I was one of those fellows with a peculiar, troubling habit–I obsessed upon things, small, insignificant things, until they drove me nearly mad. I spent the entire day, sometimes, fixated o a peculiar phrase in Latin from an old book, or the weird, unsettling way in which a shaft of light and shadow would fall through the curtained window onto the floor.
The patterns in the carpet, the swirling dust moats in a streak of sunlight–I could sit for hours, even days, with the thought of this uppermost in my mind.
The great, gloomy edifice, with its high towers, was where I lived and where my family had lived for time out of mind. it was there that my beautiful cousin, Berenice, and I lived and loved each other with a love that was more than love. Oh, there were such peaceful days when I was not caught in the grip of my peculiar mania!
Berenice, though, soon started to become gravely ill. It progressed a little more ever day, until she was like the walking dead–very pale, with deep, dark circles under her eyes, and golden hair that did nothing to make her paper white complexion look any better. I was, just at the moment, caught in the grip of one of my manias, and had a peculiar Latin phrase ringing in my head all day; it was, indeed, all I ever thought about, until it drove me very near madness. I, of course, found very little time to worry about poor Berenice, who gre sicker and more pale day by day.
I can well remember the horrible day, though, when my mania changed from one of constantly thinking about a peculiar Latin phrase, to one far more weird and terrible.
Berenice came into the room at just the proper time, her pale, ghostly face a haunting mask. I suddenly caught sight of her as I lifted my head from my book. We were in the library, and the evening sun was peeping behind the trees, sending slanting rays through the curtained windows. Oe of these weird rays of setting sunlight caught her face, painting it a ghastly, paper white color. Her eyes seemed to be dark pits of tragedy and despair, her skin was the color of cream, and her entire aspect was one of a person that was so deadly ill that their death seeme certain.
It was then–oh! God help me! I caugth sight of the thing that would conspire to haunt me with horror for the rest of my life.
It was her TEETH–those perfect, polished, hard teeth, thirty-two flawless teeth set in a mouth perfect and mocking with a deathly, doomed smile. They were the most exquisite teeth I had ever seen, and suddenly my diseased mind fixated on them, and I knew that, from now on, they would be all I would ever think about.
As strangely and silently as the pale, sickly, ghostly figure entered the dim library, she withdrew…and left me there, a sick man, condemned to sit and ponder the teeth! The Teeth! Her exquisite teeth!
It was not long after that dear, sweet cousin Berenice was forced to her bed. Then, as I was dozing in the library one evening, I suddenly heard the cry of the servants in the hall. I awoke to weeping and wailing–Berenice had died!
All preparations were made to bury her quickly. The service was small and consisted only of myself and the servants. Alas, I was now alone, with only my obsessive thoughts to keep me company.
Oh, but how the vision of those perfect, pearly white teeth tortured me so! Day and night, night and day, I could think of nothing else.
Finally, I think I simply went mad. Dozing one day in my library, with the ever-present book open upon my lap, I suddenly heard the familiar cry of the servants in the hall. Startled awake, I was shocked when the maid entered, and weeping said, “Oh sirI M’lady Berenice, she is alive! Someone has come and dug her up from her grave! She is shivering, and wrapped in her shroud, and covered in blood! But, oh! They have done a horrible thing to her, too!”
At this I felt the fog of madness and sleep lift from me, and raising my hands to my face, was astounded to see them covered in dirt, and blood! Shaking with fear, I suddenly spied a box on the table beside me. Moving my hand toward it, I accidentally, through my quaking fear, managed to upset it on the carpet.
Just as I feared, the ghastly contents spilled out onto the rug. There were a pair of rusted pliers, the sort used for dentistry.
And there were her thirty-two perfect, white TEETH.