Something flew across the moor, silently and very fast.
Heathcliff realized that it had always been flying, from the day of his birth, the day he met Cathy.
Something swept low over hill and heath, circling inward toward the heights.
Heathcliff paced and did not eat, soul rekindled from its ashes, eyes alight with the return of Cathy.
He had drunk long from the cup of vengeance, a sweet taste that quickly turned bitter, and then became ash. For what? On what had he spent his life? To become bitter and petty, trifling and unimportant? For what had he raised his station, fought across the Empire, clawed up the army's puerile ranks? For what had he killed? For what had he spent the small allowance of his time?
He had drunk long from that cup and spat it out, and that is what called her.
Something flew low and fast, and he could hear the whisper of its wings.
His vision cleared. Heathcliff saw the earth: a field of misfortune and a wasteland of hostility and perishing. He had seen it in the eyes of a dying soldier, shot through the stomach. He had seen it in Britain's newborn empire, dying already. He knew that everything soon collapses into an ocean of entropy, all man's endeavors would eventually decay and fail. He could see it, in his mind's eye; empires imploding, rising from the ruins, collapsing again. And here he saw Edgar Linton and his kin trade deeds through marriage and lazy games, playing cards for the moor that they could never, ever truly own and he laughed, cackled like a loon. They might as well play jacks on the street corner!
How much time could one spirit take to claim him? The closer he got the less he cared about anything but Cathy's return, walking with glory, dressed in glory, a phantom given a divine breath. No longer did he hunger to squeeze hearts in his fist. No longer did he care about the fate of the Heights, when suddenly his mind opened again and the memories packed in the back flooded free, crashing through the well-worn avenues of his conventional thoughts, sweeping aside castles of the mind that were rigid and unchanging. In a second, all his habits of thought were gone.
Yes. That is right, is it not?
It got closer.
He and Mister Earnshaw, speaking quietly on the moor. "It's too late to ask this. But I've done what I could for you. I tried to make it up to your mother, but… damn. I fucked it all up."
He watched, a silent ghost.
"I'll give you whatever you want. Just… save the Heights. Deliver them back to the name of Earnshaw. I'll grant your wish if you devote yourself to this course. Do this, and you can anything in my power to give."
Heathcliff had been sure he already had what he wanted, sure that he had Cathy's heart as she held his, and so made the promise and asked for nothing in return. But then she had crushed it; he had no such will, not the cruelty of the most intimate betrayal man or woman can commit. Cathy, for all virtues given to her name and all the epithets given to him, the gypsy-dog, the foreigner, the stranger, had come as a beautiful devil that even now he could not reproach. She had wrapped him in little threads, pleasant to the touch, and he had succumbed. But if the alternative would be never to love at all…
Cathy, Cathy, where are you, why do you tarry in your flight?
Nellie babbled at him, but he heard only the whisperings of Linton's party, the very voice of triviality. He could only laugh and walk away, looking out the lattice where Cathy waited, teasing him beguilingly with the slowness of her coming. He could only pace, waiting for the glory of that return, waiting for the step that sang with the music of wholeness and repair. At last, the betrayal had been broken. A fantasy came to him: a thought that entered the well of his mind, plinking down into deep waters of subsurface being. He had no mother, no human mother. He had arisen from the earth, a child of mist, rain, moor, and star. Cathy, the daughter of humankind, had been his arranged bride, to cement the pact between humanity and the earth. And when she failed him, and he failed to connect her to the earth, that pact had broken.
It seemed so perfect: humanity prospered in the desert of discontent because they had formed a deal with that arid plain, that let them harvest a rude bounty from the land, bring up shining metals that they might beat into swords and plowshares. And he had seen the consequences of this pact defiled. Empires crumble, nations revolt. He laughed like a devil. Maybe he should break his pact, and let the empires dissolve into the sea. Maybe he should return humanity to their rightful place in the order.
But he knew he would not. He could not. For nothing would change if he refused, and he would be the greatest hypocrite who ever lived.
