Short Story
                                The Unearthing of Irene Archer
                                                                     By Brandon Jackson

     Living in the heavily wooded area of rural West Virginia grew abysmally tiresome, even more so once
death came to take my beloved Irene Archer. She and I had fallen in love in summer, and immediately after
followed what seemed like a lifetime of happiness, even though it were only a few months. I was a
farmhand employed by her father, and she had become smitten with me initially based on my strong
appearance, and her fondness only grew as time went on. Mr. Archer was none the wiser to this, and Irene
knew best to keep her infatuation with me secret, and we often exchanged glances literally behind his
back. While living on their farm, there was not much else to do following the day’s work besides laying in
my bunk in the miniscule shed. While resting for the next day’s chores, I would immerse myself in thoughts
of Irene, becoming all the more enthralled with the idea of having her as my soul mate.

     Irene would come to visit me in the late hours of the night, long after her mother and father had fallen
asleep. Sporadically at first, but eventually her visits grew into a nightly routine. She would knock on my
door three times, a code we had decided to signal her arrival, lest her father or another farmhand should
pay me a visit. Once arriving, we would greet, and make childish and flirtatious small talk for hours on end.
As the months passed, this quickly blossomed into frantic and passionate meetings of lovemaking and
confessions of deep feelings.

     A farmhand being involved with his employer’s daughter was strictly forbidden, and an extreme
violation of implied social contract. We knew that if we were to be caught that I would not only be fired, but I
could be beaten with an inch of my life. Her life could be in danger too, given the fact that her father was a
lush of violent nature whom enjoyed drowning his liver in a pool of whiskey, and then violently beating Irene
and her mother. There was something heartbreakingly beautiful about her black eyes when she came to
visit. It almost worked as natural eye shadow. Once winter had fully set and the New Year begun, my
darling Irene had come to me one night with horrific news and a macabre request.

     Through her insane sobs and gasps, I was able to gather that she had come to suspect she was
pregnant. This had been caused as a result of our frequent and careless sexual activity. For fear of what
her father would do to both her and me once he found out, she sprinted over to the nearby barn, and
returned carrying two thick ropes, imploring me to take my life with her. Being innocently young and naïve,
smitten with my first love, I foolishly agreed. I believed that since I lived in a rural community and did not
have a formal education, I would not make it far in life. Similarly, I had convinced myself that Irene would be
the only woman I would ever love, and I wanted to be with her eternally. With little hesitation, I agreed to
help her complete this task.

     I tied the two ropes into separate nooses, and then we ventured hand in hand in the cold winter night to
the aforementioned barn. Our plan was to affix the nooses to the upper roof beams of the barn, and then
jump from the barn’s upper level, while holding hands, our necks either then snapping simultaneously, or
then falling and strangling, while having one last dance together. We completed the first several steps of
this, and as we stood hand in hand on the second floor of the barn looking below, we confessed our final
feelings to each other as if we were betrothed lovers committing our vows before marriage. With one final
morbid kiss, we jumped at the same time to the hay covered barn below, believing our feet would never
again touch ground.

     Due to my muscular size, as well as the rushed chore of tying the nooses, my rope snapped in half and
I fell painfully on my back from the barn’s second floor, a drop of about fifteen feet. I writhed and screamed
in pain for several minutes, not noticing that while I was recovering from my fall, Irene’s noose and neck
had stayed in tact. While wriggling on the ground, I looked up and saw my darling being strangled by the
rope. I laid on the ground in almost hypnotic state, watching her young and pale body writhe and toss,
running out of air and life and having our final dance alone.

     After witnessing this dark and heartbreaking event and having an emotional breakdown mixed with
shock and horror that seemed to last an eternity, but in reality only lasted no more than an hour, I decided I
needed to take action. The dawn was fast approaching, and I knew it would soon be time to assist Irene’s
father with caring for the livestock. I ran back up to the second story of the barn and using stray hedge
clippers, I cut my love from the noose that had taken her life. I then carried her in my arms down the ladder
to the floor of the barn. Once I untied the last bit of noose from her neck, a slow and guttural moan escaped
from her throat. In my state of sadness and trauma, I initially had thought she was still alive, and then began
to happily and frantically breathe air back into her lungs with my kiss that I thought would provide life in her
again. After several pained minutes, I came to realize that the noise she had emitted was the last bit of air
she had inside of her escaping from her lungs.

