broad strokes of smoky deep purple, streaked with scintillating highlights of crimson and splashed nonchalantly with a melancholy vermilion, you out did yourself tonight old man. I said to myself as we drew closer to the wagons of that vagabond troubadour tribe. I violin played soft and haunting strains somewhere in the night. She made a series of hand signals as we neared, obviously to communicate with men set about the camp to guard it. The campfires were already burning in the fading sunlight and the women folk were cooking the evening meal, in heavy black iron pots hung from tripods over small stone encircled fires. The men were gathered in small groups talking amongst themselves, or sitting on the steps of the circled wagons enjoying an evening smoke.

She walked up the back steps of a red and yellow painted wagon. It was longer and taller with more elaborate scrollwork then the rest of the wagons in the little caravan. Myra knocked. The round windowed door swung open slowly and there stood an elderly women, her white hair contrasting sharply with the red paisley kerchief she wore about her head. A string of gold necklaces about her withered neck. But what held my attention were the eyes she peered out at the world with, the same coal black knowing eyes that Myra had, “This is Esmeralda…William… Grandmother I have brought this man William to you, he is in need. Will you help him?”

She looked me over carefully, as if she was weighing my soul on scales in her old head. “Give me your hand, William,” she said finally in a tired, world-weary voice, “Oh you poor man.” She sighed, “Be careful of this one Myra,” she warned. “You are a very passionate man. William so very passionate it is killing you, eating you alive inside. Here I shall show you.” She traced a path with her wrinkled finger over my hand as she spoke. “You are unlucky in love your heart line is so deep, so strong, but severed. You are torn between two paths the lifeline diverges, both paths you deeply desire but the paths do not intersect. You shall be offered a choice, I have never seen the like…I cannot help you my boy, but you have my sympathy.”

“Is there no one who can help me?” I asked.

“Perhaps there is one, but I warn you it is very dangerous and foolish.” she said

“I can’t live like this!” I said.

“Very well, come back tomorrow night.”

***

I returned to the Camp the following afternoon, Myra ran out to greet me. “Hello William, It is all arranged. I will take you to the man who is to be your guide.”

“But where am I going Myra?” I asked

“Ha, ha, ha, why to see Old Kate of coarse!”

“Why?” I asked confused.

“She knows things William, she maybe able to help you.”

I kissed her cheek and said, “Well, wish me luck.”


***

Black, muck clung thickly to my boots as we trudged through that foul smelling fen. Whopping cranes were calling out in that lonely, long and mournful way of theirs somewhere out there… in the dense rolling fog. Foul shapes seemed to hang and glide just out of the reach of perception on that dim and moonlit moor.

We waded through waist high reeds from stranded hillock to narrow ridge. Stunted and twisted, little sharp-limbed trees took on the aspect of gruesome sentinels, as if guarding some unwholesome secret known only to themselves. Every now and then my guide would lift his lantern high and wave it slowly from side to side reminding me of nothing so much as a lonely lighthouse on the shores of a fog enshrouded sea.

I could see no path at all. How my anthropomorphic guide found his way through this, I shall probably never know. Perhaps it was merely his familiarity with the region, or perhaps this was his natural element, for I have never seen anyone who looked so much like they just stepped out of a penny dreadful, as this man.

He was broad shouldered, thick limbed and short legged, perhaps six and a half to seven feet tall, if he had stood upright that is. For he was bent and twisted, one shoulder higher than the other, his back bent as if crouched to spring. His crude and roughly hewn features only added to his apelike appearance, thick lips, a wide-nose, no chin to speak of and a low protruding forehead. Add to this primitive picture of a man, one baleful eye entirely white. The wound that took the sight from that eye still visible, in the form of a scar stretching from the middle of his forehead, to just below the left cheek. His hair was a thick and wiry mop that sat unruly atop his head. He wore a horsehair tunic bound about the middle with thick rope knotted in front and from which hung a long deadly looking curved dagger.

“What the hell is that? See it over there?” I asked.

“Em’s Corpse Candles,” he replied with a grunt.

“What pray tell are corpse candles, my good man,” I asked.

“Hain’t your man, I be Kate’s man. You’s to keep your eye's open and lip's shut.”

***

As the night drew on the scenery began to change we started to encounter more clumps of trees standing on lonely hillocks, the path more rocky. Eventually we came to a wood and after some searching my guide located a path. At the head of the path, a totem was set, upon a stake in the earth. It looked as if the bones of various creatures had been cobbled together to form a scarecrow. The head of this scarecrow was a mountain goat with long twisted horns, The torso that of a man’s but from his wrists and ankles hung the claws of what must have been a gigantic vulture, the wings of that vulture sprouted from its back rising high into the air above us. If the purpose of this twisted scarecrow was to scare away-unwanted visitors this skeletal freak was more than adequate to the task; for I almost begged my primitive giant of a guide to take me back across the moors. I would have but then I considered the dagger that hung from his belt.

We walked through this wood for what seemed like hours ever now and then I was startled by a sudden caw, caw of a crow and heavy beating of wings as it flew off. Now I began to notice bones strewn along the path, I could not shake the sensation that I was being watched. Finally I saw ahead of us in the clearing a crude thatched hut surrounded by torches burning in the darkness, the ground strewn with human and animal bones. Two human skulls were mounted on posts in the ground outside her door. I began to seriously wonder about wisdom of this little excursion.

As we neared the hut she emerged moving with an unnatural slowness and grace for an ancient creature, the first thing I noticed was her eyes. The pupils of her eyes were narrow, not round at all and of a greenish yellow cast. Her head had a peculiar v-shape to it. She wore a long black robe decorated with curiously wrought white symbols around the neck and about the sleeves, the tail of the robe disappearing into the depths of her primitive hut. The hut itself was decorated with shrunken heads, candles, strings of beads and stacks of ancient looking leather bound books. A parrot sat high upon a perch as snakes wound there way across the floor.

“Ah Master Hargrove, I have been expecting you, you are a vain and passionate man William, just my type,” she said as her snake eye slowly winked at me. “Ha, ha, ha,” she cackled. A shudder rippled through me as she spoke, for her voice had the sibilant hiss of the crafty serpent.

“Auuugghk, passionate man,” squawked the parrot.

“Quiet Paracelsus, my dear” she said. “He’s always sticking his nose into things that are better left alone, ha, ha, ha” she cackled. “Now where were we?”

“Auuugghk, ****,” squawked the parrot.

“Why have you come to old Kate, William Hargrove, a love potion perhaps? No I see you’re after more, much, much more. I have something that may be of use to you William.” She said in her hissing voice as she lifted a pen up before my astonished eyes. What is it you see William.”

“It is a pen,”

“Yes, it is that and much, much, more, it is also a weapon perhaps the most powerful weapon of all for with it you can sway minds, move armies and crumble empires. I thought that you being a poet, might understand this.”

“I understand,” I said.

“No William, I don’t think you do, but never mind that, you did not come here for a philosophy lesson now did you? You came here because you are obsessed with a woman. This pen produces only masterworks of the highest caliber.”

“What do you want for it?”

“Ah, all artists no the sacrifices that must be make for their craft, the power of the pen exacts its own price, William.”

She then presented me with this most exquisite instrument of the writer’s art, exquisite long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped.

***

The power of the pen I soon enough discovered. I began by writing love poetry, long essays about the wonders and beauties of the natural world, and long epic poems based upon the wondrous complexities and ironies of Greek mythology. My work was hailed as a triumph. I was the new darling of the literary world. Soon I became a wealthy man and offers poured into write novels and plays.

Which I produced in short order increasing my wealth enough so that I was able to buy up the majority of stock in Brettel family business and acquire the mortgage on their estate. I was able to do this in part, by writing glowing praises of the Colonel's competitors and stinging criticism of his company, which they richly deserved for labor abuses, bribery and other nefarious practices. This helped lower the cost of the stock and caused more people to sell, further lowing its value in an ever downward spiral. This was a technique that served me well in accumulating wealth.

When the day came that I owned the majority of his company I simply road to the estate with my new band of gypsy body guards and I gave him a choice, either he gave me Suzette’s hand and I gave him back his company or I would ruin him. The Colonel made a very wise decision, I believe.

***

I will never forget that day. Suzette was more beautiful than ever the sun was shining and we decided to visit the place were we had met so many times before, our secret trysting place. She began torturing me with kisses that flowed warm and sweet like summer wine, intoxicating me with passion.

I held her then from behind, holding her tender waist pulling her slowly against me once more nuzzling my face in the tantalizing sensuousness of her hair. Breathing heavily almost panting, pulsating with pleasure, my mind enthralled by the sinful suggestiveness of this embrace, I begged, “Please Suzette, let me, I love you more than any man has ever loved a woman, I would die a thousand agonizing deaths for you, I would sell my everlasting soul to win your love.”

My heart pumped; my loins ached and my head reeled in delirium. I could stand it no longer. I hiked up the long ankle length gown up over her back reveling the white-gartered stockings beneath. I explored her luscious long flanks with my greedy hands. As she held on to the gentlemanly old oak tree for balance her firm hindquarters were before my hungry eyes taunting me with their ripeness, insane with lust I had to have her.

“My God William stop, what has gotten into you?” I did not stop. I took her then and there it was not until I finished that I realized what I had done, Oh, I thought my dreams of loves sweet bliss were shattered, like the sparkling glass upon the jagged stone. I thought she would hate me forever and always. I thought my dreams would vanish into vapor before my eyes, all because I was unable to control my lust in my wanton drunkenness.

Suzette dropped to her knees before me and put her arms about my legs, “Oh, you are a real man, you are…you do not know how long I have dreamed of this William,” she wept in joy. We were marred two weeks later, and I bought a lovely old three story Victorian.

Now my days were filled with the fawning, demanding and angelic Suzette, my nights filled with the aggressive and adventurous she-devil Myra, who I hired as “personal advisor” to help with research for my novels, I don’t believe anyone ever bought that one. Myra was just too gorgeous to be taken seriously, even though she was smart as a nine tailed whip.

***

I wanted to visit my old Professor I missed him. I entered the upstairs office of Professor Perkins, Head Master of Baneford Academy, as I entered he got up from behind his desk, rushed over and began shaking my hand vigorously, “We all wondered what had happened to you my boy,” He said excitedly, “locked yourself away in some dingy room some were writing your novel, Eh.”

“Well sort of Professor, I have come to make a donation to the Academy Professor and of coarse to see you.”

“Wonderful, William, I must say I always expected great things from you, your passion showed through in all your works. But your writing now far exceeds anything you have produced in the past, it’s almost as if it were written by another person. Such tremendous style, such elegant phrasing, you have exceeded all my hopes for you, I am so proud of you, son.”

“Thank You, Professor.” I said. It was then that it hit me for the first time I was a fraud, a complete and utter fake. My fame, my new home, everything rested on an illusion. It was not I who had produced these works even though it was my hand that held the pen.

I slowly began to realize to my horror that the pen had a mind of its own. I could no-longer write dreamy love stories or about nature and the Greek Gods…now my writing turned to the dark side of life. Murder mysteries, horror novels and political tracts for my mind became filled with visions of crime and vice. But not just that, my mind also followed along as armies marched to carry out the brutal business of war; wandered onto bloody battlefields and listened in horror to screams of agony and death.

Now to my everlasting surprise these works were hailed even more highly than my previous works. What wonderful diversity what comprehensive ability and insight into life, the critics raved each trying to see who could lavish the most praise on me. I was truly disgusted I don’t believe a one of these critics had ever given a decent review to a horror novel or murder mystery before.

I began to notice strange things happening… several publishers had committed suicide when they failed to secure the rights to my latest novel. Several businesses that I had only mildly criticized where looted and burned. The longer it went on the stranger it got, my name and face were everywhere in the news. People taking everything I said as gospel, with one word from me in the press I could destroy a man’s life. It was the kind of power that one dreams about, unless one actually has it and realizes the responsibility that comes with it. The Royal family almost insisted that I be knighted in a grand ceremony with a parade, which was unheard of. With my notoriety it became harder and harder to go anywhere in public, I could not even go to my own plays for the fear of being ripped to shreds by adoring mobs. All this that damn Devil Pen had set in motion for it’s own evil designs which I was not to learn of till much later.


***

I was less and less able to control the words that flowed from that monstrous pen. It was always there calling out to me like an addiction. The Pen began to seriously intrude into my personal life. I began to drink myself to sleep every night and started up again as soon as I awoke. I was becoming a drunken leach an evil wanton cynic.

I had the means, and a driving compulsion to live out the sick but wildly erotic fantasies inspired by the Devil Pen. With the ever-wicked Myra on my arm, I strolled arm in arm into each and every new and more degrading unwholesome escapade. My Myra was such a wicked little temptress, “What has gotten into you William, you’re a changed man, I like it,” Myra said giving me that oh… so libidinous little wink of hers.

I tasted each and every vice, every one that struck my depraved and fickle fancy. But I shall not try and recall them all here, all the meaningless nights of drunken debauchery, of the wild and often dangerous search for forbidden and sinful pleasures. Suffice it to say, I have spent many a night in gambling halls, opium dens and the like. I chased every winking barmaid. I fondled every firm, round and tempting bottom. I mercilessly attempted to seduce every female old, young, thin, round, dark or fair, I didn't care.

What purpose would it serve, to recount violent, desperate back alley couplings, or the nights dancing naked as a savage at sabot bonfires, the unholy orgies in the Mortimer Family Crypt, that filled to overflowing with the delightfully degenerate and the irrepressibly depraved. Why should I confess every detail of the nights I spent reveling in strange carnal delights with knowing, wanton, warm and willing ladies of the evening? I couldn’t even tell you for sure how much coin I extravagantly, carelessly cast away at Madame Rousseau’s House of Pain. Ah, what a wonderful venue it would have made De Sade himself blush. Suffice it to say, that of these things I am guilty and much, much more. What purpose would it serve to enumerate my arrests for drunken brawling, public indecency and the like? All of these where easily swept under the rug because of my wealth and fame.

***

One evening returning from a night of lavish drunken debauchery with Myra, I heard a low and piteous moaning coming from the dining hall, “Yes, yes, oh God, yes,” As we rounded the corner I saw Suzette lying on the end of the long formal dining table, her dress rumpled and scattered beneath her. Balancing, one elbow at her side, her hand clawing at the hair of the man that was holding her long shapely legs aloft panties around her ankles. The man feasting hungrily between her gartered thighs.

“Suzette?” I asked quietly, She quickly jumped of the table. It was Charles Sterling my old friend who turned with a shocked and frightened look.

“Well, what of it!” My sweet Suzette screamed. “Your always out with your little ****!”

“I am so sorry William, but I love her. I have always loved her,” Charles confessed.

“Then you take her Charles,” they walked out hand in hand together, Suzette crying.

“Well now I got you all to myself,” Myra said smiling with a Cheshire cat grin.

I slapped her ass hard, “Ouch” she said, “you know I like it when you play rough,” she said putting her arms around me.

“Shut up, Myra.”

She mockingly pouted at me.

My will and heart had been broken. I felt like a puppet whose strings had been cut falling to the stage, never to rise again. The last good and wholesome thing had been driven out of my life forever, I knew that under the influence of the Devil’s Pen I would only end up hurting and destroying her, perhaps even killing her. I had to let her go while I was still able, for her sake, because of my love for her, Oh...always and forever my sweet Suzette. It had taken her from me, my heart felt as if it was being squeezed in vice. I should have found some other way, if only we had gone to America when I wanted.


***

I awoke this morning my head throbbing my throat parched from God-awful hangover. I went to get a bottle of wine from my desk, when I noticed a stack of papers that I did not remember writing. I began to read them. They were political tracts about the glories of the British Empire, how it was Britain’s destiny to rule not only the waves, but also the world. In my imagination I saw the horrific war played out in my mind with men marching beneath the banner of the Pen's true master, as civilizations crumbled and fell beneath his heel. I have no doubt of the Devil's Pen ability to sway public opinion and lead the country to war. The Pen contains the will of hell’s master and with me as his instrument; his puppet the world would never be safe.

That damn Pen is the Devil's very own right hand! It has taken everything from me, my love, my pride, my honor and my innocence, as its power has grown, my will to resist has weakened and now it is the master. How many lives has it destroyed already, how many more would it destroy because I was unable to stop it?

I have decided that I must die, what is one man’s life to save countless others? I must end it. I must end it while I still may.

William Hargrove

PS: If you value you lives, leave the Pen where it lies.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 18, 2007, 06:28:12 pm
But what can a poor boy do, except sing for a rock and roll band
cuz the sleepy London streets are just no place for a street fight man...no

Rolling Stones


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Brooke on March 18, 2007, 07:29:46 pm
Hi Unknown,

Just read the latest version of your story!  You are going to go nuts with all these suggestions!!!

It read very well, and it kept my interest till the end.  I thought the love story flowed much better and was very convincing.  However, what happens to Suzette?  She just seems to fade away.  I figured she would have something to do with the ending, she doesn't.

About the ending, I may have missed something.  Does his pen actually make things occur that he writes? Cause I didn't get that in the story. He would only kill himself if it was, doesn't make sense if it doesn't.

I have to admit I got a chuckle when he got beaten up by her dad's henchmen -  that doesn't usually happen in real life, unless her dad was in the mafia!  The part where ge goes to see the gypsy woman was suitably creepy.

Brooke


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 18, 2007, 08:39:29 pm
Hi Brooke

thanks so much for reading it, and for your thoughtful comments.

I had another scene in mind for Suzette and was wondering whether or not I should put it in, I think I will.

So I guess I didn't quite make it clear that the pen was taking over, contolling him, using him for its, or I should say the Devil's agenda. I had some Ideas to explain how the pen was causing things to happen around him but I didn't put them in. Its hard to seperate what I understand about the story as opposed to what the reader gets from what I have actually written.

You kinda have to remember, this story isn't taking place in modern day America, its in Britain over a hundred years ago. The Brettels are nobles and William is a commoner. It was the height of audacity really, for him to ask the Colonel for her hand.

I lot of stuff, I thought of, I didn't add: one because I thought it would make the story to long and two I guess I was just too much in a hurry to get it finished.








Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Heather Delaria on March 18, 2007, 11:55:18 pm
Hi Unknown,

Nice story, it flows really well.  But I think it needs to be a little longer.  Also, if he is killing himself over the girl (as was originally the case), shouldn't she have something more to do with the end?

Bright Blessings!

Heather


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 19, 2007, 12:33:43 am
Hi Heather

Thanks for reading it.

You know I think your right, I should probabably make the closing paragraph kind of a summary of whats happened.

I liked to see who likes the second one better and who likes the third one better?



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 19, 2007, 10:38:49 pm
The Devil's Pen 2...revised



Here, I sit at my roll-top mahogany desk writing by the warm glow of gaslight lanterns set about the opulence of my personal study, staring at it. It is a pen; exquisite, long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped, it begs to be held, to wind and whip its way across the page, like a ballerina upon the stage and just as fluid, graceful and sure as any prima ballerina. But I shall not hold that wondrous shaft in my hand again, no, for it is the Devil’s Pen.

My name is William Hargrove, The year of our Lord 1827, October, the seventeenth, I do solemnly swear upon my honor and before almighty God, that this is a true and accurate account of the events of my life.

I do freely and willingly confess to all the unspeakable acts of villainy and debauchery revealed in this written statement. These acts are largely the result of various defaults in my character, defaults that show me to be a base, and vile creature. You will not hear from me vain justifications for what I have done, or pleas for mercy. What I have done, I have done.

An untamed beast lives and breathes just below the surface of us all, straining against the confines imposed on it by our polite and mannerly society, the beast waits beneath the mask.

This is both a warning and a plea to those whose lives are ruled by passion. Pay heed to the warning in my sad tale, and hereafter build your lives on the rock of reason, and take every advantage from this sure and sound footing. Oh, brothers, dear sweet sisters let not the ravings of the insatiable beast we call emotion get its claws into you. Lock the ravening beast away that rages with carnal desire. Lock it away in a cage of adamantine will. Then cast away that key forever.

I drift back in my mind now to happier days, when I was filled with youthful exuberance, naiveté and innocence. It was less then a year ago today, and yet it seems that it was another man entirely that stood on the steps of the grand and magnificent auditorium at Baneford Academy, waiting to receive my doctorate in the literary arts; in my time there I had made something of a reputation for myself as a writer. The Head Master, Professor Perkins was a dear and gentle soul, but prone to emotional outbursts, just as I was. In this and in our love for the written word we where kindred spirits. The dear old gentleman was so happy it was as if he were receiving the diploma, instead of conferring it upon me.

It seemed to me as if I had waited a dozen eternities for this moment. Unlike most of the other students my parents had not been wealthy or aristocratic, in fact it was something of a miracle that I had been allowed to attend at all. I had struggled endlessly with finances, because of my parents death, they died when I was quite young and although they had provided for me in their will, it was in the form of monthly allowance, it was not nearly enough for the tuition.


***

But my mind was not on these things, what the diploma meant to me was, that I would at last be able to marry my beloved Suzette. We met at her coming out party. I had not been invited to this affair, aristocracy only you understand. But Charles Sterling, a dear friend from the Academy brought me along as his guest. Charles was a noble fellow who never held it against me that I was a commoner, the way most of the other students did.

But I digress, what a unforgettable day it was, from the very first moment I saw her, I adored her, I worshipped her, I was filled with a glowing light of love, my feet disdaining the coarse and crude earth beneath them. My soul enshrined an image of her forever, my dream of love always and forever my sweet Suzette. When my lips met hers for the first time what a rapturous and devastating thrill, sharp currents of pleasure coursed through me overwhelming my senses. Stirring in me a wild and erotic fascination that raged inside me like a hurricane at sea; buffeting my emotions about with waves of desire.

We had been meeting secretly, ever since that first afternoon at her coming out party. We were forced to because her father vehemently disapproved of me. We met every Sunday evening when she should have been at piano practice. Her piano teacher didn’t mind. She was still being paid; and as Suzette explained to me laughing, she just couldn’t stand the “God awful racket.”


***

With my diploma in hand I would at last be able to face her father and legitimately ask for her hand in marriage. I road to the Brettel Estate, a grand and imposing five story Victorian manor set amidst a lovely eighteenth century style hedged garden and enclosed by an impressively tall and imposing iron gated stonewall. One of the servants took my horse the other led me inside. “I will tell Colonel Brettel you are here sir.” I stood in the grand entrance hall. A winding staircase led to the second floor, above me hung a magnificent golden multi-tiered seventeenth century chandelier. Upon the freshly waxed floors were set busts of some of the great men of British history there was... Wellington, Chamberlain, Cromwell, Shakespeare and many others waiting there with me. I waited and waited…and waited, I must have stood in that hallway for an over an hour. Finally a servant appeared and said, “The Colonel will see you know.” The servant led me to the library. The colonel sat near the fireplace drinking sherry and smoking one of the biggest cigars I had ever seen. “What can I do for you Mr. Hargrove?” He asked.

“Sir, I have just received my Doctorate from Baneford Academy, your daughter and I are very much in love and I have been assured that I a very promising future, all of my Professor’s recommend me highly. I have come to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

The Colonel jumped from his chair his face flushed, his eyes blazing fiercely. “You little bastard, you have been sneaking around with my Suzette, haven’t you! Is she pregnant? By God I’ll kill you with my own bare hands.” He lunged for my throat, He was built like a bull with huge hands but I was much faster. I blocked his arms and swung around behind him in the same motion grabbing him in a headlock.

“Calm down Colonel. Suzette isn’t pregnant, I haven’t touched her.” I pleaded with him.

“You get the hell out of here, and if I ever see your face again I shall sick the dogs on you!” Now I was consumed with rage myself, and sorely tempted to snap his damn neck.

“Be reasonable sir” I said releasing him, restraining myself from further violence.

“Get out now,” he said in a low even tone, he was deadly serious.

I turned and walked slowly out. I was flooded with grief and anger, well that did not go well, I said to myself. As I steeped out of the double doors of the entranceway I heard the Colonel yell, “Grab him!” The two doormen tackled me and held me face down in the entranceway; from here I could see the Colonels boots. Then I heard him say, “This will teach you to keep your damn hands off my daughter!” I felt his hands in my hair, and then he began to slam my face into floor. More of his men must have shown up because I felt them stomping and kicking at me with their heeled and pointed riding boots. I passed out, after the third time my head went into the cold stone floor.

***

I came to in a ditch alongside the road, one eye was swollen shut, I felt my lips, they were as big lemon wedges. I ran my tongue around inside my mouth and I discovered several of my teeth had been chipped. Well there go my boyish good looks, I thought laughingly. Beside the road stood my horse Uncas, whom I named after the fierce Indian in J. Fenimore Cooper’s “The last of the Mohicans.” I had hell of a time climbing back into the saddle, my mind wouldn’t focus and I was awkward, I couldn’t get my foot into the damn stirrup. Every moment sent sharp pains through me. I think one of my ribs was broken because it always gave me trouble after that. I don’t remember making it back to my flat.

***

I awoke three days later naked atop the sheets that were covered with vomit and stained in blood, I limped around trying to clean it up as best I could. I was starving. But because of my swollen lips I could not eat, it was just too painful. My Mind went racing out to Suzette what would her father do to her? I had to see her. I threw on a long overcoat and headed out the door. I couldn’t ride, but if I could get a message to her, perhaps we could arrange something. As I walked out into the street I saw a thin, taunt and lively gypsy girl with long straight raven black hair falling to her waist, she had the most incredibly intriguing coal black eyes that seemed to peer into your soul. Her mouth was exquisite, ripe, plump and succulent with the most enticing little gap between her top two front teeth.

“Oh you poor man, what happened to you.” she asked

“Well I got knocked around pretty good, it doesn’t matter…My Name is William, would you please do a favor for me, and I’ll give you whatever you ask, within reason.” I replied.

“What do you have in mind, sweetie,” she said as she winked at me.

“Oh no, it’s not that, I need you to get a message to someone, will you help me,” I replied.

“To bad," she said with a wicked little smile. “Sure I’ll do it, ten pounds up front,” she said.

