But now I write. I am far from all persecution—I can set down the truth fearlessly. I can dip the pen in my own blood if I choose, and none shall gainsay me! For the green silence of a vast South American forest encompasses me—the grand and stately silence of a virginal nature, almost unbroken by the ruthless step of man’s civilization—a haven of perfect calm, delicately disturbed by the fluttering wings and soft voices of birds, and the gentle or stormy murmur of the freeborn winds of heaven. Within this charmed circle of rest I dwell—here I lift up my overburdened heart like a brimming chalice, and empty it on the ground, to the last drop of gall contained therein. The world shall know my history.
Dead, and yet living! How can that be?—you ask. Ah, my friends! If you seek to be rid of your dead relations for a certainty, you should have their bodies cremated. Otherwise there is no knowing what may happen! Cremation is the best way—the only way. It is clean, and safe. Why should there be any prejudice against it? Surely it is better to give the remains of what we loved (or pretended to love) to cleansing fire and pure air than to lay them in a cold vault of stone, or down, down in the wet and clinging earth. For loathly things are hidden deep in the mold—things, foul and all unnameable—long worms—slimy creatures with blind eyes and useless wings—abortions and deformities of the insect tribe born of poisonous vapor—creatures the very sight of which would drive you, oh, delicate woman, into a fit of hysteria, and would provoke even you, oh, strong man, to a shudder of repulsion! But there is a worse thing than these merely physical horrors which come of so-called Christian burial—that is, the terrible uncertainty. What, if after we have lowered the narrow strong box containing our dear deceased relation into its vault or hollow in the ground—what, if after we have worn a seemly garb of woe, and tortured our faces into the fitting expression of gentle and patient melancholy—what, I say, if after all the reasonable precautions taken to insure safety, they should actually prove insufficient? What—if the prison to which we have consigned the deeply regretted one should not have such close doors as we fondly imagined? What, if the stout coffin should be wrenched apart by fierce and frenzied fingers—what, if our late dear friend should not be dead, but should, like Lazarus of old, come forth to challenge our affection anew? Should we not grieve sorely that we had failed to avail ourselves of the secure and classical method of cremation? Especially if we had benefited by worldly goods or money left to us by the so deservedly lamented! For we are self-deceiving hypocrites—few of us are really sorry for the dead—few of us remember them with any real tenderness or affection. And yet God knows! they may need more pity than we dream of!
But let me to my task. I, Fabio Romani, lately deceased, am about to chronicle the events of one short year—a year in which was compressed the agony of a long and tortured life-time! One little year!—one sharp thrust from the dagger of Time! It pierced my heart—the wound still gapes and bleeds, and every drop of blood is tainted as it falls!