'This is the patent age of new inventions for killing bodies, and for saving souls. All propagated with the best intentions'.—Lord Byron
I do not know how to describe with absolute acknowledgement the succession of events that had occurred with Ravenna, except that my recollection of her life has always remain invariable. The concept of the resuscitation of Ravenna was considered unnatural and unfathomable, but the prefigurement of that actuality had been proven. For centuries man had sought the impending answer to the riddle that had perplexed him the most, could the dead be reanimated to live on the earth again? Even if that contemplative notion was attributed to a quixotic imagination, merely the thought of that occurrence was enough for me to be conscious of that reality. If the deceased were to rise from the dead, then how could this phenomenon of Ravenna's resuscitation, be explained religiously and scientifically? Perhaps it was a phenomenon that was not intended to be construed as purely scientific nor religious, instead praeternatural.
I shall attempt to expound my hypothesis on this matter, through the narrative I present of the phantasmagoric episodes of horror that I had experienced, with the disconcerting death of my dearest Ravenna, whom I had loved with all my heart kindled, as an apolaustic man of interminable affection. Know that I make this private disclosure of this ineffable tale unwillingly and sullenly, to serve the sole purpose of which I had elaborated with a candid admission, the resuscitation of the one thing I had cherished the most, Ravenna! Ravenna was my burning heart and soul, but her unexpected death had tormented me daily, with a piacular woe that I could not efface its bitter effects.
In the year of 1799, a week before the devastating death of the Lady Toscano, we were in our home in the city of Geneva Switzerland, as noble hosts to my fellow companion of science, by the name of Heinrich Kauffman. I was in the accompaniment of the beautiful Lady Ravenna Toscano, whom I had recently wedded. After a week we had left Geneva and Dr Kauffman, and I had rented a small villa in a remote village of the Valle d'Aosta, or the Aosta valley in the mountains of the Alps in northern Italy near Switzerland. It was an idyllic setting by the mountain lake surrounding, the extensive plateau of the steep area. It was to be a pleasant time for the both of us, as we had initially planned our welcome honeymoon in that part of the Alps.
My name is Gianluca Polidori, an accomplished Italian physician and anatomist. For years I had studied meticulously as a student, then physician distinctive fields of medicine and science, and had been attracted to the common research of the intrinsic composition of the human anatomy. I do not know precisely the year that I began to be enthralled, by the unknown mystery of the human body. Never in all my days of living would I conceive the inconceivable, the resurrection of Ravenna. As a young catholic boy raised in the devotion of the church, my peculiar interest was always considered, a morbid fascination with the particular horrors of contemporary thought and analysis.
The mortal earth was our terrestrial paradise, and our unbroken union was forever to be the eternal sanctuary of our undeniable affection towards each other in life. Ravenna was the sparkling light of duceur that lit my eyes, but one day her mortal breath would expire tragically. I harken now to the matinal sounds of the bracing winds of the Alps that have eclipsed the once anodyne village that had sheltered our worldly pleasantries and entertainment. To be able to bear the interminable satisfaction of that casual whim of the days of yore, I would exchange my soul for that fleeting contingency, if it meant an unequivocal fulfilment educed.
Hitherto, I dread to recall the fatal hour of the death that befell Ravenna on that memorable day, but I must relate her unmerciful death, for the sake of her tainted memory. It had occurred upon one spring day of the month of April, when the sun's glint of that day was paramene. Ravenna had always been fond of the countryside since her childhood, due to the fact that she was born, in the majestic surroundings of the Alps. We had met in Switzerland several years ago, where our passion became such an unquestionable devotion unmatched. To many of our acquaintances, we were the ideal couple—Romeo and Juliet, but our lepid time together on this earth was transient in duration.
