The Boarded Window

JEMP3.COM - Our story today is called "Plank Window." It was written by Ambrose Bierce. This is Shep O'Neal with the story.

In 1830, just a few miles from what is now the great city of Cincinnati, Ohio, stretched out huge and almost endless forest.

The area has several settlements established by border people. Many of them have left residential areas further west. But among those who remained was a man who had been one of the first to arrive there.

He lived alone in a wooden house surrounded by a large forest on all sides. He seemed like a part of the darkness and silence of the forest, because no one had ever known him to smile or say unnecessary words. The simple necessities are supplied by selling or trading wild animal skins in the city.

The little wooden house has one door. Opposite it is a window. The window is closed. No one can remember when it wasn't. And no one knows why it's closed. I imagine there are some people alive today who have ever known the secret of that window. But I am one, as you will see.

The man's name was said to be Murlock. He appeared to be seventy years old, but he was actually fifty. Something other than years has been the cause of his aging.

His long, thick hair and beard were white. His gray and lifeless eyes were concave. His face was wrinkled. He was tall and thin with drooping shoulders - like someone who had a lot of problems.

I never saw him. I learned this detail from my grandfather. He told the man's story when I was a kid. He had known her while living nearby in those early days.

One day Murlock is found in his cabin, dead. It is not the time and place for medical examiners and newspapers. I think it has been agreed that he died of natural causes or I should have been told, and have to remember.

All I know is that his body was buried near the cabin, next to his wife's burial place. He had died so many years earlier that local traditions recorded little of his existence.

That closes the ending of this true story, except for an incident that happened years later. With a fearless spirit I went over to the place and got close enough to the crushed cabin to throw stones at it. I fled to escape the ghost that every well-rounded boy in the area haunted the place.

But there is a previous part of this story that was given by my grandfather.

When Murlock built his cabin, he was young and strong and full of hope. He started the hard work of creating a farm. He kept weapons - rifles - for hunting to support himself.

He had married a young woman, in every way worthy of her honest love and loyalty. She shares the dangers of life with a willing spirit and a light heart. No name or details are known about him. They love each other and are happy.

One day Murlock returned from hunting in the deep forest. He found his wife feverish and confused. There are no doctors or neighbors within miles. She was not in a condition to be left alone when she went out for help. So Murlock tries to take care of his wife and restore her health. But at the end of the third day he fell unconscious and died.

From what we know about men like Murlock, we might try to imagine some of the details of the story my grandfather told me.

When he was sure he was dead, Murlock had enough awareness to remember that the dead must be prepared for burial. He made mistakes now and again while doing this particular task. He did wrong things. And the other things he does right are done over and over.

She was surprised that she wasn't crying - shocked and slightly embarrassed. It's no good not to cry for the dead.

"Tomorrow," he said aloud, "I'll have to make a coffin and dig a grave; and then I'll miss him, when he's out of sight. But now - he's dead, of course, but that's fine - all for sure. fine. Things can't be as bad as they seem. "

He stood over the body of his wife in the disappearing light. He fixed the hair and made finishing touches to the rest. He did all of this without thinking but with care. And still through his mind ran a feeling that all was right -- that he should have her again as before, and everything would be explained.

Murlock had no experience in deep sadness. His heart could not contain it all. His imagination could not understand it. He did not know he was so hard struck. That knowledge would come later and never leave.

Deep sadness is an artist of powers that affects people in different ways. To one it comes like the stroke of an arrow, shocking all the emotions to a sharper life. To another, it comes as the blow of a crushing strike. We may believe Murlock to have been affected that way.

Soon after he had finished his work he sank into a chair by the side of the table upon which the body lay. He noted how white his wife's face looked in the deepening darkness. He laid his arms upon the table's edge and dropped his face into them, tearless and very sleepy.

At that moment a long, screaming sound came in through the open window. It was like the cry of a lost child in the far deep of the darkening forest! But the man did not move. He heard that unearthly cry upon his failing sense, again and nearer than before. Maybe it was a wild animal or maybe it was a dream. For Murlock was asleep.

Some hours later, he awoke, lifted his head from his arms and listened closely. He knew not why. There in the black darkness by the side of the body, he remembered everything without a shock. He strained his eyes to see -- he knew not what.

His senses were all alert. His breath was suspended. His blood was still as if to assist the silence. Who — what had awakened him and where was it!

Suddenly the table shook under his arms. At the same time he heard, or imagined he heard, a light, soft step and then another. The sounds were as bare feet walking upon the floor!

He was afraid beyond the power to cry out or move. He waited—waited there in the darkness through what seemed like centuries of such fear. Fear as one may know, but yet live to tell. He tried but failed to speak the dead woman's name. He tried but failed to stretch his hand across the table to learn if she was there. His throat was powerless. His arms and hands were like lead.

Then something most frightful happened. It seemed as if a heavy body was thrown against the table with a force that pushed against his chest. At the same time he heard and felt the fall of something upon the floor. It was so violent a crash that the whole house shook. A fight followed and a confusion of sounds impossible to describe.

Murlock had risen to his feet. Extreme fear had caused him to lose control of his senses. He threw his hands upon the table. Nothing was there!

There is a point at which fear may turn to insanity; and insanity incites to action. With no definite plan and acting like a madman, Murlock ran quickly to the wall. He seized his loaded rifle and without aim fired it.

The flash from the rifle lit the room with a clear brightness. He saw a huge fierce panther dragging the dead woman toward the window. The wild animal's teeth were fixed on her throat! Then there was darkness blacker than before, and silence.

When he returned to consciousness the sun was high and the forest was filled with the sounds of singing birds. The body lay near the window, where the animal had left it when frightened away by the light and sound of the rifle.

The clothing was ruined. The long hair was in disorder. The arms and legs lay in a careless way. And a pool of blood flowed from the horribly torn throat. The ribbon he had used to tie the wrists was broken. The hands were tightly closed.

And between the teeth was a piece of the animal's ear.

"The Boarded Window" was written by Ambrose Bierce. It was adapted for Special English by Lawan Davis who was also the producer. The storyteller was Shep O'Neal.

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