I’ve had to create a scene based on my chosen genre for an assignment and of course, because of my obsession with it, I’ve decided on Gothic Horror.
In Year 11, I was lucky enough to be the last class that got to read and analyse the work of Edgar Allan Poe, who opened me up to other smaller genres like fantasy horror (H.P Lovecraft), absurdist fiction (Franz Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’) and many more.
Since then, I’ve always loved the way the genre distorts the possibilities of reality and human existence but expresses deeper truths and utilises strong symbology. As symbols in art and literature are my course’s main focus at the moment, this genre is perfect to try and recreate.
The following is a very rough synopsis of what could potentially be my story. As I only have ten minutes to present it, I have not been able to fully detail every scene (so more like a really really short story?)
It was inspired by an old Arabic myth based on a man who had hundreds of wives but could not birth a son to any of them. When he finally had a boy after many years, he died at the age of five from unknown causes. Driven to grief and insanity, the father places his son’s body off a tree and waited for him to come back alive. After many days, he decides to resurrect what’s left of his son into a lyre and begins to play its song until he becomes blind.
So I’ve basically picked up this creepy myth and turned it into my own bloody Corsican adventure…
The Lyre’s Song
Cecilio De Vitis lives on a Mediterranean Island called Corsica with his beloved wife Annamaria in the town’s Chateau fort. It is 1750, and the island is being ruled by the Republic of Genoa. Life is prosperous and happy for the couple, but their desperate wishes to birth a son were not being met year after year. Finally, after much disappointment, the De Vitis’ have a boy in 1755, while Corsica is proclaimed a sovereign nation by Pasquale Paoli. The island was now a republic and the women could now vote for their leaders, finding they had more of a voice. Much to Cecilio’s dismay, Annamaria died in childbirth from severe bleeding and did not see such liberations.
Broken by his lover’s tragic death, but enlightened by the gift of a son, Cecilio dedicated himself to the care of his child, building a strong bond between them. 14 years after his birth, however, Dominic De Vitis was called to join the republic’s army to rise against invading forces as the Island was poorly populated and being threatened by France. It is 1769, and Corsica enters into battle with the French forces on the Ponte Novu bridge.
Dominic is killed in the crossfire, and his body falls into the surrounding water and floats downstream. Stricken with grief for his treasured son, Cecilio demands his servants go and search for Dominic’s body and bring it back to him. Late in the night, his servants arrived bearing Dominic’s battered body that his father desperately places amongst the asphodels where his dear wife was buried. Cecilio sat with his son amongst the flowers and wept for his two lost loves, feeling his heart break like a fragile stem. Despite the servants’ requests for the man to leave his family’s grave and find safety, Cecilio remained and ached for life’s hatred. Left alone in his garden, he mourned long into the night, and so deeply that he became quite insane. As the sun rose, Cecilio in his depressive frenzy, used the surrounding stones to make incisions in Dominic’s decaying torso and peeled away the skin until his son’s bones were exposed.
Knowing he could resurrect the life of Dominic, he used his bones to sculpt the base of a lyre, and two boney shafts connected by his sinews to act as strings. Cecilio painted the lyre with his blood, and held it closely to his weak heart, feeling its willing song. Bringing himself to stand, Cecilio left his work and headed back towards home. Entering Dominic’s chamber, the harrowed father begun to play the lyre. The sweetest, most tragic sound filled the entire vicinity and filled the now crazed heart of the weeping Cecilio. Even as he ceased to play his lost son’s song, he continued to hear ever pluck of his sturdy sinews as if it were next to his ear.
In a trance state, overcome by life’s misfortunes, Cecilio left the lyre and arrived back outside, now to a ferocious, howling night that joined in his woe. He walked forth in this state directly towards the coast, feeling the pull of the water at his feet. Rugged scapes and crashing waves passed him far below, and the lyre’s song played louder now than ever, telling Cecilio’s loss of both home and heart. Standing at the Ponte Novu bridge, on its greatest peak, he turned back towards Corsica and looked upon his distant home, lit in every room and flourishing with Dominic’s song. Smiling, Cecilio fell back into the rugged rocks below, his body an undecipherable opus.
It is 1864, and an English broker Albert Murdoch is sent to Corsica to inspect the late Di Vitis’ property. As Albert is responsible for handling large estates overseas to prepare for the market, he stays at a nearby hotel close to the Chateau fort. On his first night, the broker notices the top of the fort illuminated by light and hears beautiful music coming from within. Keen to meet with the seemingly eccentric current owners, Albert goes back to bed so he is well slept for the following day. Upon arriving at the estate, Albert realises a note written in Italian pinned to the grand front entrance, nearly unnoticeable from sight and plucks it from the sturdy wood:
‘Giorno felice per te visitatore , la successione non sarà servita fino a nuovo avviso . Per quanto riguarda il broker inglese , è possibile inserire come ti pare …’
Albert knew little Italian, but could at least decipher that the residents were away, and that ‘the English broker’ was welcome to enter at his own will. Disappointed at himself for missing their departure, the broker entered the home and was immediately greeted with an unpleasant damp smell of rotting wood and dust. Albert is taken aback by the apparent desertion of the home, as if it had not been lived in for a century. As he looks around the fort, he notices family photographs of the Di Vitis’ and becomes suspicious of the property’s history.
In the fort’s main hall, Albert locates a room that he soon discovers to be the late Dominic’s. Amongst his intrigued observation of the chamber, he notices the lyre placed in the corner and due to his love of music begins to pluck lightly at the strings. The sound from the lyre flooded the chamber and played the most sorrowful notes, almost shattering the heart of the now lonely broker. Disturbed by its great effect, Albert places the lyre back in its place and re-enters the main hall. He leaves the fort, still feeling a sense of despair at the bitter notes of the lyre, and sleeps deeply that night.