On that tragic day of Ravenna's death, we were in the garden of the villa frolicking in our mirth and gaiety, until she had collapsed on the ground. Instantly, I thought she had fainted plainly in a momentary swoon. When I had approached her, she was dead. What I was unaware was the severity of the debile state of her heart that had caused her gradual death. With immediacy I assayed to restore her beating heart, but it was impossible. Even though I was a medic, there was absolutely nothing I could do to quicken her I had believed. After I had failed to revive her jovial beauty and grace, I could not yield to the ultimate course of its luctual eventuality. I had refused to bury her, and accept the fact of her actual passing. Therefore, I began to ponder, within the process of my troubled thoughts and sorrow, every option considered that was valid.
That day and evening were consumed, with the sole obsession of Ravenna's resuscitation. When God too dedolent had deafened to my divine supplication, I took his place. I became God and had attempted to resurrect another human being, except I did not know in bringing back Ravenna from the mysterious chasm of death, I would resuscitate a maleficent state of terror waiting to unfold. I was blinded by my unconditional love for her that I was determined to sell my soul to the devil if needed. Instead of burying her in the local cemetery, I put heavy stones inside a coffin to resemble her body. A headstone was placed that was marked vividly, with her name and surname, and to the villagers she was dead.
The next night whilst I was in our bedchamber, as I glanced at the discernment of her pallid body that had laid in a bed with crystal salt that was surrounded by comely red roses around her prepared, I had discovered the definite answer that eluded me. I was going to use raw electricity to make her heart beat once more. It seemed that after further deliberation I had the method, but the question that remained was this experiment I was to attempt plausible? The indubitable result would depend on certain factors that were comprised, within the complex nature of death.
As a physician I was aware of the recent discoveries of science and medicine of the late 18th century. I had heard of a unique practice called Galvanism that was the contraction of muscle stimulations, with the usage of electric currents that was discovered, by the Italian scientist Luigi Galvani. He had created the crude remarkable effect of electricity on dissected animals in the 1780s and 1790s and experimented on the legs of a frog using, a copper probe and a piece of iron at the same time to accomplish his experimentation. The result was that the legs of the frog had twitched, with the electric currents ignited. I had read his discovery of bioelectromagnetics that demonstrated that electricity was the medium by which neurons transmitted signals to the muscles, and I had read the fascinating discovery of the voltaic pile, by another Italian scientist of the name of Alessandro Volta. I was acquainted with static electricity and how it stimulating the nerves and its prime function. I could send electric shocks to the muscle of the heart of Ravenna, until it beat again and had abated any unforeseen circadian dysrhythmia. Thus, my first actual attempt to resuscitate Ravenna would occur the next day she had died. It was an immeasurable act of total desperation and uncertainty that would repeat the procedure utilised by Galvani.
Upon that night I had endeavoured my audacious experiment, knowing that time would not be on my side for much longer, since there was a stage past rigor mortis, where the process of patent decomposition would take effect. I then had kept her body secretly, in a large retainer covered in crystal salt. I had perfumed the body in the fresh scent of a local perfume that was aromatic and strong enough to overcome, any initial consequence of sphacelate putrefaction. I could not endure seeing her languish in that atrocious state of utter expiry. Her beauteous voluminous brunneous eyes, and her long shining hair that covered the once Mediterranean tone of her olive skin had begun to fade, within the ghostly pallidness that had overshadowed her vivacious colour. Ravenna was my Roman Goddess of verecundity, who I had revered endlessly, and I stared unsettled, at the motionless body of her disturbing placidity.
I sent the few servants who had served us away, so that there were no witnesses to see my medical experiment. The main component required had involved metal rods, and I knew that the body produced electricity that permitted synapses, or signals to activate the heart. I went into the village to obtain the metal rods, and pay a wealthy merchant in the village, who did not question my intention. Within an hour, I was capable of preparing the experiment. Afterwards, I began the significant process of resuscitating my beloved Ravenna. I had inserted the metal rods into the mouth and ears of Ravenna. Then, I waited for her body to react, and for the static electricity to cause a physical stimulation. At first nothing had transpired, until several minutes subsequently, her right fingers had twitched, and her left leg had twitched as well. Soon Ravenna's eyes had opened wide, and her lovely colourful eyes shone anew. I approached her, as she laid on the table to hear if there was a minimum heartbeat that had emitted her incredible resuscitation. I had listened closely, and discovered that her heart forsooth beat again.
