Sunday, March 25, 2012

Gothic Story

Spring had just begun in Grosse Pointe, newly blossomed trees were full of soft lilacs, and the fragrant pink roses filled freshly painted window boxes.  The lake was still, and the rising sun created a pink and purple hue over the sky. Emma Harris was on her early morning run, the cool air brushed swiftly over her skin and her feet rhythmically tapped the cold cement. Emma Harris was a well know wealthy Grosse Pointer. Her father’s family had developed a respectable law firm, and she lived in an old family home along Lakeshore Road. She achieved high marks academically, was the top scorer on the Varsity soccer team known for her triple hat tricks, was on the Homecoming court, and quite popular among the junior class at Grosse Pointe South High School.

Monday morning Emma was sitting quietly in the back of her AP biology class, when suddenly there was a disruption at the door. A tanned and slightly disheveled looking guy walked through the door, wearing worn jeans, a red plaid shirt, and broken in work boots. His unique look caught Emma’s attention, and when he introduced himself, his slow southern drawl entranced her. From this moment, she knew she needed to get to know this mysterious new guy from a small town in southern Louisiana.

After class, Emma made sure to introduce herself. “Hey, I am Emma. I know my way pretty well around here, so if you need any help I am happy to direct you. I know this school can get pretty confusing!”

“Hi, I’m Jake. Yeah, I know I got lost finding the entrance into the building. This school is the size of my entire old town!” he replied with a deep chuckle.

Together they walked to tutorial class which they coincidentally had together. The entire hour they talked about their lives, school, and Jake told her all about his old town. He told her about the one grocery store, the corner gas station where old Mr. Jones, the owner, still pumped gas for the customers, and the popular BBQ restaurant where the kids hung out every weekend.

“My family knew I couldn’t get far in Ida, so my dad took a job at a Ford plant in Detroit, and moved us here so I could get a better education.” Jake said sadly. She could see the pain and genuine sadness as he talked about moving from his old home- the life he knew, and his friends and extended family.

Over the next week Emma and Jake became really good friends, talking from the moment they woke up, until they could barely keep their eyes open at night. That weekend Emma invited Jake and few friends over for a welcoming party. Jake pulled up to her house, and without even stepping inside, just the plain size of her house overwhelmed him.  He felt intimidated by Emma; he compared all of her luxuries, to the little his family had. Afraid to lose the one friend he had made though, he went up to the large oak door and slammed the large eagle door knocker at the immense entrance.  The door slowly opened with a loud creak and Jake walked in cautiously. The house foyer was dark, and a large stuffed moose hung over the fireplace mantle in the room to his right.  The furniture was old - likely inherited antiques and the marble tile was cold underneath his bare feet.

“Emma?......Emma?” Jake called cautiously from the door way. His voice echoed through the long corridors of the old house.

“We are in the recreation room!” Emma’s voice echoed back to him. “It’s the 5th door on the right!”

Slowly Jake made his way to the unmarked fifth door, trying to keep track as he walked.  Family photos filled the walls of the hallway. He counted the doors as he passed. 1, 2, 3, 4….then he came upon the 5th door. It was different than all the others. The door was an eerie blood red, and before he even touched the silver engraved handle, the door opened. Jake pushed it open the rest of the way and began to walk down the stairs. Suddenly there was a loud creak followed by giggles, and a BOO!

“Goodness, Emma! That is not a way to welcome someone!” Jake shouted with a hint of fear in his voice.

Emma’s recreation room was a teenager’s paradise. To the right was a mini movie theater with reclining chairs and a large screen. There was a small nook straight ahead of the stair case that was filled with arcade games of all sorts as well as a pool table.  Then to the left was a room with a tile floor and sitting in the center was a hot tub. Next to the hot tub was a full on snack bar completely stocked with candy, chips, and drinks. Jake felt as if he was in a movie, no one in Ida could afford a place for fun like this in their home. This was clearly a fantasy come true.

“I hope you brought your swim trunks,” Emma said jokingly. Jake smiled backed and his smile revealed perfectly straight teeth.  He began to form feelings for her, and, by the way she was acting, Emma felt the same. They flirted the entire night and during the following days at school they became inseparable.

