The Silver Bell
Centuries ago, when many things we know today were darkened by a cloud of ignorance, pre-mature burial was a fairly typical medical occurrence. Not only this, it was- and is- one of man's greatest and most primal fears, and captivates the imagination with a horror that haunts our dreams in a manner uncontested with all of our other nocturnal musings. Images flash before our mind's eye of an individual, stricken with terror as he wakes to find himself enclosed within his own casket. He'll struggle, he'll scream, his hands will be bloodied with fitful and fruitless attempts to escape; he'll be overcome with hysteria before finally gasping his last breath, searching for air that has long left him. So captivated were we with this notion, that we devised many methods to deliver us from this nightmarish ordeal, including the creation of inventive caskets that contained an escape hatch within, intended to spirit the sufferer away back to the earthly plane, not yet leaving him for the angels nor demons that both stalked about him within the doomed box. A more common method, though, was to affix a small bell to an apparatus jutting out of the blighted dirt that allowed a person that had been buried alive to ring from within their coffin, and alert passerby to their predicament. I am not just retelling this to you purely out of my morbid curiosity, although I am much apt to do so; I mention this because is vital to the understanding of the writings of a Mr... Ah, what was his name? Regardless, his diaries are presented here, outlining his rather dramatic descent into lunacy...
I shall be brief tonight, as Mother has insisted that I join her for the evening meal, although I still maintain that I am indeed a grown man, and feel no desire to be sheltered by my mother any longer. Anyhow, I decided to begin taking regular walks and strolls through some of town's more verdant districts, feeling as it should be good to both my physical and mental health to do so. The route I have chosen is the calmest and quietest in town, devoid of the thundering of footsteps and the incessant howls of the children, two things that I cannot help but to despise, and avoid in any manner possible. This peaceful path cuts through the cemetery on the outside of town, the one with the decaying bench and equally decaying tombstones, thick with sickly green moss and shattered by the silent and ever slow invasion of the roots and plants which called this soil home far before the rotting corpses that lie beneath, encased in their cedar palaces. I do love the graveyard, with its silent and undisturbed nature, and its nonjudgmental residents, who, if you can listen close, whisper all the secrets they gathered in life, forgotten knowledge that can only be uttered by the dead...
I should go, Mother is calling.
I was in the graveyard today (See! I promised I would go daily!), and I was of course admiring the dark beauty of it all, when I came across something that I thought seemed very peculiar in regards to its environs; a silver bell, small and delicate, like the ones found affixed to the sleighs at Christmastime. It was shimmering, like a radiant liquid that played about the fairy-like surface of the light metal, and hung from a metal rod, piercing the soil beneath, travelling down to its supposed keeper. It was certainly odd; the tombstone was old, decrepit, and I couldn't make out the name nor the date, and even the metal rod itself was dying, choked with rust. But the bell was still new, and rang and chimed with such sunny clarity when I lightly tapped it with my finger. Odd as this was, I returned home promptly. Mother wanted me for dinner again tonight.
I have not been lax on my walks! Just slightly so on my writings, but I am here again today, with even more fascinating tales in regards to the lovely silver bell I discovered several days earlier. You see, I was on my stroll, passing by the bell, when I heard it ring; yes, yes, it rang! I thought it was odd as well, so I went up closer to it. It was as immaculate as always, still shining in the sun, and there in front of my face, it rang again! I could hardly believe it so! I looked towards the decimated stone, just to marvel again at this unusual juxtaposition, but the stone had changed. It was just slightly more neat, more legible, although still visibly ancient. The bell rang again, and I mused at it some time longer when I realized, with horror, that it must be the buried man that is ringing the bell, through his subterranean device! I panicked, and strained at my eyes to see the name of the poor man on the stone (despite my previous efforts). The name still eluded me, but I could clearly see the date etched on the marker; the man was buried nearly a year and a half earlier! Surely he would be dead by now, and could ring the bell no longer? And why then, does the headstone appear so old, despite being so young? I shall endeavor to observe this bell know, and know why it rings.
The bell again. I don't know how it manages, but every day I study it, the stone grows visibly younger and cleaner, so much so that I can now easily make out the name of the poor damned soul beneath; Fredrick Delacroix. Delacroix... God, how the name haunts me! And still the bell rings! Every day as I walk by it calls to me, begging me to come visit it once more, although I am terrified of the man beneath. Why would it do this to me? Why does it torment me so? Mother is growing worried.
I know it! I know who he is now! Fredrick Delacroix, he was, he was... A painter! No; a priest? He was possessed by demons, whoever he was, and it is those who must be ringing the bell! Now the demons must want me... But why? I am clearly of a special breed, selected by the dark denizens of Hell for some nefarious purpose. I must banish them, both from myself and from Delacroix, if we are to both know peace. I must go there soon, if Mother does not keep me here. She has grown more and more worried with me, though I don't know why (perhaps she knows of the demons?); she is with me nearly all the time now, and I hear fear in her voice. It begins to frighten me as well...
I have done it! Just tonight I have gone to that blasted place, with the bell, and I had hoped to somehow free the demons from the soil by exposing them to the world. When I arrived at the stone though, it was immaculate! Not a sign of age anywhere! And the bell, with its youthful glint and gleam, somehow enhanced by the dreary moonlight, rang furiously, and without ceasing. I did not hesitate, not for one second; I set at it with my bare hands, clawing at the dirt for hours. You could just hear the time passing, nothing in the air save for the still and reverent gazes of the owls and stars, and my panting and raving as I tore endlessly at the mud tomb which extended forever downward. At last I came upon the casket, and, guided by the fury of my maddened state, I tore it open to reveal the half decayed remains of the Delacroix man, eyes glued shut and mouth slightly agape, rotting lips peeled back to reveal still white teeth. I yelled at it; yes I screamed! I demanded it to cease its torment, to banish the demons! I didn't stop, I yelled more and more, but it just lay there, motionless, mocking me with its inactivity.
And then I descended upon it.
I ripped at it, bellowing the whole while, demanding answers, begging for peace, but I got neither. I was in a rage, a fit; at last I broke down, sobbing on the ruined carcass of Fredrick Delacroix. After collecting myself, I returned home to write this. I did not go unnoticed, however, as there is knocking at my door as I write.
Mother has finally allowed me to move, and I know occupy an apartment in a building on the corner. They have a peculiar policy, though, and I am not allowed to leave much. As a result, I have not visited the bell since the last incident, so it no longer tormenting me nearly as much, although on some nights, I still hear the soft ringing from across the great black gulf of the night sky, and I shiver with fear. Mother likes this arrangement as well. As a matter of fact, I must go; Mother wants to see me for dinner this evening.