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Home > Books > Excerpts - Fiction > Octavia

Octavia

Submitted by: athena


 


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Octavia

My wife Octavia was the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes upon. Her eyes were dark and serious and her hair was a cascade of lush sable curls. She came from a family of modest means. Her father’s side was of good English stock and her mother was of the Irish and German persuasion. Her father Mr. Randolph was a tailor and her mother a seamstress and laundress.

We first met at an opening in local gallery. I was an amateur artist and collector of oddities from a wealthy family of bankers and merchants. She was looking at a painting of Venus the goddess of love and her son Cupid. She noticed me looking at her and gave a smile and a nod and walked away. I pursued, introduced myself, and asked her name. Octavia…it was something about the way that she said the name. I felt goosebumps. I couldn’t let her go. So, I asked if she would allow me to escort her to lunch after the art showing was over. She agreed.

And we had lunch together every week thereafter. I learned that she had no suitors, because of rumors of an imagined Gypsy heritage in her mother’s family. This made me ecstatic. I professed my love for her and proposed on the spot. She looked at me with her exotic dark eyes and once again gave me her smile and said yes. But, there was one problem. I figured it must be her father. I was such a rash and love-struck foo, that I had forgotten to ask her father’s permission.

I accompanied her to her home near the end of the town square. Her father was in his shop. I approached Mr. Randolph with Octavia by my side and asked for his daughter’s hand. He told me that it wasn’t his final say. That Octavia’s grandmother had to approve of me. I had never heard of such a thing. But, her grandmother was German, so I took it to be some old custom.

I inquired about said grandmother and found that she had been arrested for poisoning a villager. I was shocked and confronted Octavia during our weekly luncheon. She confessed that her grandmother was a healer and maker of love potions and the like. This made me begin to believe that the stories about Octavia’s Gypsy heritage might be true. But when I looked at her head, how it had fallen to her shoulders, and how she looked up at me with those eyes, I forgot about the rumors.

We went to the jail in a nearby village called Derby and found the constable. We were led to a small cell that gave off the faint stench of sweat and human waste. An old dark skinned, gray haired woman in bizarre clothing sat on a cot humming a tune. She looked up and said something in an unfamiliar language and Octavia replied in kind. Then they began to speak in English. The old lady spoke with an accent that was at times Irish, then German and then something else, unfamiliar.

Octavia introduced me to the old crone and I bowed my head.  She looked me up and down and then nodded. She told me that her name was Hekuba and that she was born in a place called Wallachia, and migrated to Germany as a small child and then to Ireland and eventually to England. She confessed that she was a healer and card reader, but that she had not poisoned anyone. Someone had broken into her home and drank the wrong potion. But, because of her reputation, she was automatically guilty. She asked me not to petition for her release, as I had offered. She had accepted her fate. She made us promise her something and then sent us away. Octavia was in tears.

Octavia and I were married two weeks later in a small family only ceremony. Life was idyllic. We went to social events, openings, and readings. Then the message came that old Hekuba had been put to death. Now I found myself having to keep a promise. We had to journey to Hekuba’s cottage outside of Derby.

We arrived in Derby and tried to hire a carriage to take us into the rural area outside of the town limits. We couldn’t find anyone brave enough to drive us. The outskirts of Derby was named Derbyshire, but the people called it the “Old Haints Woods”, meaning the haunted woods. The woods surrounding it, was known for brigands, bandits, Gypsies, Tinkers, Travellers, and other manner of outside folk.  One had to travel into their territory to get to Derbyshire proper. Finally, when we upped the fare, we found a man who said that he would take us. So we hired him and a strongman for protection and we were on our way.

The woods seemed empty. There was not one brigand about. Yet, I felt as if we were being watched. Octavia directed the driver through the Haunted Woods. I deduced that she had been there before. We arrived at Hekuba’s cottage. It looked like a giant mushroom.  Upon entry, I noticed that there were all manner of bottles and jars of liquids and dead plant matter. Dried frogs, birds, other animals hung from the low ceiling. The whole place reeked of the incense that I had once smelled in a church. It was a thick and resinous odor.

Octavia walked over to a cabinet and pulled out several bottles. Once again it was all too familiar to her. Some of the bottles contained a thick brown liquid, while others contained red. Octavia placed these into her satin, beaded handbag. She found a wooden box and took out two parchments and added these to her purse. I stood and watched in a hypnotic state. I was transfixed. I had to be led out of the cottage by Octavia by the hand. We climbed into the carriage and drove away. Suddenly, the little cottage seemed to disappear in flames behind us. Before we left Derby, Octavia took three bottles from her bag and dumped them into the well. I sat like a mannequin and watched as if paralyzed.

The events of that day haunted me. I purchased books on occult subjects. I was obsessed to find out what happened back in Derbyshire. Octavia assured me that everything was okay and that nothing out of the ordinary occurred. But I knew better. I began to question Octavia constantly, until she had fallen ill.