The evidence of her return had stirred the excitement in my own heart, but sadly her return would only be temporary. I looked at the lively colour of her eyes and had sensed she was gazing at me, as if to acknowledge my obvious presence. Her resurrection was brief and incomplete as I had mentioned. I failed to take notice of the weakened heart that had killed her in the first place. I was blinded by my unbroken love for her, but her heart was not taken into consideration at the hour of the nocturnal experiment. Although her heart beat and there was palpable stimulation from her body it was not enough to sustain meaningful life. Therefore, it was a total failure, and I could not resurrect her as I had thought.
All that was produced from Ravenna's body was an unsteady reactionary stimulation of her reflexes, nothing more. The magical glimpses of her desired return had dissipated therewith, where she laid so rigid and unresponsive, as she did before the experiment was performed. Was I going insane to believe that I could resuscitate a rigorous corpse? Did I want to believe that I could bring back Ravenna, from the abhorrent state of death? Surely it was unthinkable and sacrilege, but I could not abdicate the notion of that firm possibility being effectuated. I was slowly dumbfounded, as I had calculated the experiment to be successful.
The celestial return of Ravenna I had foreseen, but it was the corporeal essence of Ravenna that I had ignored to consider in the preparation of the experiment. Her fragile heart had stopped beating, and it seemed there was not much I could do, but accept the consequential fact that she was dead. I thought of her esteemed parents who would wish for her a proper Christian burial, and the natural factor of how would I be able to conceal her body, from the watchful eyes of the villagers, who were mindful of the presence of lurking strangers, and of her death? I had then distinctively remembered of the Resurrectionists of England, who dedicated their whole livelihood to stealing corpses from the local graveyards. They were employed and sought by numerous anatomists to exhume the ghastly cadavers of the dead. They had patrolled the neglected graveyards during the night and stole the bodies of the impoverished buried individuals, who laid in those cemeteries. The lingering doubt I had possessed was where could I find one in Switzerland or in Italy? I was not au fait, with the existence of a sexton nor undertaker in the village.
I had started to recollect in my memories my university days as a prodigious student of medicine and had read books on the matter of the human anatomy and resuscitation. Human cadavers had been dissected by physicians since the 3rd century BC, and in Scotland and England within the 16th century. It is said that Leonardo da Vinci secretly dissected sundry corpses, and I had studied De humani corporis fabrica of the 16th century Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius also. I was extremely precocious as a child, and my superb intelligence had superseded my tentative intuition at times.
Immediately, I went into the village the following morning to find an assiduous sexton, amongst the bucolic peasants. There was a small Gothic church with the columns of the cloister that had shaded the polygonal inner wall of the apse, with its mosaic and Renaissance bell tower of the campanile. The village had belonged to the Cisalpine Republic, and the Roman marble and medieval brick cement were identical to other noticeable structures in the centre of the village. The anachronistic setting of the village was different to the congested cities of England that I had visited many times before. The leaves of the acanthus were everywhere, and the grazing and pasture lands beneath the steep and rocky landscape were transparent, as the lofty alpine chalets. The language of the herdsmen had varied from distinct dialects and tongues from Arpitan, Romansh, French, German and Italian. Verily, it was a melange of diversified cultures embedded in this remote area of Europe.
I was very fortunate to locate a gravedigger, who I had paid the equivalency of five shillings or eight guineas, for the task and his silence. The gentleman had requested that his name remain anonymous, and I agreed to his demand. The body chosen was put into a suitable container, salted and preserved, that was then brought to my cellar to be stored. It was transported by waggon to the villa. The gravedigger explained that he had used dark lanthorns, and a quieter or wooden spade to unbury the corpse before. He then hoisted the body along with another reliable gentleman who assisted him, within the process of thirty minutes in duration. They had not encounter any real problems, nor were they spotted.