“Five now, five when I get a message back saying the note has been delivered,” I replied.

“All right William, I’ll do it. My name is Myra, a pleasure.”

With Myra’s help I was able to get a message to Elisa, one of Suzette’s old friends from finishing school, and then arrange a rendezvous.

***

I saw Suzette standing in our secret meeting place; It was just beneath an old and distinguished gentlemanly old oak, the last surviving member of the forest that once covered these rolling hills, It stood well over a hundred feet tall, its branches forked out at twenty feet above the ground, it stretched one mighty limb across a small stream that ran lazily through the manicured grounds. A dove cooed somewhere in the high grass in the field beyond the stream.

"Oh, William, your face! Did my father do that?"

“Yes, him and a couple of his men.” I said.

“Why did you do it William? Didn’t you realize what he would do? I am practically under house arrest now, he has men watching me night and day, oh I do hope I haven’t led them to this place.”

“I did it because I love you terribly. I want you to be mine forever and always sweet…Suzette. Come away with me tonight, we’ll leave the country. Lets go to America Suzette, we’ll start a new life together.”

“Oh, I am so torn up inside, I can’t marry you now William. He means to marry me to some wealthy and powerful aristocrat, it's all business with him. If we ran off together he'd have you killed. I just couldn’t bare that William, I do love you so. I can’t even see you now! He has his spies everywhere.”

“This is not the end Suzette. I shall find a way for us to be together always and forever. I said as I held her gently in my arms.

***

“Well tell!” Myra said poking me in the ribs, which were still sore as hell. “I want to hear all about it, you romantic devil, you.”

“She won’t marry me. She says her father would have me killed, after what happened last week, I think she’s right. I am half out of my mind Myra, I don’t know what to do.” I said.

“Why don’t you just kill the bastard?”

“You’re not serious.”

“No William, I know you don’t have the stomach for that. But maybe I can help.”

***

I saddled up Uncas and we road together to Myra’s camp just as the sun was setting in the sky. It presented us with an amazing display of the maker’s art, broad strokes of smoky deep purple and splashed nonchalantly with a melancholy vermilion, you out did yourself tonight old man. I said to myself as we drew closer to the wagons of her vagabond tribe. I violin played soft and haunting strains somewhere in the night. She made a series of hand signals as we neared, obviously to communicate with men guarding the camp. The campfires were already burning in the fading sunlight and the women folk were cooking the evening meal, in heavy iron pots hung from tripods, over small stone encircled fires. The men were gathered in small groups talking with each other, or were sitting on the steps of the circled wagons enjoying an evening smoke.

She walked up the back steps of a red and yellow painted wagon. It was longer and taller with more elaborate scrollwork, then the rest of the wagons in the little caravan. Myra knocked. The round windowed door swung open slowly and there stood an elderly women, her white hair contrasting sharply with the red paisley kerchief she wore about her head. A string of gold necklaces about her withered neck, but what held my attention were the eyes she peered out at the world with, the same coal black knowing eyes that Myra had, “This is Esmeralda…William… Grandmother I have brought this man William to you, he is in need. Will you help him?”

She looked me over carefully, as if weighing my soul on scales in her old head. “Give me your hand, William,” she said finally in a tired, world-weary voice, “Oh you poor man.” She sighed, “Be careful of this one Myra,” she warned. “You are a very passionate man William so very passionate it is killing you, eating you alive inside. Here I shall show you.” She traced a path with her wrinkled finger over my hand as she spoke. “You are unlucky in love your heart line is so deep, so strong, but severed. You are torn between two paths the lifeline diverges, both paths you deeply desire but the paths do not intersect. You shall be offered a choice, I have never seen the like…I cannot help you my boy, but you have my sympathy.”

“Is there no one who can help me?” I asked.

“Perhaps there is one, but I warn you it is very dangerous and foolish.” she said

“I can’t live like this!” I said.

“Very well, come back tomorrow night.”

***

I returned to the Camp the following afternoon, Myra ran out to greet me. “Hello William, It is all arranged. I will take you to the man who is to be your guide.”

“But where am I going Myra?” I asked

“Ha, ha, ha why to see Old Kate of coarse! She knows things William, she maybe able to help you.”

I kissed her cheek and said, “Well, wish me luck.”


***

Black, muck clung thickly to my boots as we trudged through that foul smelling fen. Whopping cranes were calling out in that lonely, long and mournful way of their's somewhere out there… in the dense rolling fog. Foul shapes seemed to hang and glide just out of the reach of perception on that dim and moonlit moor.

We waded through waist high reeds from stranded hillock to narrow ridge. Stunted and twisted, little sharp-limbed trees took on the aspect of gruesome sentinels, as if guarding some unwholesome secret known only to themselves. Every now and then my guide would lift his lantern high and wave it slowly from side to side reminding me of a lonely lighthouse on the shores of a fog enshrouded sea.

I could see no path at all. How my guide found his way through this, I shall never know. Perhaps it was merely his familiarity with the region, or perhaps this was his natural element, for I never saw anyone who looked so much like they had just stepped out of a penny dreadful.

He was broad shouldered, thick limbed and short legged, perhaps six and a half to seven feet tall, if he had stood upright that is. For he was bent and twisted, one shoulder higher than the other, his back bent as if crouched to spring. His crude and roughly hewn features only added to his apelike appearance, thick lips, a wide-nose, no chin to speak of and a low protruding forehead. Add to this primitive picture of a man, one baleful eye entirely white. A scar stretched over that eye, from the middle of his forehead, to just below the left cheek. His hair was a thick and wiry mop that sat unruly atop his head. He wore a horsehair tunic bound about the middle with thick rope knotted in front and from which hung a long deadly looking curved dagger.

“What the hell are those? See over there?” I asked.

“Em’s Corpse Candles,” he replied with a grunt.

“What pray tell are corpse candles, my good man,” I asked.

“Hain’t your man, I be Kate’s man. You’s to keep your eye's open, lip's shut.”

***

As the night drew on the scenery began to change we started to encounter more clumps of trees standing on lonely hillocks, the path more rocky. Eventually we came to a wood and after some searching my guide located a path. At the head of the path, a totem was set, upon a stake in the earth. It looked as if the bones of various creatures had been cobbled together to form a scarecrow. The head of this scarecrow was a mountain goat with long twisted horns. the torso that of a man’s but from his wrists and ankles hung the claws of what must have been a gigantic vulture, the wings of that vulture sprouted from its back rising high into the air above us. If the purpose of this twisted scarecrow was to scare away-unwanted visitors this skeletal freak was more than adequate to the task; I almost begged my primitive guide to take me back across the moors. I would have but then I considered the deadly looking dagger that hung from his belt.

We walked through this wood for what seemed like hours ever now and then I was startled by a sudden caw, caw of a crow and heavy beating of wings as it flew off. Now I began to notice bones strewn along the path, I could not shake the sensation that I was being watched. Finally I saw ahead of us in the clearing a crude thatched hut surrounded by torches burning in the darkness, the ground strewn with bones. Two human skulls were mounted on posts in the ground outside her door. I began to seriously wonder about wisdom of this little excursion.

As we neared the hut she emerged moving with an unnatural slowness and grace. I looked into her eyes, the pupils of which were narrow, not round at all and of a greenish yellow cast. Her head had a peculiar v-shape to it. She wore a long black robe decorated with curiously wrought white symbols around the neck and about the sleeves, the tail of the robe disappearing into the depths of her primitive hut. The hut itself was decorated with shrunken heads, weirdly carved figuirines, and candles. Long strings of beads formed a primitive doorway inside the hut before which sat a stack of ancient looking leather bound books. A parrot sat high upon a perch as snakes wound there way across the dirt floor.

“Ah Master Hargrove, I have been expecting you, you are a vain and passionate man William, just my type,” she said as her eye slowly winked at me. “Ha, ha, ha,” she cackled. A shudder rippled through me as she spoke, for her voice had the sibilant hiss of the crafty serpent.

“Auuugghk, passionate man,” squawked the parrot.

“Quiet Paracelsus,” she said. “He’s always sticking his nose into things that are better left alone, ha, ha, ha” she cackled. “Now where were we?”

“Auuugghk, ****,” squawked the parrot.

“Why have you come to old Kate, William Hargrove, a love potion perhaps? No I see you’re after more, much, much more. I have something that may be of use to you William.” She said in her hissing voice as she lifted a pen up before my astonished eyes. What is it you see William.”

“It is a pen,”

“Yes, it is that and much, much, more, it is also a weapon perhaps the most powerful weapon of all for with it you can sway minds, move armies and crumble empires. I thought that you being a writer, might understand this.”

“I understand,” I said.

“No William, I don’t think you do, but never mind that, you did not come here for a philosophy lesson now did you? You came here because you are obsessed with a woman. This pen produces only masterworks.”

“What do you want for it?”

“Ah, all artists no the sacrifices that must be made for their craft, the power of the pen exacts its own price, William.”

She then presented me with this most exquisite instrument of the writer’s art, exquisite long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped.

***

The power of the pen I discovered soon enough. I began by writing love poetry, long essays about the wonders and beauties of the natural world, and long epic poems based upon the wondrous complexities and ironies of Greek mythology. My work was hailed as a triumph. I was the new darling of the literary world. Soon I became wealthy man and offers poured into write novels and plays.

Which I produced in short order increasing my wealth enough so that I was able to buy up the majority of stock in Brettel family business and acquire the mortgage on the estate. I was able to do this in part, by writing glowing praises of the Colonel's competitors and stinging criticism of his company, which they richly deserved for labor abuses, bribery and other nefarious practices. This helped lower the cost of the stock and caused more people to sell, further lowing its value in an ever downward spiral. This was a technique that served me well in accumulating wealth.

When the day came that I owned the majority of his company I simply road to the estate with my new band of gypsy body guards and I gave him a choice, either he gave me Suzette’s hand and I gave him back his company or I would ruin him. The Colonel made a very wise decision, I believe.

***

I will never forget that day. Suzette was more beautiful than ever the sun was shining and we decided to visit the place were we had met so many times before, our secret trysting place. She began torturing me with kisses that flowed warm and sweet like summer wine, intoxicating me with passion.

I then held her from behind, holding her tender waist pulling her slowly against me once more nuzzling my face in the tantalizing sensuousness of her hair. Breathing heavily almost panting, pulsating with pleasure, my mind enthralled by the sinful suggestiveness of this embrace, I begged, “Please Suzette, let me, I love you more than any man has ever loved a woman, I would die a thousand agonizing deaths for you, I would sell my everlasting soul to win your love.”

My heart pumped; my loins ached and my head reeled in delirium. I could stand it no longer. I hiked up the long ankle length gown up over her back reveling the white-gartered stockings beneath. I explored her luscious long flanks with my greedy hands. As she held on to the gentlemanly old oak tree for balance her firm hindquarters were before my hungry eyes taunting me with their ripeness, insane with lust I had to have her.

“My God William stop, what has gotten into you?” I did not stop. I took her then and there, it was not until I finished that I realized what I had done, Oh, I thought my dreams of loves sweet bliss were shattered, like the sparkling glass upon the jagged stone. I thought she would hate me always and forever. I thought my dreams would vanish before my very eyes, all because I was unable to contain my lust for her.

Suzette dropped to her knees before me and put her arms about my legs, “Oh, you are a real man, you are…you do not know how long I have dreamed of this William,” she wept in joy. We were marred two weeks later, and I bought a lovely old three story Victorian.

Now my days were filled with the fawning, demanding and angelic Suzette, my nights filled with aggressive and adventurous she-devil Myra, who I hired as “personal advisor” to help with research for my novels, I don’t think anyone ever bought that one. Myra was just too gorgeous to be taken seriously, even though she was smart as a nine-tailed whip.

***

I wanted to visit my old Professor I missed him. I entered the upstairs office of Professor Perkins, Head Master of Baneford Academy, as I entered he got up from behind his desk, rushed over and began shaking my hand vigorously, “We all wondered what had happened to you my boy,” He said excitedly, “locked yourself away in some dingy room some where writing your novel, Eh.”

“Well sort of Professor, I have come to make a donation to the Academy Professor and of coarse to see you.”

“Wonderful, William, I must say I always expected great things from you, your passion showed through in all your works. But your writing now far exceeds anything you have produced in the past, it’s almost as if it were written by another person. Such tremendous style, such elegant phrasing, you have exceeded all my hopes for you, I am so proud of you, son.”

“Thank You, Professor.” I said. It was then that it hit me hard for the first time I was a fraud, a complete and utter fake. My fame, my new home, everything rested on an illusion. It was not I who had produced these works even though it was my hand that held the pen.

I slowly began to realize to my horror that the pen had a mind of its own. I could no-longer write dreamy love poems or about nature and the Greek Gods…now my writing turned to the dark side of life. Murder mysteries, horror novels and political tracts for my mind became filled with visions of crime and vice. But not just that, my mind also followed along as armies marched to carry out the brutal business of war; wandered onto bloody battlefields and listened in horror to screams of agony and death.

Now to my everlasting surprise these works were hailed even more highly than my previous works. What wonderful diversity what comprehensive ability and insight into life, the critics raved, each trying to see who could lavish the most praise on me. I was truly disgusted I don’t believe a one of these critics had ever given a decent review to a horror story or murder mystery before.

I began to notice strange things happening… several publishers had committed suicide when they failed to secure the rights to my latest novel. Several businesses that I had criticized where looted and burned. The longer it went on the stranger it got, my name and face were everywhere in the news. People were taking everything I said as gospel, with one word from me in the press I could destroy a man’s life. The Royal family almost insisted that I be knighted in a grand ceremony with a parade, which was unheard of. With my notoriety it became harder and harder to go anywhere in public, I could not even go to my own plays for fear of being ripped to shreds by adoring mobs. All this that damn Devil Pen had set in motion for it’s own evil designs which I was not to learn of until much later.


***

I was less and less able to control the words that flowed from that monstrous pen. It was always there calling out to me like an addiction. The Pen began to seriously intrude upon my mind. I began to drink myself to sleep every night and started up again as soon as I awoke. I was slowly becoming a drunken leach an evil wanton cynic.

I had the means, and a driving compulsion to live out the sick but wildly erotic fantasies inspired by the Devil Pen. With the ever-wicked Myra on my arm, I strolled into each and every new and more degrading unwholesome escapade. Myra was such a wicked little temptress, “What has gotten into you William, you’re a changed man, I like it,” Myra said giving me that oh… so libidinous little wink of hers.

I tasted each and every vice, every one that struck my depraved and fickle fancy. But I shall not try and recall them all here, all the meaningless nights of drunken debauchery, of the wild and often dangerous search for forbidden and sinful pleasures. Suffice it to say, I have spent many a night in gambling halls, opium dens and the like. I chased every winking barmaid. I fondled every firm, round and tempting bottom. I mercilessly attempted to seduce every female old, young, thin, round, dark or fair, I didn't care.

What purpose would it serve, to recount violent, desperate back alley couplings, or the nights dancing naked as a savage at sabot bonfires, the unholy orgies in the Mortimer Family Crypt, that filled to overflowing with the delightfully degenerate and the irrepressibly depraved. Why should I confess every detail of the nights I spent reveling in strange carnal delights with knowing, wanton, warm and willing ladies of the evening? I couldn’t even tell you for sure how much coin I extravagantly, carelessly cast away at Madame Rousseau’s House of Pain. Ah, what a wonderful venue it would have made De Sade himself blush. Suffice it to say, that of these things I am guilty and much, much more. What purpose would it serve to enumerate my arrests for drunken brawling, public indecency and the like? All of these where easily swept under the rug because of my new wealth and fame.

***

One evening returning from a night of lavish drunken debauchery with Myra, I heard a low and piteous moaning coming from the dining hall, “Yes, yes, oh God, yes,” As we rounded the corner I saw Suzette lying on the end of the long formal dining table, her dress rumpled and scattered beneath her. Balancing, one elbow at her side, her hand clawing at the hair of the man that was holding her long shapely legs aloft and feasting hungrily between her gartered thighs.

“Suzette?” I asked quietly, She quickly jumped of the table. It was Charles Sterling my old friend who turned with a shocked and frightened look in his eyes.

“Well, what of it!” My sweet Suzette screamed. “Your always out with your little ****!”

“I am so sorry William, but I love her. I have always loved her,” Charles confessed.

“Then you take her Charles,” they walked out hand in hand together, Suzette crying.

“Well now I got you all to myself,” Myra said smiling with a Cheshire cat grin.

I slapped her ass hard, “Ouch” she said, “you know I like it when you play rough,” she said putting her arms around me.

“Shut up, Myra.”

She mockingly pouted at me.

My will and heart had been broken. I felt like a puppet whose strings had been cut falling to the stage, never to rise again. The last good and wholesome thing had been driven out of my life forever, I knew that under the influence of the Devil’s Pen I would only end up hurting her, destroying her, perhaps even killing her. I had to let her go while I was still able, for her sake, because of my love for her, Oh...always and forever my sweet Suzette. It had taken her from me, my heart felt as if it was being squeezed in vice. I should have found some other way, if only we had gone to America when I wanted.


***

I awoke this morning my head throbbing my throat parched from God-awful hangover. I went to get a bottle of wine from my desk, when I noticed a stack of papers that I did not remember writing. I began to read them. They were political tracts about the glories of the British Empire, how it was Britain’s destiny to rule not only the waves, but also the world. I have no doubt of the Devil's Pen ability to sway public opinion and lead the country to war.

That damn Pen is the Devil's very own right hand, it contains the will of hell’s master and with me as his instrument, the world would never be safe. In my imagination I see the horrific war playing out, men marching beneath the banner of the Pen's true master, as civilizations crumbled and fell crushed beneath his heel.

It has taken everything from me, my love, my pride, my honor and my innocence, as its power has grown, my will to resist it has weakened. I have decided that I must die, what is one man’s life to save countless others? No, I haven’t fallen that far yet, not far enough to allow all the suffering and death of a world war, just so that I might prosper, but it's only a matter of time before that damn Devil Pen takes over completely and I become the personification of its evil will. I must end it. I must end it while I still may.

William Hargrove

PS: If you value you lives, leave the Pen where it lies.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Gwen Parker on March 20, 2007, 02:10:35 am
Hi Unknown,

Just read both versions, the second one reads better. There is more character development, and you wrap up more loose ends.

Not sure about the ending, though.  As I see it, he seems to commit suicide a bit capriciously. Papers about the British empire ruling the waves?  I think you might need something a bit horrible than that, maybe something less to do with history, but himself?

What if, in the spirit of his spiritual deterioration, the pen writes something to do with himself some horrible act he is about to commit?  That might make more sense.

Gwen


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 20, 2007, 03:35:49 am
Hi Gwen

Thanks for reading them.

Thats a very good idea about him reading something that he is personally going to do.

The history stuff is too unbelevable?

Actually the horror is something he is going to do, the devil pen is going to use him as a propaganda tool to set the masses on fire with passion for war...causing the deaths of millions that is perhaps the ultimate horror the ultimate evil....wars of conquest


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Rachel Dearth on March 20, 2007, 03:49:32 am
I read the last one, but not the two earlier versions, so I am not going to vote. You're a really good writer, Unknown.

It does seem to me that if you are writing a horror story, you might want to finish it with some kind of a shock ending to sort of leave the reader wondering.  Other than that, everything read great.  Maybe a little more creepiness in it..?

Also, a really nice plot device would be if he uncovered the history of the pen, which also led other writers that held it to ruin - sort of like forehshadowing his own end.  Anyway, nice work!

Rachel


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 20, 2007, 04:13:11 am
Hi Rachel

Thanks so much Rachel for those thoughtful comments.

Thats a good idea about the plot device, I actually thought about him, discovering the Pen's history but I was think about how how it infleunced history. But actualy I like your idea better.

I original ended the story with a murder suicide, that didn't seem to go over very well.

 thanks again


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on March 20, 2007, 10:35:48 pm
This one is the best of the three versions.  Don't you feel a little better when you press yourself to come up with new ideas each time?

Personally, I wouldn't make him and Suzette have their difficulties, but rather make her the one thing that keeps him anchored in his success.  Ther relationship just seems to deepen and grow.  As the things he writes begins to happen in real life, he slowly begins to lose his mind. The next thing that happens?  He writes and realizes that the next thing he is to do is to try and kill her.  This is a thing that he cannot bear, and so he kills himself instead.  A dark endng to be true, but you seem to be determined to get hi killed, come what may.  This reason, to me, at least, would be the one that seems to make the most sense. 

Has a certain symmetry and poetry in that, don't you think?

Peace,

Veronica


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 20, 2007, 10:57:40 pm
Hi Veronica

The story is better, in one many ways but as other people have pointed out it's not as romantic as the second, or as tragec and shocking as the first.

William needs a rest, hes tired out from all this dancing with the devil.







Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Jennifer O'Dell on March 20, 2007, 11:50:51 pm
I think that the third one is the most romantic, except for the part where she screws around on him, and he screws around on her. I think the romance would have packed more punch if they were faithful to each other. Then, if one of them dies in the end, it becomes that much more tragic.

Cool story, by the way.  Having a hard time deciding whether I like this one better, or Anna's Tears.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 21, 2007, 12:01:32 am
Hi Jennifer

I will have to write a love story, for you ladies, to make up for William's infidelity...

Yes, it would have been more romantic, but what I was trying to show with his cheating, the infleunce that the Pen had over him. I am so happy you mentioned Anna's tears...

I guess I am not the only one who liked it after all ;D.

Thanks for reading it, and for all your thoughtful comments Jennifer.



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Jennifer O'Dell on March 21, 2007, 12:14:40 am
Well, gee, I think that most people who read it liked it, they just had their gripes about what happened to the characters.  That's actually good. If the stories would have been bad, they wouldn't have cared what happened to the characters.

Yeah, you should try to write a love story, bet you would be good at that.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 21, 2007, 12:28:25 am
Hi Jennifer

Thats a really good observation, thanks hon.





Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 22, 2007, 05:40:28 am
If you have read the above there is no need to read this one, its just been edited for clarity and punctutation...the story hasn't changed.

I want to thank everyone for reading this piece, and all the wonderful insight and inspiration you have given me.
This is the final version, at least for a long while.


The Devil's Pen


My name is William Hargrove, The year of our Lord 1827, October, the seventeenth, I do solemnly swear upon my honor and before almighty God, that this is a true and accurate account of the events of my life.

I do freely and willingly confess to all the unspeakable acts of villainy and debauchery revealed in this written statement. These acts are largely the result of various defaults in my character, defaults that show me to be a base, and vile creature. You will not hear from me vain justifications for what I have done, or pleas for mercy. What I have done, I have done.

Oh, brothers, dear sweet sisters let not the ravings of the insatiable beast we call emotion get its claws into you too. Lock the ravening beast away that rages with carnal desire. Lock it away in a cage of adamantine will. Then cast away that key forever.

An untamed beast lives and breathes just below the surface of us all, straining against the confines imposed on it by our polite and mannerly society, that beast waits beneath the mask, gentlemen.

Pay heed to the warning in my sad tale, and hereafter build your lives on the rock of reason, and take every advantage from this sure and sound footing. This is both a warning and a plea to those whose lives are ruled by passion.

***

I drift back in my mind now to happier days, when I was filled with youthful innocence. It was less then a year ago today, and yet it seems that it was another man entirely that stood on the steps of the grand and magnificent auditorium at Baneford Academy, waiting to receive my doctorate in the literary arts; in my time there I had made something of a reputation for myself as a writer. The Head Master, Professor Perkins was a dear and gentle soul, but prone to emotional outbursts, just as I was. In this and in our love for the written word we where kindred spirits. The dear old gentleman was so happy it was as if he were receiving the diploma, instead of conferring it upon me.

It seemed to me as if I had waited a dozen eternities for this moment. Unlike most of the other students my parents had not been wealthy or aristocratic, in fact it was something of a miracle that I had been allowed to attend at all. I struggled endlessly with finances, because my parents died when I was quite young and although they had provided for me in their will, it was in the form of monthly allowance, which was not nearly enough for the tuition.


***

But my mind was not on these things, what the diploma meant to me was that at last I could marry my beloved Suzette. We met at her coming out party. I had not been invited to this affair, aristocracy only you understand. But Charles Sterling, a dear friend from the Academy brought me along as his guest. Charles was a noble fellow who never held it against me that I was a commoner, the way most of the other students did.

But I digress, what an unforgettable day it was, from the very first moment I saw her, I adored her, I worshipped her, and I was filled with a glowing love light, my feet disdaining the coarse and crude earth beneath them. My soul enshrined an image of her forever, my dream of love always and forever my sweet Suzette. When my lips met hers for the first time what a rapturous thrill, sharp currents of pleasure coursed through me overwhelming my senses. Stirring in me a wild and erotic fascination. It raged inside me like a hurricane at sea, buffeting my emotions about with waves of wild desire.

Her father vehemently disapproved of me, since that very first afternoon at her coming out party. So we met secretly every Sunday evening when she was supposed to be at piano practice. Her piano teacher didn’t mind. She was still being paid; and as Suzette explained to me laughing, she just couldn’t stand the “God awful racket.”


***

With my diploma in hand I would at last be able to face her father and legitimately ask for her hand in marriage. I road to the Brettel Estate, a grand and imposing five story Victorian manor set amidst a lovely eighteenth century style hedged garden and enclosed by an impressively tall and imposing iron gated stonewall. One of the servants took my horse the other led me inside. “I will tell Colonel Brettel you are here sir.” I stood in the grand entrance hall. A winding staircase led to the second floor, above me hung a magnificent golden multi-tiered seventeenth century chandelier. Upon the freshly waxed floors were set busts of some of the great men of British history there was... Wellington, Chamberlain, Cromwell, Shakespeare and many others were waiting there with me. I waited and waited…and waited, I must have stood in that hallway for an over an hour. Finally a servant appeared and said, “The Colonel will see you know.” The servant led me to the library. The colonel sat near the fireplace drinking sherry and smoking one of the biggest cigars I had ever seen. “What can I do for you Mr. Hargrove?” He asked.

