Written in Ninth Grade for Honors Prep English
"Listen, Ed," I told the bird, "spare me the melancholy moaning and give me your story!"
"Ah, but if I were known as the great Poe once more, then, then I would be at peace!" he wailed in that self-pitying moan I had come to despise. "If only I were not condemned, confined to this wretched form!"
I hung my head and let out a raspy groan of exasperation. "How many times," I intoned, "have we had this conversation." I jabbed my finger at Edgar's feathery breast. "You're a raven! Get over it!" Regaining my composure, I added shrewdly, "If you dictate a story to me, maybe you'll feel better."
Ed narrowed his beady eyes and smoothed his ruffled plumage. "Still I yearn for the day when my existence is revealed to the world---that I am none other than the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe!"
I tried not to laugh. "I'm glad we got that out of the way. Let's get down to business, shall we?" I grabbed a pen.
Mr. Poe's ghost nestled on the metronome on my desk. He gazed out the window at a dismal storm, and, after a moment, spoke. "It is to be titled 'The Bones of the Martyr.'"
"So will this be another one of your tragic hero, doomed-from-the-start pieces?" I asked conversationally. He ignored me, and began his story.
We worked through the night, with Ed flapping around the study, narrating excitedly, and me transcribing his every word, occasionally stopping him to ask, "Is that all one sentence?" The storm raged on until morning, when he finally finished.
"All right, old bird," I said wearily. "That's it. Same time next week."
Instead of flying immediately out the window as he normally did, Edgar looked me straight in the eye. I was uncomfortable with this, because it reminded that I was taking advantage of him. I had been claiming his stories as my own, and I always felt a small cringe of guilt when praised for them. However, the moment passed as I remembered whom I was dealing with: a dead poet, and a crabby one at that.
"Are you aware of the date, my friend?" Ed asked cryptically.
"October 7th?" Today I was to be recognized for winning the O. Henry Award. I didn't tell Ed that, of course, because I had used one of his stories to win. I couldn't let such a good story go to waste, could I?
"Indeed," Ed muttered, as if answering my question. He attempted a smile with his beak, and then flew away.
I spent so much time in preparation for my upcoming speech that I forgot all about Ed's strange remark. Of course, even if I had recognized the date of Poe's death, I do not know what I could have done. I was determined to have a good time, so I spent several minutes practicing lying through my teeth. "Oh, you know how it is," I told my reflection in the mirror. "These stories just come to me." Actually, this was partially true. One stormy night Poe had just popped through my window, determined to continue his legacy. Believe me, I recognize opportunity when it comes tapping, tapping at my chamber door. After all, you only get fifteen minutes of fame. I checked myself one last time in the mirror, and strode outside to the rented limousine, which matched my rented tuxedo.
The cold, brisk stare I received from the driver was an embodiment of the weather outside, and the growing sense of isolation somewhat eroded my self-confidence. Feeling very strange, I sipped my drink as the limo cruised silently down the street. It seemed to me that the moon was especially luminous in the night sky, not to mention oddly distorted by the sleek, black windows. Thankfully, it was not long before I reached the warm, bright college, and was basking in the praise of my peers.
The dinner of recognition was very nice. The food made my mouth churn with delight, and I downed wine with the veracity of a---
Poe must be getting to me; I'm beginning to sound like a deranged madman myself. It's almost scary.
However, when the moment of glory arrived, I had pushed aside all my misgivings. I stepped up to the podium, smiling and waving cheerfully. Clearing my throat, I gripped the lectern. "First off all," I told my audience, "I'd like to thank the 'Big O' himself, Mr. Henry."
With that, I gestured grandly to the bust of the author that hung above the ballroom door. I squinted in confusion, for I sensed a thing amiss. Was that a shadow on top of the sculpture?
But no! It was Poe himself, now spreading his long, black wings and flying towards me! He seemed to engulf the room in darkness!
I gasped in terror, and made to flee. Alas, the raven blocked me at every turn, and finally I cried for mercy!
"It's true!" I shrieked. "It's true! I stole your work! I took it, used it for my own purposes! Please, let me be! Do not torment me so!"
Poe cackled and flew higher, swooping down at me unceasingly. A man who had been so quick to congratulate me during dinner was restraining me, telling me to calm down, there was no reason to fear.
The subsequent events are not altogether clear to me now. I can only recall that I felt the most hopeless, bleak despair, and yearned to awake from my nightmare. I have a vague recollection of running blindly back to my house, my stomach aching with overindulgence, and my soul starving for salvation. When I burst through the door of my newly purchased mansion, I expected my answering machine to be bursting with messages, a sight to which I had perhaps grown too accustomed. Alas, the pulsating number was a mere digit. If it had been yesterday, I would have laughed upon thinking I would have but a single message. Aching for accolades, I groped at the buttons, and found myself listening to---
The voice was all too familiar; I recognized it from the deepest pit of my heart. It spoke a single word; a curious word that made my very blood run cold.