Most of the solitary graves did not have mort safes emplaced, to thwart the thievery of any cadaver within the coffin. The man did not appear to be perfidious in his comportment, and he was handsomely rewarded, for his important service. Once the gravedigger had left the villa, I proceeded to once more undertake the daring experiment I had proposed ere. This time I was as well convinced of the necessary additions to the experiment. I had felt I was prepared this time—for I knew that I could not live without Ravenna, and it was God's volition that she would return to the earth alive. The process had involved electrical charges, and the metal rods, but Ravenna the object was the conductor as Volta believed. I had realised in my calculations that the brain required electricity, which was the enormous flow of the electrons produced. The signals had to be transferred to the brain too, not only the heart to be activated, but I needed to generate natural electricity sufficient enough to reach ultimate success.
If not, Ravenna would perish forever, in the desitive failure that would ensue. Before I could achieve any perficient attainment with the experiment, I had to perform a surgical procedure that required the extraction of the heart from the unknown individual, whose corpse had been removed from the graveyard deliberately. Since I was a qualified surgeon, I had fulfilled that prerequisition in the most appropriate manner.
After removing the heart from the stranger, I placed the heart into the body of Ravenna. I had previously extracted her former heart and had preserved it in a large storage jar for the nonce. There was a residual pungent of death smelt, with the corpse exposed of the individual. Thus, I had to react quickly, before the heart would be too damaged to function properly—if that was even feasible. I had created an innovative mechanical contrivance in the short period since Ravenna's death that would allow massive bolts of lightning to strike the metal rods emplaced to revive her. Fortunately, for me there was a looming imminent storm in the horizon that had raught the Alps and the village.
It was precisely at around ten o’clock at night, when a luminous nitency of lightning struck at the same time, the metal rods emplaced in the mouth, ears, feet, arms, and torso of Ravenna. I was extremely concerned, with the large amount of voltage generated by the lightning created that could potentially cause a fire. The thought of the villa burning down as a towering inferno was contingent, and a serious threat to my important endeavour. I was at the unpredictable mercy of the consequence of my action taken, and the collaboration of science. I stood there from afar observing the operation exceedingly nervous, as this intuitable and unusual feeling of uncertainty was prevailing over me. I had bathed in pools of perspiration and had shown a singular expression of horror, as I witnessed Ravenna rise up from the dead.
First, her fingers had twitched, and then her legs. Soon, the rest of her torso also, as her bosom heaved. Ultimately, she had opened her virginal eyes of magnificent beauty wide and took a deep inhalation. Afterwards, I had approached her, and she looked straight into my own eyes, with an endearing smile that bewitched my gladsome heart again. I had paused for a moment to comprehend the incomprehensible occurrence that had betided. My astonished countenance had expressed the bewilderment of seeing her immaculate rebirth. She gradually rose up from the table, to walk on her bare feet. It was an immutable fact that she was alive once more, and tears of disbelief and felicity had rolled down my weeping eyes uncontrollably. I wanted to hug her, but I was not certain if she was strong enough. Thus, I had resisted the yearning temptation to embrace and kiss her.
That night she had rested in the comfort of our bedchamber, where I monitored her status and comforted her, with my incessant devotion and passion. I could not help but stare at her; although she spoke no words nor desired anything from me. Her body temperature was normal, and her heart had continued to beat normally as well. She appeared to be weary, and within a natural stupor that was expected. I could not tell if her mental and emotional status were absolutely normal, but I had perceived in the few hours after the experiment that she was struggling to recapture those essential human functions and percipience. It was paramount that she endured the first twenty-four hours, so that I could assume the experiment was a definite success. By the grace of God Ravenna had survived the night, and the next morning as the birds were chirping by the mullioned wrought iron casement that sheltered the opening of the window, she had awakened from her nightly slumber, to live and breathe the fresh air of the viridity of the vast fields by the mountainous Alps.