“Sir, I have just received my Doctorate from Baneford Academy, your daughter and I are very much in love and I have been assured that I a very promising future, all of my Professor’s recommend me highly. I have come to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

The Colonel jumped from his chair his face flushed, his eyes blazing fiercely. “You little bastard, you have been sneaking around with my Suzette, haven’t you! Is she pregnant? By God I’ll kill you with my own bare hands.” He lunged for my throat, He was built like a bull with huge hands but I was much faster. I blocked his arms and swung around behind him in the same motion grabbing him in a headlock.

“Calm down Colonel. Suzette isn’t pregnant, I haven’t touched her.” I pleaded with him.

“You get the hell out of here, and if I ever see your face again I shall sick the dogs on you!” Now I was consumed with rage myself and sorely tempted to snap his damn neck.

“Be reasonable sir” I said releasing him, restraining myself from further violence.

“Get out now,” he said in a low even tone, he was deadly serious.

I turned and walked slowly out. I was flooded with grief and anger, well that did not go well, I said to myself. As I steeped out of the double doors of the entranceway I heard the Colonel yell, “Grab him!” The two doormen tackled me and held me face down in the entranceway; from here I could see the Colonels boots. Then I heard him say, “This will teach you to keep your damn hands off my daughter!” I felt his hands in my hair, and then he began to slam my face into floor. More of his men must have shown up because I felt them stomping and kicking at me with their heeled and pointed riding boots. I passed out, after the third time my head went into the cold stone floor.

***

I came to in a ditch alongside the road, one eye was swollen shut, I felt my lips, and they were as big lemon wedges. I ran my tongue around inside my mouth and I discovered several of my teeth had been chipped. Well there go my boyish good looks, I thought laughingly. Beside the road stood my horse Uncas, whom I named after the fierce Indian in J. Fenimore Cooper’s “The last of the Mohicans.” I had hell of a time climbing back into the saddle, my mind wouldn’t focus and I was awkward, I couldn’t get my foot into the damn stirrup. Every moment sent sharp pains through me. I think one of my ribs was broken because it always gave me trouble after that. I don’t remember making it back to my flat.

***

I awoke three days later naked atop the sheets that were covered with vomit and stained in blood. I limped around trying to clean it up as best I could. I was starving. But because of my swollen lips I could not eat, it was just too painful. My Mind went racing out to Suzette what would her father do to her? I had to see her. I threw on a long overcoat and headed out the door. I couldn’t ride, but if I could get a message to her, perhaps we could arrange something. As I walked out into the street I saw a thin, taunt and lively gypsy girl with long straight raven black hair falling to her waist, she had the most incredibly intriguing coal black eyes that seemed to peer into your soul. Her mouth was exquisite, ripe, plump and succulent with the most enticing little gap between her top two front teeth.

“Oh you poor man, what happened to you.” she asked

“Well I got knocked around pretty good, it doesn’t matter…My Name is William, would you please do a favor for me, and I’ll give you whatever you ask, within reason.” I replied.

“What do you have in mind, sweetie,” she said as she winked at me.

“Oh no, it’s not that, I need you to get a message to someone, will you help me,” I replied.

“To bad," she said with a wicked little smile. “Sure I’ll do it, ten pounds up front,” she said.

“Five now, five when I get a message back saying the note has been delivered,” I replied.

“All right William, I’ll do it. My name is Myra, a pleasure.”

With Myra’s help I was able to get a message to Elisa, one of Suzette’s old friends from finishing school, and then arrange a rendezvous.

***

I saw Suzette standing in our secret meeting place; It was just beneath an old and distinguished gentleman of an oak, the last surviving member of the forest that once covered these rolling hills, It stood well over a hundred feet tall, its branches forked out at twenty feet above the ground, it stretched one mighty limb across a small stream that ran lazily through the manicured grounds. A dove cooed somewhere in the high grass in the field beyond the stream.

"Oh, William, your face! Did my father do that?"

“Yes, him and a couple of his men.” I said.

“Why did you do it William? Didn’t you realize what he would do? I am practically under house arrest now, he has men watching me night and day, oh I do hope I haven’t led them to this place.”

“I did it because I love you terribly. I want you to be mine forever and always sweet…Suzette. Come away with me tonight, we’ll leave the country. Lets go to America Suzette, we’ll start a new life together.”

“Oh, I am so torn up inside, I can’t marry you now William. He means to marry me to some wealthy and powerful aristocrat it's all business with him. If we ran off together he'd have you killed. I just couldn’t bare that William, I do love you so. I can’t even see you now! He has his spies everywhere.”

“This is not the end Suzette. I shall find a way for us to be together always and forever. I said as I held her gently in my arms.

***

“Well tell!” Myra said poking me in the ribs, which were still sore as hell. “I want to hear all about it, you romantic devil, you.”

“She won’t marry me. She says her father would have me killed, after what happened last week, I think she’s right. I am half out of my mind Myra, I don’t know what to do.” I said.

“Why don’t you just kill the bastard?”

“You’re not serious.”

“No William, I know you don’t have the stomach for that. But maybe I can help.”

***

I saddled up Uncas and we road together to Myra’s camp just as the sun was setting in the sky. It presented us with an amazing display of the maker’s art, broad strokes of smoky deep purple and splashed nonchalantly with a melancholy vermilion, you out did yourself tonight old man. I said to myself as we drew closer to the wagons of her vagabond tribe. I violin played soft and haunting strains somewhere in the night. She made a series of hand signals as we neared, obviously to communicate with men guarding the camp. The campfires were already burning in the fading sunlight and the women folk were cooking the evening meal, in heavy iron pots hung from tripods, over small stone encircled fires. The men were gathered in small groups talking with each other, or were sitting on the steps of the circled wagons enjoying an evening smoke.

She walked up the back steps of a red and yellow painted wagon. It was longer and taller with more elaborate scrollwork then the rest of the wagons in the little caravan. Myra knocked. The round windowed door swung open slowly and there stood an elderly women, her white hair contrasting sharply with the red paisley kerchief she wore about her head. A string of gold necklaces about her withered neck, but what held my attention were the eyes she peered out at the world with, the same coal black knowing eyes that Myra had, “This is Esmeralda…William… Grandmother I have brought this man William to you, he is in need. Will you help him?”

She looked me over carefully, as if weighing my soul on scales in her old head. “Give me your hand, William,” she said finally in a tired, world-weary voice, “Oh you poor man.” She sighed, “Be careful of this one Myra,” she warned. “You are a very passionate man William so very passionate it is killing you, eating you alive inside. Here I shall show you.” She traced a path with her wrinkled finger over my hand as she spoke. “You are unlucky in love your heart line is so deep, so strong, but severed. You are torn between two paths the lifeline diverges, both paths you deeply desire but the paths do not intersect. You shall be offered a choice, I have never seen the like…I cannot help you my boy, but you have my sympathy.”

“Is there no one who can help me?” I asked.

“Perhaps there is one, but I warn you it is very dangerous and foolish.” she said

“I can’t live like this!” I said.

“Very well, come back tomorrow night.”

***

I returned to the Camp the following afternoon, Myra ran out to greet me. “Hello William, It is all arranged. I will take you to the man who is to be your guide.”

“But where am I going Myra?” I asked

“Ha, ha, ha why to see Old Kate of coarse! She knows things William, she maybe able to help you.”

I kissed her cheek and said, “Well, wish me luck.”


***

Black, muck clung thickly to my boots as we trudged through that foul smelling fen. Whopping cranes were calling out in that lonely, long and mournful way of theirs somewhere out there… in the dense rolling fog. Foul shapes seemed to hang and glide just out of the reach of perception on that dim and moonlit moor.

We waded through waist high reeds from stranded hillock to narrow ridge. Stunted and twisted, little sharp-limbed trees took on the aspect of gruesome sentinels, as if guarding some unwholesome secret known only to themselves. Every now and then my guide would lift his lantern high and wave it slowly from side to side reminding me of a lonely lighthouse on the shores of a fog enshrouded sea.

I could see no path at all. How my guide found his way through this, I shall never know. Perhaps it was merely his familiarity with the region, or perhaps this was his natural element, for I never saw anyone who looked so much like they had just stepped out of a penny dreadful.

He was broad shouldered, thick limbed and short legged, perhaps six and a half to seven feet tall, if he had stood upright that is. For he was bent and twisted, one shoulder higher than the other, his back bent as if crouched to spring. His crude and roughly hewn features only added to his apelike appearance, thick lips, a wide-nose, no chin to speak of and a low protruding forehead. Add to this primitive picture of a man, one baleful eye entirely white. A scar stretched over that eye, from the middle of his forehead, to just below the left cheek. His hair was a thick and wiry mop that sat unruly atop his head. He wore a horsehair tunic bound about the middle with thick rope knotted in front and from which hung a long deadly looking curved dagger.

“What the hell are those? See over there?” I asked.

“Em’s Corpse Candles,” he replied with a grunt.

“What pray tell are corpse candles, my good man,” I asked.

“Hain’t your man, I be Kate’s man. You’s to keep your eye's open, lip's shut.”

***

As the night drew on the scenery began to change we started to encounter more clumps of trees standing on lonely hillocks, the path more rocky. Eventually we came to a wood and after some searching my guide located a path. At the head of the path, a totem was set, upon a stake in the earth. It looked as if the bones of various creatures had been cobbled together to form a scarecrow. The head of this scarecrow was a mountain goat with long twisted horns. The torso that of a man’s but from its wrists and ankles hung the claws of what must have been a gigantic vulture, the wings of that vulture sprouted from its back rising high into the air above us. If the purpose of this twisted scarecrow was to scare away-unwanted visitors this skeletal freak was more than adequate to the task; I almost begged my primitive guide to take me back across the moors. I would have but then I considered the deadly looking dagger that hung from his belt.

We walked through this wood for what seemed like hours ever now and then I was startled by a sudden caw, caw of a crow and heavy beating of wings as it flew off. Now I began to notice bones strewn along the path, I could not shake the sensation that I was being watched. Finally I saw ahead of us in the clearing a crude thatched hut surrounded by torches burning in the darkness, the ground strewn with bones. Two human skulls were mounted on posts in the ground outside her door. I began to seriously wonder about wisdom of this little excursion.

As we neared the hut she emerged moving with an unnatural slowness and grace. I looked into her eyes, the pupils of which were narrow, not round at all and of a greenish yellow cast. Her head had a peculiar v-shape to it. She wore a long black robe decorated with curiously wrought white symbols around the neck and about the sleeves, the tail of the robe disappearing into the depths of her primitive hut. The hut itself was decorated with shrunken heads, weirdly carved figurines, and candles. Long strings of beads formed a primitive doorway inside the hut before which sat a stack of ancient looking leather bound books. A parrot sat high upon a perch as snakes wound there way across the dirt floor.

“Ah Master Hargrove, I have been expecting you, you are a vain and passionate man William, just my type,” she said as her eye slowly winked at me. “Ha, ha, ha,” she cackled. A shudder rippled through me as she spoke, for her voice had the sibilant hiss of the crafty serpent.

“Auuugghk, passionate man,” squawked the parrot.

“Quiet Paracelsus,” she said. “He’s always sticking his nose into things that are better left alone, ha, ha, ha” she cackled. “Now where were we?”

“Auuugghk, ****,” squawked the parrot.

“Why have you come to old Kate, William Hargrove, a love potion perhaps? No I see you’re after more, much, much more. I have something that may be of use to you William.” She said in her hissing voice as she lifted a pen up before my astonished eyes. What is it you see William.”

“It is a pen,”

“Yes, it is that and much, much, more, it is also a weapon perhaps the most powerful weapon of all for with it you can sway minds, move armies and crumble empires. I thought that you being a writer, might understand this.”

“I understand,” I said.

“No William, I don’t think you do, but never mind that, you did not come here for a philosophy lesson now did you? You came here because you are obsessed with a woman. This pen produces only masterworks.”

“What do you want for it?”

“Ah, all artists know the sacrifices that must be made for their craft, the power of the pen exacts its own price, William.”

She then presented me with this most exquisite instrument of the writer’s art, exquisite long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped.

***

The power of the pen I discovered soon enough. I began by writing love poetry, long essays about the wonders and beauties of the natural world, and long epic poems based upon the wondrous complexities and ironies of Greek mythology. My work was hailed as a triumph. I was the new darling of the literary world. Soon I became wealthy man and offers poured into write novels and plays.

Which I produced in short order increasing my wealth enough so that I was able to buy up the majority of stock in Brettel family business and acquire the mortgage on the estate. I was able to do this in part, by writing glowing praises of the Colonel's competitors and stinging criticism of his company, which they richly deserved for labor abuses, bribery and other nefarious practices. This helped lower the cost of the stock and caused more people to sell, further lowing its value in an ever downward spiral. This was a technique that served me well in accumulating wealth.

When the day came that I owned the majority of his company I simply road to the estate with my new band of gypsy body guards and I gave him a choice, either he gave me Suzette’s hand and I gave him back his company or I would ruin him. The Colonel made a very wise decision, I believe.

***

I will never forget that day. Suzette was more beautiful than ever the sun was shining and we decided to visit our secret place. She began torturing me with kisses that flowed warm and sweet like summer wine, intoxicating me with passion.

I then held her from behind, holding her tender waist pulling her slowly against me once more nuzzling my face in the tantalizing sensuousness of her hair. Breathing heavily almost panting, pulsating with pleasure, my mind enthralled by the sinful suggestiveness of this embrace, I begged, “Please Suzette, let me, I love you more than any man has ever loved a woman, I would die a thousand agonizing deaths for you, I would sell my everlasting soul to win your love.”

My heart pumped; my loins ached and my head reeled in delirium. I could stand it no longer. I hiked up the long ankle length gown up over her back reveling the white-gartered stockings beneath. I explored her luscious long flanks with my greedy hands. As she held on to the gentlemanly old oak tree for balance her firm hindquarters were before my hungry eyes taunting me with their ripeness, insane with lust I had to have her.

“My God William stop, what has gotten into you?” I did not stop. I took her then and there, it was not until I finished that I realized what I had done, Oh, I thought my dreams of loves sweet bliss were shattered, like the sparkling glass upon the jagged stone. I thought she would hate me always and forever. I thought my dreams would vanish before my very eyes, all because I was unable to contain my lust for her.

Suzette dropped to her knees before me and put her arms about my legs, “Oh, you are a real man, you are…you do not know how long I have dreamed of this William,” she wept in joy. We were marred two weeks later, and I bought a lovely old three story Victorian.

***

Now my days were filled with the fawning, demanding and angelic Suzette, my nights filled with aggressive and adventurous she-devil Myra, who I hired as “personal advisor” to help with research for my novels, I don’t think anyone ever bought that one. Myra was just too gorgeous to be taken seriously, even though she was smart as a nine-tailed whip.

***

I wanted to visit my old Professor I missed him. I entered the upstairs office of Professor Perkins, Head Master of Baneford Academy, as I entered he got up from behind his desk, rushed over and began shaking my hand vigorously, “We all wondered what had happened to you my boy,” He said excitedly, “locked yourself away in some dingy room some where writing your novel, Eh.”

“Well sort of Professor, I have come to make a donation to the Academy Professor and of coarse to see you.”

“Wonderful, William, I must say I always expected great things from you, your passion showed through in all your works. But your writing now far exceeds anything you have produced in the past, it’s almost as if it were written by another person. Such tremendous style, such elegant phrasing, you have exceeded all my hopes for you, I am so proud of you, son.”

“Thank You, Professor.” I said. It was then that it hit me hard for the first time I was a fraud, a complete and utter fake. My fame, my new home, everything rested on an illusion. It was not I who had produced these works even though it was my hand that held the pen.

***

I slowly began to realize to my horror that the pen had a mind of its own. I could no-longer write dreamy love poems or about nature and the Greek Gods…now my writing turned to the dark side of life. Murder mysteries, horror novels and political tracts for my mind became filled with visions of crime and vice. But not just that, my mind also followed along as armies marched to carry out the brutal business of war; wandered onto bloody battlefields and listened in horror to screams of agony and death.

Now to my everlasting surprise these works were hailed even more highly than my previous works. What wonderful diversity what comprehensive ability and insight into life, the critics raved, each trying to see who could lavish the most praise on me. I was truly disgusted I don’t believe a one of these critics had ever given a decent review to a horror story or murder mystery before.

I began to notice strange things happening… several publishers had committed suicide when they failed to secure the rights to my latest novel. Several businesses that I had criticized where looted and burned. The longer it went on the stranger it got, my name and face were everywhere in the news. People were taking everything I said as gospel; with one word from me in the press I could destroy a man’s life. The Royal family almost insisted that I be knighted in a grand ceremony with a parade, which was unheard of. With my notoriety it became harder and harder to go anywhere in public, I could not even go to my own plays for fear of being ripped to shreds by adoring mobs. All this that damn devil pen had set in motion for it’s own evil designs which I was not to learn of until much later.


***

I was less and less able to control the words that flowed from that monstrous pen. It was always there calling out to me like an addiction. The pen began to seriously intrude upon my mind. I began to drink myself to sleep every night and started up again as soon as I awoke. I was slowly becoming a drunken leach an evil wanton cynic.

I had the means, and a driving compulsion to live out the sick but wildly erotic fantasies inspired by the devil pen. With the ever-wicked Myra on my arm, I strolled into each and every new and more unwholesome escapade. Myra was such a wicked little temptress, “What has gotten into you William, you’re a changed man, I like it,” Myra said giving me that oh… so libidinous little wink of hers.

I tasted each and every vice, every one that struck my depraved and fickle fancy. But I shall not try and recall them all here, all the meaningless nights of drunken debauchery, of the wild and often dangerous search for forbidden and sinful pleasures. Suffice it to say, I have spent many a night in gambling halls, opium dens and the like. I chased every winking barmaid. I fondled every firm, round and tempting bottom. I mercilessly attempted to seduce every female old, young, thin, round, dark or fair, I didn't care.

What purpose would it serve, to recount violent, desperate back alley couplings, or the nights dancing naked as a savage at sabot bonfires, the unholy orgies in the Mortimer Family Crypt, that filled to overflowing with the delightfully degenerate and the irrepressibly depraved. Why should I confess every detail of the nights I spent reveling in strange carnal delights with knowing, warm and willing ladies of the evening? I couldn’t even tell you for sure how much coin I extravagantly, carelessly cast away at Madame Rousseau’s House of Pain. Ah, what a wonderful venue it would have made De Sade himself blush. Suffice it to say, that of these things I am guilty and much, much more. What purpose would it serve to enumerate my arrests for drunken brawling, public indecency and the like? All of these where easily swept under the rug because of my new wealth and fame.

***

One evening returning from a night of drunken debauchery with Myra, I heard a low and piteous moaning coming from the dining hall, “Yes, yes, oh God, yes,” As we rounded the corner I saw Suzette lying on the end of the long formal dining table, her dress rumpled and scattered beneath her. Balancing, one elbow at her side, her hand clawing at the hair of the man that was holding her long shapely legs aloft and feasting hungrily between her gartered thighs.

“Suzette?” I asked quietly, She quickly jumped of the table. It was Charles Sterling my old friend who turned with a shocked and frightened look in his eyes.

“Well, what of it!” My sweet Suzette screamed. “Your always out with your little ****!”

“I am so sorry William, but I love her, I have always loved her,” Charles confessed.

“Then you take her Charles,” they walked out hand in hand together, Suzette crying.

“Well now I got you all to myself,” Myra said smiling with a Cheshire cat grin.

I slapped her ass hard, “Ouch” she said, “you know I like it when you play rough,” she said putting her arms around me.

“Shut up, Myra.”

She mockingly pouted at me.

My will and heart had been broken. I felt like a puppet whose strings had been cut falling to the stage, never to rise again. The last good and wholesome thing had been driven out of my life forever, I knew that under the influence of the devil’s pen I would only end up hurting her, destroying her, perhaps even killing her. I had to let her go while I was still able, for her sake, because of my love for her, Oh...always and forever my sweet Suzette. It had taken her from me, my heart felt as if it was being squeezed in vice. I should have found some other way, if only we had gone to America when I wanted.


***

Here, I sit at my roll-top mahogany desk writing by the warm glow of gaslight lanterns set about the opulence of my personal study, staring at it. The pen; exquisite, long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped. It begs to be held, to wind and whip its way across the page, like a ballerina upon the stage and just as fluid, graceful and sure as any prima ballerina. But I shall not hold that wondrous shaft in my hand again, no, for it is the devil’s pen.

I awoke this morning my head throbbing my throat parched from God-awful hangover. I went to get a bottle of wine from my desk, when I noticed a stack of papers that I did not remember writing. I began to read them. They were political tracts about the glories of the British Empire, how it was Britain’s destiny to rule not only the waves, but also the world. I have no doubt of the devil's pen ability to sway public opinion and lead the country to war.

This pen is the devil's very own right hand, it contains the will of hell’s master and with me as his instrument, the world will never be safe. In my imagination I see the horrific war playing out, men marching beneath the banner of the pen's true master, as civilizations crumble and fall crushed beneath his heel.

It has taken everything from me, my love, my pride, my honor and my innocence, as its power had grown, my will to resist it has weakened. I have decided that I must die, what is one man’s life to save countless others? No, I haven’t fallen that far yet, not far enough to allow all the suffering and death of war, just so that I might prosper. But it's only a matter of time before that damn pen takes over completely and I become the personification of its evil will. I must end it. I must end it while I still may.

William Hargrove

PS: If you value you lives, leave the pen where it lies.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Trent on March 22, 2007, 03:07:13 pm
Hi Unknown,

Not sure what is different since the last time you posted it.  It is good, but, as has been mentioned, there's still something a bit off about the ending. 

Hey, if he is going to kill himself over the pen's ability to create a war, how about if he sees World War II in the future and the A Bomb or Dresden?  Either one would be pretty horrific.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 22, 2007, 07:27:15 pm
Hi Trent

Thanks for reading it :)

World war I is still almost a hundred years away, the time frame I am using the British empire is still the most powerful nation on earth, the rest of europe is quite weak and the fledgling US hasn't grown into its power yet. It is quite probable under the right circumstances that they could have conquered europe stepping into the void caused by the collapse of the Napoleans empire.

The story does have its flaws...to fix it it would probably have to be a much longer story.

This is the same story, its just an edited version for clarity.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Gwen Parker on March 23, 2007, 03:49:11 am
This is the best version of the story yet, Unknown.  I noticed that you started a romance section.  Have your written any of those yet? I bet you could write a good one if you haven't. Your work already seems to lend itself to that.

Gwen


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 23, 2007, 05:22:34 am
Thank you Gwen


I think it is too, I think to do the story justice I would have to make it at least twenty pages.

I may come back to it after a while. :-\

I haven't written any romance stories yet, I really don't know how...

I mean how to set up a conflict to make a real story out of it.

I will right one, whether it will be good is another question entirely, thanks for your confidence in me.


I have been thinking about tackling Anna again, oh that didn't come out right,

I have been thinking about writing about Anna again, actually

and I want to do a sword and sorcery story.



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Heather Delaria on March 25, 2007, 01:58:03 am
Twenty pages isn't that long for a short story, I have seen them as long as fifty pages.

It would be nice if you turned Anna's story into a novella spanning three time periods in three acts. That way, you could see how the character evolves - from girl to supernatural creature.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 25, 2007, 02:04:47 am
Hi Heather

The count I get is eleven pages, the older short stories like from the forties back are usually at least twenty pages,

The modern short story is shorter than the traditional short story, I think the trend started with Hemingway.

For instance Poe's short stories like The Fall of the House of Usher is around 25-30 pages.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 25, 2007, 02:09:25 am
Hi Heather

I hope to start working on the Anna Series again.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Heather Delaria on March 25, 2007, 02:14:16 am
I'm glad it's now become a series!


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on March 25, 2007, 02:17:34 am
I do have some ideas, but they are going to take some actual work to pull off, research etc.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on April 06, 2007, 03:59:33 am
No revisions yet?


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on April 06, 2007, 04:38:24 am
No Veronica

But I am thinking of adding at least one, maybe two more scenes.

I think Myra deserves some closure, and William and Suzette should meet one more time.

I will have to see how the characters feel about it. LOL


Veronica, if your interested--I posted a new story in the horror stories categorie, Ezrabette, The New Queen of Cats.

I could use a critique!


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on April 07, 2007, 04:12:15 am
Great, I'll read it and tell you what I think there.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on April 07, 2007, 05:32:42 am
Thank You Veronica


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Pagan on April 10, 2007, 01:16:35 am
We are still waiting for those rewrites, Sonny, and they better have some sex in them! 


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on April 10, 2007, 02:58:35 am
Yes mam...


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on May 18, 2007, 08:00:33 am
The Devil's Pen


My name is William Hargrove. The year of our Lord 1827, October, the Seventeenth, I do solemnly swear upon my honor and before almighty God that this is a true and accurate account of the events of my life.

I do freely and willingly confess to all the unspeakable acts of villainy and debauchery revealed in this written statement. These acts are largely the result of various faults in my character, faults that show me to be a base, and vile creature. You will not hear from me vain justifications for what I have done, or pleas for mercy. What I have done, I have done.

An untamed beast lives and breathes just below the surface of us all, straining against the confines imposed on it by our polite and mannerly society. That beast waits beneath the mask, gentlemen.

Oh, brothers, dear sweet sisters let not the ravings of that insatiable beast we call emotion get its claws into you. Lock away the ravening beast that rages with carnal desire. Lock it away in a cage of adamantine will and then cast the key away forever.

Pay heed to the warning in my sad tale. Hereafter build your lives on the solid rock of reason. So you may take every advantage from that sure and sound footing.


***

I drift back in my mind now to happier days when I was filled with youthful innocence and exuberance. It was less then two years ago today and yet it seems that it was another man entirely that stood on the steps of the grand and magnificent auditorium at Baneford Academy. I was waiting there to receive my doctorate in the literary arts. In my time at the Academy, I made something of a reputation for myself as a writer.

