The wind was strong as it beat its gusted fists against the walls of the inn where I had taken a room. It was late and moonless, and once again as with other nights, darkness surrounded the flicker of my candle light. I was tired and stiff and aching all over. I was lying in my bed. As I lay there I thought back on the day just past. I tried to remember all that it was. I thought of the words that I spoke, and the words and sounds that I heard. Then I thought of the strange letter that I found on the floor near the door to my room. I don’t know where it came from. Someone must have slipped it under the door. But I don’t know who would have done such a thing. The strange part is that the letter, once I removed it from the blank envelope it was in, read simply, ‘I yet breathe.’ I yet breathe, I said in my head. Over and over I thought it. I yet breathe. I yet breathe. Then I was distracted. Oh that wind, I thought. Must it carry on so. Why can’t it just stop for a while. I yet breathe. I yet breathe, I continued to think as I lay there on my back under a blanket of wool. I yet breathe. Who could have written those words. And why.
Then I could hear that the wind slowed, and then sped up, only to slow once more. I yet breathe, I repeated in thought twice more and then once more again. “A joke,” I said aloud. “It must be a joke someone is playing on me. Of course! What else could it be. Just someone’s sick idea of a joke. But who?!” Oh that awful wind. Why doesn’t it stop. Please. Please just stop! That envelope. There was nothing on that envelope. No name. No stamp. Nothing. Nothing to go by. Just the words on the folded paper inside that envelope. The words, ‘I yet breathe.’ But who yet breathes. Who yet breathes?
But then I realized that I had to calm myself. I still ached all over but especially in my chest and I felt my heart racing. I can feel my pulse in my neck and head as well, I thought. I must now slow my breathing and wipe my sweat. Then from under my bedroom door I heard what sounded like someone breathing. Breathing in and breathing out. Over and over, in and out. It seemed to get louder as then the wind competed with it. In and out they both went. In. Out. In. Out. Then I thought of the letter. Those words, ‘I yet breathe.’ As I heard those words rattling in my brain I became more excited with breath and sweat, and my heart raced more now than before. Oh I ache so, I thought. But that letter. ‘I yet breathe.’ ‘I yet breathe.’ What could it mean.
It was then that the breathing that I heard coming from under the door and the wind beating against the building picked up to such a pace and such strength that both the bed and the entire room shook violently. So much so that things began to fall and crash all about me and all throughout the room. My heart was then pounding as hard as ever before. I began breathing faster and faster and also began sweating more. Then, although it hurt to do so, I sat up and I began to hyperventilate. I must have moved the bed because at that moment the candle fell from the nightstand onto the floor and the flame went out. It was then pitch black in the room. Then I noticed a silence. I noticed that there was no wind. I noticed that there was no breathing from under the door. Then it soon occurred to me that my heart wasn’t racing anymore. In fact, and as incredible as it may sound, my heart was not only not racing anymore, but it wasn’t even beating anymore. I felt my neck and my wrist and anywhere else one would feel for a pulse. But there was none to be found. I had no pulse. I was still breathing. But I couldn’t feel my heart beating. In and out I breathed. In and out. But still no heart beat.
But then, for what ever strange reason, I remembered something terrible that happened on the previous night. Something that happened as I drove from town the horse and carriage I had borrowed from Langtree, the inn’s owner. I remember that I had just passed through the crossroad at Purgatory Corners when suddenly the wheels of the carriage ran over something rather large. Something big enough to nearly jolt me clear off the seat. I do remember quickly stopping the horses and looking back and seeing what appeared to be a crumpled up black blanket or such. It was, after all, dark out and I had to strain to see even that much. But then in my recollection I suddenly remembered the worst part. As I peered down at that crumpled mass, I could swear I saw what appeared to me as a human hand. A man’s hand. Then as I recalled further, I suddenly snapped the reigns and drove off. But why? Why would I do such a foul thing. Why didn’t I get out of the carriage and investigate what must of been a tragedy. Why didn’t I help if help was needed. I…I…I must have panicked. And then I must have later blocked it completely out of my mind. For why else haven’t I thought of it until just now. It must have been a man that the carriage ran over. That I ran over. Oh why in heaven didn’t I help the poor soul. I’m still breathing, yet still I have no heart beat, I thought. Why don’t I have a heart beat. It is dark. There is no longer any wind blowing hard or otherwise. And the only breathing, or sound of any kind for that matter, that I now hear is of my own breath. Then, as I grew more and more tired, I must have fallen asleep.
After a while I heard talking. Men talking. Then, once I tried to listen closer, I could make out just what it was they were saying.
One said, “Poor Henry. Poor devil. His chest seems to be crushed, and his arms broken.” It’s Tom Handley I thought, the local constable. And that’s Doc Benton he’s talking to. I tried to call out their names but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t speak. Not at all. Why can’t I speak, I thought.
“Lucky I guess that you found him, Tom and brought him here the way you did and all. I mean before anyone else had the misfortune to stumble upon the poor lifeless devil. Where exactly was it you said you found him laying out there, Tom? I was too busy looking for and trying to find a pulse rather than to hearing what it was you were telling me.”
“About a hundred feet or so just this side of Purgatory Corners. You know….out at the crossroad.”
“Oh. Yeh. That god forsaken place. As far as I’m concerned it’s cursed, and that’s the way it always will be. Poor soul. He must’ve got run over. What a shame this had to happen this way. What a rotten shame.”
What do they mean, I thought. Then as I breathed in and out slowly, noticing that I still could, I remembered the letter. I set it on the bureau on the other side of my bed. The letter that read, ‘I yet breathe.’ I yet breathe. I yet breathe, I repeated. Yes. I do. I…yet…breathe! The paper the words are on. The paper is the same as I use. That must be it. I must have written the words, ‘I yet breathe’. And they just said that they found me right where I saw that poor man lying. That poor soul that I ran over. And they also just said that I must have been run over. Yes. It must be so. Then yes it must be so that I wrote the letter to let those who brought me here know that I do yet breathe. I do yet breathe. I…yet…breathe! But wait. Tom and Doc. They must not know that I yet breathe. They must think that I am dead. Doc Benton just said, ‘poor lifeless devil’. Poor soul? Dead? Could it be? Could it be that the man on the road two nights ago. The dead man. The man that I ran over. That man….that man was me? Then I guess he was me. No. I am sure of it. He is me. I was the one run over, and I was the one who did it! Oh god. But…but…I yet breathe. I yet breathe!
The letter. I know now that I wrote it. But if only they could find it. Oh Tom and Doc. You must find that letter. You must find it and read it. Please find that letter and read that I yet breathe!
Then I heard the words, “Doc. Have a look at this. I found it on the floor next to the bed, over on this side. It’s a letter, and all it says is, ‘I yet breathe.’ ”
“Let me see it,” the Doc said. “Why that’s Henry’s writing.” Then there was a pause. Then I heard, “Can it be? Oh god, can it be? Henry. Henry!”
I felt my heart beat once again. It was faint, but it was beating. I tried to answer, but I couldn’t. But then….I yet Breathe. I…Yet…Breathe!
by John Patrick Seekamp 2015