Not too long after Jake moved to town he and Emma started going out and quickly after they began dating the entire school knew. They hung out every day and would sit in her rec room and do homework, or go practice soccer in her back yard. Emma felt like what she and Jake had was perfect.

After some time, Emma’s parents start to become concerned because Emma began to lose all contact with her old friends, was forgetting to turn in homework, and she was missing soccer practices which was so unlike her.  Uneasy about this situation, they finally, confronted her about how her declining grades and sudden changes, and about their worry about Jake’s influence on her.  She was adamant in her explanation. She said Jake wanted to spend time with her, and only her, because she was his only friend in Grosse Pointe. He needed and relied on her to help him feel a part of his new community. Jake would make all kinds of plans for them after school; walks around the parks, exploring parts of Detroit she hadn’t even know existed, and trying new restaurants and cuisine. Slowly, as time went on, she realized just how isolated from her old friends and family she had become. She tried to slowly include others in the couple’s plans. She was startled, but also flattered by Jake’s possessive and seemingly intense attraction and attachment to her. Jake calmed her fears by assuring her of his love for her and how he just wanted to take care of her and keep her to himself. She believed that this was the meaning of true love.

Jake resisted any newcomers joining their twosome and finally people stopped even trying to include themselves.   She spent less and less time with the family and friends. The more her family tried to intervene and keep Emma from Jake, the more time they spent together, sometimes leaving their sheltered Grosse Pointe.

One Friday it was essay day in AP biology and after class Emma asked Jake how it went. “I didn’t write a word, I was staring at you the whole time. It was as if I couldn’t get you off of my mind.” Jake said flirtingly with a hint of seriousness. Emma was flattered, and a little startled by his actions. She knew he cared about her but seriously, to the point of distraction? During lunch she went to go grab Jake’s AP biology book when she found his pocket knife sitting at the bottom of his bag. She grabbed it to cut her fresh red apple and when she opened it, the sleek blade was covered in a layer of a deep burgundy dried blood. Concerned, she asked him about the blood and he suddenly became very defensive and slightly hostile.

“It was from a time when my dad and I went hunting before we came to Grosse Pointe,” he said with a slight stammer. Emma could sense Jake’s uneasiness, so decided not to pursue this topic. It did however make Emma wonder a bit about Jake. Emma began questioning some things about Jake. She asked many times to meet his mom and dad, and was put off each and every time. There was always some excuse. Emma and Jake always met at her house or in her car when they spent time together. Jake never made any reference to any of his family and friends. It was puzzling and slightly concerning to Emma. Something just did not seem right.

These niggling questions would not leave Emma’s mind. After hours of just tossing and turning in bed, she got up and went online and did a search on Jake and Ida, Louisiana. She just wondered if there was more to the Jake story than what she was being told.  Ida had an online registry of every family that has ever lived there in the last 200 years, and to her surprise Jake’s family was never recorded as living there. Becoming a little afraid of his possible lies, Emma started to distance herself. Jake began texting her message after message and when she didn’t respond right away he became angry. She often saw him following her in school. She tried to be friendly but separate a bit from Jake.  She began to hang out with some of her old friends but kept a cautious friendship with Jake.

Feeling desperate to get Emma back, Jake wrote her a note during tutorial in bright red pen,

“Dear Emma,

        Meet me in Cleminson Hall during 6th hour, I have a surprise for you :)

                Love, Jake”

Emma’s curiosity weighed out her slight uneasiness about Jake’s behavior, so she planned on going to Cleminson. All of fifth hour she sat unable to focus on her teacher.  Her mind pondered what Jake had in Cleminson to surprise her. The bell rang loudly signaled the end of fifth hour. Emma ran quickly out of her room at the top of the IA building, and pushed down the many stairs through the crowds of people.

The doors of Cleminson were large and their carved metal handles were cold underneath Emma’s soft, freshly manicured hands. She slowly pulled open the heavy doors and cautiously entered the dark room. She walked across the soft red carpet but there was no sign of Jake, so Emma continued into the room. A sudden ice cold breeze came and sent shivers up Emma’s back. She made her way to the black spiral stair case, carefully taking each step up. When she reached the top she stood over the railing to the balcony scanning the room for a sign of Jake. Still she couldn’t find him, so she climbed back down the stair case, and walked around the entire room observing all of the old South memorabilia. She made her way over to the window and stared out at the large lawn where random patches of red flowers bloomed. Suddenly, she felt hot breath run down her neck. Quickly she turned, standing behind her gripping tightly around her arms, was Jake.