The Head Master, Professor Perkins was a dear and gentle soul who was prone to emotional outbursts, just as I was. In this and in our love for the written word we were kindred spirits. The dear old gentleman was so happy it was as if he were receiving the diploma instead of conferring it upon me.

It seemed to me as if I had waited an eternity for this moment. Unlike most of the other students, my parents had not been wealthy or aristocratic. In fact, it was something of a miracle that I had been allowed to attend at all. I struggled endlessly with finances. My parents died when I was quite young and although they provided for me in their will, it was in the form of a monthly allowance that was not nearly enough for tuition.


***

But my mind was not on these things. What the diploma meant was that at last I could marry my beloved Suzette. We met at her coming out party. I had not been invited to this affair, aristocracy only, you understand. Charles Sterling, a dear friend from the academy brought me along as his guest. Charles was a noble fellow who never held the fact that I was a commoner against me, the way most of the other students did.

But I digress. What an unforgettable day it was! From the very first moment I saw her, I adored her, I worshipped her. I was filled with a glowing love light, my feet disdaining the coarse and crude earth beneath them. My soul enshrined an image of her forever, my dream of love always and forever my sweet Suzette.

When my lips met hers for the first time what a rapturous thrill. Sharp currents of pleasure coursed through me, overwhelming my senses, stirring in me a wild and erotic fascination. It raged inside me like a hurricane at sea, buffeting my emotions about with waves of wild desire.

Her father strongly disapproved of me, from that very first afternoon at Suzette's coming out party. We met secretly every Sunday evening when she was supposed to be at piano practice. Her piano teacher didn’t mind. She was still being paid and, as Suzette explained to me laughing, she just couldn’t stand the, “God-awful racket.”


***

With my diploma in hand, I would at last be able to face her father and legitimately ask for her hand in marriage. I rode to the Brettel Estate, a grand and imposing five- story Victorian manor. It was set amidst a lovely eighteenth-century style hedged garden and enclosed by an impressively tall and imposing iron-gated stone wall. One of the servants took my horse the other led me inside. “I will tell Colonel Brettel you are here, sir.”

I stood in the grand entrance hall. A winding staircase led to the second floor, above me hung a magnificent golden multi-tiered seventeenth-century chandelier. Upon the freshly waxed floors were busts of some of the great men of British history. There was Wellington, Chamberlain, Cromwell, Shakespeare and many others all waiting there with me. I waited and waited -- and waited. I must have stood in that hallway for an over an hour.

Finally, a servant appeared and said; “The Colonel will see you now.” The servant led me to the library. The Colonel sat near the fireplace drinking brandy and smoking one of the biggest cigars I had ever seen. “What can I do for you Mr. Hargrove?” he asked.

“Sir, I have just received my Doctorate from Baneford Academy. Your daughter and I are very much in love. I have been assured that I have a very promising future. All of my professors recommend me highly. I have come to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

The Colonel jumped from his chair his face flushed, his eyes blazing fiercely. “You little bastard! You have been sneaking around with my Suzette, haven’t you! Is she pregnant? By God I’ll kill you with my own bare hands.” He lunged for my throat, He was built like a bull with huge hands, but I was much faster. I blocked his arms and swung around behind him in the same motion grabbing him in a headlock.

“Calm down Colonel. Suzette isn’t pregnant. I haven’t touched her.” I pleaded with him.

“You get the hell out of here. If I ever see your face again, I shall sick the dogs on you!” he said. Now I was consumed with rage myself and sorely tempted to break his damn neck.

“Be reasonable, sir,” I said releasing him, restraining myself from further violence.

“Get out now,” he said in a low even tone. He was deadly serious.

I turned and walked slowly out. I was flooded with grief and anger. Well that did not go well, I thought. As I stepped out of the double doors of the entranceway, I heard the Colonel yell, “Grab him!” The two doormen tackled me, and held me face down in the entranceway. From the floor I could see the Colonels boots. Then I heard him say, “This will teach you to keep your damn hands off my daughter!” I felt his hands in my hair, and then he began to slam my face into the floor. More of his men must have come, because I could feel them stomping and kicking me with their heeled riding boots. I passed out, the third time my head went into the cold stone floor.

***

I came to in a ditch alongside the road, one eye was swollen shut, and my lips were thick and rubbery. I could taste the irony flavor of blood in my mouth. I ran my tongue around inside of it and felt a couple of my teeth had been chipped. Well there go my boyish good looks, I thought, laughing at myself.

Beside the road stood my horse Uncas, whom I named after the fierce Indian in J. Fenimore Cooper’s “The last of the Mohicans.” I had a hell of a time climbing back into the saddle. My mind wouldn’t focus and I was awkward. I couldn’t get my foot into the stirrup. Every moment sent sharp pains through me. I think my ribs were broken because they always gave me trouble after that. I don’t remember how I made it back to my flat.

***

I awoke two days later, naked atop the sheets. The sheets were covered with vomit and stained in blood. I limped around trying to clean it up as best I could. I was starving. I could not eat because of my swollen lips it was just too painful. My mind went racing out to Suzette, what would her father do to her? I had to see her. I threw on a long overcoat and headed out the door. I couldn’t ride, but if I could get a message to her, perhaps we could arrange something.

As I walked out into the street I saw a thin taunt and lively gypsy girl. Her mouth was exquisite, ripe, plump and succulent with the most enticing little gap between her top two front teeth. She had long straight raven black hair falling to her waist and the most intriguing coal black eyes. Her eyes seemed to peer into the secret depths of my soul.

“Oh you poor man, what happened?” she asked.

“Well, I got knocked around pretty good. It doesn’t really matter. My name is William. Would you please do a favor for me? I’ll give you whatever you ask, within reason.”

“What do you have in mind, darling?” She said, winking at me.

“Oh no, it’s not that! I need you to get a message to someone, will you help me?” I said.

“Too bad," she said with a wicked little smile. “Sure I’ll do it, ten pounds up front.”

“Five now, five when I get a message back saying the note has been delivered.” I said.

“All right William, I’ll do it. My name is Myra, a pleasure.” She said.

With Myra’s help, I was able to get a message to Elisa, one of Suzette’s old friends from finishing school. Soon after, Elisa and I arranged a rendezvous.

***

I saw Suzette standing in our secret meeting place. It was just beneath an old and distinguished gentleman of an oak, the last surviving member of the forest that once covered these rolling hills. It stood well over a hundred feet tall. The oak's branches forked out at twenty feet above the ground. It stretched one mighty limb across a small stream that ran lazily through the manicured grounds. A dove cooed softly somewhere in the high grass of the field beyond the stream.

"Oh William, your face! Did my father do that?" Suzette said.

“Yes, him and a couple of his men.” I said.

“Why did you do it William? Didn’t you realize what he would do? I am practically under house arrest now. He has men watching me night and day. Oh, I do hope I haven’t led them to this place.” Suzette said.

“I did it because I love you terribly. I want you to be mine always and forever my sweet Suzette. Come away with me tonight. We’ll leave the country. Let's go to America Suzette. We’ll start a new life together.” I said.

“I'm so torn up inside. I can’t marry you now, William. He means to marry me to some wealthy and powerful aristocrat. It's all business with him. If we ran off together he'd have you killed. I just couldn’t bare that William. I do love you so. I can’t even see you now! He has his spies everywhere,” Suzette said.

“This is not the end Suzette. I shall find a way for us to be together.”
 I said. As I held her gently in my arms, kissing her forehead.

***

“Well tell!” Myra said, poking me in the ribs, which were still sore as hell. “I want to hear all about it, you romantic devil, you.”

“She won’t marry me. She says her father would have me killed. After what happened last week, I think she’s right. I am half out of my mind Myra. I don’t know what to do.” I said.

"Why don’t you just kill the bastard?"

“You’re not serious.”

“No William, I know you don’t have the stomach for that. But maybe I can help.”

***

I saddled up, Uncas. Myra and I rode together to her camp just as the sun was setting in the sky. The sunset presented us with an amazing display of the maker’s art, broad strokes of smoky deep purple, splashed nonchalantly with a melancholy vermilion. You out did yourself tonight, old man, I thought to myself as we drew closer to the wagons of her vagabond tribe.

A violin played soft and haunting strains somewhere in the night. She made a series of hand signals as we neared, obviously to communicate with the men guarding the gypsy caravan. The campfires were already burning in the fading sunlight. The women folk were cooking the evening meal in heavy iron pots hung from tripods, over small stone encircled fires. The men were gathered in groups talking with each other, or sitting on the steps of the circled wagons enjoying an evening smoke.

She walked up the back steps of a red and yellow painted wagon. It was longer and taller then the rest of the wagons, with more elaborate scrollwork. Myra knocked. The round windowed door swung open slowly. An elderly woman stood there in the doorway. Her white hair contrasted sharply with the red paisley kerchief she wore about her head. About her withered neck hung a string of gold necklaces. But what held my attention were the eyes she peered out at the world with. She had the same coal black knowing eyes that Myra had, “This is Esmeralda…William… Grandmother I have brought this man William to you. He is in need. Will you help him?” Myra said.

She looked me over carefully, as if weighing my soul on scales in her ancient mind. “Give me your hand, William,” she said in a tired, world-weary voice, “Oh you poor man.” She sighed, “Be careful of this one Myra.” She warned. “You are a very passionate man William: so very passionate it is killing you. Eating you alive inside.

Here I shall show you.” She traced a path with her wrinkled finger over my hand as she spoke. “You are unlucky in love. Your heart line is so deep, so strong, but severed. You are torn between two paths. The lifeline diverges. Both paths you deeply desire but the paths do not intersect. You shall be offered a choice. I have never seen the like… I cannot help you my boy, but you have my sympathy.” Said Esmeralda.

“Is their no one who can help me?” I asked.

“Perhaps there is one, but I warn you! It is very foolish, very dangerous,” she said.

“I don't care. I've got to do something. I can’t live without her!” I said.

“Very well, come back tomorrow night.” Esmeralda said.

***

I returned to the camp the following evening. Myra ran out to greet me, her long black hair flowing gracefully behind her. “Hello William! It is all arranged. I will take you to your guide.”

“But where am I going Myra?” I asked.

“Ha, ha, ha!” Myra Laughed. “Why to see Old Kate of course! She knows things William, she maybe able to help you.”

I kissed her cheek and said, “Well, wish me luck.”

"Good Luck William, and for God's sake be respectful to Old Kate!" Myra warned.

***

Black muck clung thickly to my boots as we trudged through the foul smelling fen. Whooping cranes were calling out in that lonely, long and mournful way of theirs somewhere out there -- in the dense rolling fog. Foul shapes seemed to hang and glide just out of the reach of perception on that dim and moonlit moor.

We waded through waist high reeds from stranded hillock to narrow ridge. Stunted and twisted, little sharp-limbed trees took on the aspect of gruesome sentinels, as if guarding some unwholesome secret known only to them. Every now and then my guide would lift his lantern high and wave it slowly from side to side reminding me of a lonely lighthouse on the shores of a fog-enshrouded sea.

I could see no path at all. How my guide found his way through this, I shall never know. Perhaps it was merely his familiarity with the region, or perhaps this was his natural element, for I never saw anyone who looked so much like they had just stepped from the pages of a penny dreadful.

He was broad shouldered, thick limbed and short legged, perhaps six and a half to seven feet tall, if he had stood upright that is. He was bent and twisted, one shoulder higher than the other, his back bent as if crouched to spring. His crude and roughly hewn features only added to his apelike appearance: thick lips, a wide-nose, no chin to speak of and a low protruding forehead. Add to this primitive picture of a man, one baleful eye entirely white. A scar stretched over that eye, from the middle of his forehead, to just below the left cheek. His hair was a thick and wiry mop that sat unruly atop his head. He wore a horsehair tunic bound about the middle with thick rope, knotted in front and from which hung a long and deadly looking dagger.

“What the hell are those? See over there?” I asked.

“Corpse Candles,” he replied with a grunt.

“What pray tell are corpse candles, my good man,” I asked.

“Not your man, I Kate’s man. Keep eyes open, lips shut.”

***

As the night drew on the scenery began to change, we started to encounter more clumps of trees standing on lonely hillocks, the path rockier. Eventually, we came to a wood, and after some searching my guide located a trial.

At the head of the trail a totem was set upon a stake in the earth. It looked as if the bones of various creatures had been cobbled together to form a scarecrow. The head of this scarecrow was a mountain goat with long twisted horns. The torso that of a man’s but from its wrists and ankles hung the claws of what must have been a gigantic vulture, wings sprouted from its back rising high into the air above us.

If the purpose of this twisted scarecrow was to scare away-unwanted visitors this skeletal freak was more than equal to the task. I almost begged my primitive guide to take me back across the moors. I would have, but then I considered the dagger that hung from his belt.

We walked through this wood for what seemed like hours. Several times I was startled by the sudden caw, cawing of a crow, and the heavy beating of wings as it flew off. Now I began to notice bones strewn along the path, I could not shake the sensation that I was being watched.

Finally, I saw ahead of us in the clearing a crude thatched hut surrounded by torches burning in the darkness, the ground strewn with bones. Two human skulls were mounted on posts outside the door. I began to seriously wonder about the wisdom of this little excursion.

As we neared the hut, she emerged moving with an unnatural slowness and grace. I looked into her eyes, the pupils of which were too narrow and of a greenish yellow cast. Her head had a peculiar v-shape to it. She wore a long black robe decorated with curiously wrought white symbols that flowed and twisted around the neck and about the sleeves, the tail of her robe disappeared into the depths of her primitive thatched hut.

The interior of the hut was decorated with shrunken heads, weirdly carved figurines and candles. Long strings of beads formed a sort of doorway before which sat a stack of ancient looking, leather bound books. A parrot was preening itself high upon a perch; as snakes wound and curled about the dirt floor.

“Ah, Master Hargrove, I have been expecting you. What a vain and passionate man you are William, just my type,” she said, as her eye slowly winked at me. “Ha, ha, ha,” she cackled. A shudder rippled through me as she spoke, for her voice had the sibilant hiss of the crafty serpent.

“Auuugghk, passionate man,” squawked the parrot.

“Quiet Paracelsus,” she said. “He’s always sticking his beak into things that are better left alone. Ha, ha, ha,” she cackled. “Now where were we?”

“Auuugghk, ****,” squawked the parrot.

“Why have you come to old Kate, a love potion perhaps? No! I see you’re after more, much, much more. I have something that may be of use to you William.” She said, in her hissing voice as she lifted a pen up before my astonished eyes. What is it you see William?” She asked.

“It is a pen,” I said.

“Ah! It is that and much, much, more; it is also a weapon. Perhaps the most powerful weapon of all, for with it you can sway minds, move armies and crumble empires. I thought that you being a writer, might understand this.”

“I understand,” I said.

“No William, I don’t think you do. But never mind that, you did not come here for a philosophy lesson now did you? You came here, because you are obsessed with a woman,” she said.

“What do you want for it?” I asked.

“Ah, all artists know the sacrifices that must be made for their craft. The power of the pen exacts its own price, William.” She stated.

She then presented me with the most exquisite instrument of the writer’s art, long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped.

***

I discovered the power of the pen, soon enough. I began by writing love poetry, long essays about the wonders and beauties of the natural world, and long epic poems based upon the wondrous complexities and ironies of Greek mythology. My work was hailed as a triumph. I was the new darling of the literary world. Offers poured in for me to write novels and plays.

Eventually, I was able to buy up the majority of stock in the Brettel family business in part by writing glowing praises of the Colonel's competitors and stinging criticism of his company. Criticism the company richly deserved for labor abuses, bribery, and other nefarious practices. This helped lower the cost of the stock, and caused more people to sell, further lowering its value in an ever downward spiral. This was a technique that served me well in accumulating wealth.

When the day came, that I owned the majority of the colonel's company, I simply road to the estate with a few gypsy friends for body guards, and gave him an ultimatum; either he gave me Suzette’s hand and I gave him back his company or I would ruin him. The Colonel made a very wise decision, I believe.

***

Suzette was more beautiful than ever. The sun was shining and to celebrate the triumph of our love we returned to our secret meeting place. As soon as we arrived, she began torturing me with kisses that flowed warm and sweet like summer wine, intoxicating me with passion.

I held her tender waist from behind pulling her slowly against me, nuzzling my face in the tantalizing sensuous of her soft blonde hair. My mind enthralled by the sinful suggestiveness of this embrace. I begged, “Please Suzette, let me. I love you more than any man has ever loved a woman, I would die a thousand agonizing deaths for you. I would sell my everlasting soul to win your love.”

My heart pumped; my loins ached and my head reeled in delirium. I could stand it no longer. I quickly hiked the long ankle length gown up over her back revealing the white-gartered stockings beneath. I explored her luscious long flanks with my greedy hands. As she held on to the oak for balance, her firm hindquarters were before my hungry eyes taunting me with their ripeness. Overwhelmed with lust I had to have her.

“My God William! Stop! What has gotten into you?” I did not stop. I took her then and there. It was not until I finished that I realized what I had done. Oh, I thought my dreams of loves sweet bliss were shattered like the sparkling glass upon the jagged stone. I thought she would hate me. I thought that my dreams would vanish before my eyes and all because I could not contain my animalistic passion for her.

Suzette dropped to her knees before me and put her arms about my legs, “Oh you are a real man, you are -- you do not know how long I have dreamed of this William,” she wept in joy. We were married two weeks later and I bought her a lovely old three story Victorian.

***

I wanted to visit my old Professor. I missed him. I entered the upstairs office of Professor Perkins, Head Master of Baneford Academy. As I entered he got up from behind his desk, rushed over and began shaking my hand vigorously, “We all wondered what had happened to you my boy.” He said excitedly, “Locked yourself away in some dingy room some where writing your novel, Eh.”

“Well sort of Professor, I have come to make a donation to the academy and of course to see you.”

“Wonderful William, I must say, I always expected great things from you. Your remarkable passion was clearly evident in all you literary works. But what you are writing now far exceeds anything you have produced in the past, it’s almost as if it were written by another person. Such tremendous style, such elegant phrasing, you have exceeded all my hopes for you, I am so proud of you, son.”

“Thank You, Professor.” I said. It was then that it hit me hard for the first time I was a fraud, a complete and utter fake. My fame, my new home, everything rested on an illusion. It was not I who had produced these works even though it was my hand that held the pen.

***

I slowly began to realize to my horror that the pen had a mind of its own. I could no-longer write dreamy love poems or about nature and the Greek Gods…now my writing turned to the dark side of life: murder mysteries, horror stories and political tracts. My mind became filled with visions of crime and vice. But not just that, it also followed along as armies marched to carry out the brutal business of war; wandered onto bloody battlefields, and listened in horror to screams of agony, and death.

Now to my everlasting surprise these works were hailed even more highly than my previous works. What wonderful diversity, what comprehensive ability and insight into life, the critics raved, each trying to see who could lavish the most praise on me. I was truly disgusted. I don’t believe a one of these critics had ever given a decent review to a horror story or murder mystery before.

I began to notice strange things happening. Several businesses that I had criticized where looted and burned. The longer it went on the stranger it got, my name and face were everywhere in the news. People were taking everything I said as gospel; with one word from me in the press, I could destroy a man’s life. With my notoriety it became harder, and harder to go anywhere in public, I could not even go to my own play, for fear of being ripped to shreds by adoring mobs. All this that damn devil pen had set in motion for it’s own evil designs, which I was not to learn of until much later.


***


My days were filled with the fawning, demanding and angelic Suzette, my nights filled with aggressive and adventurous she-devil Myra. I hired her as “personal adviser,” to help with research for my novels. I don’t think anyone ever believed that, Myra was simply too gorgeous to be taken seriously, even though she was smart as a nine-tailed whip.

Ever so slowly, I lost the ability control the words that flowed from that monstrous pen. It was always there calling out to me like an obsession; I reached for it again, and again. The pen began to seriously intrude upon my waking life. I began to drink myself to sleep every night, and started up again as soon as I awoke, trying to escape its tormenting influence. I was becoming a drunken leach, an evil wanton cynic.

I had the means, and a driving compulsion to live out the sick, but wildly erotic fantasies inspired by the damn devil pen. With the ever-wicked Myra on my arm, I strolled into each and every new and more unwholesome escapade. Myra was such a temptress, “What has gotten into you William, you’re a changed man, I like it,” Myra said one night giving me that oh… so libidinous little wink of hers.

I tasted each and every vice that struck my depraved and fickle fancy. But I shall not try and recall them all here, all the meaningless nights of drunken debauchery, all the wild and often dangerous searching for forbidden and sinful pleasures. Suffice it to say, I have spent many a night in gambling halls, opium dens and the like. I chased every winking barmaid. I fondled every firm, round and tempting bottom, I could get my hands upon. I mercilessly attempted to seduce every female old, young, thin, round, dark or fair. I didn't care.

What purpose would it serve, to recount violent, desperate back alley couplings, or the nights dancing naked as a savage at sabot bonfires, the unholy orgies in the Mortimer Family Crypt, that filled to overflowing with the depraved and degenerate. Why should I confess every detail of the nights I spent reveling in strange carnal delights, with knowing, warm and willing ladies of the evening? I couldn’t even tell you how much coin I extravagantly, carelessly cast away at Madame Rousseau’s, House of Pain. What a venue it would have made De Sade himself blush.

***

I began experiencing frequent black outs. When I learned of my actions on these occasions, I was tormented with guilt but my mind could never fully accept that I had actually done these things. Even the amoral Myra began to fear me. The look on her face when we were together had changed from naughty playfulness to watchful caution.

I shunned my old friends like the plague. I could not bear to let them see what I had become. I feared the consequences of using the pen. I never knew where its unholy power would lead me. But try as I may I could not keep my hands from it. Many times I vowed never to write with it again. But that did not matter there were always fresh manuscripts there upon my desk.

More than once I awoke in a jail cell or back alley never knowing what I had done. But because of my new position in society the authorities choose to look the other way. I often wished they would prosecute me, if only to keep me away from the influence of the pen.

Suzette was crying all the time. I couldn’t bare this and it was the hardest thing for me to face. I couldn’t tell her about the pen or of the unknown consequences of its use that I now had to live with. I could never explain it to her because I did not understand it myself.

She pleaded with me to stay with her at night, to give up prowling the streets. She must have thought that I had fallen out of love with her. But in reality, I could not bear the thought of my corruption contaminating innocence. I would not share my sordid world with her and I did have the strength of will to resist the lure of the pen. But even in my darkest moments, I loved her. She was the anchor that held my soul from slipping over the edge of the world into the dark abyss.

My fantasies became ever more violent and sadistic, bloody images filled my imagination. Mists of evil swirled and gathered in the fading sunlight of my sanity. They hung in my perception like a pall over my face. My conscience deafened by the insistent drumbeat of carnal desire, I could not resist the hypnotic twisted tones of the anthropomorphic shades lurking in the dark corners of mind. It was all I could do to hold back the gibbering nightmares crawling through the attic of my soul. They beat upon the walls, screaming in anger, shrieking in anguish, begging for release.

***

Then one evening returning with Myra, I heard a low and piteous moaning, coming from the dining hall, “Yes, yes, oh God, yes.” As we rounded the corner, I saw Suzette lying on the end of the long formal dining table, her dress rumpled and scattered beneath her. Balancing, on one arm, her hand needing and pulling at the hair of the man nestled between her thighs.

“Suzette?” She quickly jumped of the table. It was my old friend, Charles Sterling who turned with a guilty frightened look in his eyes.

“Well, what of it! You're always out with your little ****!” My Suzette screamed, staring angrily at Myra and then defiantly at me.

“I am sorry, William, but I love her, I have always loved her,” Charles confessed.

“Take her and get out!” Suzette crying, Charles threw her wrap over her shoulders, put his arm about her and led her out. Charles was an intelligent man he never said another word.

“Well, now I got you all to myself,” Myra said, with a wicked grin.

I slapped her ass, hard, “Ouch,” she said, “You know I like it when you play rough,” she said putting her arms around me.

“Shut up, Myra.” I said in a low even tone.


***

Here, I sit at my roll-top mahogany desk writing by the warm glow of gaslight lanterns set about the opulence of my personal study, staring at it. The pen, exquisite, long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped. It begs to be held: to wind and whip its way across the page, like a ballerina upon the stage and just as fluid, graceful and sure as any prima ballerina. But I shall not hold that wondrous shaft in my hand again, no, for it is the devil’s pen.

It has taken everything from me: my love: my pride, my honor and my innocence.
My will and heart have been broken. I feel like a puppet whose strings have been cut, falling to the stage, never to rise again. The last good and wholesome thing has been driven out of my life forever. I knew that under the influence of the devil’s pen: I would only end up hurting Suzette, destroying her, perhaps even killing her. I had to let her go while I was still able, for her sake, because of my love for her.

My heart felt as if it was being squeezed to death in an iron vice. I should have found some other way, if only we had gone to America when I wanted.

***

I awoke this morning, my head throbbing, my throat parched from a God-awful hangover. I went to get a bottle of wine from my desk, when I noticed a stack of papers that I did not remember writing. I began to read them. They were political tracts about the glories of the British Empire; how it was Britain’s destiny to rule not only the waves but also the world. I have no doubt of the devil's pen ability to sway public opinion and lead the country into war.

This pen is the devil's very own right hand! It contains the will of hell’s master and with me as his instrument; the world will never be safe. In my imagination, I see the horrific war playing out, men marching beneath the banner of the pen's true master as civilizations crumble and fall crushed beneath his heel.


As its' power has grown, my will to resist it has weakened. I have decided that I must die, what is one man’s life, when the lives of countless others are at stake? No, I haven’t fallen that far into depravity, yet. I will not allow all the suffering and death of war just so that I might prosper. But it is only a matter of time before the damn pen takes over completely and I become the personification of its evil will. I must end it. I must end it while I still may. Oh -- always and forever my sweet Suzette.

I have prepared the rope. I shall simply stand upon a chair, slip it about my neck and jump. May God have mercy on my soul.

William Hargrove
PS: If you value your lives leave the pen where it lies.