     I proceeded to carry her in my arms, along with a shovel through the West Virginian backwoods,
feeling the cold winter chill sting all around me. I did not bother disguising her corpse. Living in a very
desolate area, I knew no one would see me carrying her. As I trudged in the snow, my extremities growing
more and more numb, I could feel my heart and soul growing dead along with them. I slugged along for
miles until coming to the edge of the forest. Once reaching the end of the wooded abyss, I came to another
farm. A farm that I am sure had it’s own livestock that needed tending to, a shed that needed inhabiting,
and a farmer that needed a farmhand. I waited until the sun had finished rising over the frozen Southern
land. I leaned my beloved Irene up against a gnarled oak tree, that I could only assume was as ancient as
time itself. It seemed to reach upwards forever, with its roots growing as deep as its branches reached tall.
It was as dead as my darling. Only this tree would resurrect in spring, and she would not.

     In the early morning, I headed to the farmhouse’s front door and greeted the farmer inside. He seemed
shocked to see a stranger, as neighbors were few and far between in the deep woods of the rural South. I
provided a fantastic tale of how I had just migrated from New England and was looking for honest hard
work and to make a new life for myself. I delivered this tale using the uneducated rhetoric and accent of an
alcoholic yet endearing Yankee. The farmer and his wife took a liking to me, and offered me a job on their
farm. Being an elderly couple, they needed much more help than the Archers did, and even though the pay
was significantly less than my previous job, I was obliged to help.

     After discussing the terms of my employment, I politely excused myself to get situated in my living
quarters. There was a small shed on the farm in which I would reside, just as I had suspected. After making
my bed from sheets provided to me by my new boss’s wife, I returned to my beautiful Irene carrying a
shovel that had been in the shed. All the warmth had escaped from her once lively body, and her flesh had
begun to grow an azure hue. I decided that I needed to bid her farewell, at least for the time being. I dug a
deep grave in-between two large roots that sat beneath the old oak tree’s trunk, and laid my love inside. I
looked down at her slightly blue, yet still beautiful body. Her eyes may have been open in what was once
panic, and her neck may have been bruised, but she was as still lovely as the day I set sight on her. I
avowed my last feelings to her, and then proceeded to bury her underneath the cold dirt. There seemed to
be an almost hypnotic rhythm to her entombment, with each time the dirt fell on her sounding like a fading

     I completed her burial, and then returned to the farm to begin my first day’s work.  With each passing
day, I found it more and more unbearable to be apart from my gravely betrothed. She may have been only
six feet below and sixty years away, but that time and distance felt unfathomable. At least until after several
years of loyal and unfaltering service, that the couple had decided to leave their New England transplant
farmhand their estate. With me being the only farmhand they had under their employment, and no children
or living relatives of their own, they felt it only appropriate to leave their farm to someone who knew how to
take good care of it.  I happily accepted the estate from their will, and at first I was able to keep myself
occupied by solitarily performing the routine upkeep. I grew bored fast however, and found myself missing
my angelic Irene. I decided that now that I had a home, I needed to have a woman to complete my life.

     I returned to the old oak tree in which I had buried my beloved years before. The tree now had life
breathed back into it’s roots and branches, and was sprouting a cacophonous medley of green leaves. I
could hear birds tweeting their tune on this spring afternoon as I exhumed the corpse of my young love. It
was as though they were performing just for me, and the digging of my shovel into the ground and the thud
of the dirt tossed aside acted as a rhythm to their melody. After what seemed like an eternity of laborious
excavating, I came upon her. Her bones and clothes may have been dirtied by earth and mud, but I cared
not. Her eyes and mouth may have been riddled with tarantulas and salamanders, but to me they still
shone as bright as they did when we first met on the Archer farm. I gathered up her leg and arm bones,
which had long been separated from her body, and then the rest of her remains and brought her back to
her new home.

     I put her in the bath and washed her from her rotted scalp to her skeletal toes. Her beautiful hair had not
yet completely disappeared, and I took the utmost care when washing what strands she had left. I then
dressed her in the most beautiful outfit that my deceased employer’s wife had left in the house. Originating
from an elderly woman’s wardrobe, it was not much to brag about, but it would have to do in place of her
formerly rotted rags. After I had her dressed, I worked endlessly for days to repair her. Thankfully, most of
her torso and head were still in tact; all I really had to do was use screws to reattach her appendages. I
eventually repaired her to being in a good- as- new state, and was so proud of myself I decided we should
celebrate with dinner.

     These days I am not so lonely, now that I am reunited with my beloved Irene Archer. I cook for her
throughout the day when I am not caring for the farm. We take a bath together at night, and make love in
the evening until the tire of my toil from the day kicks in, and we fall asleep in each other’s arms. I enjoy
reading to her from the newspaper, and listening to whatever radio program comes on after supper. No
matter how many harsh and cold winters come our way, or how many bright springs we will get to see, I will
never be apart again from my decomposed darling.

About Brandon Jackson
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