The profound and lugubrious sorrow and ennui I once displayed with the death of Ravenna had been replaced, by the joyous nature of her angelic return. The impregnated scent of the countryside had drawn our immediate attention, and her sublime stare was a delightful surprise. Even though she still did not speak, I understood her desire to see the countryside. This was an existing peril, since the villagers knew she had died, and seeing her alive would stir the foolish superstitions of the wandering dead amongst them. Consequently, I had disguised Ravenna's appearance, in order for her to jaunt within the countryside with me, and I could not risk her being noticed by the villagers.
That afternoon we had spent our time in the one place I felt was seclusive and private. There was an abandoned abbey that was hidden in the extremity of the Alps. Once we had arrived we entered the abandoned monastery and saw the vaulted chambers, the spiral stairway, the carved arches, and the myriad of mosaics that were medieval in composition. I saw the unmissable contentment in the eyes of Ravenna, as her eyes had resonated the fixated emotions of continual life. I had noticed that the darkness and cold inside of the monastery had indisposed her in an enfeebled state. The vibrant sunlight outside had strengthened her vigour and bodily resistance.
We had returned to the villa, where Ravenna reposed and regained her vitality, but her undetermined health had preoccupied me, and there were moments when I sensed her delicate nature and indifference towards me unwittingly. I prayed that her heart would not cease to beat, and she would live until old age. For how long, and was it an illusory dream to believe that she would resume her life with normalcy? She was susceptible to the cold draught of the Alps, and the obtenebrated nights that brought the whistling wind that had frightened her. I imagined the reason for her fears were attributed to the horrendous time spent in death.
Two days had passed, and I noticed that Ravenna's health was worsening, and she was dying. She had struggled mightily to breathe, and her beautiful face was consumed in a wretched pallor I loathed. I soon discovered after speaking to the gravedigger that the heart that was placed into the body of Ravenna had belonged to a sick man, who had died of phthisis. Once I was informed of that startling disclosure, I made certain that I would extricate the damaged heart that Ravenna was using and place another healthy and sturdy heart that was more vigorous.
That night I had paid the gravedigger to find me another heart that was of a young woman, since women were known to outlive men in those days. There were not a lot of young robust women of the village to select from the dead, and that was my nodus. All I had cared was prolonging the life and mansuetude of my adorable Ravenna. When the fresh heart of the next corpse I placed in Ravenna's body it was reanimated by electricity and had beaten in a normal fashion. It had seemed that this time there would be no mysterious complications.
I had hired new servants from outside the region of different parts of Italy to tend to Ravenna, whilst I worked on my research of the experiment to prolong her life if necessary. It was a month then, since Ravenna had been resuscitated, but there was no precedence for this experiment. Therefore, the only thing that was established of this nature I had speculated in my theory. Ravenna's life had appeared to progress in a favourable manner, and we continued our stay at the villa. We had sallied forth amongst the Alps daily, and Ravenna's name and memory of her within the villagers had disappeared in time.
One day her health had begun to worsened, and her aspect also. She was too weak and gaunt by the troubling affliction that had started to overcome her health. I had examined her and discovered that she was suffering from an acute form of phthisis that was untreatable. Unfortunately, this illness had meant an inevitable death. How was I to tell Ravenna that she was going to die again? The daunting thought of my world crumbling with another death of Ravenna had driven me to total phrenesis and helpless rage. I never imagined that the obsession to save her would cost the life of a living person.