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on May 19, 2007, 04:14:07 am
This version reads much better than the previous ones. The events flow naturally, there isn't that competition between the pen and the romance that was in there previously and the language is fluid.  It's amazing how changing the order of some of the events can make things out better.  You also don't race to the end, like previous efforts.

However, I still have a problem with this:

Quote
I awoke this morning, my head throbbing, my throat parched from a God-awful hangover. I went to get a bottle of wine from my desk, when I noticed a stack of papers that I did not remember writing. I began to read them. They were political tracts about the glories of the British Empire; how it was Britain’s destiny to rule not only the waves but also the world. I have no doubt of the devil's pen ability to sway public opinion and lead the country into war.


There are several problems wit Britain trying to ruke the world.  First, at the time this takes place (1830, I believe), Britain pretty much already did rule the seas and the better part of it's colonialism was behind her. After this time was, for the most part, an age of consolidation. If William wasn't upset about things prior to this, her certainly wouldn't sometime later.

You need a new vision for him to commit suicide.  Perhaps William has a vision of the atomic bomb, or maybe he has a vision of his own future misdeeds.  You could alwayw move the age the story takes place up some and make him see his future self - Jack the Ripper or something like that. The magazine would probably love it and it is something that the story (as written) does not predict coming.

Peace,

Veronica



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on May 19, 2007, 09:20:38 am
Hi Veronica

Thank you,

I really appreciate you reading it. I wanted this story to be not only a horror story but also a thinly veiled  commentary on the use of propaganda and war. Yes, it is true that at this time Britian was at its height, what better time then this to try for world dominance. Also, the way I see it, the "devil," only wants pain, devastion and hatred. In fact, it would not be his goal, in my opinion for Britain to suceed but to bring the world into a consant state of warfare. William does have a vision its of people dying in the millions. He has conquered his dependance, his addiction just long enough to commit an act of self sacrifice.

I will let the reader decide whether the pen is actually the device of the devil or wether Old Kate simply hypnotized him into believing that the Pen gave him the power to write. Whether it was his own talent and his own short comings as a person that lead to the events described in the story.

The editor already likes the story so I am not all that sure I want to change the ending. So I think I will leave it as is.


Thank you, so much for your observations and advice, I always enjoy your thoughtful reviews.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on May 19, 2007, 07:57:18 pm
revised May19

The Devil's Pen


My name is William Hargrove. The year of our Lord 1827, October, the Seventeenth I do solemnly swear upon my honor and before almighty God that this is a true and accurate account of the events of my life.

I do freely and willingly confess to all the unspeakable acts of villainy and debauchery revealed in this written statement. These acts are largely the result of various faults in my character, glaring flaws that show me to be a base and vile creature. You will not hear from me vain justifications for my actions. What I have done, I have done.

An untamed beast lives and breathes just below the surface of us all, straining against the confines imposed on it by our polite and mannerly society. That beast waits beneath the mask, gentlemen.

Oh, brothers, dear sweet sisters let not the ravings of that insatiable beast we call emotion get its claws upon you. Lock away the ravaging beast that rages with carnal desire. Lock it away in a cage of adamantine will and then cast the key away forever.

Pay heed to the warning in my sad tale and hereafter build your lives on the solid rock of reason, so that you may take every advantage from that sure and sound footing.


***

I drift back in my mind now to happier days when I was filled with youthful innocence and exuberance. It was less then two years ago today and yet it seems that it was another man entirely that stood on the steps of the grand and magnificent auditorium at Baneford Academy. I was waiting there to receive my doctorate in the literary arts. In my time at the Academy, I made something of a reputation for myself as a writer.

The Head Master, Professor Perkins was a dear and gentle soul who was prone to emotional outbursts, just as I was. In this and in our love for the written word we were kindred spirits. The dear old gentleman was so happy it was as if he were receiving the diploma instead of conferring it upon me.

It seemed to me as if I had waited an eternity for this moment. Unlike most of the other students, my parents had not been wealthy or aristocratic. In fact, it was something of a miracle that I had been allowed to attend at all. I struggled endlessly with finances. My parents died when I was quite young and although they provided for me in their will, it was in the form of a monthly allowance that was not nearly enough for the tuition.


***

But my mind was not on these things. What the diploma meant was that at last I could marry my beloved Suzette. We met at her coming out party. I had not been invited to this affair, aristocracy only, you understand. Charles Sterling, a dear friend from the academy brought me along as his guest. Charles was a noble fellow. He never held it against me that I was a commoner the way most of the other students did.

But I digress. What an unforgettable day it was! From the very first moment I saw her, I adored her, I worshipped her. I was filled with a glowing love light, my feet disdaining the coarse and crude earth beneath them. My soul enshrined an image of her forever, my dream of love always and forever my sweet Suzette.

When my lips met hers for the first time what a rapturous thrill. Sharp currents of pleasure coursed through me, overwhelming my senses. She stirred in me a wild and erotic fascination. It raged inside me like a hurricane at sea, buffeting my emotions about with waves of wild desire.

From that very first afternoon at Suzette's coming out party, her father had disapproved of me in no uncertain terms. So we met secretly every Sunday evening when she was supposed to be at piano practice. Her piano teacher didn’t mind She was still being paid and, as Suzette explained to me laughing, she just couldn’t stand the,” God-awful racket.”


***

With my diploma in hand, I would at last be able to face her father and legitimately ask for her hand in marriage. I rode to the Brettel Estate, a grand five-story Victorian manor. It was set amidst a lovely eighteenth-century style hedged garden and enclosed by an impressively tall and imposing iron-gated stone wall. One of the servants took my horse the other led me inside. “I will tell Colonel Brettel you are here, sir.”

I stood in the grand entrance hall. A winding staircase led to the second floor above me hung a magnificent golden multi-tiered seventeenth-century chandelier. Upon the freshly waxed floors were busts of some of the great men of British history; there was Wellington, Chamberlain, Cromwell, Shakespeare and many others all waiting there with me. I waited and waited -- and waited. I must have stood in that hallway for an over an hour.

Finally, a servant appeared and said; “The Colonel will see you now.” The servant led me to the library. The Colonel sat near the fireplace drinking brandy and smoking one of the biggest cigars I had ever seen. “What can I do for you Mr. Hargrove?” he asked.

“Sir, I have just received my Doctorate from Baneford Academy. Your daughter and I are very much in love. I have been assured that I have a very promising future. All of my professors recommend me highly. I have come to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

The colonel jumped from his chair his face flushed, his eyes blazing fiercely. “You little bastard! You have been sneaking around with my Suzette, haven’t you! Is she pregnant? By God I’ll kill you with my own bare hands.” He was built like a bull with huge hands, but I was much faster. He lunged for my throat. I blocked his arms and swung around behind him in the same motion grabbing him in a headlock.

“Calm down colonel. Suzette isn’t pregnant. I haven’t touched her.” I pleaded with him.

“You get the hell out of here. If I ever see your face again, I shall sick the dogs on you!” he said. Now I was consumed with rage myself and sorely tempted to break his neck.

“Be reasonable, sir,” I said releasing him, restraining myself from further violence.

“Get out now,” he said in a low even tone. He was deadly serious.

I turned and walked slowly out. I was filled with grief and anger. Well that did not go well, I thought. As I stepped out of the double doors of the entranceway, I heard the colonel yell, “Grab him!” The two doormen tackled me, and held me face down in the entranceway. From the floor I could see the colonels boots. Then I heard him say, “This will teach you to keep your damn hands off my daughter!” I felt his hands in my hair, and then he began to slam my face into the floor. More of his men must have come because I could feel them stomping and kicking me with their heeled riding boots. I passed out, the third time my head went into the cold stone floor.

***

I came to in a ditch alongside the road, one eye was swollen shut, and my lips were thick and rubbery. I could taste the irony flavor of blood in my mouth. I ran my tongue around inside of it and felt a couple of my teeth had been chipped. Well there go my boyish good looks, I thought, laughing at myself.

Beside the road stood my horse Uncas, whom I named after the fierce Indian in J. Fenimore Cooper’s, “The last of the Mohicans.” I had a hell of a time climbing back into the saddle. My mind wouldn’t focus and I was awkward. I couldn’t get my foot into the stirrup. Every moment sent sharp pains through me. I think my ribs were broken because they always gave me trouble after that. I don’t remember how I made it back to my flat.

***

I awoke two days later, naked atop the sheets that were covered with vomit and stained in blood. I limped around trying to clean it up as best I could. I was starving. I could not eat because of my swollen lips it was just too painful. My mind went racing out to Suzette, what would her father do to her? I had to see her. I threw on a long overcoat and headed out the door. I couldn’t ride, but if I could get a message to her, perhaps we could arrange something.

As I walked out into the street I saw a thin taunt and lively gypsy girl. Her mouth was exquisite, ripe, plump and succulent with the most enticing little gap between her top two front teeth. She had long straight raven black hair falling to her waist and the most intriguing coal black eyes. Her eyes seemed to peer into the secret depths of my soul.

“Oh you poor man, what happened?” she asked.

“Well, I got knocked around pretty good. It doesn’t really matter. My name is William. Would you please do a favor for me? I’ll give you whatever you ask, within reason.”

“What do you have in mind, darling?” She said, winking at me.

“Oh no, it’s not that! I need you to get a message to someone, will you help me?” I said.

“Too bad," she said with a wicked little smile. “Sure I’ll do it, ten pounds up front.”

“Five now, five when I get a message back saying the note has been delivered.” I said.

“All right William, I’ll do it. My name is Myra, a pleasure,” she said.

With Myra’s help, I was able to get a message to Elisa, one of Suzette’s old friends from finishing school. Soon after, Elisa and I arranged a rendezvous.

***

I saw Suzette standing in our secret meeting place. It was just beneath an old and distinguished gentleman of an oak, the last surviving member of the forest that once covered these rolling hills. It stood well over a hundred feet tall. The oak's branches forked out at twenty feet above the ground. It stretched one mighty limb across a small stream that ran lazily through the manicured grounds. A dove cooed softly somewhere in the high grass of the field beyond the stream.

"Oh William, your face! Did my father do that?" Suzette said.

“Yes, him and a couple of his men.” I said.

“Why did you do it William? Didn’t you realize what he would do? I am practically under house arrest now. He has men watching me night and day. Oh, I do hope I haven’t led them to this place.” Suzette said.

“I did it because I love you terribly. I want you to be mine always and forever my sweet Suzette. Come away with me tonight. We’ll leave the country. Let's go to America Suzette. We’ll start a new life together.” I said.

“I'm so torn up inside. I can’t marry you now, William. He means to marry me to some wealthy and powerful aristocrat. It's all business with him. If we ran off together he'd have you killed. I just couldn’t bare that William. I do love you so. I can’t even see you now! He has his spies everywhere,” Suzette said.

“This is not the end Suzette. I shall find a way for us to be together,”
I said, as I held her gently in my arms, nearly crying.

***

“Well tell!” Myra said, poking me in the ribs, which were still sore as hell. “I want to hear all about it, you romantic devil, you.”

“She won’t marry me. She says her father would have me killed. After what happened last week, I think she’s right. I am half out of my mind Myra. I don’t know what to do.” I said.

"Why don’t you just kill the bastard?" Myra asked.

“You’re not serious,” I replied.

“No William, I know you don’t have the stomach for that. But maybe I can help,” Myra said.

***

I saddled up, Uncas. Myra and I rode together to her camp just as the sun was setting in the sky. The sunset presented us with an amazing display of the maker’s art: broad strokes of smoky deep purple, splashed nonchalantly with a melancholy vermilion. You out did yourself tonight, old man, I thought to myself as we drew closer to the wagons of her vagabond tribe.

A violin played soft and haunting strains somewhere in the night. She made a series of hand signals as we neared, obviously to communicate with the men guarding the gypsy caravan. The campfires were already burning in the fading sunlight. The women folk were cooking the evening meal in heavy iron pots hung from tripods, over small stone encircled fires. The men were gathered in groups talking with each other, or sitting on the steps of the circled wagons enjoying an evening smoke.

She walked up the back steps of a red and yellow painted wagon. It was longer and taller then the rest of the wagons, with more elaborate scrollwork. Myra knocked. The round windowed door swung open slowly. An elderly woman stood there in the doorway. Her white hair contrasted sharply with the red paisley kerchief she wore about her head. About her withered neck hung a string of gold necklaces. But what held my attention were the eyes she peered out at the world with. She had the same coal black knowing eyes that Myra had, “This is Esmeralda…William… Grandmother I have brought this man William to you. He is in need. Will you help him?” Myra said.

She looked me over carefully, as if weighing my soul on scales in her ancient mind. “Give me your hand, William,” she said in a tired, world-weary voice, “Oh you poor man.” She sighed, “Be careful of this one Myra.” She warned. “You are a very passionate man William. Your passion is eating you alive inside. Here I shall show you.” She traced a path with her wrinkled finger over my hand as she spoke. “You are unlucky in love. Your heart line is so deep, so strong, but severed. You are torn between two paths. The lifeline diverges. Both paths you deeply desire but the paths do not intersect. You shall be offered a choice. I have never seen the like… I cannot help you my boy, but you have my sympathy.” Esmeralda said.

“Is their no one who can help me?” I asked.

“Perhaps there is one, but I warn you! It is very foolish, very dangerous,” she said.

“I don't care. I've got to do something. I can’t live without her!” I said.

“Very well, come back tomorrow night.” Esmeralda said.

***

I returned to the camp the following evening. Myra ran out to greet me, her long black hair flowing gracefully behind her. “Hello William! It is all arranged. I will take you to your guide.”

“But where am I going Myra?” I asked.

“Ha, ha, ha!” Myra Laughed. “Why to see Old Kate of course! She knows things William, she maybe able to help you.”

I kissed her cheek and said, “Well, wish me luck.”

"Good Luck William, and for God's sake be respectful to Old Kate!" Myra warned.

***

Black muck clung thickly to my boots as we trudged through the foul smelling fen. Whooping cranes were calling out in that lonely, long and mournful way of theirs somewhere out there -- in the dense rolling fog. Foul shapes seemed to hang and glide just out of the reach of perception on that dim and moonlit moor.

We waded through waist high reeds from stranded hillock to narrow ridge. Stunted and twisted, little sharp-limbed trees took on the aspect of gruesome sentinels, as if guarding some unwholesome secret known only to themselves. Every now and then my guide would lift his lantern high and wave it slowly from side to side reminding me of a lonely lighthouse on the shores of a fog-enshrouded sea.

I could see no path at all. How my guide found his way through this, I shall never know. Perhaps it was merely his familiarity with the region, or perhaps this was his natural element, for I never saw anyone who looked so much like they had just stepped from the pages of a penny dreadful.

He was broad shouldered, thick limbed and short legged, perhaps six and a half to seven feet tall, if he had stood upright that is. He was bent and twisted, one shoulder higher than the other. His back bent as if crouched to spring. His crude and roughly hewn features only added to his apelike appearance: thick lips, a wide-nose and a low protruding forehead. Add to this primitive picture of a man, one baleful eye entirely white. A scar stretched over that eye, from the middle of his forehead, to just below the left cheek. His hair was a thick and wiry mop that sat unruly atop his head. He wore a horsehair tunic bound about the middle with thick rope, knotted in front and from which hung a long and deadly looking dagger.

“What the hell are those? See over there?” I asked.

“Corpse Candles,” he replied with a grunt.

“What pray tell are corpse candles, my good man,” I asked.

“Not your man, I Old Kate’s man. Keep eyes open, lips shut.”

***

As the night drew on the scenery began to change, we started to encounter more clumps of trees standing on lonely hillocks, the path rockier. Eventually, we came to a wood, and after some searching my guide located a trial.

At the head of the trail a totem was set upon a stake in the earth. It looked as if the bones of various creatures had been cobbled together to form a scarecrow. The head of this scarecrow was a mountain goat with long twisted horns. The torso that of a man’s but from its wrists and ankles hung the claws of what must have been a gigantic vulture, wings sprouted from its back rising high into the air above us.

If the purpose of this twisted scarecrow was to scare away-unwanted visitors this skeletal freak was more than equal to the task. I almost begged my primitive guide to take me back across the moors. I would have, but then I considered the dagger that hung from his belt.

We walked through this wood for what seemed like hours. Several times I was startled by the sudden caw, cawing of a crow, and the heavy beating of wings as it flew off. Now I began to notice bones strewn along the path, I could not shake the sensation that I was being watched.

Finally, I saw ahead of us in the clearing a crude thatched hut surrounded by torches burning in the darkness, the ground strewn with bones. Two human skulls were mounted on posts outside the door. I began to seriously wonder about the wisdom of this little excursion.

As we neared the hut, she emerged moving with an unnatural slowness and grace. I looked into her eyes, the pupils of which were too narrow and of a greenish yellow cast. Her head had a peculiar v-shape to it. She wore a long black robe decorated with curiously wrought white symbols that flowed and twisted around the neck and about the sleeves, the tail of her robe disappeared into the depths of her primitive thatched hut.

The interior of the hut was decorated with shrunken heads, weirdly carved figurines and candles. Long strings of beads formed a sort of doorway before which sat a stack of ancient looking leather-bound books. A parrot sat preening itself high upon a perch; as snakes wound and curled about the dirt floor.

“Ah, Master Hargrove, I have been expecting you. What a passionate man you are William, just my type,” she said, as her eye slowly winked at me. “Ha, ha, ha,” she cackled. A shudder rippled through me as she spoke, for her voice had the sibilant hiss of the crafty serpent.

“Auuugghk, passionate man,” squawked the parrot.

“Quiet Paracelsus,” she said. “He’s always sticking his beak into things that are better left alone. Ha, ha, ha,” she cackled. “Now where were we?”

“Auuugghk, ****,” squawked the parrot.

“Why have you come to old Kate, a love potion perhaps? No! I see you’re after more, much, much more. I have something that may be of use to you William.” She said, in her hissing voice as she lifted a pen up before my astonished eyes. What is it you see William?” She asked.

“It is a pen,” I said.

“Ah! It is that and much, much, more; it is also a weapon. Perhaps it is the most powerful weapon of all. For with the pen you can sway minds, move armies and crumble empires. I thought that you being a writer, might understand this.”

“I understand,” I said.

“No William, I don’t think you do. But never mind that, you did not come here for a philosophy lesson now did you? You came here, because you are obsessed with a woman,” she said.

“What do you want for it?” I asked.

“Ah, all artists know the sacrifices that must be made for their craft. The power of the pen exacts its own price, William.” She stated.

She then presented me with the most exquisite instrument of the writer’s art, long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped.

***

I discovered the power of the pen, soon enough. I began by writing love poetry, long essays about the wonders and beauties of the natural world, and long epic poems based upon the wondrous complexities and ironies of Greek mythology. My work was hailed as a triumph. I was the new darling of the literary world. Offers poured in for me to write novels and plays.

Eventually, I was able to buy up the majority of stock in the Brettel family business. I was able to do this in part by writing glowing praises of the Colonel's competitors and stinging criticism of his company. Criticism the company richly deserved for labor abuses, bribery, and other illegal practices. This helped lower the cost of the stock, and caused more people to sell, further lowering its value in an ever downward spiral. This was a technique that served me well in accumulating wealth.

When the day came, that I owned the majority of the colonel's company, I simply road to the estate with a few gypsy friends for body guards, and gave him an ultimatum; either he gave me Suzette’s hand and I gave him back his company or I would ruin him. The Colonel made a very wise decision, I believe.

***

Suzette was more beautiful than ever. The sun was shining. To celebrate the triumph of our love we returned to our secret meeting place. As soon as we arrived, she started torturing me with kisses that flowed warm and sweet like summer wine, intoxicating me with passion.

I held her tender waist from behind pulling her slowly against me, nuzzling my face in the tantalizing sensuous of her soft blonde hair. My mind enthralled by the sinful suggestiveness of this embrace. I begged, “Please Suzette, let me. I love you more than any man has ever loved a woman, I would die a thousand agonizing deaths for you. I would sell my everlasting soul to win your love.”

My heart pumped; my loins ached and my head reeled in delirium. I could stand it no longer. I quickly hiked the long ankle length gown up over her back revealing the white-gartered stockings beneath. I explored her luscious long flanks with my greedy hands. As she held on to the oak for balance, her firm hindquarters were before my hungry eyes taunting me with their ripeness. Overwhelmed with lust I had to have her.

“My God William! Stop! What has gotten into you?” I did not stop. I took her then and there. It was not until I finished that I realized what I had done. Oh, I thought my dreams of loves sweet bliss were shattered like the sparkling glass upon the jagged stone. I thought she would hate me. I thought that my dreams would vanish before my eyes and all because I could not contain my animalistic passion for her.

Suzette dropped to her knees before me and put her arms about my legs, “Oh you are a real man, you are -- you do not know how long I have dreamed of this William,” she wept in joy. We were married two weeks later and I bought her a lovely old three story Victorian.

***

I wanted to visit my old Professor. I missed him. I entered the upstairs office of Professor Perkins, Head Master of Baneford Academy. As I entered, he got up from behind his desk, rushed over and began shaking my hand vigorously, “We all wondered what had happened to you my boy.” He said excitedly, “Locked yourself away in some dingy room some where writing your novel, Eh.”

“Well sort of Professor, I have come to make a donation to the academy and of course to see you.”

“Wonderful William, I must say, I always expected great things from you. Your remarkable passion was clearly evident in all you literary works. But what you are writing now far exceeds anything you have produced in the past. It’s almost as if it they were written by another person. Such tremendous style, such elegant phrasing, you have exceeded all my hopes for you. I am so proud of you, son.”

“Thank You, Professor.” I said. It was then that it hit me hard for the first time. I was a fraud, a complete and utter fake. My fame, my new home, everything rested on an illusion. It was not I who had produced these works even though it was my hand that held the pen.

***

I slowly began to realize to my horror that the pen had a mind of its own. I could no longer write dreamy love poems or about nature and the Greek Gods. Now my writing turned to the dark side of life: murder mysteries, horror stories and political tracts. My mind became filled with visions of crime and vice. But not just that, my mind followed along as armies marched to carry out the brutal business of war; wandered onto bloody battlefields and listened in horror to screams of agony, and death.

Now to my everlasting surprise, these works were hailed even more highly than my previous works. The critics raved what wonderful diversity, what comprehensive ability and insight into life, each of them competing to see who could lavish the most praise on me. I was truly disgusted. I don’t believe a one of these critics had ever given a decent review to a horror story or murder mystery before.

I began to notice strange things happening. Several businesses that I criticized where looted and burned. The longer it went on the stranger it got. My name and face were everywhere in the news. People were taking everything I said as gospel. With one word from me in the press, I could destroy a man’s life. With my notoriety it became harder, and harder to go anywhere in public, I could not even go to my own play, for fear of being ripped to shreds by adoring mobs. All this the devil pen had set in motion for it’s own evil designs, which I was not to learn of until much later.


***


My days were filled with the fawning, demanding and angelic Suzette. My nights filled with aggressive and adventurous she-devil Myra. I hired her as “personal adviser,” to help with research for my novels. I don’t think anyone ever believed that, Myra was simply too gorgeous to be taken seriously, even though she was smart as a nine-tailed whip.

I slowly lost the ability to control the words that flowed from that monstrous pen. It was always there calling out to me like an obsession. I reached for it again, and again. The pen began to seriously intrude upon my waking life. I began to drink myself to sleep every night, and started up again as soon as I awoke trying to escape its tormenting influence. I was becoming a drunken leach, an evil wanton cynic.

I had the means and a driving compulsion to live out the sick fantasies inspired by the devil pen. With the ever-wicked Myra on my arm, I strolled into each and every new and more unwholesome escapade. Myra was such a temptress, “What has gotten into you William, you’re a changed man, I like it,” Myra said one night giving me that oh… so libidinous little wink of hers.

I tasted every vice that struck my depraved and fickle fancy. But I shall not try and recall them all here, all the meaningless nights of drunken debauchery; the wild and often dangerous search for forbidden and sinful pleasures. Suffice it to say, I spent many a night in gambling halls, opium dens and the like. I chased every winking barmaid. I fondled every firm, round and tempting bottom I could get my hands upon. I mercilessly attempted to seduce every female old, young, thin, round, dark or fair. I didn't care.

What purpose would it serve for me to recount violent, desperate back-alley couplings? Would it make any difference if I were to reveal the details of those nights spent dancing naked as a savage about sabot bonfires? Would it help you to know what took place in the Mortimer Family Crypt? What if I revealed to you the secret of the unholy rites performed in the crypt; would you be better off? I sincerely doubt it. Why should I confess the details of the nights I spent reveling in strange carnal delights, with knowing, warm and willing ladies of the evening? I couldn’t tell you how much coin I extravagantly, carelessly cast away at Madame Rousseau’s, House of Pain. What a perverse and decadent venue it was. It would have made even De Sade himself blush. Oh these things I am guilty and much, much, more.

***

I began experiencing more and more frequent black outs. When I learned of my actions during these blackouts, I was mortified. Even the amoral Myra began to fear me. The look on her face had changed from playfulness to watchful caution.

I shunned my old friends like the plague. I could not bear to let them see what I had become. I feared the consequences of using the pen more everyday. I never knew where its unholy power would lead me. But try as I may I could not keep my hands from it.

More than once I awoke in a jail cell or back alley never knowing why I was there or what I had done. With my new position in society the authorities always choose to look the other way. Sometimes, I wished they would prosecute me, if only to keep me away from the pen.

Suzette had changed from a vivacious, fun-loving girl, to a sad, quite, little mouse. She was crying herself to sleep at nights. I couldn’t bare this, of all the damnable things I had done, this was the hardest thing for me to face. I could never tell her about the pen or of the consequences of its use. I couldn't explain it to her, because I did not understand it myself.

She pleaded with me to stay with her at night. She must have thought that I nolonger loved her. But in reality, I couldn't bear the thought of my corruption, contaminating her. Nothing could compell me to share my sordid world with her. Even in my darkest moments, I loved her. I loved her more than anything under God’s golden sun. She was my only anchor, the only thing that kept my soul from flowing over the edge of the world into the waiting, abyss.


