The Devil of Moravia : Kissing the earth with barely parted lips

Stone crypt, arches, creepy

Image : Pixabay

I’m not sure any of us who have come to know Edmund over the last few weeks could say he was a good man, but it would take a heart of stone to claim he entirely deserves what has befallen him.

So here we find him after the louche depravity of the ball, with a price having to be paid …

See here to catch up with the story so far – One, two, three, four, fivesix , seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelvethirteen , fourteen, fifteen and sixteen.


 

‘Do you know …?’ I could hardly ask, hardly bear to hear the answer. ‘Do you know who they were?’

‘What does it matter who they were?’ He grasped my hand, pulling me roughly to my feet. ‘Now they are empty vessels to be disposed of.’

And so began a night of the cruellest horrors.

Where Slatina found the tools required for that ghastly deed, I know not. All I recall of waiting for his return was how dim the crypt – for this was how I thought of it – grew on his leaving. The light quivered over stone and earth, cloth and flesh alike, as if one form of matter were no different from the next. This bewildered me. For how can a candle cast the same kindly light on those poor dead young women as it did on the dirt which had never sung or danced or blushed beneath another’s admiring gaze?

Slatina was gone a few minutes only, but the time – in truth blank and still and empty  – seemed to my disordered senses swelled with dancing  light, the hiss and spit of candle grease, a scratch of talons from some subterranean animal, scurrying about its secret business. And so it was with immense gratitude that I welcomed his return, for queer as my companion was, he was at least moving flesh, the blood still pulsing in his thick veins.

‘Rise up, Edmund,’ he exclaimed, handing me a spade. ‘For now you must dig yourself clean.’

I thought it an inappropriate, ungainly turn of phrase and almost said as much, but as the hours wore on it had some truth to it, for toiling over that heavy ground, my hands growing thick with sores, my body mired with dirt and sweat, so it seemed I passed through my own trial, a small penance for the two women dying beneath my home.

Time wore on. The going was as hard as the earth which was compacted with age, and indeed close to bedrock in places, and my body unused to anything more strenuous than a perusal of the morning papers.

Finally, a hole was dug just long and wide and deep enough to fit the bodies and to have perhaps two feet of dirt replaced on top of them. I put aside my spade and looked to Slatina. It struck me how odd a man he was, that for all his slight build, his frame more of an invalid than a man in full vigour, that he had matched my own digging – bettered it perhaps – and his face no more aglow than ususal, his colour as grey as the marble angels that watch and weep over the tombs of our lost beloved.

I gazed down at the bodies, suddenly at a loss for how to move them. It seemed an obscenity to grapple at their clothing, at their ankles, to haul them under the arms as if they had been found insensible in some low alleyway and were to be carried to gaol to sleep off an evening’s ale.

‘How … ?’

Without a pause, Slatina bent, slid his slight arms under those of the girl in pink. Her head lolled forward, chin resting on her chest. Sickened, I could not move, could only watch as he dragged her to the pit, as the heels of her dancing shoes carved into the dust. At the hole’s mouth he paused.

‘Come, Edmund.’

Still I stood, insensible.

‘Take up her legs.’

Finally, I moved. Enfeebled by terror and exhaustion I grabbed at the dress. Seemingly empty of limbs, the satin slipped through my hands. Horror shuddered through me like hooves pounding at my muscles, into my veins, beating at the meat of my heart. I steadied myself and tried once more. This time my hand met solid flesh.

How awful, how intimate, how degrading those moments were. The feel of that soft, solid, chill flesh beneath my hands, the pawing as the body slipped away from me and I had to grapple, to  pinch at the thighs to stop her from falling, like some ghastly pantomime of seduction.

Then the poor child was in her grave, her head bumping to the earth with a heartstopping thud. Moving her sister felt an easier task, at least less unexpected, though I shudder to admit such a thing, as if anything so awful could be made easy. Then the two lay side by side once more, eternal companions, their hair blending at the temple, their hands almost touching as if they had reached out to one another but failed to secure a grip. We had dug the hole too short by an inch, perhaps two, which meant the legs could not lay straight, but must bend at the knee and slump to one side to fit. I hated to see them in such a way, a child’s dolls crammed into an ill-fitting box, but Slatina would not have us dig more and in truth, I had little strength remaining.

Again I paused, unable to bring myself to cover them with earth. Slatina put me to shame, lifting his spade, hefting the dirt as if completing no more taxing a task than planting roses in some blessed cottage garden. Reluctantly I joined him, watching the pink satin and the blue succumb to weighty brown, watching the slim fingers and arms, the necks and lace chokers with their horrid secrets vanish too. I confess to cowardice, to being unable to cover those dear, sweet faces, this also being a burden I left to the Moravian.

When we were done, filthy, blistered, staring at the square of disturbed ground, I tried to find some words, some sentiment of Christian pity, some talk of Heaven or Jesus or Redemption that might save their burial from feeling so utterly lost. But if God was in that place He did not speak to me or through me, or if He did then it was in a hushed tone too low for me to hear.