Unknown to me was the fact that Ravenna had killed the young servant girl Luciana. I had discovered her body lying dead on the floor, as Ravenna had torn out her heart with a knife, and held it in her hand to show me. She said nothing, but had looked at me to insinuate that I place the servant girl's heart into her body, as I had done before with the others. I was aghast by the whole scene and shocking occurrence that I could not accept the damnable act that had been committed. The servants were not present, for they had lived in the village, and Luciana was the only person in the villa staying with us in her quarter. She had been tending to Ravenna's needs. I knew I had to save Ravenna from being apprehended by the municipal police.
I had disposed of the body in the river nearby during the late hours of the night, when the villagers were asleep. If the body was found, the villagers would believe the heart was torn, by a wild animal—a wolf would be suspected. I had planned on taking Ravenna to inner Italy and escape the Alps, but she was too fatigued and attenuated to travel far as she had traipsed. Then, I took her to the solitary monastery, where I could hide her from the danger of the municipal police. I could not find a clancular passe-partout to abscond, if the diffided villagers knew she had killed the servant girl, and I had unburied the dead bodies of their loved ones it would stir them perhaps to a rumbustious jacquerie. The palladium of the monastery, with its quadrels near the vetust columns had sheltered her.
I made a small fire from the boughs outside and the worn books of the monastery left behind. It was enough to keep Ravenna's body warm and steady, but her wan aspect was becoming worse by the hour, and a sudden desperation and hopelessness were entering in me. The complete darkness of the night had perturbed her continuously, along with the strange sounds of the whistling wind, the animals of the circumference, and the liquid purl of the water of the stream. I had sensed the feckless hope of saving her, as she declined in the terrible condition that was absorbing her will and body rapidly. She was too ill and frail for another surgical operation that would not guarantee her mortality afterwards. I was racked by such insurmountable guilt and dubiety of not knowing what to do.
On one hand as a physician, my mind knew it was no longer possible in my continuation of replacing her heart with another, since the rest of her body was badly affected by the contagion of the disease. As her devoted husband, my heart had urged me to keep her alive at whatever cost; even if that meant replacing the heart once more. I had everything devised with the exception of the lightning bolts of a storm. There was no other way I had believed, and time was running out for Ravenna. I comforted her in my arms with a warm soothing blanket, before the sparkling flame of the fire, and with the alligation of our love. When I held her tautly, I had heard the sounds of thundering and saw the fulguration of a pluvious storm outside approaching, but it was too late—for Ravenna was stone dead. My hands had touched her intenerated strands of black hair for the last time, and for the last time, I gazed at her large brown oval eyes that had stared at me with a haunting look. Ravenna succumbed to the lethean effects of phthisis, as I had contemplated reanimating her, with the heart of the servant girl.
The next morning, I had buried her in an anonymous small patch of earth near the abandoned abbey, with the headstone that read the name of Ravenna. I had emitted the surname of Toscano, since she was officially buried in the local cemetery already, with a headstone that bore the name of Ravenna Toscano. I knew no one in this world would believe that she had risen from the pit of death—but risen she had done again! When I thought she was finally dead and interred, she rose up after a week, when I had buried her outside of the uninhabited monastery to haunt me so dreadfully and passionately. I was lost within the heartfelt state of my mourning, and alone with the horrible memory of Ravenna's recent death, within the smell of a gnast of a snuffed candle.
As I was in the main hall of the villa observing the only painting of her drawn, I heard a very ambagious and plangent wailing nigh and fremitus, when a peculiar shadow of a singular uninhibited figure had emerged from that inconspicuous silhouette. I had approached the area of the resounding echo and caliginosity and discovered it was the deceased corpse of the hyaline Ravenna, who stood before me in the advanced stage of decomposition. I was absolutely horrified, by her deathlike and pythocenic guise of pallidity that was unmistakable. She was covered top to bottom in the singularity of the soil she was buried in, and her clothing also reflected the hideous odour of the graveyard. The genuine detachment of her once aesthetic beauty was evident and it had been replaced, with the abominable appearance of death. She opened her mouth and at last she spoke a daunting utterance of my name that had frightened me 'Giunluca!'
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