“I knew you couldn’t resist a surprise, Emma” Jake said slowly. “Finally we are alone, I have been waiting for this moment since the day I saw you in AP biology. I have done nothing but think about you Emma. You are mine and only mine. If you don’t want me, then no one gets you.”

Emma began to panic, realizing the seriousness of this situation. How could she have been so na├»ve? Emma strained to wrestle out of the tight grip of his hands around her arms, but she couldn’t escape. She let out a loud shriek but through the old, thick walls no one could hear her.  She was trapped with Jake, and fearful of what might happen next. Jake slid a knife out of his pant pocket and held it up to Emma’s neck. The metal felt icy against her neck. He slid the knife across her neck, quickly warm red blood covered his hand. He released his grip and dropped her on the ground next to the window. Jake ran from South, leaving behind his beloved Emma.  

Later on that night the janitor came to clean Cleminson and found the stiff, stone cold body laying mangled on the floor. Police cars soon surrounded the school, and the body was taken out on a stretcher and carefully lifted into the back of the ambulance. The police and family soon suspected Jake, Emma’s most recent and possessive friend.  When they could not find him, they did a complete and thorough search. They retrieved his old files from Ida, where Jake went by a different name. Jake’s family had not moved here because of education, he ran away from his old town by himself because he was wanted for murder, and stalking charges on two other female students. Jake was found 3 weeks later in a small town in Indiana, was captured and later tried on all charges. He was found to be guilty and put in jail, without a chance for parole. People have said he was writing and professing his true love to a college student at Michigan State University and urging her to come visit him at the penitentiary in Grayling, Michigan.  It is said that his case is up for appeal due to a technicality.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Poe's Obsession with Death

Throughout his short stories, Edgar Allan Poe gravitates towards the theme of death. In each story, Poe emphasizes different ways death has effects on people and their behaviors and subsequent actions towards death. In the stories, The Black Cat, Berenice, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, The Masque of Red Death, and The Fall of the House of Usher, Poe illustrates society’s reactions to death and touches on the fears people have in dealing with the difficult concept of death.

The in story The Black Cat, Poe uses guilt along with death to emphasize the feelings people have after killing another being. As the main character’s irritability and instability is heightened through abuse of alcohol, he began to hate everything in his mundane and ordinary life. In the end after killing a pet cat, which later ended in him killing his wife, he began to feel immense guilt.  “I rapped heavily, with a cane which I held in my hand, upon that very portion of the brick-work behind which stood the corpse of the wife of my bosom” (Poe, “The Black Cat”). The previous quote shows how the guilt of killing someone can cause force people to turn themselves in as in this story. When the police had come to look for the reported missing cat, the killer felt responsible to turn himself in, albeit appearing subconsciously, for the murder of his wife. This leads to him purposefully hitting the wall where the cat and his beloved wife were buried. Poe’s take on death in this story is playing on the reasons why people feel the need to kill others and the feelings they have after a murderous event. Poe uses death and guilt to show people how it is very difficult is must be to deal with the culpability people feel after killing someone else. This also shows how they may feel remorseful or at the very least great unease once the person is gone, and they will never get to see them again.

Throughout the story Berenice, Poe shows how people are afraid to completely lose someone who has passed away and moves into the heaven or hell. In the story, the character unearthed the tomb of his cousin to obtain her teeth. He had had an intense and weird obsession with them before her death, but after she died he was compelled  to get them because he didn’t want to lose all of her. “Yes its memory was replete with horror—horror more horrible from being vague, and terror more terrible from ambiguity” (Poe, “Berenice”). Losing people that are close to you can be very devastating and life altering. During this short piece Poe uses death and the teeth to show for the longing of having that person alive again or at the very least some part of that person’s very being.. In the story the character is afraid to completely lose his lover so he went and retrieved her teeth as a way to have something tangilbe to remember her by due to her death. The teeth were an object he had a fixation with before she had passed, so it  seemed very fitting  that this is what the piece de’resistaence when he dugout her tomb and went in search for a special rememberance.