***

Then one evening returning with Myra, I heard a low and piteous moaning, coming from the dining hall, “Yes, yes, oh God, yes.” As we rounded the corner, I saw Suzette lying on the end of the long formal dining table, her dress rumpled and scattered beneath her. Balancing, on one arm, her hand needing and pulling at the hair of the man nestled between her thighs.

“Suzette?” She quickly jumped off the table. It was my old friend, Charles Sterling who turned with a guilty and frightened look in his eyes.

“Well, what of it! You're always out with your little ****!” My Suzette screamed, staring angrily at Myra and then defiantly at me.

“I am sorry, William, but I love her, I have always loved her,” Charles confessed.

“Take her and get out!” I said. Suzette crying, Charles threw her wrap over her shoulders, put his arm about her and led her out. Charles was an intelligent man he never said another word.


***

Here, I sit at my roll-top mahogany desk writing by the warm glow of gaslight lanterns set about the opulence of my personal study, staring at it. The pen, exquisite, long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden tipped. It begs to be held. To wind and whip its way across the page, like a ballerina upon the stage and just as fluid, graceful and sure as any prima ballerina. But I shall not hold that wondrous shaft in my hand again. No, for it is the devil’s pen.

It has caused my fantasies to become ever more violent and sadistic, bloody images fill my imagination. Mists of evil swirl and gather in the fading sunlight of my sanity. They hang there in my perception like a pall over my face. My conscience deafened by the insistent drumbeat of carnal desire. I can not resist the hypnotic, twisted, tones of the shades lurking in the dark corners of my mind. It is all I can do to hold back the nightmares crawling through the attic of my darkened soul. They beat upon the walls, screaming in anger, shrieking in anguish, begging for release.

It has taken everything from me: my love, my pride, my honor and my innocence. My will and heart have been broken. I feel like a puppet whose strings have been cut, falling to the stage, never to rise again. The last good and wholesome thing has been driven out of my life forever. I know that under the influence of the devil’s pen; I would only end up hurting Suzette, destroying her, perhaps even killing her. I had to let her go while I was still able. My heart feels as if it is being squeezed to death in an iron vice. I should have found some other way. If only Suzette and I had gone to America when I wanted.

***

I awoke this morning my head throbbing and my throat parched from a God-awful hangover. I went to get a bottle of wine from my desk, when I noticed another stack of papers that I did not remember writing. I began to read them. They were political essays about the glories of the British Empire. That extolled the virtues of the British Empire and the superiority of its people. Justifying the right of Britain to rule not only the waves but the world. I know the devil's pen is quite capable of swaying public opinion and leading the country into bloody war.

The pen is the devil's very own right hand! It contains the will of hell’s master and with me as his instrument; the world will never be safe. In my imagination I can see the horrific war playing out. Men marching beneath the banner of the pen's true master as civilizations crumble and fall crushed beneath his heel.

As its' power has grown, my will to resist it has weakened. I have decided that I must die, what is one man’s life when the lives of countless others are at stake? No, I haven’t fallen that far into depravity. I will not allow all the suffering and death of war just so that I might prosper. It is only a matter of time before the pen takes over completely and I become the personification of its evil will. I must end it. I must end it now while I still may. I have prepared the rope. I shall simply stand upon a chair, slip it about my neck and jump. May God have mercy on my soul. Oh -- always and forever my sweet Suzette.


William Hargrove
PS: If you value your lives leave the pen where it lies.



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on May 21, 2007, 10:06:38 am
Hi Veronica

Thank you,

I really appreciate you reading it. I wanted this story to be not only a horror story but also a thinly veiled  commentary on the use of propaganda and war. Yes, it is true that at this time Britian was at its height, what better time then this to try for world dominance. Also, the way I see it, the "devil," only wants pain, devastion and hatred. In fact, it would not be his goal, in my opinion for Britain to suceed but to bring the world into a consant state of warfare. William does have a vision its of people dying in the millions. He has conquered his dependance, his addiction just long enough to commit an act of self sacrifice.

I will let the reader decide whether the pen is actually the device of the devil or wether Old Kate simply hypnotized him into believing that the Pen gave him the power to write. Whether it was his own talent and his own short comings as a person that lead to the events described in the story.

The editor already likes the story so I am not all that sure I want to change the ending. So I think I will leave it as is.


Thank you, so much for your observations and advice, I always enjoy your thoughtful reviews.

Hi Unknown,

Do you have the letter of critique they sent you on this piece?  This version is the best, but I still think that the reason for suicide is not justified.

Think of it - most people commit suicide because of the state of the way of their lives are going, very few do it because of the state of their country.  Were that the case, more suicide notes would have mentioned George Bush for the last seven years.  I have yet to see one that does.

Peace,

Veronica


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on May 21, 2007, 11:14:06 am
Hi Veronica


But his personal life has gone to hell too... He has lost the love of his life, has shunned or turned away all his old friends, and the great joy of his life... writing has become a nightmare.


*******************************************************************************


Here is the message from the editor:
ps this is what he wrote about the old version of the story not the one above...



Hello, Wayne…


Thank you for "The Devil's Pen."  It's a very colorful story of the "Dorian Gray" type, and I'm sure we would like to consider it.


First, though, a number of observations:


The focus of the story shifts from William to the pen itself.  In other words, the metaphor takes on a life of its own at the expense of the character. 


As a consequence, the story becomes one of "crime pays." William has Dorian Gray's tragic flaw but not his remorse.  We see William reveling in the misuse of his talent, but we don't see him struggling against it to any noticeable extent.  His "deathbed repentance," as it were, is too little, too late, and unconvincing.  I don't really think he's going to quit; I think he's fooling himself and will continue as before.


The table top scene with Suzette and William's friend will have to be made less graphic to meet our guidelines.  The gist is that you can suggest what's going on, but you can't depict it.


The text has editing problems that are too numerous for a proofreader to fix.  For example:


Punctuation, especially superfluous commas:


My name is William Hargrove, The year of our Lord 1827, October, the seventeenth, I do solemnly swear upon my honor and before almighty God, that this is a true and accurate account of the events of my life.


-->
My name is William Hargrove. The year of our Lord 1827, October the seventeenth, I do solemnly swear upon my honor and before almighty God that this is a true and accurate account of the events of my life.


But my mind was not on these things, what the diploma meant to me was that at last, I could marry my beloved Suzette.


-->
But my mind was not on these things: what the diploma meant to me was that at last I could marry my beloved Suzette.


Perhaps better:


But my mind was not on these things: the diploma meant that at last I could marry my beloved Suzette.


But I digress, what an unforgettable day it was, from the very first moment I saw her, I adored her, I worshipped her, and I was filled with a glowing love light, my feet disdaining the coarse and crude earth beneath them.


But I digress. What an unforgettable day it was: from the very first moment I saw her I adored her, I worshipped her, and I was filled with a glowing love light, my feet disdaining the coarse and crude earth beneath them.


Her father vehemently disapproved of me, since that very first afternoon at her coming out party.


-->
Her had father vehemently disapproved of me since that very first afternoon at her coming-out party.


(", since"  = , because.)


Compound adjectives:


I rode to the Brettel Estate, a grand and imposing five story Victorian manor; set amidst a lovely eighteenth century style hedged garden and enclosed by an impressively tall and imposing iron gated stonewalls.


five story --> five-story
eighteenth century --> eighteenth-century
iron gated --> iron-gated
stonewalls --> stone walls


Grocer's apostrophe:


all of my Professor's recommend me highly.


Professor's --> professors


You's to keep your eye's open, lip's shut."


eye's --> eyes
lip's --> lips


it's own evil designs


it's --> its


And those are examples, not a complete list.



As I say, we would be happy to consider a rewrite, preferably one in which William is more conflicted than he appears to be in the current version.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on May 21, 2007, 11:05:10 pm
Wayne,

"More conflicted" would be to make the story where the protaganist is more involved internally than externally - meaning, he is more concerned with the state of himself than the state of his country.

Don't get me wrong, it's a very good story, much better than the original versions.  However, the "payoff"  - anguish over the direction of the English empire - falls a little flat. There is no basis for it historically, and, as I said, the reason most people kill themselves is because they don't like their lives, nor hope for them to get better. The reason why I stress the point here is because I simply want you to have the best story you could have.

Did you make all the grammatical corrections? If not, the best thing to do is to past the whole thing in Word. It doesn't do everything, but it's a good start to let you know where you are going wrong.

Peace,

Veronica


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on May 22, 2007, 05:50:46 am
Hi Veronica

Of course there is no historical basis for it, in the story he commits suicide to stop it from happening.

If I take out the war part, then he is just another suicide... Then there is no higher theme of self-sacrifice for others and no commentary on the evils of war, mob mentality and the use of propaganda.

The story becomes pointless... and devoid of any element of horror.

I don't no how much more conflicted he could be... he pisses and moans for the last half a dozen paragraphs.


It is, what it is... if it sucks... it sucks...


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Veronica Poe on May 22, 2007, 03:14:42 pm
Unknown,

Do what you want with your story, but it really isn't about "war, mob mentality or the use of propaganda"  in the first place but rather about a person's conflict within himself (which, you will notice, is what the letter from the magazine also suggested it be about).

Take those element out of it, and you still have a horror story, with all the same merits as any other.  Those elements don't contribute a thing to the horror of the story, it's about the battle within himself, and you know it. 

I get the feeling that you need to hear some of these things from someone other than me, though, so perhaps I shall refrain from any further critiques. Good luck on it.

Peace,

Veronica


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Trent on May 22, 2007, 11:01:20 pm
I had a similar criticsm about the ending about two pages back.  It does take a lot to want to off yourself.  I see his point about wanting to sacrifice for something higher, but something about the ending just doesn't read right.

I would still submit it, though.  Just because we may have a few criticsms of it doesn't mean that the editor will.  They may be perfectly fine with everything.

Unknown, just because we are crtiquing your work does not mean that what you wrote isn't any good. It is good. But you should know by now that we aren't going to tell you everything you might want to hear, cause it would be less than honest.  Hell, the only way you learn things is when people are being honest with you.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on May 23, 2007, 04:21:27 am
Hi Trent

Thanks for reading it.

I don't mind the critism, really... If the reader doesn't get what I am trying to say in the story that's my fault as the writer. But I have had enough experinence with this now, to see that there is no way to please everybody. What one person likes about the story another may hate.

At some point after mutiple edits, you begin to lose your inspiration and enthusiasm for a story.

I have another version of this that I will send, and most of the passages that I liked are cut. It is nolonger the story I intended to tell.

If the ending falls flat, it isn't good a story. That means it is an unsuccessful story, the reader comes away from the story without a strong reaction to it. Which really is the point of a story.



 


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: rockessence on May 23, 2007, 01:31:09 pm
The point is, keep writing and working on your skills.  The editor gave you some real good tips, as well as basic edits....go back and do the basic edits as a matter of course, then really look at the tips with a critical eye yourself. 

Your "point of view" is from an 18th century fellow, so read some more Sherlock Holmes, or other writers of the Victorian period to keep your point of view sharp.  Small slips add up to much more in the end product.   Even **** of that period would not use some of the structure that you have employed, so a lighter touch is needed maybe, with less explained, as would be proper for the period.

Keep up the hard work and you will have a great pay off!!


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on May 25, 2007, 06:36:45 pm
Hi Rocki

Thanks for the pep talk! :)


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on May 27, 2007, 01:27:31 pm
The Devil's Pen not again!


My name is William Hargrove. The year of our Lord 1827, October the Seventeenth, I do solemnly swear upon my honor and before almighty God that this is a true and accurate account of the events of my life.

I do freely and willingly confess to all the unspeakable acts of villainy and debauchery revealed in this written statement. These acts are largely the result of various faults in my character. You will not hear from me vain justifications for what I have done nor pleas for mercy. What I have done, I have done.

An untamed beast lives and breathes just below the surface of us all, straining against the confines imposed on it by our polite and mannerly society. That beast waits beneath the mask, gentlemen.

Oh brothers, dear sweet sisters, let not the insatiable beast of emotion get its claws into you. Lock the ravaging beast away that rages with carnal desire. Lock it away in a cage of adamantine will and then cast the key away forever.

Pay heed to the warning in my sad tale and hereafter build your lives on the solid rock of reason, so that you may take every advantage from that sure and sound footing.


***

Here, I sit at my roll-top mahogany desk, writing by the warm glow of gaslight lanterns, staring at it. The pen, exquisite, long and flowing, gracefully-balanced; sharp and golden-tipped it begs to be held. To wind and whip its way across the page, like a ballerina upon the stage and just as fluid, graceful and sure as any prima ballerina. But I shall not hold that wondrous shaft in my hand again. No, for it is the Devil’s pen.

I drift back in my mind now to happier days when I was filled with youthful innocence and exuberance. It was less then two years ago today and yet it seems that it was another man entirely that stood on the steps of the grand and magnificent auditorium at Baneford Academy. I was waiting there to receive my doctorate in the literary arts. In my time at the Academy, I had made something of a reputation for myself as a writer.

The Head Master, Professor Perkins was a dear and gentle soul who was prone to emotional outbursts, just as I was. In this and in our love for the written word we were kindred spirits. The dear old gentleman was so happy it was as if he were receiving the diploma instead of conferring it upon me.

It seemed to me as if I had waited an eternity for this moment. Unlike most of the other students, my parents had not been wealthy or aristocratic. In fact, it was something of a miracle that I had been allowed to attend at all. I struggled endlessly with finances. My parents died when I was quite young and although they provided for me in their will, it was in the form of a monthly allowance that was not nearly enough for the tuition.


***

But my mind was not on these things. What the diploma meant to me was that at last I could marry my beloved, Suzette. We met at her coming out party. I had not been invited to this affair, aristocracy only, you understand. Charles Sterling, a dear friend from the academy brought me along as his guest. Charles was a noble fellow. He never held it against me that I was a commoner, the way most of the other students did.

But I digress. What an unforgettable day it was! From the very first moment I saw her, I adored her; I worshipped her. I was filled with a glowing love light, my feet disdaining the coarse and crude earth beneath them. My soul enshrined an image of her forever, my dream of love always and forever, my sweet Suzette.

When my lips met hers for the first time what a rapturous thrill. Sharp currents of pleasure coursed through me, overwhelming my senses. She stirred in me a wild and erotic fascination. It raged inside me like a hurricane at sea, buffeting my emotions about with waves of wild desire.

Suzette's father had made it clear that afternoon at her coming out party that he disapproved of me. So we met secretly every Sunday when she was supposed to be at piano practice. Suzette explained it to me laughing. She said her piano teacher didn’t mind, she was still being paid and she just couldn’t stand the,” God-awful racket,” anyway.


***

With my diploma in hand, I would at last be able to face her father and legitimately ask for her hand in marriage. I rode to the Brettel Estate, a grand five-story Victorian manor. It was set amidst a lovely eighteenth-century style hedged garden and enclosed by an impressively tall and imposing iron-gated stone wall. One of the servants took my horse the other led me inside. “I will tell Colonel Brettel you are here, sir,” he said.

I stood in the grand entrance hall. A winding staircase led to the second floor, above me hung a magnificent golden multi-tiered chandelier. Upon the freshly waxed white marble floors were set busts of some of the great men of British history, there was Wellington, Chamberlain, Cromwell, Shakespeare and many others all waiting there impatiently with me. I waited and waited -- and waited. I must have stood in that hallway for an over an hour.

Finally, a servant appeared and said; “The colonel will see you now.” The servant led me to the library. The colonel sat near the fireplace drinking brandy and smoking one of the biggest cigars, I had ever seen. “What can I do for you Mr. Hargrove?” he asked.

“Sir, I have just received my Doctorate from Baneford Academy. Your daughter and I are very much in love. I have been assured that I have a very promising future. All of my professors recommend me highly. I have come to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

The colonel jumped from his chair his face flushed, his eyes blazing fiercely. “You little bastard! You have been sneaking around with my Suzette, haven’t you! Is she pregnant? By God, I’ll kill you with my own bare hands.” He was built like a bull with huge hands, but I was much faster. He lunged for my throat. I blocked his arms and swung around behind him in the same motion grabbing him in a headlock.

“Calm down colonel. Suzette isn’t pregnant. I haven’t touched her.” I pleaded with him.

“You get the hell out of here. If I ever see your face again, I shall sick the dogs on you!” he said. Now I was consumed with rage myself and sorely tempted to break his neck.

“Be reasonable, sir,” I said releasing him, restraining myself from further violence.

“Get out now,” he said in a low even tone. He was deadly serious.

I turned and walked slowly out. I was filled with grief and anger. Well that did not go well, I thought. As I stepped out of the double doors of the entranceway, I heard the colonel yell, “Grab him!” The two doormen tackled me, and held me face down in the entranceway. From the floor I could see the colonel's boots. Then I heard him say, “This will teach you to keep your damn hands off my daughter!” I felt his hands in my hair, and then he began to slam my face into the floor. More of his men must have come because I could feel them stomping and kicking me with their heeled riding boots. I passed out, the third time my head went into the cold stone floor.

***

I came to in a ditch alongside the road, one eye was swollen shut and my lips were thick and rubbery. I could taste the irony flavor of blood in my mouth. I ran my tongue around inside of it and felt a couple of my teeth had been chipped. Well there go my boyish good looks, I thought, laughing at myself.

Beside the road stood my horse Uncas, whom I named after the fierce Indian in J. Fenimore Cooper’s, “The last of the Mohicans.” My mind wouldn’t focus and I was awkward. I had a hell of a time climbing back into the saddle. I couldn’t get my foot into the stirrup. Every movement sent sharp pains through me. I think one of my ribs was broken because it always gave me trouble after that. I don’t remember how I made it back to Baneford.

***

I awoke two days later, naked atop the sheets that were covered with vomit and stained in blood. I limped around trying to clean it up as best I could. I was starving, but I could not eat much, my swollen lips made far too painful.

My mind went racing out to Suzette, what would her father do to her? I had to see her. I threw on a long overcoat and headed out the door. I couldn’t ride, but if I could get a message to her, perhaps we could arrange something.

As I walked out into the street I saw a thin taut and lively gypsy girl. Her mouth was exquisite, ripe, plump and succulent with the most enticing little gap between her top two front teeth. She had raven-black hair falling to her waist and the most intriguing coal black eyes. Her eyes seemed to peer into the secret depths of my soul.

“Oh you poor man, what happened?” she asked.

“Well, I got knocked around pretty good. It doesn’t really matter. My name is William. Would you please do a favor for me? I’ll give you whatever you ask, within reason.”

“What do you have in mind, darling?” She said, winking at me.

“Oh no, it’s not that! I need you to get a message to someone, will you help me?”

“Too bad," she said with a wicked little smile. “Sure I’ll do it, ten pounds up front.”

“Five now, five when I get a message back saying the note has been delivered.”

“All right William, I’ll do it. My name is Myra, a pleasure,” she said.

With Myra’s help, I was able to get a message to Elisa, one of Suzette’s old friends from finishing school. Elisa and I were able to arrange a rendezvous, soon after that.

***

I saw Suzette standing in our secret meeting place. It was just beneath an old and distinguished gentleman of an oak, the last surviving member of the forest that once covered these rolling hills. It stood well over a hundred feet tall. The oak's branches forked out at twenty feet above the ground. It stretched one mighty limb across a small stream that ran lazily through the manicured grounds. A dove cooed softly somewhere in the high grass of the field beyond the stream.

"Oh, William your face! Did my father do that?" Suzette said.

“Yes, him and a couple of his men.”

“Why did you do it, William? Didn’t you realize what he would do? I am practically under house arrest now. He has men watching me night and day. Oh, I do hope I haven’t led them to this place!”

“I did it because I love you terribly. I want you to be mine always and forever, my sweet Suzette. Come away with me tonight. We’ll leave the country. Let's go to America Suzette. We’ll start a new life together,”

“I'm so torn up inside! I can’t marry you now, William. He means to marry me to some wealthy and powerful aristocrat. It's all business with him. If we ran off together he'd have you killed; I just know it! I just couldn’t bare that William. I do love you so... I can’t even see you now! He has his spies everywhere.”

“This is not the end Suzette. I shall find a way for us to be together,” I said, gently holding her in my arms, nearly crying.

***

“Well tell!” Myra said, poking me in the ribs, which were still sore as hell. “I want to hear all about it, you romantic devil, you.”

“She won’t marry me. She says her father would have me killed. After what happened last week, I think she is right. I am half out of my mind Myra. I don’t know what to do.”

Myra cocked her head to the side, looked me dead in the eye and asked, "Why don’t you just kill the bastard?"

“You’re not serious.” I said, started by the directness and brutally of her question.

“No William, I know you don’t have the stomach for that. But maybe I can help,”

***

I saddled up, Uncas. Myra and I rode together to her camp just as the sun was setting in the sky. The sunset presented us with an amazing display of the maker’s art, broad strokes of smoky deep purple, splashed nonchalantly with a melancholy vermilion. You out did yourself tonight, old man, I remember thinking to myself as we drew closer to the wagons of her vagabond tribe.

A violin played soft and haunting strains somewhere in the night. She made a series of hand signals as we neared, obviously to communicate with the men guarding the gypsy caravan. The campfires were already burning in the fading sunlight. The women folk were cooking the evening meal in heavy iron pots hung from tripods, over small stone encircled fires. The men were gathered in groups talking with each other, or sitting on the steps of the their circled wagons enjoying an evening smoke.

She walked up the back steps of a red and yellow painted wagon. It was longer and taller then the rest of the wagons, with more elaborate scrollwork. Myra knocked. The round windowed door swung open slowly. An elderly woman stood there in the doorway. Her white hair contrasted sharply with the red paisley kerchief she wore about her head. About her withered neck hung strings of gold necklaces. But what held my attention were the eyes she peered out at the world with. She had the same coal black knowing eyes that Myra had, “This is Esmeralda…William… Grandmother, I have brought this man, William to you. He is in need. Will you help him?” Myra said.

She looked me over carefully, as if weighing my soul on scales in her ancient head. “Give me your hand, William,” she said in a tired, world-weary voice, “Oh you poor man,” She sighed. “Be careful of this one Myra,” she warned. “You are a very passionate man William. Your passion is eating you alive inside. Here I shall show you.” She traced a path with her wrinkled finger over my hand as she spoke, “You are unlucky in love. Your heart line is so deep, so strong, but severed. You are torn between two paths; the lifeline diverges. Both paths you deeply desire but the paths do not intersect. You shall be offered a choice. I have never seen the like… I cannot help you my boy, but you have my sympathy.” Esmeralda said.

“Is there no one who can help me?” I asked.

“Perhaps there is someone, but I warn you! It is very foolish, very dangerous!” She warned.

“I don't care. I've got to do something. I can’t live without her!” I pleaded.

“Very well, come back tomorrow night.” Esmeralda said.

***

I returned to the camp the following evening. Myra ran out to greet me, her long black hair flowing gracefully behind her. “Hello William! It is all arranged. I will take you to your guide.”

“But where am I going, Myra?” I asked.

“Ha, ha, ha!” Myra Laughed. “Why to see old Kate of course! She knows things, William, she maybe able to help you.”

I kissed her cheek and said, “Well, wish me luck.”

"Good Luck, William, and for God's sake be respectful to old Kate!" Myra warned.

***

Black muck clung thickly to my boots as we trudged through the foul smelling fen. Whooping cranes were calling out in that lonely, long and mournful way of theirs somewhere out there -- in the dense rolling fog. Foul shapes seemed to hang and glide just out of the reach of perception on that dim and moonlit moor.

We waded through waist high reeds from stranded hillock to narrow ridge. Stunted and twisted, little sharp-limbed trees took on the aspect of gruesome sentinels, as if guarding some unwholesome secret known only to themselves. Every now and then my guide would lift his lantern high and wave it slowly from side to side, reminding me of a lonely lighthouse on the shores of a fog-enshrouded sea.

I could see no path at all. How my guide found his way through this, I shall never know. Perhaps it was merely his familiarity with the region, or perhaps this was his natural element, for I never saw anyone who looked so much like they had just stepped from the pages of a penny dreadful.

He was broad-shouldered, thick-limbed and short-legged, perhaps six and a half to seven feet tall, if he had stood upright. He was bent and twisted, one shoulder higher than the other. His back bent as if crouched to spring. His crude and roughly hewn features only added to his apelike appearance, thick lips, a wide-nose and a low-protruding forehead. Add to this primitive picture of a man, one baleful eye entirely white. A scar stretched over that eye, from the middle of his forehead, to just below the left cheek. His hair was a thick and wiry mop that sat unruly atop his head. He wore a horsehair tunic bound about the middle with thick rope, knotted in front and from which hung a long and deadly looking dagger.

“What the hell are those? See over there?” I asked.

“Corpse Candles,” he replied with a grunt.

“What pray tell are corpse candles, my good man,” I asked.

“Not your man, I be old Kate’s man. Keep eyes open, lips shut.”

***

As the night drew on the scenery began to change, we started to encounter more clumps of trees standing on lonely hillocks, the path rockier. Eventually, we came to a wood and after some searching my guide located a trial.

At the head of the trail, a totem was set upon a stake in the earth. It looked as if the bones of various creatures had been cobbled together to form a scarecrow. The head of this scarecrow was a mountain goat with long-twisted horns. The torso that of a man’s but from its wrists and ankles hung the claws of what must have been a gigantic vulture. It's wings sprouted from its back rising high into the air above us.

If the purpose of this twisted scarecrow was to keep unwanted visitors away, this skeletal freak was more than equal to the task. I almost begged my primitive guide to take me back across the moors. I would have, but then I considered the deadly looking dagger that hung from his crude belt.

We walked through this wood for what seemed like hours. Several times I was startled by the sudden caw, cawing of a crow, and the heavy beating of wings as it flew off. I began to notice bones scattered along the path. I could not shake the sensation that I was being watched.

