pathetic fallacy
(pə-ˈthe-tik ˈfa-lə-sē, n.)

The attribution of human emotions or characteristics to inanimate objects or to nature; for example, angry clouds; a cruel wind.


MACBETH.
I have done the deed.—Didst thou not hear a noise?

LADY MACBETH.
I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry.
Did not you speak?

Elena dutifully highlights the passage and sticks a pink post-it note down to mark the page. She would feel normally guilty about marking up a school book, but her copy of the play is about thirty years old and has been thoroughly graffitied by several generations of students. She rubs her thumb over one note left in blue ink in the margins of the page: "AT + IK AAF". It has been furiously scribbled over – in pink ink this time – and a messily scrawled "ISAIAH K IS A PRICK" with lots of stabby arrows encroaches upon the neat black lines of Shakespeare's text.

"Elena," she hears from behind her.

She turns in her chair. Jenna is standing by the front door framed against the bright lights from the front hall.

"You should come in soon," Jenna says. "It's getting dark out. You think maybe you could finish your homework inside?"

"I'm good," Elena says. She waggles her highlighter at Jenna. "I won't be too much longer. Can you turn the porch lights on for me, though?"

Jenna gives her a look but leaves her alone, shutting the door behind her. The lights flick on a moment later.

Elena turns back to Macbeth, tucking her hair behind her ear when it swings out over the pages of the book.

There is a rustling in the bushes that line the porch. Somewhere in the distance, an owl hoots balefully.

Elena frowns and then shakes her head, flicking through a few more pages. She doesn't notice the fog insidiously creeping up the lawn towards the porch.

ROSS.
Ah, good father,
Thou seest, the heavens, as troubled with man's act,
Threaten his bloody stage: by the clock 'tis day,
And yet dark night strangles the travelling lamp;
Is't night's predominance, or the day's shame,
That darkness does the face of earth entomb,
When living light should kiss it?

Elena smears bright yellow across the quote and then shivers and pulls her sweater closed. When had the temperature dropped so quickly? And when had it gotten so completely pitch-black out? On instinct, she looks down at her feet; grey tentacles of mist are curling about her ankles, the entire front yard already wreathed in fog.

"Damon," she calls, lifting her feet and tucking them beneath her. "Cut it out."

After a moment Damon strolls out of the fog, his hands in his pockets. He looks cranky. "How'd you know it was me?" he says, coming up the steps.

"Please," she says. "What happened?"

"What do you mean, what happened?"

He drops into the chair beside her.

Elena explains. "You only pull out the fog when you're in a really bad mood," she says, "or you feel like we've forgotten that you're a big dangerous vampire and you think we need to be reminded of that fact. We get it, you know. You're terrifying. Fog, ooh, scary."

Damon is staring out at the lawn intently, eyebrows drawn together, lips set.

"So," she says, sticking down another post-it. "What's up?"

He makes a disgusted noise, hesitates, makes a face, and then speaks.

"Do you ever have one of those days," Damon says, "where you just want to slaughter everyone in the whole world?"

"Yep," Elena says, placidly turning the page. "I call them Mondays."

"Sure, Garfield," he says, crossing his arms and staring up at the light above their heads, watching as moths fling themselves futilely at the bulb. Thwap. Thwap.

She highlights another passage and then caps her highlighter with a snap. "Spill, Damon."

He bares his teeth at her dramatically but otherwise ignores what she's said, nodding instead at the book in her hand. "What are you reading?"

"Not reading," she says. "Studying. We have a test on the second act of Macbeth tomorrow. Essay question: define pathetic fallacy and give three examples of Shakespeare's use of the technique. Exciting, I know."

"I like that play. 'Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand?' " Damon notices the startled glance she flicks at him, and he smiles and continues to parrot: " ' No; this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red – ' "

"Okay, Damon," Elena says, rolling her eyes and letting the cover to her book fall closed. "I get it. You know Shakespeare."

"Ah, well," Damon says, stretching and settling his arms behind his head lazily. "I don't like to brag. When you're kicking around for almost two centuries, you pick a few things up."

"Yeah, you know, somehow," she says, "I get the feeling you've spent most of those two hundred years busy with things that didn't involve the memorization of Shakespeare's plays."

He grins and puts his feet up on the railing. "You got me there." He pauses. "I dig Macbeth, though. Everyone loves a tortured, repentant antihero."

"But he's not repentant," Elena says, fingers curling into the spine of the book. "He gets lots of chances to turn back. He could've not killed off, like, half the cast of the play. He gets what he wants but he's just too greedy to quit while he's ahead, and then when he feels kind of bad he just says, 'whatever, guess I'm too evil to stop now' and keeps on going until Macduff kills him. He totally doesn't repent at all."

"And that, Elena," Damon says, "it what makes him such a memorable character. Don't you think?"

Elena shrugs. "Honestly?" she says. "I just think he was a selfish dick."

Damon is silent. He just watches her for a long moment, his face blank and unreadable, and she looks back without blinking.

And then he smiles. "I see we are at a philosophical impasse," he says, getting to his feet. "I'll leave you to your studying."

"Damon," she says. She reaches out a hand to him placatingly and then, thinking better of it, pulls it back. "What did you come here for?"

He shakes his head. "Nothing," he said. "It was nothing." He turns to go and then stops and turns back to her, leaning over her until his lips are level with her eyes; she freezes at the sudden proximity of him and her heart starts to hammer wildly in her chest.

He smiles. Her eyes are still fixed on his lips; she is holding her breath. "Take care," he whispers, and he leans still closer, and Elena is expecting the kiss at any moment when instead he reaches a hand up to ruffle her hair.

She slaps his hand away. "You're an asshole, you know that?" she says crossly.

His only response is laughter as he heads down the front steps.

"And drop the fog," Elena calls after him, combing her hair smooth again with her fingers. "It's cheesy. Makes you look like a villain from some bad Hammer Horror flick."

He doesn't turn back, just cheerfully lifts a hand in acknowledgment. "Good night, Elena," he says, the street light highlighting his dark hair and slick leather jacket as he turns onto the sidewalk.

She blinks, and he is gone.

The evening breeze suddenly leaves Elena freezing. She starts to gather her things together to head inside. Doing her homework on the porch has suddenly lost its flavour of novelty.


The next day in class Elena is halfway through her test when she notices a gleaming black crow perched on the sill of the window that overlooks her desk.

She glares at it. "Shoo," she hisses.

Unheedingly, the crow tilts its head at her, sun winking merrily off the glossy darkness of its wings. It looks like it's grinning.

Elena flaps a hand at it. It still doesn't leave. Instead, it shifts its feet and settles its wings to sit more comfortably. Exasperated, she takes one look around the room to see if anyone else is watching. They aren't; her teacher has her head down, red pen busy at work on last week's essays.

Elena drops her pencil, leans over, and slams the window shut.

She can hear the crow squawking indignantly outside as it takes off from the sill in a frantic flurry to avoid being smashed. Elena's teacher looks up from the front of the classroom. "Keep it down," she says warningly, and Elena nods and props her hand on her chin and diligently picks up her pencil again to finish the test, ignoring the curious stares a few of her classmates are directing at her.

She's glad no one can see her face. She's smiling to herself, and Macbeth is not exactly supposed to be a cheerful play to study.