Brandon Gulling

The January Selected Writer is Brandon Gulling

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by Brandon Gulling

What I am about to tell you occurred over a period of three nights. Although the demons haunting me have been tormenting me for as far back as I can remember, these events are the most chilling. I don’t have much time to tell you my story, for I have found only a moment of solitude.

My name is Dr. James Livingston, MD. I work as a Psychiatrist at Fairview hospital in Hollow’s Grove, Oregon where I see multiple patients afflicted with mental illness. Other than me, my colleague and mentor, Dr. Shelley Borden runs the psych ward together during the day. At 11pm we turn the ward over to the graveyard shift…and so begins my story.

It was a cold Autumn’s eve and I had just finished my rounds at the hospital. I left early so, I grabbed my bag and headed out into the night. For as far back as I can remember I always strolled through the graveyard that sits behind my manor before going home. I find peace in the atmosphere of the light fog nestled comfortably on the dew covered grass, slowly moving its way down the knoll before snuggling in between the tombstones and crypts.

But this first night of three, something very strange happened that’s never occurred before. I was walking down the path when a guttural croak bellowed above me. I jumped in fright before stopping dead in my tracks, and looked up.

It was a raven, black as the night, walking sideways on a branch of a dead oak tree. It was staring at me. I wanted to look away but was caught in its cold, desolate gaze. I had never been so terrified of a bird before.

For another moment we locked eyes and then it flew off. Instead of continuing towards home, I followed the raven. I still cannot describe what compelled me to follow this creature, other than a small yearning or itch for something, as you would when you see another person drinking a cup of coffee in front of you, your mouth begins to salivate and the smell commands you to indulge yourself. So, I decided to scratch my curiosity.

I was brought to a grave upon a hill high above the rest of the cemetery, as if this poor extinct soul were the keeper of the dead, surrounded by two weeping willows cradling the gravestone. The grave was still fresh, only a few days old, inscribed with the words, “Mistress Abigail Covenwoe.” There was no birth year present, only her year of death. I found this odd as it only seemed to celebrate her death rather than her life.

The raven sat upon the grave, staring at me with his head cocked to the right. In that moment I felt a small urge to kneel down and bow my head, to honor the newly befallen. A weight, ever so subtle, pulled down in my chest as I tried to rise, so, I kissed her grave and clenched the fresh soil in my hand before taking my leave.

The moon was full and bright; guiding me as if someone wanted to make sure I had a safe trip home. It felt as if someone were watching me, like a guardian angel high above in the heavens warding any demons that may come my way for safe passage, but, there was this irrational fear that what I was feeling wasn’t true. I wanted to scream and run for my life, never return to this fowl place where death lurked in every corner. There was something off about what I had just experienced but… this feeling, oh, such a wonderful feeling, of bliss just consumed me. And so that night, I returned home.

I settled into my study where I began looking over mine and Dr. Borden’s notes on a certain patient that has been baffling our knowledge of psychiatry as we know it. For privacy reasons I will only refer to them as “The Patient.” The Patient suffers from extreme delusions of grandiose thoughts. Many of which are accounts of him believing he lives in a different era, playing out fantasies of events that happened already in history, The Patient pretending to be a prominent figure of whatever era he believes to be in.

This is not the most baffling part, for this is common in certain mental illnesses. What we do not understand is why no treatment works. The Patient lives in a constant state of mania, never coming down from his high. We’ve tried everything we can think of, with no treatment being remotely affective. I’ve been reading medical journals and every new study I can find to see if we are missing something.

Coming up with nothing new, I decided to give up and get some rest. I turned out the light in my study and headed to my bedroom where I crawled into bed, pulled the covers over myself, and closed my eyes.

I was awakened an hour later from a cool breeze coming from the balcony door. The door was ajar, yet it had been closed before I fell asleep. A light fog poured in from the cracks, filling the room with a haze. I looked through the window of the door and to my surprise it was the raven!

The black bird was standing on top of the ledge of the balcony as bells subtly rang in the background. I sat up, watching the raven, caught once again in its gaze.

The door drew open when I heard the voice of a young woman, no older than her early twenties, telling me to not be afraid. Still trapped in the raven’s eyes, it came close, shifting into a dark silhouette resembling a woman. She took my hand and spoke. She called herself Abigail Covenwoe and told me tales of great passion and woe in a poetic beauty I had never heard before. When she talked it seemed as though time had stopped, as if many years passed with the world aging around me, yet I had not. Her final words to me were the only thing I can remember:

As you gaze upon the starry night,
            Think of me my dear tonight,
            Your precious eyes of empyrean light,
            I kiss your lips to say goodnight.

And as she muttered her final words, I was asleep and awoke the next morning, knowing that none of this had ever happened—it had to have been a dream.


