Brooklyn, New York 1849
A gust of September wind sent dead leaves skittering across the empty street in downtown Brooklyn. The sun peeked out from behind red brick buildings sending thin bars of light across roof tops. Edgar awakened to the sound of horse trotting down the cobblestone road. He sat up. His black coat and pants were caked with mud and vomit; twigs were sticking out of his hair. He looked around to see where he was. He was only couple of feet from the entrance of the bar where he’d been thrown out of hours before.
The street quickly filled with people emerging from their homes. The sound of dogs barking and whistling, sending a deep throbbing pain in Edgar’s head. He wanted to gag but couldn’t; there was nothing in his stomach to do that. Edgar gripped the base of the lamp post and steadily lifted himself up off the ground. He stood there for a few minutes taking deep breaths then carefully walked down the street.
Home wasn’t far, but each step felt like an eternity. Beads of sweat dripped down from his forehead. And every time he jerked to keep his balance he would feel the small metal case in his inner coat pocket hitting the side of his chest.
He used a wine barrel that came up to his waist to keep from falling in the middle of the street. As he took a deep breath, he noticed the wall of red brick was covered in posters of missing people’s names printed in big bold letters. He focused on one poster, heavily weathered but with lettering somewhat readable: William Elliot Cushing. Age 27 last seen April 5th 1849.
Some posters were new, others old. Edgar saw one poster peel itself off the wall drifting away.
It occurred to Edgar that he had to be somewhere that morning. He retrieved his watch, surprised that no one had stolen it from him while he was in the gutter. He had trouble at first focusing on the where the blurry little hands were.7:45 at this rate he knew could not make home in time, not in his condition.
A horse drawn carriage was parked in front of apartment building; its driver sat in his seat eating whatever meat is left on a chicken leg when he saw Edgar approaching his carriage. Edgar was going to say something when the driver interrupted him.
“By Joe, I don’t believe it! You’re Edgar Alan Poe, the writer!” the driver said with a mouth full of chicken. Edgar nodded, thinking the driver would charge him extra for driving him to his destination.
“Can you take me to the corner between Kingsbridge Road and Valentine Avenue?”
“Sure,” he said,” it would be my pleasure. It’s not every day I get to drive someone famous as
you, you know.” He slid to the end of the seat motioning with a hand for Edgar to climb up next to him.
“You sure?” Questioned Edgar.
“Of course, it’s not every day I get to drive a celebrity home.”
Edgar climbed up. His hand shook as he clutched the handle quickly grabbing the drive out stretched arm.
“No problem. By the way, my name is George.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you too George.”
George flipped the reins and the horses neighed as they lurched forward making the coach slight jerk. Poe’s stomach settled during the ride as he watched as the tall buildings, some with more missing posters, giving way to homes with large acres. George drove in to the rural area where his passenger wanted to go. It took them twenty minutes to arrive at their destination.
The horses slowed down as George pulled on the reins. As they came to a complete stop Edgar climbed down and asked how much he owed, even though he did not very much money with him. George declined but procured a copy of THE RAVEN and asked if he could sign it, which Edgar gladly did.
Edgar’s family home was quaint, smaller than he would have liked for him, his wife and her mother. But now it was just him and his Aunt Marie, who was standing on the front porch feeding the caged birds hanging on the step. Her graying hair tied into a braid that she wrapped around her head.
Aunt Marie saw as Edgar coming up the pathway leading to their front porch. She knew by the way Edgar walked that he had been out on his benders last night; she would always tell herself he was out researching on his writings. As he got to the first step, Aunt Marie told him good morning and that breakfast would be done in ten minutes.
Edgar walked past the sitting room and ascended the wooden stair case leading to the second floor where his study was. The study contained a small book shelf that was only three feet tall containing myths and legends, a dresser well cared for except a few nicks and dings. A small writing desk darkened by years of staining sitting underneath a window sill facing the front yard, a pile of stacked manuscripts on the left side, a pen and a small bottle of ink on the other.
He grabbed the first pages of a manuscript he has been working for the past week along with some blank pages. He felt he’d need them. Then he walked across the hall in to his bedroom. He grabbed his carpet bag sitting at the foot of his bed already packed with his clothes for the week ahead that he’ll be away.
