Book: Annabel Lee



Henry Lion Oldie

Annabel Lee

* * *

...This manuscript was found in a half-broken desolated bungalow on the island of San-Sebastian – one of the last strongholds and shelters of Mankind in the hard, troubled times after the Great Break. Banished from the cities, left to their own resources, – some gave in to the persuasions of the Avoiders of Objects (the Empters) and emigrated after signing the contract; some adapted to the new lifestyle, quickly losing restraining moral factors. And some went away to the rapidly developing hotbeds of the Necrosphere, and their further fate remained unknown. In that time few had associated the forming of the Necrosphere with the Great Emigration caused by the signing of the contract between man and Empter...

The manuscript itself was almost rotten, so that there was impression that its pages had been in the water for a long time, and what remained was written in a clumsy, uneven handwriting, as if it was hard for him who had written it to hold a pen in his hands – or whatever had he held it in, he who had written this tale too similar to a true story...

It was many and many a year ago,

In a kingdom by the sea,

That a maiden there lived whom you may know

By the name of Annabel Lee;

And this maiden she lived with no other thought

Than to love and be loved by me. [1]

...Turquoise waves, bending in foamy white crests, were rolling on the scattered gold of the shore, and I was sitting on the sand, looking at the sea. I was looking at the sea, and it was licking my scratched bare feet. My name was Renaldo. I was born on this island, where incredibly huge coco-palms thrust into the incredibly blue, deep sky. I loved my island. Do you feel? Grownups used to tell that San-Sebastian (that was the name of our island) had been formerly a part of a continent. But that was long ago, before the Great Break. That’s why we live in the white stone houses – though here there’s nothing to build them from – and we have a school, and a church, and even an electricity station. But the grownups still regret, they miss the life on the continent where, according to their words, people had lots of stuff like that... But I’m all right without it. I have the sea, and the sky, and coco shells for different games, and home – and I don’t need the rest. Grandfather Ignacio says I am like an Avoider of Objects, but I have nothing to compare to. I’ve seen an Empter twice, when he visited the settlement, and both times I was being sent immediately to the shore to play, and from the distance he was ordinary and dull. I am fine. I can sit and look at the sea, and think of things, and the sand flows through my fingers and tickles them a bit...

“Hi, Renaldo!” someone’s shadow obscures the sun, but I know this is Annabel – she walks after me all the time. She always... What does she even need?!

“Hi,” I mumble without turning. Annabel keeps silent for some time and looks at me, and maybe not at me – because finally she says: “The sea is beautiful today.”

“The sea is always beautiful,” I agree, and unexpectedly for myself I suggest: “Sit down. Let’s look together.”

Annabel sits down quietly near me, and we are looking at the sea. For a long, long time. And then I look time and again not at the sea but at her, at her sunburn shoulders, at her ashen hair fluttering in the wind; and then she turns to me, and we look at each other, and for the first time I notice that Annabel’s eyes are deep and sad, and not at all mocking and spiteful, and...

“Annabel and Renaldo sitting on a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” a mocking cry is heard right by, and a whole cloud of wet sand falls on as, and Annabel’s eyes become filled with tears. Turning away so as not to see these tears and the sand stuck in the locks of her wonderful hair, I notice Fat Garcia from the nearby street and his friends, jumping around and crying their “K-I-S-S-I-N-G!..” – and then I leap to my feet and grapple Garcia, and we roll on over the sand, but soon enough I find myself under him, and there’s sand in my mouth, and in my eyes, and in my hair... Suddenly Garcia releases me, and I hear a horrible choking cry that stops abruptly. Cleaning my sand-filled eyes, I see slippery tentacles with flat whitish dishes of suckers, crawling over the beach, and a figure of boy – one of the friends of running away Garcia – taken away into the sea. The victim is winded around with thick pulsating hoses, and I barely have time to seize pale Annabel by the hand, stumbling and...

I was a child and she was a child,

In this kingdom by the sea;

But we loved with a love that was more than love –

I and my Annabel Lee;

With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven

Coveted her and me.

...I was nearly seventeen, and Annabel and me were standing near a parapet and were looking at the night sky spread around, strewn with large stars, and at the boundless sea with its lazy, heavy waves, in which the star lights were sinking. I was recently allowed to walk at night, and Annabel’s father had signed the contract with the Empters a year before, so no one could forbid her to do anything... Yet such walks were getting more and more dangerous – too often did krakens approach the shore, and whatnot-fish with their countless toothy maws, and dismemberer-crabs, many meters in size, and jumping sharks, and electric strings... Many different evil creatures had appeared, and each year there were more and more – some said it had begun after the Great Break, others would connect it with the increasing amount of people who had risked selling their souls for the Empters’ contracts, and others...