I told Dr. Borden of the odd dream. She didn’t seem to think much of it other than just what it was— a dream. So I put it out of my mind and we began working with The Patient.

According to the night shift, The Patient was experiencing tremendous hallucinations throughout the night, speaking in “tongues” and saying he was possessed. He was strapped down but broke free of his restraints and was found lying down in the graveyard, covered in dirt. I asked Dr. Borden if The Patient was lying beside any particular person’s grave, she said it was not mentioned in the report. Although I found this to be startling news considering my experience last night, I did not find it to be odd. People always try to escape from the hospital and usually end up in some place close nearby, the graveyard being one of them.

When I was done for the night, I checked in with Dr. Borden to see if any other patients needed attending to before we turned everything over to the night shift. When she said I was free to leave, I stopped at the gift shop in the hospital. I bought a dozen roses and headed for the graveyard.

As I walked off the hospital grounds, Dr. Borden caught up with me. She said she found something in a medical journal that one of her colleagues gave her that might help with our case. We would try it in the morning. A weight fell from my shoulders when I heard that we may finally have found something that could possibly work. Even if it failed at least there was something we could try. She asked who the roses were for, I simply replied, “For a friend.” Dr. Borden nodded and left me on my way.

When I arrived at the graveyard, I was met by the looming black iron gates. Two gargoyles, with monstrous wings, their faces resembling a twisted demon that only would dwell inside Dante’s hell, rested on each side of the gates holding staffs in their hands, guarding the souls who resided here. These statues were not here the night before, or any night prior. I assumed the groundskeeper added them to give the cemetery a modern gothic look, adding an ambience of sorts, to capture a certain lore that many modern cemeteries had lost over the past decades.

I passed through the gates, heading for Abigail’s grave, when the raven met me above the same branch as before. We locked eyes for a small moment before it led me to her grave. It looked as elegant as ever with the moon again shining high above, breaking through the dark clouds that covered the night sky, to illuminate her gravestone.

I walked up, laid the roses down, kissed her grave, and spoke to her as if she were there as she was last night. The raven, which stood upon her grave, squawked and walked closer to me. I extended my hand and it perched itself upon my forearm. I pet him for some time, gazing into its black, soulless eyes, like staring into the cosmos; it was never ending…bleak, and cold.

I wanted to look away but I couldn’t. Its lure was too strong and as I looked deeper an inescapable sense of dread and despair overwhelmed me and I was nothing; nothing, non-existent, a shell of someone who I used to be and sat alone in the darkness that confined me.

Soon loneliness set in for what seemed like eons before a white light appeared before me. The light drew near and I began to feel myself again. I stepped into the light, which flashed brighter than a thousand suns, and was back in the graveyard. The raven took flight. I quickly headed home.

In my room, I lit a fire in the fireplace, turned on some music, getting lost in the atmosphere. I sat listening to Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words for it brought me happiness but also an ache in my heart that I yearned so hard to stop. With each stroke of the piano’s key I fell deeper into a pit of depression which would only be nullified by her, Abigail Covenwoe, the only light in my life.

And then she came.

The fog rolled in as the bells played lightly over Op. 53, the raven perched upon the balcony rail. I got up and threw open the doors. The moon was covered in a thick fog, which brought a damp coolness to my face.

The raven approached me, turning into my sweet Abigail. Her face was as pale as the murky and misty moon, her hair long and blacker than the darkest night, with eyes blue as the brightest sapphire, wide and longing for love. She took my hand and I kissed her softly on her cold, dead lips.

We danced quietly to the music, each stroke of the piano’s keys intensifying the dance to a steady waltz. Her breasts pressed up against my chest as she pulled me closer into her. She led the dance as we locked eyes. I found myself lost in her gaze, sharing memories we each had in our past without talking, deep, dark secrets that no one but ourselves knew. From that moment on we fell in love with each other.

And then her time was up. I kissed her milk-white, pale hand and she took her leave. Her beauty can only be described as ship sailing the seas, graciously flowing to and fro, elegantly kissing the waters as it parts the ocean. My heart is forever hers, and hers is mine. She said one final goodbye before returning to her ghoulish dwelling.

Lay your weary head to rest,
            Nestled snuggly upon my chest,
            Off to sleep you shall go,
            Forget your thoughts of mighty woe.

With that, she was gone.


I was back in my chair staring into the fireplace. The music was no longer playing and the fire had long died off. Was I dreaming? Again?

It had all felt so real. Her touch, the taste of her lips, the coolness of her skin. I had to tell Dr. Borden of my experience. These past two days have been filled with such powerful imagery and sensation that I knew cannot be real.

I headed out sometime around three in the morning to Dr. Borden’s residence. I knocked twice. No answer. I knocked again two more times. She answered the door, startled to find me. I told her what happened and without any thought or concern she said I have been under a lot of stress and need to try and get some sleep so we can begin tomorrow’s testing. I agreed and went back to my quarters and fell asleep, thinking of Abigail Covenwoe.