Edgar opened the bag to check to see if it was still there, it was. The ticket read: B&O RAILWAY TRANSPORTATION FOR ONE FROM BROOKLYN, NY TO BALTIMORE, MD DEPARTING AT 9:00 AM 10-02. He reached in his vest pocket and took out his nickel-plated pocket watch, the hands read 8:16. He quickly changed out of his mud-soaked clothes and into some clean ones, he washed the mud out of his hair and combed the dried vomit out of his mustache. He couldn’t go to Baltimore for a job interview looking like a vagabond let alone travel like one. He needed the editor’s job for the sake of income and to get published. When that man in the carriage gave him a copy of The Raven for him to sign it was a bitter sweet. The Raven only gave him fame and sixteen dollars which he spent on liquor and morphine.
While he was putting on fresh clothes he reached in to the inner pocket of his coat. The outside of the metal box was lined with bronzed leaves, it was not small or large, only adequate for the contents inside. Edgar opened the lid revealing the red velvet lined case with syringe and two three inch long glass tubes of morphine.
It could be so easy for him to plunge the sweet poison into his veins and disappear into Oblivion. But he wouldn’t, Edgar couldn’t put everyone in his family through the grief, let alone his Aunt Marie, but the circumstances did change over the last few years with the death of his wife, watching her sit there playing the piano in the living room, then seeing her laying in her sick bed. They only reason Edgar married Virginia was he had money problems. Even she knew that.
But Virginia knew Edgar was a good man and wouldn’t harm her in any way and agreed to wed him despite his drug abuse, then years later she laid still in her bed her lips encrusted with blood. It felt like it was yesterday, but no, he was still here and she wasn’t. In the end Edgar closed the case and put it in to his clean coat.
Edgar finished buttoning his shirt hurried down the stairs with bag in hand. Before he left, he entered the kitchen to the sizzling sounds of his Aunt Marie’s fried eggs and sausage cooking on the old wooden stove by the back leading to the empty lot. A plate of buttermilk biscuits laid on the small wooden table with three mismatched chairs.
Edgar grabbed a couple of the golden brown biscuits that were still surprisingly warm. As he was about to open the door he felt a sinewy hand gripping his left shoulder. Aunt Marie turn him around; she looked at him with tired eyes and a worried look on her face.
“Do you have everything that you need?” she asked straitening his coat and collar.
“Yes, Aunt Marie.” he replied as he turned away from her just before she could feel the hard metal case in his inner coat pocket.
“Yes.” he said taking a bite out of one of the buttermilk biscuits. The sweet flaky buttery taste slid down his throat and into his belly giving him strength for the day ahead.
“I want you to travel safely.”
“I know, Aunt Marie.”
Edgar gave his aunt a kiss on the cheek and walked out of the house not knowing that would be the last time. The walk to the train station was short but bitter the muscles in his legs ached. If his legs could carry him to the bench of the station it would be a miracle.
Edgar finally got to the station in time to sit on a wooden bench; moments later he watched as the train pulled into the station. The sounds of the engines steam being released made a whistling sound making Edgar’s headache come back for only a moment.
The train conductor stepped off as the train came to a complete halt, placing a wooden step for the oncoming passengers. He was wearing the same attire that every train conductor wore; a blue three piece suit, hat and bifocals. Edgar knew the frames were made of silver as the light from the morning sun bouncing off of them knowing that the aging train conductor had been in his position for over twenty-five years. Edgar looked at his watch; the cheap nickel read 8:45. The glass face covered hands had been cracked from side to side. Just in time to get everyone on board and depart in time.
The old conductor yell:
Edgar climbed on board; passenger car had ten rows of seats covered in flowers that were once brightly colored now dull with a darkened background. He sat in the front seat next to the window so people will walk past without bothering him. People were always bothering him no matter what he was doing. Minutes later the old conductor stepped onto the train carrying the small wooden step and yelled for everyone to get on the train.
The engineers shoveled fresh coal into the engine’s fire, building up steam forcing plumes of black smoke into the air. The 0-8-0 screeched, making the train lurch slowly building up speed for the four-hour ride ahead.