Poe relates death to time in the story The Facts in the Case of M.Valdemar. In this story though the characters try to elongate the time it takes for a person to be actually dead, the outcome is no different than if the person had died months before. “no person had as yet been mesmerized in articulo mortis. It remained to be seen, first, whether, in such condition, there existed in the pation any susceptibility to the magnetic influence; secondly, whether, if any existed, it was impaired or increased by the condition; thirdly, to what extent or for how long a period, the encroachments of Death might be arrested by the process (Poe, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar). This story relates hypnotism, time, and death all together. The story ties in the ideas of many scientists of the time who were working very diligently to find a way to stop death. This story also plays with death and time, and the ideas of how death is not as strong as time. In the story though they can keep a man alive through hypnotism, the end result is death. Time in the end over takes death, and no one can last longer than time. This idea puzzled many people in the late 1800’s, and Poe used this in his advantage to create a sense of panic in the reader. This relationship between time and death occur multiple times in different stories Poe has written.

            The Masque of Red Death also relates to this story because it also directly relates to time, and how even death cannot out last time. “…gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave-cerements and corpse-like mask which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form (Poe, The Masque of Red Death). Throughout the years, scientists have tried to create ways to cheat death, and escape its vicious cycle. This story contradicts scientists’ hopes and plays along the lines of death in all its power even having to submit to time. The story

           

In the story The Fall of the House of Usher, Poe directly writes about the fears of the people of that time period. Being buried alive was a common fear for many in society during the time period this story was written.  The disease which had thus entombed the lady in the maturity of youth, had left, as usual in all maladies of a strictly cataleptical character, the mockery of a faint blush upon the bosom and the face, and that suspiciously lingering smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death” (Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher” 13). Poe successfully captured the audience, and created a fear within the reader by playing off what frightens them outside of the story and on a daily basis.

Despite the fact that the story plots could have taken a more positive turn Poe chose to continue the path of death. In The Fall of the House of Usher the sister could have escaped her tomb, and not of ended up dying, but Poe wrote the story to end in death. The fact that the outcome of many of his stories ended with death contributes to his obsession of death, and manipulating death. Poe’s obsession with death also contributed to the outcome of his stories. Without this obsession Poe’s stories would not be as well written, with as much fear, and suspension. The obsession with death fueled his writing and made his plots so twisted and gothic.

Many of his characters in stories are faced with illness and insanity. Disease, leading to sickness and death was another common fear in the world at this time and even today.. Poe used the unknown treatment and cause of some diseases to create anxiety and terror in the reader. These also allowed for different ways for him to create diverse plots within stories. In the end many of these unknown diseases caused character to pass away. Insanity was another common attribute  Poe used to personify his unique characters. The insane, and mentally instable,  people in his stories commonly were the one who killed the people at the conclusion of the novella, or the character’s who’s emotions were affected by the passing of certain characters.

            Poe’s use of death and the way he twists the idea of death in his stories successfully creates suspense and fear in his works. Throughout his pieces he uses death frequently and often to create many different moods and intense feelings in the story. The main theme of death is worked into many of his stories, each with a unique plot, and a alternating use of the idea of death. The reoccurring theme of demise in his literature lends one to the idea of Poe having an obsession with the topic of death. The numerous deaths, and ways Poe uses this theme to create fear in his reader also adds to his fixation on deceased people and the reactions of those close to the people who have died.  If Poe did not have this obsession with death his literary works would be not be as strong, because he used this fascination to help him develop creative, and enthralling plots that keeps the reader disgusted, as well as intrigued by the story.




Bibliography

Poe, Edgar A. "Berenice." PoeStories.com. N.p., 1835. Web. 15 Mar. 2012. <http://poestories.com/read/berenice>.

Poe, Edgar A. "The Black Cat." PoeStories.com. N.p., 1845. Web. 13 Mar. 2012. <http://poestories.com/read/blackcat>.

Poe, Edgar A. "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar." PoeStories.com. N.p., 1845. Web. 15 Mar. 2012. <http://poestories.com/read/facts>.

Poe, Edgar A. "The Fall of the House of Usher." PoeStories.com. N.p., 1839. Web. 15 Mar. 2012. <http://poestories.com/read/houseofusher>.

