Walking at night, alone, I feel as if I am only a memory in someone else’s mind, as if I am only a figurine inside a snow globe, reliving the same moment. I shake my head, but the festive lights remain aglow, the carollers still sing along, and the stars, a jury in silent deliberation, stay fixed upon me. Suddenly, the ground caves, no longer solid; I slip through the air, no longer there; and the water freezes, no longer liquid. It is now glass, a cool, shaded mirror, reflecting the silent, silver phantom that has been following me for many seasons.
She flutters in front of me, rising from the muddy depths like a seashell in the sand, and freckled like one too. She is sharp. She sinks into the psyche of those intruders brave enough to litter footprints on her beach. Devilish and dark, her eyes twinkle as if they are merely the distant sparks of a flare gun. An impish smile unravels across her face, unreserved and loud. It resounds somewhere within me, loosening my bolted lips until the tips peak like mountaintops, and her nose crinkles with laughter.
I extend an arm, unfurling a finger to touch her—to feel her charcoal cheek against my hand—but she trickles away from me, taken by the current. She is my Annabel Lee.
Following my footprints, I return down an ever-familiar road. It is the place where I first met my Annabel Lee, by our sandcastle kingdom near the sea. We used to run through sprinklers together, staying outside until the streetlights ushered out the sun, which would melt deliciously as if it were a scoop of orange sherbet. Then, huddled in a puddle, we would sit on the sidewalk, towels wound around ourselves. Her round, full-moon face would be looking to the sky, while I counted the cars that passed by us: ten red, twenty-two blue.
There is still a part of me that lingers on the coastline for her as if I am a rocky, immovable ledge, and she is the tide, being beckoned forwards by the moon. Like the ocean waves, she rises to reunite with me, but she shatters as soon as we embrace.
She stands in the moon’s searchlight, softly sprinting through the snow, and I can only stop and shiver—a frightened rabbit in a flowerbed, awaiting the gardener’s verdict. These moonbeams destroy my dreams of the beautiful Annabel Lee and offer only the realities of my bride-to-be, my Destiny.
She calls to me through the dreary December weather, having awakened from a restless slumber. There is a faint rustle in the underbrush, she breathes. Her countenance wild, she gazes around us, speaking of the sounds she has heard. Teeth chattering, she continues stammering about something snapping sticks amidst the stillness, something disrupting the darkness with spine-tingling shrieks. I take her hand, leading her inside. She is obviously ill.
Burdened by the memories of my childhood love, my Annabel Lee, and by the faltering health of my bride-to-be, my Destiny, I descend to the cellar to retrieve some wine. Curiously, I feel something brush lightly against my shoulder, and for a moment, I think I can see the shadows shuddering. Having found the wine, I return to my Destiny, trembling with terror. I pour us both a glassful, ignoring the suspicious creak of the floorboards and the gentle tapping at the cellar door. Her cheeks flushed fire-truck red, my Destiny raises the wine to her lips, and in those seconds, strangely, droplets of another liquid flow into her glass as if a ruby river were springing from an invisible dam in the air. However, Destiny does not notice this turn of events, swallowing the wine like a weary traveller. I decide not to divulge these visions to her, for she is sick enough with her own delusions, and both the wine and the late hour have seemingly affected my good sense.
Itching with drowsiness, I retire to the bedroom. I cannot help but notice the rigidness of my bride’s body and the pallid shade of her skin. Her once honey-coloured hair, I observe, seems a rotten hue of brown and her usually clear, watery eyes appear inky and sinister. Her sickly appearance reminds me of my beloved Annabel Lee, and as I sit, watching her breath become shallow, my mind is occupied solely with sour thoughts of my childhood love who died in the sea.
I close the curtains of my eyes, endeavouring to sleep, but my efforts are hindered by a low sob. Startled, I pull the covers closer to my chest and listen intently, horrified, but my ears are greeted only by the quiet of the night. I peer over at Destiny, but she has not been perturbed by the sound. She seems rather at peace, her features shrivelled in a peculiar expression. I continue staring at her, enchanted by her corpse-like demeanour. My mind races with a thousand thoughts. Perhaps, I have caught my Destiny’s illness, I thought. I reach over the motionless figure of my bride, and I push back her muddy bangs, revealing not my fair Destiny but the ghastly remains of my Annabel Lee, my love who the jealous angels stole from me.
Immediately, I shake my head, but the festive lights remain aglow, the carollers still sing along, and the stars, a jury in silent deliberation, stay fixed upon me. Again, I return to the side of my once bride-to-be, the image of Annabel Lee immortalized on my Grecian urn of a psyche, in that bedroom tomb by the sea.