The following day Albert takes the day off to look into the great history of the property and reads the Algajola Chateau fort’s estate files noting previous residents and proprietary details. He comes across reports of the Di Vitis and separate accounts of each of their deaths. Finding that Dominic died in battle, Annamaria in childbirth and Cecilio by his own will off the same bridge as his son, Albert was sorry for their unfortunate circumstances but was made curious by their quick misfortune and the father’s brutal and dramatic end. Attached news stories showed allegations of Dominic’s remains being located in the fort’s back garden, disassembled and scattered like someone had played with his body – many bones and parts missing. This especially intrigued Albert, and he imagined close inspections of the property in the coming days. Careful not to stray too far from his responsibility, Albert continued looking into the more logistic side of the matter and left the Di Vitis’ dark history behind.
That night, much to Albert’s shock, he awakens to the distant fort lit brightly once more and hears the same music. Confused by their absence, he decides to visit the property to catch the current owners home, as it would make it easier to collect just amount of information without having to look around for it – and he thought it courteous to introduce himself. As Albert drew closer towards the fort, the realisation of the lyre’s song beckoned to him and he was reminded of the harrowing sound of the instrument.
He knew this was no reason to withdraw his original intention, so he continued towards the fort until he approached the grand old front entrance he felt he’d just fled from some time before. Around him, tall asphodel flowers grew from in between the cobbled stoned beneath his feet, swaying in a warm gentle wind. From Albert’s research on the property, the fort was built at least 300 years ago on the ruins of Genoese nobility – the Lomellini Tower. He stopped to admire its immense, wind-beaten walls that reached up towards the clearest night Albert had possibly ever seen. The back end of the fort extended out onto the Corsica coast and seemed to stretch forever over a glimmering ocean hidden by the night. Albert now realised he hadn’t yet seen the old Italian architecture in all its grandeur as he had been so eager to leave it earlier. Now, in the slight light of the new moon, Albert noticed the same note stuck on the wooden door. Figuring he was still welcome to enter as he pleased, and perplexed by the distant song still playing from within the fort, Albert stepped into the ancient home once more. Curiosity drove him through the musty, dimly-lit fort. Pillars of moonlight spilled eerily onto the masonic floor from diamond windows that dotted the upper-half of the walls, almost guiding Albert down the main hallway he entered earlier that day.
Surely enough, Albert’s driving curiosity found him opening the door of the late Dominic De Vitis’ chamber. The sight that greeted him gave Albert a despairing sensation of being choked – the feeling when what’s known to be impossible is challenged by no forces of nature had filled the helpless broker, causing him to tremble. The lyre had now been placed in a different corner of the room, or rather had placed itself, and produced the saddest song Albert’s ears had heard. But the lyre’s strings quivered with their own energy and life, as if invisible fingers plucked expertly at them. The instrument tipped from side to side, in perfect rhythm with its mournful song. Albert drew a sharp breath in as he felt his chest suddenly tear open to expose his heart, but grabbed his perfectly in-tact skin.
Turning to escape, he felt his entire body stop and become occupied by an intense sense of grief and his world turned to black. Many visions struck the tormented mind of Albert whilst the lyre’s song rang deeply in his now trance-like state – asphodels rocked back and forth, in the same motion as the lyre, their rhythm like an eternal metronome and their white points piercing the skin of a newborn child.
Vision crimson now, Albert sees Cecilio in his garden amongst an asphodel field with his deceased wife and son by his side. Cecilio’s hands are covered in Dominic’s blood and Albert watches him in his desperate grief as he tries to reconstruct his bones and sinews into a lyre.
It’s black again, except for a small mirror placed ahead of Albert.
Advancing towards it, he sees himself becoming Cecilio, with white wild hair sprouting from his harrowed, disembodied face of which Albert attempts to grab at. A spot of white hung from his bloody lips, and he pulls an asphodel flower from the mouth in the mirror.
Shattering, the mirror drops and he is within the clear night once more, and Albert, entirely paralysed, sees himself standing at the Ponte Novu bridge, looking into the ragged depths below. It is black once more.
Then moonlight rushes past as he feels himself falling – grief eternal.
Awakening finally, Albert felt his body release itself from a disturbing paralysis. Before he had time to process what had happened, Albert felt a familiar presence behind him and turned to see the back of a figure disappear from the doorway. Deeply distraught, but still driven by an unrelenting curiosity, Albert followed the anonymous figure out into the night. It was no longer the perfect clear sky that he had looked up to however many minutes ago – or hours even – time had been misplaced and Albert felt he’d aged half a century since.
The night was now storm-ridden and ruthless. The huge archaic palms creaked and swayed, mimicking the horrific rhythm of the lyre’s song. Albert kept close watch of the seemingly disembodied figure, whose back was exposed to the night from its shredded garments. He felt the dangerous curiosity grow and pushed forth towards the coast. After what seemed like an eternity of fighting through Corsica’s rare high winds, desperate for answers, Albert saw the figure stop at the foot of the famed Ponte Novu bridge and remembered the De Vitis’ brutal deaths.
Suddenly, the figure turned, smiling eerily, and Albert saw it reflected himself exactly, apart from the excessive wounds that covered his skin. Stricken by absolute horror and disgust, Albert let out a cry while he looked into the dead eyes of his soulless, fiendish self. Overcome with fear and sorrow, Albert begun to run from himself and mounted a pillar of the Ponte Novu bridge. The night was growing more aggressive with every minute, and Albert tried to feel for a tight grip onto the stony concrete next to him.
But instead of latching onto a small landing of the column, he grasped an asphodel that had grown from the top of it. Too weak to hold his weight, the stem snapped and fell down, along with Albert, into the depths below only to follow the same demise as the disturbed Cecilio and his lost son.