After a brief silence, Slatina took up his candlestick, rested the handle of his spade on his bony shoulder and said, ‘Shall we leave the ladies to their rest?’

I was exhausted beyond words, but the thought of those angels under the ground, kissing the earth with barely parted lips, sent such a sudden shiver of fear pulsating through me, that I hurried to snatch up my own candle, my own coat and spade and with Slatina striding ahead, the shadows chased me away to my chamber where I slept little and dreamed much.

 

 

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31 thoughts on “The Devil of Moravia : Kissing the earth with barely parted lips

  1. This one skates on the Gothic edge of trangression and a kind of eroticism, although I must say it did seem to have a lot more multiple-clause long sentences than normal. Sp note – ‘cowardice’ – remember it as “cowards gamble with dice” and all references to God as ‘He’ are traditionally capitalised throughout a sentence. You captured Edmund’s weariness and the weight of his experiences so well, may we dare to hope for his deliverance?

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    1. Duly noted and corrected. Not sure where ‘cowardess’ came from, though I quite like it – a cowardly shepherdess, perhaps? I do, of course know the proper spelling really! 🙂 Not sure we can bank on Edmund’s deliverance, I’m afraid. We’ll see. And I rather like the convoluted sentence structure – they were rather fashionable once, weren’t they. Thanks for reading my dear 🙂

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      1. Oh indeed, if it’s a stylistic choice then consider me corrected. It did make me think that… and I wondered if that too was stylistic. (You’re so deft honestly I wouldn’t know.) You don’t know that I act each part as I try to breathe out each sentence. Had to catch my breath today and I fluffed a lot. All part of the challenge! x

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  2. I like that you really took the time with the darkness of this, painful. I missed the eroticism the other reader pointed out though which is odd, I normally don’t. But I’m only one sip into my coffee here. You know, I lived in a town in Pennsylvania called Bethlehem and there we had a Moravian college. I always wanted to go there, they were Liberal Arts, but it was too close to home and I needed to get away, for college. Not this far away, though…as far as you are here, ha!

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    1. Thank you Bill. I’ve decided not to rush each scene now, as the story is clearly just going to go on and on and what’s the point in racing through it if I could turn it into something more substantial in the future. Wonder where your Moravian College got its name? It’s now part of the Czech Republic I think. Thanks for reading 🙂

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    1. Ah, thank you so much, Casey – a very, very huge compliment. Dark times indeed for our boy Edmund and no light in sight. I have more ideas for darkness too, so the poor man’s trials are not over yet 🙂

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  3. So creepy, ew; I feel like I need a shower now. Yes, definitely Poe, but the good stuff, not the (come on, admit it) turgid ones. I caught the erotic elements too, in that stifled Gothic way, where they’re embarrassed to admit to such feelings (perhaps Bill’s problem was not insufficient coffee but insufficient wine?). Especially loved the part about how he was too chicken to cover their faces. I was hoping Edmund would spit out at least a bit of a prayer for them, but it makes sense that he would find himself mute when the crucial moment came. As far as digging duties go, that Slatina continues to surprise, the old (I assume) bugger. 🙂 Can’t wait to see what happens next!

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    1. Thanks Joy, for your incisive and well observed comments – you always pick up on so much. Yes, always an undercurrent of eroticism in the Gothic, isn’t there? Product of a repressed society no doubt. Another instalment next week. Thanks again 🙂

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  4. ‘I thought it an inappropriate, ungainly turn of phrase… for the two women dying beneath my home.’ – Love this paragraph. This is really good Lynn. I’m going to have to catch up on the previous sixteen (gulp).

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    1. Haha! Yes, that’s the big problem with serials, isn’t it? One of the reasons I’ve shied away from them in the past. But now I’m on a roll with it, I might take it further – perhaps Wattpad, or someone suggested POD through Createspace. We’ll see. Thanks for reading and commenting , Ben 🙂

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  5. It bothered me when I read this I think it did Edmund, that there was no sheet, nor rug or anything coffin-like to wrap the girls into. Anthill would have been better than nothing and your description of them like dolls stuffed in a box very much emphasized the lack of thought and planning put into this cover up. Perhaps Slatina had plans but Edmund was just going with it. I think God was speaking through his conscience and he was to tired and too wrapped around Slatina’s little finger to hear. I did wonder about the use of the word “queer” knowing in today’s world that’s how many LGBT people describe themselves but I know this book is written back in time when the word had a different meaning. But I guess for myself, I try to avoid words like that. Just a thought.

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    1. You’re right about that word – it had changed meaning over time and Edmund means peculiar, of course. I’ll bear it in mind though, thanks Amanda. I think you’re right on all counts so far as the burial and Slatina and Edmund’s conscience is concerned. I don’t think he’ll walk away unburdened from this. Thanks so much for reading and for the insightful comment 🙂

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