The next day in the psychiatric ward, we began The Patient on a new treatment Dr. Borden had discovered through her colleague. The treatment itself I cannot describe as it is not a government approved method of treatment, but I will say it went south.

The Patient’s mania increased ten-fold, bringing on a violent psychosis that ended up with me in stitches. The Patient got hold of a scalpel, thinking I was trying to do him harm, and slashed at my right forearm.

The sting of the blade did not come right away. The river of blood flowed from my veins, running down my arm onto the floor where a small puddle of blood began to form. Dr. Borden rushed to my side as The Patient was subdued by security, and put pressure onto my wound. She walked me downstairs to the ER where I was seen right away. They stitched me back together and I was as good as new. She sent me home and told me to come back tomorrow after I got some rest. She would keep researching other methods of treatment and would try again tomorrow.

Once again I passed through the cemetery, met the raven and repeated my ritual of paying homage to my precious Abigail. I hurried home as I expected to see my new love as I had the previous nights. But, she did not come.

Something did come though. Something terrible and dreadful, something so frightening that I don’t want to say, but I must. That night had been the coldest night this autumn season, a light snow dusted the ground bringing an eerie stillness that would shake the dead. I lit a fire to ward off the chill and cracked the balcony door open just a bit so that when my dear, sweet Abigail returned she could easily enter. I sat in my chair, staring into the flames.

The raven came as expected, our eyes meeting as usual. It stared deep into my soul, where I lost myself in its magnificent embrace. The bells chimed, only they were not the calm and soothing bells I was accustomed to. They were torturous, wretched and dissonant, something you might hear during a funeral march that fortes to warn death is near.

I tried to look away from the raven’s grasp but it was too strong. A horrific wave of depression came over me and soon my thoughts turned dire. Alone with the raven, the world around me turned dark and hazy. I felt that I was stumbling alone down a dark corridor that seemed never ending. I shouted for help, for anybody to hear me, searching for Abigail, but, I was lost and alone.

I began thinking of suicide and obsessing over death. For many days it seemed I was lost in the darkness, each day this burden of death becoming heavier than the last. Abigail is nowhere to be found in this endless pit of misery. My only light at the end of the tunnel, abandoned me, sentencing me to this plane of non-existence, and yet I did not curse her name. I simply lay down, embracing death until it became comforting.

And that’s when I saw it. From out of the darkness I saw myself lying on my bed, lifeless and dead. Instead of being frightened, I was happy. In the moment of happiness my Abigail came to me, or should I say my body. I heard her utter these words:

Goodnight my darling, the time draws near,
            For the sandman to reappear,
            Dreaming thoughts of a better tomorrow,
            I’ll be there to ease your sorrow.

She finished her final words then looked toward me in the darkness, and held out her hand. I took it as she pulled me from the dark depths of the blackened abyss, where we wandered into a forest that was now behind the cemetery The city was gone.

We walked for some time through the forest in silence, her hand still in mine guiding me until we reached a clearing in the forest. A fire was burning in the middle, surrounded by dire wolves, spiders, ravens, crows, and other dastardly creatures of the night as the moon, full and bright, loomed overhead. We walked into the circle where she laid me down. Straddling me, she spoke these words as we consummated our love:

When the moon is full and the ravens call,
            Think of me to catch you when you fall,
            In your darkest thoughts and morbid affairs,
            I promise I’ll be there to hold your hand.
            Goodnight my darling, for you see,
            Even in darkest nights I’ll be there for thee.

Something awful happened as her final words were spoken. As we sailed the seas of ecstasy, blood poured from her mouth, and blood rained from the skies. Her youthful body turned wretched and decayed. A scornful cackle erupted from within the bowels of her stomach as an icy grip gnawed at my shoulders. I was dragged back down into the darkness as my love, so pure and refreshing, was stripped from me.


Today I sit alone in a confined tomb while the psychiatric hospital continues around me. I feel I am in a place where devils laugh and taunt me, poking me with pitchforks, bringing me in and out of consciousness only to relive this memory over and over.

I know The Patient is in the next cell, and I feel I have finally come to understand him. From him I learned that there is no cure.

I get no peace except that small moment of pure bliss when Abigail and I make love under that moonlit clearing in the forest. All of that suffering I endure just for a sliver of happiness. I would rather be dead. Not the death that Abigail promised—I sold my soul to love her for only a blink of an eye—but the death that brings eternal peace.

Death I beseech thee,
Oh death, come near me.    

Brandon Gulling resides in Portland, Oregon. He spends most of his time writing short stories and poetry when he’s not tied down at work. Brandon is an avid horror and extreme metal fan. He is currently working on his first novel.