Finally, I saw ahead of us in the clearing a crude thatched hut surrounded by torches burning in the darkness, the ground strewn with bones. Two human skulls were mounted on posts outside the door. I began to seriously wonder about the wisdom of this little excursion.

As we neared the hut, she emerged moving with an unnatural slowness and grace. I looked into her eyes, the pupils of which were too narrow and of a greenish yellow cast. Her head had a peculiar v-shape to it. She wore a long black robe decorated with curiously wrought white symbols that flowed and twisted around the neck and about the sleeves. The tail of her robe disappeared into the depths of her primitive thatched hut.

The interior of the hut was decorated with shrunken heads, weirdly carved figurines and candles. Long strings of beads formed a sort of doorway before which sat a stack of ancient looking leather-bound books. A parrot sat preening itself high upon a perch as snakes wound and curled about the dirt floor.

“Ah, Master Hargrove, I have been expecting you. What a passionate man you are William, just my type,” she said, as her eye slowly winked at me. “Ha, ha, ha,” she cackled. A shudder rippled through me as she spoke, for her voice had the sibilant hiss of the crafty serpent.

“Auuugghk, passionate man,” squawked the parrot.

“Quiet Paracelsus,” she said. “He’s always sticking his beak into things that are better left alone. Ha, ha, ha,” she cackled. “Now where were we?”

“Auuugghk, ****,” squawked the parrot.

“Why have you come to Old Kate, a love potion perhaps? No! I see you’re after more, much, much more. I have something that may be of use to you William.” She said in her hissing voice, as she lifted a pen up before my astonished eyes. What is it you see William?” She asked.

“It is a pen,” I said.

“Ah! It is that and much, much, more, it is also a weapon. Perhaps it is the most powerful weapon of all. For with the pen you can sway minds, move armies and crumble empires. I thought that you being a writer might understand this.”

“I understand,” I said.

“No William, I don’t think you do. But never mind that, you did not come here for a philosophy lesson now did you? You came here because you are obsessed with a woman,” she said.

“What do you want for it?” I asked.

“Ah, all artists know the sacrifices that must be made for their craft. The power of the pen exacts its own price, William.” She stated.

She then presented me with the most exquisite instrument of the writer’s art, long and flowing, gracefully-balanced, sharp and golden tipped.

***

I discovered the power of the pen, soon enough. I began by writing love poetry, long essays about the wonders and beauties of the natural world and also long epic poems based upon the wondrous complexities and ironies of Greek mythology. My work was hailed as a triumph. I was the new darling of the literary world. Offers poured in for me to write novels and plays.

Eventually, I bought up the majority of stock in the Brettel family business. I was able to do this in part, by writing glowing praises of the Colonel's competitors and stinging criticism of his company. Criticism the company richly deserved for labor abuses, bribery, and other underhanded practices. This lowered the value of the stock causing more people to sell, the price fell lower and lower the in a dramatic downward spiral. Once I had mastered this capitalistic technique, it served me well quite well in accumulating wealth and influence.

When the day finally came that I owned the majority of the colonel's company, I simply road to the estate with a few gypsy friends for bodyguards and gave him an ultimatum. He would either give me Suzette’s hand and I would give him back his company or I would ruin him. The Colonel made a very wise decision, I believe.

***

To celebrate the triumph of our love we returned to our secret meeting place. Suzette was more beautiful than ever. She began torturing me with kisses that flowed warm and sweet like summer wine, intoxicating me with passion.

I held her tender waist from behind, pulling her slowly against me, nuzzling my face in the tantalizing sensuousness of her soft hair. My mind was enthralled by the sinful suggestiveness of this warm embrace. I begged, “Please Suzette, let me. I love you more than any man has ever loved a woman, I would die a thousand agonizing deaths for you. I would sell my everlasting soul to win your love.”

My heart pumped; my loins ached and my head reeled in delirium. I could stand it no longer. I quickly hiked the long gown up, revealing the white-gartered stockings beneath. I felt her long shapely legs with my hands. As she bent to grab the oak for balance her firm bottom was before my hungry eyes. Like a juicy peach it tempted me with its’ mouth-watering ripeness, its’ delicious cleft curves.

“My God, William! Stop! What has gotten into you?” I did not stop. I plucked that delicious forbidden fruit. It was not until I finished, that I realized what I had done. I thought she would hate me. I thought my dreams of love's sweet bliss had been shattered forever like the sparkling glass against the jagged stone.

Suzette dropped to her knees before me and put her arms about my legs, “Oh you are a real man, you are... you do not know how long I have dreamed of this William,” she wept in joy. We were married two weeks later in a small private ceremony.

***

I went to upstairs office of Professor Perkins, Head Master of Baneford Academy. I really wanted to see my old professor. I missed him. As I entered, he got up from behind his desk, rushed over and began shaking my hand vigorously, “We all wondered what had happened to you my boy.” He said excitedly, “Locked yourself away in some dingy room some where writing your novel, Eh.”

“Well, sort of professor, I have come to make a donation to the academy and of course to see you.”

“Wonderful William, I must say, I always expected great things from you. Your remarkable passion was clearly evident in all you literary works. But what you are writing now far exceeds anything you have produced in the past. It’s almost as if it they were written by another person. Such tremendous style, such elegant phrasing, you have exceeded all my hopes for you. I am so proud of you, son.”

“Thank you, professor.” I said. It was then that it hit me hard for the first time. I was a fraud, a complete and utter fake. My fame, my new home, everything rested on an illusion. It was not I who had produced these works even though it was my hand that held the pen.

***

I slowly began to realize to my horror that the pen had a mind of its own. I could no longer write dreamy love poems or about nature and the Greek gods. My writing turned to the dark side of life, murder mysteries, horror stories. My mind was filled with visions of crime and vice. It followed along as armies marched to carry out the brutal business of war. It wandered onto bloody battlefields and listened in horror to the screams of agony and death.

To my everlasting surprise these works were hailed even more highly than my previous works. The critics raved what wonderful diversity, what comprehensive ability and insight into life. I don’t believe a one of these critics had ever given a decent review to a horror story or murder mystery before.

I began to notice strange things happening. Several businesses that I criticized where looted and burned to the ground. My name and face were everywhere in the news. People were taking everything I said, as gospel. With one word from me in the press, I could destroy a man’s life.


***

That monstrous pen, It was always there calling out to me. I reached for it again and again. The pen began to seriously affect my mind. I started drinking myself to sleep every night and started up again as soon as I awoke.

I was becoming a drunken leach, an evil wanton cynic, I hardly recognized myself in the mirror. I had the means and a driving compulsion to live out the twisted fantasies inspired by the pen. I walked wide-eyed into each and every new more unwholesome escapade. I tasted every vice that tickled my depraved fancy, drinking heavily from the cup of sinful pleasure.

I shall not recount all those nights of shameful debauchery here, the desperate back-alley couplings, the nights spent with warm and willing wanton ladies of the evening. Suffice it to say that I spent many a night in gambling halls, opium dens and the like. I chased every winking barmaid. I fondled every firm, round and tempting bottom. I mercilessly attempted to seduce every female old, young, thin, round, dark or fair. I didn't care.

I began to experience black outs. I was mortified when I learned of the things I had done. Even the tolerant and amoral Myra began to fear me. The look on her face had changed from naughty playfulness to a watchful uneasy caution.

I shunned my old friends like the plague. I could not bear to let them see what I had become. I feared the consequences of using the pen more everyday. I never knew where its unholy power would lead me. But try as I may I could not keep my hands off it.

More than once I awoke in a jail cell or back alley never knowing why I was there or what I had done. With my new position in society the authorities always choose to look the other way. I wish now they would have prosecuted me.


***

Suzette was no longer the happy fun-loving girl I had known; she had changed into a demure-little mouse. She must have believed that I no longer loved her. She pleaded with me not to leave her alone. I would lie awake at night, listening to her crying. Her muffled-tender sobs played a painful -bitter melody on my poor heartstrings. It filled me with almost unimaginable depths of despair and regret.

I could never tell Suzette what I had done to win her precious hand. There was no way to explain the power of the pen and the disastrous consequences of its use. Fate had led me down a lonely lightless path and for the life of me, I could not find my way in the darkness.

I loved her more than anything and yet, she ended up suffering for my sins. I couldn't bear the thought of my deviance behavior corrupting her innocence. Nothing could compel me to share my sordid world with her. She was my anchor, my rock, the only thing that kept my soul from being swept over the edge of the world, into the waiting abyss.

Then one evening as I entered my home, I heard a low moaning coming from the dining hall. As I rounded the corner, I saw Suzette lying on the end of the long formal dining table. Her dress rumpled and scattered beneath her. Balancing on one arm, her hand needing and pulling at the hair of the man nestled between her gartered thighs.

“Suzette?” I asked. She quickly jumped off the table. There he was -- Charles Sterling, the man I thought was my friend having his way with my dear wife. With a guilty frightened look in his eyes he turned, trying to hide his manhood.

My Suzette screamed, “Well, what of it! You're always out with your ****!”

“I am so sorry, William but I love her!” Charles confessed.

“Take her and get out,” I said. Suzette was crying as Charles pulled her wrap gently over her shoulders. He put his arm about her shoulders and led her out quietly. Charles was an intelligent man he never said another bloody word.

***

I awoke this morning my head throbbing, my throat parched from a God-awful hangover. I went to get a bottle of wine from my desk, when I noticed a stack of papers I didn't remember writing. I began to read them. They were political essays about the glories of the British Empire. These essays extolled the virtues of the British Empire and the superiority of its’ people, of Britannia’s divine right to rule not only the waves but also the world.

I know the devil's monstrous pen is quite capable of stirring old resentments and of preying upon every ancient prejudice, magnifying the primal fears of the common folk ten-fold. It will inevitably incite a senseless-drunken mob mentality with it's own fermenting brew of rock-gut propaganda. The anxieties of the people will be relentlessly exploited until a tidal wave of public sentiment washes away every last bit of opposition and reason in its wake.

In my imagination, I can see the horrific war. I watch the masses swarming eagerly to answer the siren call of the Devil's pen. Beneath Satan's gory heel civilization will be ground-mercilessly into ruin. I hear his malignant laughter at the triumphant march of death and destruction. The terrible aftermath leaves children starving, women screaming in anguish, the earth covered in wet-crimson fields, hideously sprouting the mangled limbs and stiffening corpses of the fallen men.

That bloody pen has taken everything from me, my love, my pride, and my honor. I will no longer be an unwitting tool. Like a puppet whose heartstrings have been cruelly cut one by one, I dangle-limply, soon I shall fall to the darkened stage as the last thread is cut away, never to rise, never to perform again.

My last hope, my rock, my only anchor in this sea of despair is gone forever. My heart and will have been crushed in an inescapable iron vice. Oh -- my sweet Suzette, you were the only good and wholesome thing left in my life and now you have been taken from me too. I should have found some other way. If only we had gone to America when I wanted.

It is only a matter of time now -- before the pen takes over completely and I become the personification of its evil will. I must end it. I must end it while I still may. Oh -- always and forever, my sweet Suzette.

I have prepared the rope. I shall simply stand upon a parlor chair, slip it about my neck and jump. May God have mercy on my troubled soul.

William Hargrove
PS: Oh brothers, dear sweet sisters, if you value your lives leave the pen where it lies.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on May 27, 2007, 01:28:56 pm
Hi, Wayne...

Thank you for the resend of "The Devil's Pen."  As I've said, I like 
the story and the way you tell it.

However, I'm afraid it contains too many errors for me to correct.   
My advice is to hire a college student, preferably an English major, 
to proofread it for you.  Here are a couple of examples:

> “But where am I going Myra?” I asked.
>
> “Ha, ha, ha!” Myra Laughed. “Why to see Old Kate of course! She 
> knows things William, she maybe able to help you.”

Note the punctuation, spelling and capitalization:
==
“But where am I going, Myra?” I asked.

“Ha, ha, ha!” Myra laughed. “Why, to see Old Kate of course! She 
knows things, William, she may be able to help you.”
==

Names used in apposition must be preceded by a comma.  Thus: "But 
where am I going [comma] Myra?"  There are many such occurrences in 
the text.

Also: remove superfluous speaker tags.  "I asked" is not necessary 
when it's obvious who's talking.

Another problem: compound adjectives must be hyphenated.  Thus:

> He was broad shouldered, thick limbed and short legged, perhaps six 
> and a half to seven feet tall, if he had stood upright that is.
==
He was broad-shouldered, thick-limbed and short-legged, perhaps six 
and a half to seven feet tall, if he had stood upright, that is.
==
"That is" is superfluous:
==
perhaps six and a half to seven feet tall, if he had stood upright.
==

Please have your text given detailed proofreading.  As I say, it 
really deserves the attention.

Best of luck, and please get back to us with it.

Don


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Trent on May 27, 2007, 01:54:27 pm
Hi Unknown,

Just ask Rockessence to go over it and make the corrections. She knows all about the correct usages of English and I'm sure she'd be glad to help.

You can tell that they want to publish it, but the errors are the only thing holding them back.

Trent


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on May 27, 2007, 02:45:46 pm
Hi Trent

Yes, they do want to publish it. I would ask Rocki to do it, but it's a lot of work.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Zodiac on May 31, 2007, 01:19:45 pm
Unky,

You have to be sick of redoing the same story. I know, let's have a new one!!  This time, a gothic little number involving some sexy female  vampires and some gore.   :)


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on May 31, 2007, 05:27:15 pm
Hi Zodiac


You are so right, I am so sick of the Devil's Pen!!!!! I hope they publish it then I can forget about it.

I am righting just that Zodiac.... stay tuned.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Trent on June 02, 2007, 10:36:13 pm
Then, maybe do a werewolf story with a lot of sex and carnage in it.

Anyone ever see those movies, Underworld? I really like the mythology they built up in them between werewolves and vampires.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Zodiac on June 05, 2007, 10:48:24 am
I saw it, I am surprised that more people haven't expanded on the idea of a part werewolf, part vampire creature. It is totally cool and very original.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Jennifer O'Dell on June 17, 2007, 04:01:14 am
Any result for this yet, or a new story..?


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on June 18, 2007, 08:03:58 pm
Hi Jennifer

No word yet dear... I should know something soon.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on June 27, 2007, 07:14:26 pm
The Devil's Pen




My name is William Hargrove. The year of our Lord 1829, October the Seventeenth, I do solemnly swear upon my honor and before almighty God that this is a true and accurate account of the events of my life.

I do freely and willingly confess to all the unspeakable acts of debauchery revealed in this written statement. These acts are largely the result of various faults in my character. You will not hear from me vain justifications for what I have done nor pleas for mercy. What I have done, I have done.

An untamed beast lives and breathes just below the surface of us all, straining against the confines imposed upon it by our polite and mannerly society. That beast waits beneath the mask, gentlemen.

Oh brothers, dear sweet sisters, let not the insatiable beast we call emotion get its claws into you. Lock the ravaging beast away that rages with carnal desire. Lock it away in a cage of adamantine will and then cast that key away forever.

Pay heed to the warning in my sad tale and hereafter build your lives on the solid rock of reason, so that you may take every advantage from that sure and sound footing.

***

Here I sit at my roll-top mahogany desk, writing by the warm glow of gaslight lanterns, staring at it. The pen, exquisite, long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden-tipped, it begs to be held. To wind and whip its way across the page, like a ballerina upon the stage and just as fluid, graceful and sure as any prima ballerina. But I shall not hold that wondrous shaft in my hand again. No, for it is the Devil’s pen.

I drift back in my mind now to happier days, when I was filled with youthful innocence and exuberance. It was less than two years ago today and yet it seems like it was another man entirely that stood on the steps of the magnificent auditorium at Baneford Academy. I was waiting there to receive my doctorate in the literary arts. In my time at the Academy I had made something of a reputation for myself as a writer.

The Head Master, Professor Perkins, was a dear and gentle soul who was prone to emotional outbursts, just as I was. In this and in our love for the written word we were kindred spirits. The dear old gentleman was so happy it was as if he were receiving the diploma instead of conferring it upon me.

It seemed to me as if I had waited an eternity for this moment. Unlike most of the other students, my parents had not been wealthy or aristocratic. In fact, it was something of a miracle that I had been allowed to attend at all. I struggled endlessly with finances. My parents died when I was quite young and although they provided for me in their will, it was in the form of a monthly allowance that was not nearly enough for the tuition.

***

But my mind was not on these things. What the diploma meant to me was that at last, I could marry my beloved, Suzette. We met at her coming out party. I had not been invited to this affair, aristocracy only, you understand. But Charles Sterling, a dear friend from the academy, brought me along as his guest. Charles was a noble fellow. He never held it against me that I was a commoner, the way most of the other students did.

But I digress. What an unforgettable day it was! From the very first moment I saw her I adored her. I worshipped her. I was filled with a glowing love light, my feet disdaining the coarse and crude earth beneath them. My soul enshrined an image of her, my dream of love always and forever, my sweet Suzette.

When my lips met hers for the first time, what a rapturous thrill. Sharp currents of pleasure coursed through me, overwhelming my senses. She stirred in me a wild and erotic fascination. It raged inside me like a hurricane at sea, buffeting my emotions about with waves of wild desire.

Suzette's father had made it very clear that he disapproved of me. So we met secretly every Sunday when she was supposed to be at piano practice. Suzette explained it to me, laughing. She said her piano teacher didn’t mind; she was still being paid and she just couldn’t stand the, “God-awful racket,” anyway.

***

With my diploma in hand, I would at last be able to face her father and legitimately ask for her hand in marriage. I rode to the Brettel Estate, a grand five-story Victorian manor. It was surrounded by a lovely eighteenth-century style hedged garden and enclosed by a tall and imposing iron-gated stone wall. One of the servants took my horse as the other led me inside. “I will tell Colonel Brettel you are here, sir,” he said.

I stood in the grand entrance hall. A winding staircase led to the second floor and above me hung a magnificent golden multi-tiered chandelier. Set upon the freshly waxed marble floors were busts of some of the great men of British history, Wellington, Chamberlain, Cromwell, Shakespeare, all waiting there impatiently with me. I waited and I waited -- and waited. I must have stood in that hallway for an over an hour.

Finally, a servant appeared, “The colonel will see you now,” he said.

He led me to the library. The colonel sat near the fireplace drinking brandy and smoking one of the biggest cigars that I had ever seen.

“What can I do for you Mr. Hargrove?” He asked.

“Sir, I have just received my Doctorate from Baneford Academy. Your daughter and I are very much in love. I have been assured that I have a very promising future. All of my professors recommend me highly. I have come to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

The colonel jumped from his chair his face flushed, his eyes blazing fiercely. “You little bastard! You have been sneaking around with my Suzette, haven’t you? Is she pregnant? By God, I’ll kill you with my own bare hands!” He was built like a bull with huge hands, but I was much faster. He lunged for my throat. I blocked his arms and swung around behind him in the same motion, grabbing him in a headlock.

“Calm down colonel. Suzette isn’t pregnant. I haven’t touched her.” I pleaded with him.

“You get the hell out of here. If I ever see your face again, I shall sic the dogs on you!” He said. Now I was consumed with rage myself and sorely tempted to break his neck.

“Be reasonable, sir,” I said releasing him, restraining myself from further violence.

“Get out now,” he said in a low, even tone. He was deadly serious.

I turned and walked slowly out. I was filled with grief and anger. Well -- that did not go well, I thought. As I stepped out of the double doors of the entranceway, I heard the colonel yell, “Grab him!” The two doormen tackled me and held me face down in the entranceway. I could see the colonel's black boots from my undignified position on the floor. I heard him snarl, “This will teach you to keep your damn hands off my daughter!” I felt his hands in my hair, and then he began slamming my face into the floor. More of his men must have come, because I could feel them stomping and kicking me with their heeled riding boots. I passed out the third time my head went into the cold stone floor.

***

I came to in a ditch alongside the road. One of my eyes’ was swollen shut and my lips were thick and rubbery. I could taste the irony flavor of blood in my mouth. A couple of my teeth had been broken. Well there go my boyish good looks, I thought, laughing at myself.

Beside the road stood my horse Uncas, whom I named after the fierce Indian in J. Fenimore Cooper’s, “The last of the Mohicans.” I had a hell of a time climbing back into the saddle. My mind wouldn’t focus and I was awkward. I couldn’t get my foot into the bloody stirrup. Every movement sent sharp pains shooting through me. I think one of my ribs was broken because it always gave me trouble after that. I don’t remember how I made it back to Baneford.

***

I awoke two days later, naked atop the sheets that were covered with vomit and stained in blood. I limped around trying to clean it up as best I could. I was starving, but I could not eat much because of my painfully swollen lips.

My mind went racing out to Suzette. What would her father do to her? I had to see her. I threw on a long overcoat and headed out the door. I couldn’t ride, but if I could get a message to her, perhaps we could arrange something.

As I walked out into the street I saw a thin, taut and lively gypsy girl. Her mouth was exquisite, ripe, plump and succulent with the most enticing little gap between her top two front teeth. She had raven-black hair falling to her waist and the most intriguing coal- black eyes. Her eyes seemed to peer into the secret depths of my soul.

“Oh you poor man! What happened?” She asked.

“Well, I got knocked around pretty good.” I replied, “It doesn’t really matter. My name is William. Would you please do a favor for me? I’ll give you whatever you ask, within reason.”

“What do you have in mind, darling?” She asked, winking at me.

“Oh no, it’s not that! I need you to get a message to someone. Will you help me?”

“Too bad," she said, with a wicked little smile. “Sure I’ll do it, ten pounds up front.”

“Five now, five when I get a message back saying the note has been delivered.”

“All right, William, I’ll do it. My name is Myra. A pleasure.”

With Myra’s help, I was able to get a message to Elisa, one of Suzette’s old friends from finishing school. Elisa and I were able to arrange a rendezvous soon after that.

***

I saw Suzette standing in our secret meeting place. It was just beneath an old and distinguished gentleman of an oak, the last surviving member of the forest that once covered these rolling hills. It stood well over a hundred feet tall. The oak's branches forked out at twenty feet above the ground. It stretched one mighty limb across a small stream that ran lazily through the manicured grounds. A dove cooed softly somewhere in the high grass of the field beyond the stream.

"Oh -- William, your face! Did my father do that?" Suzette said.

“Yes, him and a couple of his men.”

“Why did you do it, William?” She asked, “Didn’t you realize what he would do? I am practically under house arrest now. He has men watching me night and day. Oh, I do hope I haven’t led them to this place!”

“I did it because I love you terribly. I want you to be mine, always and forever, my sweet Suzette. Come away with me tonight.” I said, putting my hands around her waist and losing myself in the bright-green orbs of delight that were her eyes. “We’ll leave the country. Let's go to America, Suzette. We’ll start a new life together,”

“I'm so torn up inside! I can’t marry you now, William. He means to marry me to some wealthy and powerful aristocrat. It's all business with him,” she fumed. “If we ran off together he'd have you killed, I just know it! She said, gently brushing my hair back from my face with delicate wave of her tiny hand. “I just couldn’t bare that William. I do love you so - - I can’t even see you now! He has his spies everywhere.”

“This is not the end Suzette. I shall find a way for us to be together,” I said, nearly crying.

***

“Well, tell!” Myra said, poking me in the ribs, which were still sore as hell. “I want to hear all about it, you romantic devil, you.”

“She won’t marry me!” I blurted out, hurt and angry. “She says her father would have me killed. After what happened last week, I think she is right. I am half out of my mind Myra. I don’t know what to do.”

Myra cocked her head to the side, looked me in the eye and asked, "Why don’t you just kill the bastard?"

“You’re not serious,” I said, started by brutality of her suggestion.

“No, William,” she laughed. “I see you don’t have the stomach for that. But maybe I can help.”

***

I saddled up, Uncas. Myra and I rode together to her camp just as the sun was setting in the sky. The sunset presented us with an amazing display of the maker’s art. The canvas of the sky was painted with broad strokes of smoky deep purple, splashed nonchalantly with a melancholy vermilion. You outdid yourself tonight, old man, I remember thinking to myself as we drew closer to the wagons of her vagabond tribe.

A violin played soft and haunting strains somewhere in the night. She made a series of hand signals as we neared. Quite obviously, she was communicating with the men set about the perimeter of the camp to guard it. The campfires were already burning in the fading sunlight. The womenfolk were cooking the evening meal in heavy iron pots, hung from tripods, over small stone-encircled fires. The men were gathered in groups talking with one another, or sitting on the steps of the their circled wagons enjoying an evening smoke.

She walked up the back steps of a warm-yellow wagon, its elaborate scrollwork painted in a dark, sultry red. It was longer and taller then the rest of the wagons in the little caravan. Myra knocked. The round-windowed door swung open slowly. An elderly woman stood there in the doorway. Her white hair contrasted sharply with the red paisley kerchief she wore about her head. About her withered neck hung strings of gold necklaces. But what held my attention were her eyes. She had the same knowing, coal-black eyes as Myra, “This is Esmeralda, William. Grandmother, I have brought this man, William, to you. He is in need. Will you help him?” Myra asked respectfully.

She looked me over carefully. Like an earthly incarnation of Anubis, she seemed to weigh my soul on scales in her ancient head. “Give me your hand, William,” she said in a tired, world-weary voice. “Oh you poor man.” She sighed. “Be careful of this one Myra!” She warned. “You are a very passionate man, William. So very passionate it is eating you alive inside. Here, I shall show you what I mean.” She traced a path with her wrinkled finger over my hand as she spoke. “You are unlucky in love. Your heart line is so deep, so strong, but severed. You are torn between two paths; the lifeline diverges. Both paths you deeply desire but the paths do not intersect. You shall be offered a choice. I have never seen the like. I cannot help you my boy, but you have my sympathy.”

“Can no one help me?” I asked.

“Perhaps, but I warn you! It is very foolish, very dangerous!”

“I don't care. I've got to do something. I can’t live without her!” I pleaded.

“Very well, come back tomorrow night.”

***

I returned to the camp the following evening. Myra ran out to greet me, her long, black hair flowing gracefully behind her. “Hello William! She beamed. “It is all arranged. I will take you to your guide.”