I was wrought with guilt. She lay in her bed in a feverish state. The doctor arrived and announced that she might not have much longer to live. I went to her room and begged her forgiveness. She asked for her handbag and I gave it to her. She then closed her eyes to rest. I left the room to allow her to relax. When I returned later that evening, I saw that the parchments from Hekuba’s cottage were out. The bottles of strange liquid were empty. It seemed like Octavia had drank them somehow. I didn’t know how, because she seemed too weak to move when I had seen her earlier.

The following morning, she was in a deep slumber and tossed and turned in her bed. Evening arrived. I sat in my study reading more books on the occult, my imagination ran wild. I heard the creaking of a door. I arose to see what was amiss and found that Octavia was not in her bed. I searched the house and she was nowhere to be found. I asked the nursemaid that I had hired to help out with Octavia’s illness, if he had seen her. She had not seen or heard a thing. I went out into the night and found only darkness. I headed back to the house and found that Octavia was in her room, with red stains covering her sheets, her mouth was also covered in red and her gown had soil all over it. Terror arose in me.

Had Octavia been out…drinking blood? I had the nursemaid clean her up and put her to bed. I grabbed the parchments and went to my study. The parchments were written in a foreign script that I had never seen before. How could Octavia have read them? Did she drink a potion and turn into a blood drinker? This led me to believe that old Hekuba was a witch and really had poisoned the poor villager.

The next night I waited to see if Octavia would rise again. She arose at approximately twelve midnight. The witching hour. She walked out of the house and I followed in the shadows not too far behind. I saw her digging in the ground. I prayed that she wasn’t digging up a corpse. She stopped digging and scooped up something, and bit into it. Red liquid ran from it and I screamed in horror. She turned and I saw her feverish eyes and the “blood” that ran from her mouth. She stood up and rushed passed me. I grabbed at her and she said in a whispered unnatural voice, “You musn’t stop me…you cannot…” She walked back to the house and went to her room and collapsed onto the bed. Once again I had the nurse to clean her up. And then we bound her to the bed.

The next night and the night after, she tried in vain to rise form her bed to do her dirty deed. But we kept her there and each time she fell back into a slumber. Then one night she began to chant something in a strange tongue. I took it to be the same language as the writing on the parchment. Although I observed with a shivering fear, I couldn’t abandon her. My fatigue got the best of me and I must have dozed off, because I saw old Hekuba smiling and talking to Octavia in that strange tongue and I understood them both. The talked of revenge. When I awoke it was morning and Octavia was quiet and still. She did not breathe. I called for the doctor. She was gone.  We had her funeral and entombed her in the family crypt. I was distraught. My love had been bewitched into a vampire, and lost.

The following day, three people in Derby was said to have fallen ill and went into a deep sleep. They had all eaten beets the day before and the next day they were ill. A day later ten more people fell ill after craving beets and eating them. By the end of the week almost two dozen people had fallen ill after they had a maddening, insatiable craving for beets. Then they all died. But for some reason on the day of the mass funeral, they all rose from the dead. They hadn’t been dead at all, but had suffered a peculiar foreign malady that causes fever, deep sleep, the slowing of the heart and pulse and mimics death.

My Octavia…she told me not to stop her and I did. She ate a thing so red and bloody that it had to be a living thing. In my imagined knowledge of the occult, I neglected to see that it was only a blood-beet. Hekuba had tricked them into thinking their loved-ones were dead. But she had not killed anyone. Now I had entombed my Octavia alive.

I raced from the house to the undertaker’s office. I enlisted his help. Into the family crypt we went. I notice that the lid of Octavia’s tomb was at a slant. My beloved had tried to get out. I hoped that I wasn’t too late. Had I trusted her…had I loved her like I claimed, then she would be having lunch with me this very moment. But I did not.  I fell attentive victim to the rumors of Gypsies and poison.  We pulled back the lid and saw that it was empty. The inside fabric her casket had been shredded. But how she got out?  I did not understand. Did someone help her? Was she dead or alive? Or had some vengeful Derby villager, broken in and desecrated her corpse or kidnapped her?  I couldn’t figure it out. So I reported it to the authorities. I called for a private investigator and then went home

That night in my study I heard a door creak and chills went up my spine. I opened the door and there stood Octavia. I opened my arms to embrace her and she ran away from me. She ran out of the house and into the night. I raced after her calling her name. “Octavia….!!!!!” I yelled frantically.  I ran and ran until I collapsed. The next day I found myself here in the asylum. They claim that they found me wandering the streets after I had defiled several cemeteries, by digging up corpses and screaming for Octavia, my lost love, who now still ever haunts my dreams.




The End


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Teacher and author from L.A.CA.

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