Now the waiting, the waiting! He went full mad with waiting! What is there left to say, to think, in this time, 11:59! Soon the clocks of fate would strike 12 and the marriage that should have been joined years ago would be so joined. Cathy Cathy Cathy Cathy Cathy
He paced. She tormented him now, but he knew he could not vanish onto the moor to find her. He must wait, this time; he must wait for her return. He understood, now. He understood that he left Cathy to languish with her failed and suicidal brother, a man who had also drunk from the cup of hate and gone mad from it, tried to drown himself in whiskey, who Heathcliff had tormented in the vengeance that would soon grow stale and lifeless. It all seemed so absurd, now; everything he had undertaken, except for days on the moor with Cathy. Some were fated only to know happiness once or twice. Others lived in it joyously. How bitter, how melancholy, but how now could he despair on the eve of her returning? He lived in a field of sorrows, but perhaps those lost in sorrow only really understood happiness. Had any man ever been has happy as he, now, is?
She circled closer. He could smell her, the scent unique to her. It agitated him more, to think of her on the moor, more and more close.
She moved so fast, so fast, very quiet but rushing forward.
He lay on the bed, and he saw the discontent of his life slough off of him. He saw what was essentially him, under all of it; a lost child in a world that itself lost its way, long ago. He was not a chosen one, nor was Cathy his destined bride-to-be. They would not repair anything that had been lost. They were a point of light, point of love, in this world where men beat children who lost their way and then sold them in to slavery. Mister Earnshaw had been a point of light, as best he knew, and he may well have been the only sincere Christian to ever live.
Why? How did the world break? Or perhaps this breaking went back to before the dawn of humanity. Perhaps some divine overseer simply made an error, a tragedy that unfolded in the eyes of God's second-millennia, and god damn it all he wants is to let go NOW. Why must he wait? Why did Cathy inflict this last torture on him? Why did he not win her? Why did their imaginations fail them in their youth? Cathy, Cathy, he can taste her on the wind, Cathy Cathy, why do you delay?
A shadow slipped across the moor. Had the time truly come? Had she forgiven him for fleeing instead of reconnecting her? Had she forgiven him for not daring to rescue her from Linton? For he long ago had forgiven her; he had set out only to improve himself for her. And he had spoken cruelly to her, on the heath, not realizing that the scum, the insect, the vermin in human skin called Hindley had tormented her to the best of his perverse abilities, all to chase the phantom of his wife in the haze of drink and delusion. But Heathcliff wondered if he should criticize, as he had sought her body and mistook bones and dead flesh for what had been the thing itself.
The most common affliction of humanity had hit him.
Perhaps his drinking of vengeance had been necessary.
Perhaps he was more apt than he knew when he called it a moral teething. His teeth had come in now. Now, after so long, he had the heart of an adult. And, so soon, he could escape. He had fulfilled what debt he'd owed Mister Earnshaw; Wuthering Heights would go to descendants of that line. He would leave it to Hareton, and all would return to what it meant to be.
And he would rest easy.
He lay in bed. Eyes shut, heart beating very fast. She hovered over the house. He need only look out the window to see the light of her presence, blocking out this whole failed world, which could only slip into greater failure and depravity as time dragged on. He could only wait, though every fiber of his being easing off, relaxing into easy rest. Cathy, Cathy, you are here, take me? Or can you? Can you simply scoop me up? Or must I ford this final river on my own? And will you pull me from these waters?
You need only let go.
The hardest letting go, the final letting go: not to be born away from the body, but to give a final, rattling breath, not pained. To let the heart slow and stop. To let the brain cease is fantic chatter. To let the blood still in his veins. To release his attachment, his last attachment, the iron-willed imperative that kept him to this earth through hell of life without Cathy, as cruel as life without water or sustenance. He could rise above the wasteland of misfortune, the cruel land known as earth, and into the bountiful white light that opened her arms to him, tears running freely down her cheeks in the free, authentic smile that had so thoroughly snared him as a boy.
The final letting go.
All he need do is let go of this adventure, and rise to the next.
Just letting go.
Two flew across the moor, silently and very fast, entwined and circling, a laughing childlike dance.