Poe, Edgar A. "The Masque of Red Death." PoeStories.com. N.p., 1850. Web. 15 Mar. 2012. <http://poestories.com/read/masque>.










Friday, March 2, 2012

Faust Legend



It was a dark and humid evening in Soldotna, Alaska. The cloud filled sky was dim, and created an envelope of gloom over the old log cabin of the Smith family. Lucas Smith was a young high school graduate visiting his family cottage for a few weeks before the fall semester of college. Though he excelled in school, and was good looking in a Jimmie Dean sort of way,  he felt something was missing in his life. He would watch movies and aspire to have the glamorous and frivolous life of all these movie stars. He wanted the attention of all the girls, and to have money he could spend in whatever way he pleased.  In other words, he wanted a life of the rich and famous.

            One early morning, he decided to take a walk along the edge of the crisp, transparent lake. The air was brisk, and with every breath he could feel the cold encompass his whole body. The lake was clear and every few minutes you could see birds fly frantically across the water.  As he kept walking, the air began to thicken, and a dense fog started to form, increasing in thickness with every step.  Through the intense mist he started to see an ominous figure.  He cautiously began to near the unknown object, and as he got closer, Lucas could identify parts of this being.  It appeared to be a female creature towering 8 feet. She had long jet black hair with piercing red eyes. Her skin was a deep bronze and she wore a tight red dress that matched the color of her eyes. Resting on both shoulders were jet black crows with the same penetrating eyes as the she devil. In the distance, the loud squawking of the birds could still be heard. Lucas was frozen in panic. Suddenly the mysterious person advanced towards him.

She began talking to him in a soft and enchanting tone. “So Lucas, you want fame and fortune? You want all the attention of innocent, sweet, young girls all over the world? You are so naive; you don’t think those people are famous by chance do you? They are all mine, or at least their souls are. I am the devil and I can give you fame and fortune; I can make the girls swoon at your feet? Just say the word, and promise me your soul and all of these luxuries can be yours.”

Lucas stood on the cool damp ground, unable to look away from this devil whose words entranced his very being.  He knew he shouldn’t listen to her, but the thought of all she had to offer made him think of what his life could be, all without having to really put forth much effort to get obtain financial security or extreme popularity. The birds in the distance stopped, and Lucas slowly begins to move toward the devil. As though he had no control, he quietly says “You can have my soul, just make me famous.”

As quickly as he ran into the devil, he was back at the cabin as if nothing at happened. Unsure of the situation that had just occurred he went to lie down to reflect upon this unique and highly unusual encounter with the devil woman.  Slowly he drifted into a restless and fitful sleep.

A few hours later he awoke, not sure of where he was or who he was anymore. He got out of bed and walked into what used to be the kitchen. He was surrounded by maids and butlers who dressed him in diamonds, and a silk robe.  The old family cabin had been transformed into a large mansion with the highest quality goods all around. He ran to the window and outside was the large HOLLYWOOD sign.  He couldn’t believe that this vision who had just appeared in the woods could have actually made him famous.  Though skeptical about the whole situation he didn’t care how it happened,  he was just ecstatic to be rich and famous. Clearly, his greed and narcissistic personality came shining through his very being and soul.   

 As time went on his fame grew, and he starred in movie after movie while his stacks of millions accumulated in his safe.  His fans adored him and he was loved by most people until he one day began to let his fame get to his head. His greed kept increasing, and he began to only want even money and more grandiose material possessions.

Years passed and Lucas’s income kept increasing and so did the amount of possessions he bought. Greed had overtaken him, and all he wanted was more money. One day he was filming a new movie. While getting ready in his dressing room a thick fog quickly filled the room. Again the devil appeared. 

            “I have made you famous, and you had your wealth, but you have abused it. You have become greedy.  I can’t let you and your greed continue on the earth. You had promised me your soul and I am taking it to hell with me” said the devil.

Almost instantaneously, she wrapped a long rope around Lucas and he was brought kicking and screaming down into the deep underworld.  Shortly after he was dragged into hell, the flock of birds flew over the cottage in Alaska and soared over the building where they were filming. Unexpectedly, there was just one lonely, isolated last black bird that flew with them squawking loudly as they glided fast.