An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
An Inhabitant of Carcosa
For there be divers sorts of death -- some wherein the body remaineth; and in some it
vanisheth quite away with the spirit. This commonly occurreth only in solitude (such is
God's will) and, none seeing the end, we say the man is lost, or gone on a long journey --
which indeed he hath; but sometimes it hath happened in sight of many, as abundant
testimony showeth. In one kind of death the spirit also dieth, and this it hath been known
to do while yet the body was in vigour for many years. Sometimes, as is veritably
attested, it dieth with the body, but after a season is raised up again in that place where
the body did decay.
Pondering these words of Hali (whom God rest) and questioning their full meaning, as
one who, having an intimation, yet doubts if there be not something behind, other than
that which he has discerned, I noted not whither I had strayed until a sudden chill wind
striking my face revived in me a sense of my surroundings. I observed with astonishment
that everything seemed unfamiliar. On every side of me stretched a bleak and desolate
expanse of plain, covered with a tall overgrowth of sere grass, which rustled and whistled
in the autumn wind with Heaven knows what mysterious and disquieting suggestion.
Protruded at long intervals above it, stood strangely shaped and sombre-coloured rocks,
which seemed to have an understanding with one another and to exchange looks of
uncomfortable significance, as if they had reared their heads to watch the issue of some
foreseen event. A few blasted trees here and there appeared as leaders in this malevolent
conspiracy of silent expectation.
The day, I thought, must be far advanced, though the sun was invisible; and although
sensible that the air was raw and chill my consciousness of that fact was rather mental
than physical -- I had no feeling of discomfort. Over all the dismal landscape a canopy of
low, lead-coloured clouds hung like a visible curse. In all this there was a menace and a
portent -- a hint of evil, an intimation of doom. Bird, beast, or insect there was none. The
wind sighed in the bare branches of the dead trees and the grey grass bent to whisper its
dread secret to the earth; but no other sound nor motion broke the awful repose of that
I observed in the herbage a number of weather-worn stones, evidently shaped with tools.
They were broken, covered with moss and half sunken in the earth. Some lay prostrate,
some leaned at various angles, none was vertical. They were obviously headstones of
graves, though the graves themselves no longer existed as either mounds or depressions;
the years had levelled all. Scattered here and there, more massive blocks showed where
some pompous tomb or ambitious monument had once flung its feeble defiance at
oblivion. So old seemed these relics, these vestiges of vanity and memorials of affection
and piety, so battered and worn and stained -- so neglected, deserted, forgotten the place,
that I could not help thinking myself the discoverer of the burial-ground of a prehistoric
race of men whose very name was long extinct.