That’s why we were standing under the protection of the parapet, far from the water, and beneath there towered tiers of fortress bastions, with sockets of flame-throwers, muzzles of reactive guns, and searchlight beams that flogged the motionless sea... Grandfather Ignacio used to grumble that when the cities went mad it was exactly the love for arms that had betrayed man; but you are not going to stop an octopus with grumbling... And we still loved our sea, and San-Sebastian, and the sky turning black in the evening, with multicolored lights appearing in it and so alluring... We were silent. I embraced Annabel’s shoulders and...

“And here are our love-birds!” the coarse cracking bass of Fat Garcia was heard just above our ears. A studded synthetic-leather coat glittered on him, a cigarette stuck to his gap-toothed grin, and its smoke smelled of something suspiciously sweet, cloying... He was opening and closing his fishermen knife demonstratively, and behind him there were dark figures of his friends.

“What did you find in this milksop, Bellie? Come with us, let him goggle...”

A sonorous slap cut short the next epithet ready to escape Garcia’s lips. The cigarette flew aside. The next moment Garcia dashed to Annabel, but I intercepted him, grabbing him by the lapels of his coat, and threw him on the parapet. And immediately I felt sharp pain in my side. Everything went dark before my eyes. Something sticky and warm was flowing over my side, leaking through the trousers which were swelling... 

... a love that the winged seraphs of heaven

Coveted her and me.

I was lying on my back. Weakness was swaying me on its swing, and my side was aching, where Garcia’s knife had struck. With great difficulty I raised myself and sat up. And I saw.

I was on the Survey Ledge. From here rocks went vertically downwards for over a hundred and fifty feet, and there, in the echoing abyss, the Devil’s Eye was swirling and roaring. Quite near me, in just a few steps, stood Garcia, showing into the abyss with an inviting gesture. He wasn’t smiling anymore. Neither were his friends.

“Do you still like looking at the sea, Renaldo? Don’t you want to look at it from inside?”

No one managed to escape from the Eye’s funnel. Yet grandfather Ignacio used to say when in his cups that if you got right into the centre, into the pupil of the Eye, Satan would blink – and then amazing things would happen... And also...

Garcia’s fellows seized me by my hands and pulled me to the edge of the cliff. Garcia himself was standing a bit away, curling his fat lips in a strained grimace.

“Hands off! I’ll do it myself!”

Out of unexpectedness they let me go, and I made a step towards the edge of the cliff. The brown foamy whirlpool roared below, convolving to the black collapse of the “pupil”, and I pushed myself away from the edge, bending my aching, beaten, punctured, but still obedient body...

...lived with no other thought

Than to love and be loved by me...

...Convulsions were turning me inside out, I was melting, falling to pieces... Maybe this is how you die? But death wasn’t unpleasant, it was remaking me, altering me, merging me with water, with air; it seemed to me that I saw myself from aside, my transparent glaring body, and it was flowing, changing...

I felt the elasticity of the water floating along my new body – a smooth, springy body! I breathed in the air noisily, breathed out. The Devil’s Eye was roaring more than a mile from me, there was open sea around, and in it a glittering black dolphin was swimming, and it was me!

My flippers obeyed my orders perfectly, on my tongue I felt the tastes of iodine, seaweed and various sea dwellers, invisible vibrations reflected in my brain as a distinct picture of the shore relief... The shore! Annabel and Garcia’s scum!..

I rushed back, avoiding the electric strings and the giant kraken’s embrace without any effort. Then again, they didn’t try hard to catch me. A wild thought crept into my head – what if they were also...

The funnel was quite near when at last I saw high above Annabel’s orange dress. “Saw” was not a suitable word, but I hadn’t others as yet. Garcia’s friends were crowding around her, and he himself was standing there, grinning, saying something – and finally he embraced the motionless girl.

The next moment he waved his hands clumsily, falling back, losing his balance, separating from the rock, trying in vain to tear Annabel’s tenacious fingers off himself – and the orange dress together with the black coat hang over the precipice! And I knew, knew with all my new dolphin knowledge that damned Garcia would get into the “pupil”, while Annabel...

Annabel!..

I rushed into the Devil’s eye, bursting through the sucking strength of the funnel like a furious torpedo, praising Heaven, God, Satan for not being human anymore – I made my way through, I got in time – and threw my new obedient body into the air, meeting Annabel, aiming the orange dress where there was black silent emptiness...

But our love it was stronger by far than the love

Of those who were older than we –

Of many far wiser than we –

And neither the angels in Heaven above,

Nor the demons down under the sea,

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

...After a couple of minutes two dolphins dived out five miles away from the island and after some lingering swam away, making for the open sea. To the left of them there was a dark and foggy continent of mad cities, wild objects and nascent legends. To the right there lied the quiet island of San-Sebastian with its Survey Ledge, embrasures of the parapet and the Devil’s Eye from which there emerged slowly the slippery ink-black carcass of a colossal octopus...

It was many and many a year ago,

In a kingdom by the sea...

Примечания

1

Here and farther are used the extracts from the poem “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe




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