“But where am I going, Myra?” I asked.

“Ha, ha, ha!” Myra laughed, slapping me on the back. “Why, to see old Kate of course! She knows things, William, she may be able to help you.”

I kissed her cheek and said, “Well, wish me luck.”

"Good Luck, William, and for God's sake be respectful to old Kate!"

***

Black muck clung thickly to my boots as we trudged through the foul-smelling fen. Whooping cranes were calling out in that lonely, long and mournful way of theirs somewhere out there -- in the dense rolling fog. Foul shapes seemed to hang and glide just out of the reach of perception on that dim and moonlit moor.

We waded through waist-high reeds, from stranded hillock to narrow ridge. Stunted and twisted, little sharp-limbed trees took on the aspect of gruesome sentinels, as if guarding some unwholesome secret known only to themselves. Every now and then, my guide would lift his lantern high and wave it slowly from side to side, reminding me of a lonely lighthouse on the shores of a fog-enshrouded sea.

I could see no path at all. How my guide found his way through this, I shall never know. Perhaps it was merely his familiarity with the region, or perhaps this was his natural element, for I never saw anyone who looked so much like they had just stepped from the pages of a penny dreadful.

He was broad-shouldered, thick-limbed and short-legged, perhaps six and a half to seven feet tall, if he had stood upright. He was bent and twisted, one shoulder higher than the other. His back bent as if crouched to spring. His crude and roughly hewn features only added to his apelike appearance. He had thick lips, a wide-nose and a low-protruding forehead. Add to this primitive picture of a man one baleful eye, entirely white. A scar stretched over that eye, from the middle of his forehead to just below the left cheek. His hair was a thick and wiry mop that sat unruly atop his head. He wore a horsehair tunic, bound about the middle with thick rope. It was knotted in front and from it hung a long, deadly-looking dagger.

“What the hell are those? See over there?” I asked.

“Corpse candles,” he grumbled.

“What -- pray tell, are corpse candles, my good man?”

“Not your man. I be old Kate’s man. Keep your eyes open, lips shut.”

***

As the night drew on, the scenery began to change. We started to encounter more clumps of trees standing on lonely hillocks. The path became rockier. Eventually, we came to a wood and after some searching my guide located a trail.

At the head of the trail, a totem was set upon a stake in the earth. It looked as if the bones of various creatures had been cobbled together to form a scarecrow. The head of this scarecrow was a mountain goat with long, twisted horns. The torso that of a man’s, but from its wrists and ankles hung the claws of what must have been a gigantic vulture. Its wings sprouted from its back rising high into the air above us.

If the purpose of this twisted scarecrow was to keep unwanted visitors away, this skeletal freak was more than equal to the task. I almost begged my primitive guide to take me back across the moors. I would have, but then I considered the deadly looking dagger that hung from his crude belt.

We walked through this wood for what seemed like hours. I was startled several times by the sudden caw cawing of crows, and the heavy beating of their wings as they flew off. I began to notice bones scattered along the path. I could not shake the sensation that I was being watched.

Finally, I saw ahead of us in the clearing a crude, thatched hut surrounded by torches burning in the darkness, the ground strewn with bones. Two human skulls were mounted on posts outside the door. I began to seriously wonder about the wisdom of this little excursion.

As we neared the hut, she emerged, moving with an unnatural slowness and grace. I looked into the pupils of her eyes, which were far too narrow and of a greenish-yellow cast. Her head had a peculiar v-shape to it. She wore a long black robe, decorated with curiously wrought white symbols that flowed and twisted around the neck and about the sleeves. The long tail of her robe disappeared into the depths of her hut.

The interior of the hut was decorated with shrunken heads, weirdly carved figurines, and candles; long strings of beads formed a sort of doorway before which sat a stack of ancient looking, leather-bound books. A parrot sat preening itself, high upon a perch. Snakes wound and curled about the dirt floor.

“Ah, Master Hargrove, I have been expecting you. What a passionate man you are William, just my type,” old Kate said, as her eye slowly winked at me. “Ha, ha, ha,” she cackled. A shudder rippled through me as she spoke, for her voice had the sibilant hiss of the crafty serpent.

“Auuugghk, passionate man,” squawked the parrot.

“Quiet Paracelsus,” she said. “He’s always sticking his nose into things that are better left alone. Ha, ha, ha,” she cackled. “Now where were we?”

“Auuugghk, ****,” squawked the parrot.

“Why have you come to old Kate? Perhaps, you are here for a love potion? No! I see you’re after much, much, more. I have something that may be of use to you, William.” She said in her hissing voice, as she lifted a pen up before my astonished eyes. “What is it you see, William?” She asked.

“It is a pen,” I said.

“Ah! It is that and much, much, more, for it is also a weapon. Perhaps it is the most powerful weapon of all. For with the pen you can sway minds, move armies and crumble empires. I thought that you, being a writer, might understand this.”

“I understand,” I said.

“No William, I don’t think you do. But never mind that; you did not come here for a philosophy lesson, now did you? You came here because you are obsessed with a woman.”

“What do you want for it?” I asked.

“Ah, all artists know the sacrifices that must be made for their craft. The power of the pen exacts its own price, William.”

She then presented me with the most exquisite instrument of the writer’s art, long and flowing, gracefully balanced, sharp and golden-tipped.

***

I discovered the power of the pen soon enough. I began by writing love poetry, long essays about the wondrous beauty of the natural world and long epic poems based upon Greek mythology. My work was hailed as a triumph. I was the new darling of the literary world. Offers poured in for me to write novels and plays.

Eventually, I bought up the majority of stock in the Brettel family business. I was able to do this, in part, by writing glowing praises of the colonel's competitors and stinging criticism of his company. Criticism the company richly deserved for labor abuses, bribery and other nefarious practices. This lowered the value of the stock causing more people to sell. The price fell lower and lower in a dramatic downward spiral. This technique served me, quite well, in accumulating wealth and influence.

When the day finally came that I owned the majority of the colonel's company, I simply road to the estate with a few bodyguards and gave him an ultimatum. He would either give me Suzette’s hand and I would give him back his company, or I would ruin him. The colonel made a very wise decision, I believe.

***

Suzette and I returned to our secret meeting place to celebrate the triumph of our love. She was more beautiful than ever. She began torturing me with kisses that flowed warm and sweet like summer wine intoxicating me with passion.

I held her tender waist from behind, pulling her slowly against me, nuzzling my face in her soft, strawberry blonde hair. My mind enthralled by this warm, sinfully suggestive embrace. I begged, “Please, Suzette, let me. I love you more than any man has ever loved a woman. I would die a thousand agonizing deaths for you. I would sell my everlasting soul to win your love.”

My heart pumped; my loins ached and my head reeled in delirium. I could stand it no longer. I quickly hiked her gown up, revealing the white-gartered stockings beneath. I felt her long, shapely legs with my hands. As she bent to grab the oak for balance her firm bottom was before my hungry eyes. Like a juicy peach, it tempted me with its mouth-watering ripeness.

“My God, William! Stop!” I did not stop. I took her then and there. It was not until I finished that I realized what I had done. I thought she would hate me. I thought my dreams of love's sweet bliss had been shattered forever, like the sparkling glass against the jagged stone.

Suzette dropped to her knees before me and put her arms about my legs. “Oh you are a real man, you are. . . you do not know how long I have dreamed of this William!” She wept in joy. We were married two weeks later in a small private ceremony.

***

I really wanted to see my old professor. I missed him. As I entered his office, he got up from behind his desk, rushed over and began shaking my hand vigorously. “We all wondered what had happened to you, my boy,” he said, excitedly. “Locked yourself away in some dingy room somewhere writing your novel, aye?”

“Well, sort of, professor. I have come to make a donation to the academy and of course to see you.”

“Wonderful, William!” He said excitedly. “I must say, I always expected great things from you. Your remarkable passion was clearly evident in all you literary works. But what you are writing now far exceeds anything you have produced in the past. It’s almost as if they were written by another person. Such tremendous style, such elegant phrasing, you have exceeded all my hopes for you. I am so proud of you, son.”

“Thank you, professor.” I said slowly. It was then that it hit me hard for the first time. I was a fraud, a charlatan. My fame, my new home, everything rested on an illusion. It was not I who had produced these works even though it was my hand that held the pen.

***

I began to realize to my horror that the pen had a mind and will of its own. I could no longer write dreamy love poems or about nature and the Greek gods. My thoughts turned to the dark side of life. I began writing murder mysteries, horror stories and political essays. My mind was filled with visions of crime and vice. It followed along as armies marched to carry out the brutal business of war. It wandered onto bloody battlefields and listened in horror to the screams of anguish and agony.

To my surprise these works were hailed even more highly than my previous works. The critics raved what wonderful diversity, what comprehensive ability and insight into life. I don’t believe a one of these critics had ever given a decent review to a horror story or murder mystery before.

I began to notice strange things happening. Several businesses that I criticized were looted and burned to the ground. My name and face were everywhere in the news. People were taking everything I said, as gospel. With one word from me in the press, I could destroy a man’s life. This placed a terrible burden of responsibility squarely upon my shoulders.

***

That monstrous pen was always there, calling out to me. I reached for it again and again. The pen began to seriously affect my mind. I could not escape its seductive influence. I was becoming a drunken leach, an evil, wanton cynic. I hardly recognized myself in the mirror. I had an unquenchable thirst for the unholy acts inspired by the Devil’s pen. I tasted every vice, drinking heavily from the cup of sinful pleasure.

I shall not recount all those nights of shameful debauchery here, all those desperate back-alley couplings. Nor shall I describe the nights I spent with warm and willing, wanton ladies of the evening. Suffice it to say that I spent many a night in gambling halls, opium dens and the like. I chased every winking barmaid. I fondled every firm, round and tempting bottom. I mercilessly attempted to seduce every female -- old, young, thin, round, dark or fair. I didn't care.

I began to experience black outs. I was mortified when I learned of the things that I had done. Even the tolerant and amoral Myra began to fear me. The look on her face had changed from naughty playfulness to a watchful, uneasy caution.

I shunned my old friends like the plague. I could not bear for them to see what I had become. I feared the consequences of using the pen more everyday. I never knew where its unholy power would lead me. But, try as I may, I could not keep my hands off it.

More than once I awoke in a jail cell or back alley, never knowing why I was there or what I had done. With my new position in society, the authorities always chose to look the other way.

***

Suzette was no longer the happy, fun-loving girl, I had known. She must have felt that I no longer loved her. She pleaded with me not to leave her alone. I would lie awake at night beside her, listening to her soft, tender sobs. Oh, how that lonely, lullaby of tears haunted me.

I could never tell Suzette what I had done to win her hand. There was absolutely no way to explain the power of the pen and the disastrous consequences of its use. Fate had led me down a lonely, lightless path and I could not find my way back in the darkness.

I loved her more than anything and yet, she ended up suffering for my sins. I couldn't bear the thought of corrupting her innocence. Nothing could compel me to share my sordid world with her. She was my anchor, my rock, the only thing that kept me from being swept over the edge of the world into the waiting abyss.

***

Then one evening as I entered my home, I heard a low moan coming from the dining hall. As I rounded the corner, I saw Suzette lying on the end of our long formal dining table. Her dress rumpled and scattered beneath her. She was balancing on one hand, the other was in the hair of the man nestled between her thighs.

“Suzette?” I asked. She jumped quickly off the table. It was Charles Sterling who was having his way with my dear wife. He turned with a guilty, frightened look in his eyes.

My Suzette screamed, “Well, what of it! You're always out with your ****!”

“I am so sorry, William, but I love her! I have always loved her.” Charles confessed, his eyes pleading for understanding and forgiveness.

My heart pounded unmercifully in my ears. I was tempted to murderous vengeance. My mind clouded in a red-haze -- I saw a vision of Suzette begging upon her knees… blood spurting from her in hot-crimson streams. I knew if she were in my presence another instant, I would succumb to the evil passion that tore at my sanity with ravenous claws. I would kill them both. My will was tested to its utmost. I let her go.

“Take her and get out,” I said, in a cold even tone. Suzette was crying as Charles pulled her wrap gently over her shoulders. He put his arm about her and led her out, quietly. Charles was an intelligent man; he never said another bloody word.

***

I awoke this morning my head throbbing. My throat parched from a God-awful hangover. I went to get a bottle of wine from my desk. When I noticed a stack of papers that I hadn‘t seen before. I began to read them. They were political essays about the glories of the British Empire. These essays extolled the virtues of the British Empire and the superiority of its people. Claiming Britannia’s divine right to rule not only the waves, but also the world.

I know the Devil's monstrous pen is quite capable of stirring old resentments, of preying upon every ancient prejudice, magnifying the primal fears of the common folk tenfold. It will inevitably incite a drunken, mob mentality with its own brew of rock-gut propaganda. The anxieties of the people would be relentlessly exploited until a tidal wave of public sentiment washes away every last bit of opposition and reason in its wake.

In my imagination, I can see the horrific war. I watch the masses swarming eagerly to answer the siren call of the Devil's pen. Beneath its gory heel civilization will be ground into ruin. I hear the Devil’s malignant laughter at the triumphant march of death and destruction. Its terrible aftermath leaves children starving, women screaming. The earth covered in wet-crimson fields, hideously sprouting the mangled limbs and stiffening corpses of the fallen.

That bloody pen has taken everything from me -- my love, my pride, and my honor. I will no longer be an unwitting tool. I feel like a puppet whose heartstrings have been cut one by one falling to the stage, never to perform, never to rise again.

My last hope, my rock, my only anchor in this lonely sea of despair is gone forever. Oh -- my sweet Suzette, you were the only good and wholesome thing left in my life and now you are gone. I should have found some other way. If only we had gone to America when I wanted!

It is only a matter of time now… before the pen takes over completely and I become the personification of its evil will. I must end it. I must end it while I still may. Oh -- always and forever, my sweet Suzette.

I have prepared the rope. I shall simply stand upon a parlor chair, slip it about my neck and jump. May God have mercy on my troubled soul.

William Hargrove
PS: If you value your lives, leave the pen where it lies.



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on June 30, 2007, 02:58:25 pm
Hi Folks


Well, I have to say, I am so freaking relieved, you would not believe it... When I got the news that this story was going to be published, I actually jumped into the air and clapped my hands. A geekier display has never been seen on earth, after the many rewrites and all the hand-ringing, I can finally let the leave that Damn Devil Pen where it lies.

I want to once again thank everyone who read and reviewed my story... your support and input has been wonderful.... (I was going to say invaluable but I can't spell it).

Thank You, my friends

oh PS: Bianca this is a very tame story, I promise it won't give you nightmares...


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Trent on June 30, 2007, 09:00:00 pm
Well congrats, buddy,

(And you did spell 'invaluable' alright, as I have learned it).

Now you can finally put down that story and work on something you won't be so sick of.

I thought that your style had a good chance of getting published. A lot of people who edit those horror anthologies are, like you, influenced by the early greats - Lovecraft, Poe, as opposed to the recent horror writers.

May it be the first of many more published works.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on June 30, 2007, 09:10:32 pm
Hi Trent

Thanks... I actually feel a great deal of relief that the story finally made it into print. I feel like I can write again... when I can find time. I have the outline of a new story already to go.

I am going to try and write something really scary and that is not as easy as it sounds...




Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Jennifer O'Dell on July 01, 2007, 04:29:50 am
Congrats, Unknown, success couldn't happen to a nicer guy. 


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Stacy Dohm on July 01, 2007, 06:00:01 am
Yeah, hopefully you will be the new H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allen Poe.  I would say Stephen King, but I always thought he was a bit overrated.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on July 01, 2007, 09:57:19 am
Hi Jennifer

Thank you so much dear


Hi Stacy

Thanks,

My goal, as always, is to write something that people will enjoy reading and perhaps makes them think just a little too...



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Rachel Dearth on July 02, 2007, 02:34:41 am
Congrats again.  When will it be out?


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on July 02, 2007, 07:32:52 am
Hi Rachel

Thank you

I will have to look it up in the readers guide...

Ok, I looked it up and its not listed yet, they are currently at issue 255 and at one a month, I figure 268 will be a year and one month... but math was never my strong suit, lol

So August 2008

http://www.bewilderingstories.com/


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Europa on July 02, 2007, 10:19:02 pm
My congratulations as well, Unknown.  It couldn't have happened to a nicer peson.

A pity about the wait, though!  Perhaps they meant issue 258 instead..?

Europa


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on July 02, 2007, 11:39:30 pm
Hi Europa

Thank you,

I wish it were issue 258...


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Heather Delaria on July 06, 2007, 11:33:00 am
Did you send Anna's Diary out to be published, too?



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on July 06, 2007, 12:29:15 pm
Hi Heather

I did send Anna to another publisher, it is a Wicked Tales, it has a ninety-three percent rejection rate but it is a very good magazine. I think they are supposed to reply to submissions within three months... longer if they are considering it for publication.

If they do accept it, (crossing my fingers) I am hoping they won't want me to change the ending.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Trent on July 09, 2007, 11:16:15 am
Hey Unknown,

Got any alternate publishers lined up?  Seems like they take forever to get back to you.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on July 09, 2007, 11:35:17 am
Hi Trent

Yes they do take forever... and the more prestigious the publisher the longer they take... it is a real waiting game... and the real kicker is they hold your story months longer if they are considering it for publication... and they can still reject it, also you can't send it to anybody else while you wait.



Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: KTCat on July 09, 2007, 01:07:09 pm
This publishing thing seems to be quite a racket. A good friend of mine has published several books that are highly respected and sell for somewhere between $17-$20 a piece. But this poor guy is only recieving about $1 in royalties on any book that sells. Some of his books probably took him a least two years to write, and that is a big chunk of time. Unless by some miracle, a publisher decides to reprint the book, it sure looks to me like writing a book in the hope of making a reasonable income from it is a bit of a pipe dream. Most writers wouldn't even begin to make minimum wage from their work. That really, really surprised me. A person would probably have to make it to the best sellers list to even begin to make a living wage at it. It's no wonder that so many authors, particularly authors of alternative history end up spending most of their time speaking at conferences. It looks like they'd have to, because most of them sure can't survive on the money they are paid by their publishers.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on July 09, 2007, 01:27:24 pm
Well I guess I should just quit now then


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: KTCat on July 09, 2007, 01:30:37 pm
No, you shouldn't! You are just to good to quit! But you might want to hang on to your day job...


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: Rachel Dearth on August 01, 2007, 12:28:39 am
Cat, I don't think you said anything that we didn't know already.  It is tough to make a full time income as a writer!  That is why it's good to keep writing as a hobby, work on it in your spare time, and, if you're serious find an agent to do the real running around for you with it.  Promotion is 80% of the business.

On the other hand, there are novelists like Brett Easton Ellis, who had a hit with his first novel, "American Psycho."  With publishing, like most creative business, it's not what you know, but who you know, for the most part, to get your work out there.


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on January 04, 2008, 07:14:28 am
The Devil's Pen was awarded one of the fifteen most controversial stories at Bewildering Tales...

http://www.bewilderingstories.com/anthologies/262-272_antho3.html


Title: Re: The Devil's Pen
Post by: unknown on January 11, 2008, 11:01:41 am
The Game Of Triumphs
A companion piece to “The Devil’s Pen.”

My name is Charles Sterling. I am just an acorn, a nut that has fallen from a very old and noble Scottish family tree and like so many others that lie in the shadow of their mighty forebears. I could gather no purchase for myself in the rich, but hard and root bound soil of the aristocracy. The forest of my ancient lineage cast a twilight shade that daunted me. It kept from me from the life-giving rays of self-fulfillment that I needed to grow straight and tall in my own right. So I took to growing sideways, twisting to capture a bit of rarefied sunlight and glory for myself.

If I could not be numbered among the great and noble of my house, then I would make a name for myself among its fallen. So I took up the scandalous profession of painting, for I knew it would it would be a thorn in the regal foot of my lion-like progenitors. I drove that thorn deeper by concentrating, almost exclusively, on the most scandalous form of that art, the ****. I can still hear the howls of outrage and the threats of disownment, as I brought lovely street urchins and dock prostitutes, one after the other, through the hallowed halls of the Sterling Mansion into my makeshift studio in the attic.

But one unforeseen consequence of this, was that in my own blind stumbling way, I had hit upon the one thing I was truly gifted at… Painting. It held my enrapt attention like nothing in my life had ever done. It began, as a puerile, titillating interest in the naked female form, but grew from there in the most extraordinary ways.

I began to see a symphony of light and shade as it played over the graceful curves, gentle valleys and swelling hills of the female form. Tastes, sounds, textures, smells where all enriched by my growing fascination with the world around me. As time went on my own self-indulgent nature was turned outward enriching my life in so many ways that I cannot begin to recount them all here.

My former atheistic views, and selfish attitudes were challenged and slowly altered by a newfound awareness of the mysterious, panoramic magnificence of creation, which heretofore, had lain entirely hidden from my view. The artistic touch in nature was apparent to me and I saw to my satisfaction, evidence of the masterful brush stokes of the creator’s incomparable hand.

Still my transformation did not happen quickly, it grew within me slowly and change was not without pitfalls. Relapses into vain excesses, sensual over-indulgence, and bouts of self-pity were common enough. My most serious failing was an unreasonable desire to challenge fate and win an unrivaled reputation for infamous behavior. An unnatural desire to punish all those who had sheltered me too dearly, all those who had spoiled me so thoroughly. I would make them pay for what they had wrought in me.
 
How little I understood of the world then. There was no way I could have seen that even the best of intentions could be marred by unintended tragedy. How could a youth, such as myself, ever fully realize, or appreciate the calamities that await one on life’s sojourn. How life’s temptations and trials await like highwaymen, lying in ambush on dark road at midnight.

There was no need for me to goad fate, no, not in the least… it comes for us all, whether we are prepared for it or not. I was captured in fate’s merciless grasp on, of all things, a sunny Sunday afternoon.

I was invited to the Brettel Estate for the Coming Out Party of Colonel Brettel’s only daughter; with me, I brought William Hargrove. He was a fellow student at Baneford Academy. I remember waiting with the other guests in the grand foyer. We stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the entranceway. There was a slight murmur rippling through the crowd as we looked towards the balcony in anticipation.

Finally Colonel Brettel emerged at the top of the stairs. I had an instinctive repulsion to the man. He began the formal introduction by discussing at length, the financial and titular benefits of a union with his daughter. In a manner that showed less class and erudition than a greasy auctioneer selling hogs.

She appeared like the sun -- lighting the morning horizon. I was enthralled, time slowed, perhaps so that I might capture each amazing detail and impress it upon my mind throughout eternity. She was dazzling, spectacular in her lacy white formal gown. The warmth of her smile radiated out like a beacon guiding lost souls like mine, giving them a joyous light to steer by. I know the course of my life was forever altered in that halcyon moment, the signal fires of love, set my wayward soul aflame.

After introductions we moved into the immense ballroom of the estate, on one wall were a series of sixteen-foot high windows set with lanterns and from these poured a rich, warm light.  A twelve-piece orchestra began playing Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer,” as I got my chance to dance with the enchanting and divine Suzette. In my exuberance, I spun her recklessly about the floor, out of time with the music. I was in heaven, when Suzette smiled for me. The dance ended all to quickly. She thanked me with a breathy laugh, and I boldly kissed her hand. 

William was impatiently awaiting his turn. He bowed to Suzette, took her hand and they began to dance. I was watching them enviously, when to my surprise I saw Suzette’s father angrily striding across the floor towards the couple. He grabbed William rudely by the collar, not a good idea.

One day three Academy students were making fun of William, when he ignored them they got rough, pushing his shoulders back.  It was only then he fought back. With a wicked joy upon his face he lit into them with a combination of boxing finesse and street fighting techniques the likes of which, I have never seen. It was vicious. All three were down, bleeding and moaning within five minutes.

It was during the above-described altercation that we first met. With my well-known propensity for attracting trouble, I thought it would be a splendid idea to have a companion who could handle himself so effectively in a brawl.

William’s parents were lost at sea; I guess, as an orphan he had learn to be tough to stay alive. If I hadn’t spoken up for him in the Head Masters office, I am sure he would have been expelled. After that we became fast friends.

Where was I, oh yes, the music stopped and everyone stared horrified as Suzette grabbed her father’s hand trying to pry it from William’s shoulder. I was afraid this was going to get ruinously scandalous. Suzette whispered something in her father’s ear. He grabbed her violently by the arm. She drew back her other hand and slapped him, the sound of the quick blow, resonated throughout the ballroom. The Colonel looked stunned, he stood there silently with his hand covering the spot where she stuck him. Suzette grabbed William’s hand and marched stridently out of the ballroom.

***

I did not see William until several days later and if the truth were known, I did not want to see him. I felt he had somehow stolen the girl that was meant for me. He told me of his secret meetings with Suzette, after that I avoided him as much as possible. Even though we were once best friends, I could not help feeling a deep bitterness, a violent resentment towards him.

I begged Suzette to let me do her portrait. It was the closest thing to having her with me; at least I would have something of her to light my lonely nights. I spent many hours at the Brettel Estate drawing study after study of adorable face and tempting body, from every angle, under every lighting condition, forestalling the completion of the painting for as long as I could.

She never seemed to notice my obsession for her. Suzette ignored my attempts at flirtation, always laughing as if I were only joking or playing some silly game. This was something new, vaguely disturbing, and yet, fascinating to me. You see, not to brag, but I had always had my way with the ladies and her resistance to my charms only inflamed my passion all the more.

As the heat of summer gave way to the chill winds of fall, I heard from Elisa, Suzette’s dearest friend that Suzette and William were to be married and that William had just written a highly acclaimed novel. I was devastated. I would pick up my brush, sweep out a few miserable strokes, and then drop it in frustration.

I did not care at all what happened to me and decided to throw my life into the winds of chance. My solution was to indulge my natural proclivity for wickedness and frivolity. I tried anything that might bring some measure of pleasure back into my dissolute life.

So one evening, I made my way toward the seedier side of town along the Baneford Canal,