24 January 1865

So dependent have I become on the daily habit of writing my thoughts into this journal that when, not 15 minutes previous, I was awoken from my sleep by a nightmarish sound, my first inclination was not to hide beneath the covers of this borrowed bed, nor to run out and confront the sound, but to take my journal from beneath my pillow, my quill and bottle of ink from out of my travel satchel, and to lay down on the floor (as there is no desk) and take this rare opportunity to write about an event as it is happening.

SHUCK … SHUCK … SHUCK

This is the best approximation of the sound that I hear coming in from outside this small cottage near the ocean. It sounds both powerful and … faint would be the wrong word, but perhaps unfulfilled would be the better description. Father owned a very tall and very strong slave and even when this mountainous man swung his ax with only half his strength, you could feel the power in him. That is what the SHUCK reminds me of, something powerful not employing its full power.

What seems evident is that the sound comes not from a machine but from an animal, and my mind draws up images of this afternoon and I wonder if this sound does not signify that the snakes, goats, and wolves have come back.

The image that the sound creates in my mind, however, is one of a giant mop, full of liquid and soap, being pulled from the floor, the mop giving up its contact with the wood relunctantly reluctantly.

From where this house sits, there is a high grass yard (now covered in snow) which blends into a long, sandy beach, and eventually the ocean. Growing up in the Mississippi interior, I had never seen the ocean until I left my father’s plantation behind and made my way north.

I find the presence of so much water disconcerting.

It is hard for me to even fathom an object as large as the ocean. It was not until I reached Baltimore that my eyes first took in the image of the vast blue. What I had never known about the ocean was that I smelled it before I witnessed it. Salt was in the air and in my lungs all through the night, and when I awoke in the morning and looked out my window and saw the deep blue stretching out to the very edge of the world, I developed an uneasy growth in my stomach. In truth, my pl-

CREAK

Downstairs, the door to the cottage has opened.

My heart quickens in my chest, though I must beg the Lord’s forgiveness that I feel my heart hammers as much in excitement as it does in fear! What has become of me that I welcome the presence of nightmares in my waking life?

The door shut and I strain my ears to listen for the presence of movement downstairs, but there is nothing.

Was it the wind?

The wind is certainly making its presence known outside, but it is not blowing with an intensity to rip a door from its latch.

SHUCK … SHUCK … SHUCK

What is that sound?

I regret that my room has no windows, but after a close inspection of the wall to search for the source of a cold draft of air, I can see that there is a slight space between the boards near the floor. Let us see what I see …

 

 

I made out the form of Lord Shepherd walking through the tall grass that has poked out above the snow, heading towards the ocean, headed towards the origin of that sound!

And now, as I struggle to write quickly to catch up with what I just witnessed, I can hear Lord Shepherd yelling to the ocean!

Come for me!” he yells. “Come for me, —- you! I have done everything, everything you have asked! Come and claim me, Poseidon!”

Poseidon? Such blasphemy to emerge from the lips of a Christian!

I shall have another look …

 

 

I can write but briefly as Lord Shepherd is, as I scribble madly, running towards the house and screaming my name. “Beatrice!” he yells, using my familiar name. “Come quickly! We must leave this place!”

What terrifies me is not that he said this, but that I would swear to the Lord himself that I witnessed the ocean rising up out of the darkness behind him, with two spots of absolute darkness that looked like eyes staring straight at me!

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