In questa tomba oscura… by Dagny Juel Przybyszewska

Go back…

She hurried, head bowed, up and down the streets.

It was dark, and the wind was howling between the tall, cheerless houses. It pushed her forward like a full-rigged ship. She knew she could not resist, she knew she must forward, forward towards her goal.

What did she seek? Where would she go this horrible night? She herself did not know. She closed her eyes and drifted along without will.

She did not know the way. She did not know any of these silent, dark testimonials of peoples' sorrows and joys. She looked nervously into these lonely lights, blazing like a fever into the night speaking of sickness - and of lovemaking.

These secret lights behind tall, dark walls, between the whispering garden greens, reminded her of something in her own life, of that fever that had driven her outside tonight.

What did she want? What was ahead of her?

She knew only that tonight the riddle of her life would be solved, that tonight she would stand face to face with the happiness of her life, or - was it a crime that she had committed?

She shivered. She had forgotten so many years ago. She had thought it forgotten and hidden, but now, in this dark night, the howling storm driving her towards this unknown goal, now she felt more strongly and painfully by each nervous step that this one thing had been living in her soul, had been living by itself underground, had grown to a flaming, bloodred question crying for an answer, for release.

And tonight, this night, she would stand before the one-eyed fate and receive the answer, the answer.

She suddenly stopped, nervously listening. There had come a quietude around her, and as dark, as bottomless dark as her own soul. Where was she? She was no longer in the street. The expectation made her shudder, she felt that she had reached her goal, and the abyss opened before her. And she quivered with desire to gaze into the abyss, knowing it would engulf her.

It lightened up a little and she found herself in a great hall. The ceiling was as high as the firmament, and before the door whence the light came, rested a sleeping sphinx of stone.

She slowly approached the open door, knowing that her fate was lurking behind it, waiting to grab her and drain her blood, drop by drop.

She stood before a corridor, filled with a light so bright that it momentarily blinded and confused her. And when she reopened her eyes she saw that both of the walls of the corridor were covered with tall, dark pictures of people, men and women, and they all set their threatening, mocking and sorrowful eyes upon her, and she read in their drained, graven faces a greeting, a terrible welcome. She saw their measured nods and read in their unfathomable eyes "Come, come closer! You are not there yet. We only convey greetings from that goal now drawing you."

She withdrew trembling from this line of living dead. The corridor was so narrow that they could have struck her face with their corpse-cold hands if they would stretch them out. She would have given her life to return to the night and the storm, but that which egged her on was stronger than her quivering fear of dying.

Forward, through the dark fire of these empty eyes, forward to new, unexpected horrors.

She suddenly reached the far end of the corridor. She stood in front of a deep and stygian archway. From the ceiling flowed a faint verdigris light which wrapped itself like a harbinger around a catafalque on tall, black pillars.

And now she saw on the bier, unmoving and waiting, a dead body, a man.

And now she was standing by the bier regarding his face, the mouth of which would give her the answer, the only one, only one who knew it.

And it was dead and dumb forever, and those eyes she would have braved all the terrors of the tomb to read once again, only one more time, were closed, closed forevermore.

And while she was lying there, thrown to the ground, nervously wringing her hands in helplessness, she heard footsteps from behind, steps known to her, steps she had loved. And when she rose and turned around, he stood in front of her, he who had lain on the bier, he who owned the answer. And he looked at her with big, lively, glowing eyes.

And she put her hands in his and looked greedily into those open eyes. And with a quivering, breathless whisper: The answer, the answer, give me the answer!

Then she felt his hands turning cold again, his face turning deadly pale, and his eyes closing heavily under her despairing gaze.

Only his hands held hers in a merciless grip, and she felt herself wilting under his dead gaze, wilting like a tree in autumn while the storm sang its wild psalm of death around her and the black of the night wrapped itself around her for eternity.

May 2024. Contact info: