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Goethe's Heathcliff

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Heathcliff slipped out the back door, his ears filled with what Catherine had said about him. It would degrade her to marry him? What was that supposed to mean. How was he supposed to deal with that? He rushed to the stables where he knew he could be alone. He thumped down on one of the more clean parts of the stall to think. How could he still not be enough for her, he loved her what more could she want. His thoughts wandered to Edgar Linton, that spoiled brat that Catherine preferred to him. What did he have that mattered that Heathcliff did not? Money, he know the answer and the answer was money. Heathcliff could have money, but not as long as he was here.
He took one look at the horses around and made a decision. Without bothering to pack or come up with a plan he mounted and rode off into the night. He looked back only once as the dark old house disappeared into the grey mist. One day he would come back, then they would all see what he was really worth and Catherine would understand. He made a vow with himself that night, he would not come back to this place until he had made something of himself. At the time he truly believed that that would be possible, how little he was acquainted with the outside world.
*
Heathcliff rode for the whole night and most of the next day before he got far enough away from home that he would not be followed, assuming that anyone cared enough to try, which he doubted. He was weary and woebegone as he entered the town. It seemed rather large as towns go with towering stone buildings lining both sides of the street casting shadows on the roads below and those that inhabited them. There were beggars in rags everywhere around him. He rode by them without taking a second glance, they were not his problem as he had his sights set on higher things and one does not get there by pitying others.
Unfortunately his lack of planning for this trip was starting to catch up with him, his stomach pleaded for something to eat but having not brought anything with him he was at a loss for what to do about it. Then suddenly he smelled the sweet smell of freshly baked bread in the air and followed where it lead. After turing a few corners he found the source of the heavenly sent. It was a large grey building with many windows that stood tall at the end of the street. There was a long line of disheveled people filtering in the one door as a clearly richer man rang a dinner bell and called out into the streets.
“Food for the poor!”
His words repelled Heathcliff at first, he didn't like being associated with the poor, it may have been worse than his previous situation, but his stomach urged him on. He gathered up his pride and dismounted his horse. The man at the door saw him coming and bid him good morning.
“I would like to partake of your food” Heathcliff said as he approached him and tied up his horse. The man looked him up and down for a second before nodding as if deciding yes, this one is will do just fine.
“Right this way Mr….”
“Heathcliff” The man nodded again with a slightly annoyed expression.
“I haven't seen you here before, are you new” Heathcliff admitted that he was. “Well then we must get you processed for the workhouse first!”
The man explained to Heathcliff that he could get shelter and food in exchange for working in the workhouse, evidently the building behind him. In addition he would earn wages for his work that he could use to restart his life. The idea had Heathcliff starting a little lower on the social ladder than he had intended but having nowhere else to go and being very hungry he agreed. He began working in the workhouse that day, and he hated it. It was pointless. It was degrading, worst of all it was just like what he had escaped back at Wuthering Heights. It was like he had never left. The only real difference was that here he didn't have Catherine to go to in the darkness. He only stayed for her, it may not have been much but he was earning money, slowly. As soon as he had enough to leave he would and then the world would know what he really could do.
After awhile he got in the habit of marking the days on the wall next to his bed with a pocket knife he had stolen from one of the other men working with him. One night he was just finishing carving the three hundred thirty-third mark on the wall on a particularly bad day when he was finally caught. He was not really sure how he had gotten that far in the first place but it was still annoying. He had already been fed up that day because he was quickly approaching the anniversary of the the day he came to this prison and he was barely any closer to getting out on his own. He was thinking of Catherine and how she was probably off with Edgar, not thinking of him and Hindley who was probably sleeping peacefully in a drunken coma, glad to be rid of him. He had to prove himself to them somehow.
“Hey! I said stop that!” the voice yelled from behind him again. Oh right, he had been caught.
Heathcliff turned to face the screamer stone faced. This was not the day to screw with him. As he turned he found that the person that had been yelling at him was none other than the man who had brought him into the workhouse in the first place. He was a kind of boss and he didn't seem to find Heathcliff's vandalism to be entertaining. Heathcliff gave him no verbal answer to his statement so he continued his outcry, but as he did, and Heathcliff's blood continued to boil over his situation, something occurred to him. This shrieking dunce before him was the one to blame for it. He had lied to him. He had said that Heathcliff would be able to rehabilitate himself. He had said that there would be help here when in reality Heathcliff had spent the last year of his life wasting away. Heathcliff's hand tightened around the knife in his hand. His burning ears blocked out the man's blood curdling screech as the knife sliced through him.
Before Heathcliff could really comprehend what he had done there was screaming from the other men and blood on his hands. He knew he had to make a break for it, now. After pushing past the crowd of people that were between him and the door he shot out and disappeared into blackness. He could hear his heartbeat as he sprinted down back alleys. When he got to the edge of town he didn't stop, he couldn't stop. Surely there would be people coming after him. There was one long road leading out of the city, it reached beyond the horizon and seemingly had no end. Heathcliff ran down it until he couldn't run anymore. Finding himself in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the road to both sides he spent that night on the side of the road.
He continued this journey for a few weeks, stopping at houses along the quiet road every now and then to either beg or steal food when it was not offered to him. Heathcliff did what he had to. Finally he found himself at the next town. Things were not much better here, he went from being a street beggar to being a city beggar, neither the occupation he wanted for himself and both degrading him.
One rainy night Heathcliff was sulking in an alleyway counting what he had collected that day in hopes that he could scrap together enough for a meal when the creak of a door sent him scrambling into the shadows. From one of the shops side doors came an old man. He was bundled up in a large coat and scarf to fight off the cold and seemed to be heading home for the night. Heathcliff's attempts to hide himself were ultimately unsuccessful and the man saw him cowering in the shadows by his door. Being a kind old man he stopped what he was doing to talk to him. He bent down to Heathcliff's level with concern on his face.
“Hello, and what is your name? You seem a bit young to be out here all alone” The man smiled at him but Heathcliff refused to answer. The man's face dropped at the rejection and tried again to help Heathcliff by offering to let him into the store and out of the storm. This is when Heathcliff notices the mans nice clothing, the man was likely very well off. He had been stuck on the street for too long looking for his way to move up in the world and he realized that this may be his chance. This time when the man spoke to him Heathcliff simply nodded and let himself be ushered into the store.
It was a tailor shop and this man, the one that had let him in, was likely the tailor. It was rather large as shops go and had several expensive suits hanging on the walls that mimicked the one the old man was wearing. The old man made Heathcliff a warm drink from some things that he had around and asked Heathcliff where he had come from and how he had sunk to such lows. As he was not able to tell the real story Heathcliff made one up, saying his mother had died and left him to the streets. The fabrication struck the old man so close to the heart that he immediately offered Heathcliff an apprenticeship with him. The old man claimed that Heathcliff could learn the trade from him and then one day he could used what he learned to start his own shop. It wasn't exactly the job that Heathcliff wanted for himself but as he thought again back to Catherine at Wuthering Heights he remembered how much he wanted to impress her and he couldn't do that from the streets.
To be clear, Heathcliff never trusted the old man, he was still grieving over his last employment and its meaninglessness thinking that one day he would wake up to realize that the old man had swindled him the way that the man at the workhouse had. He worked in silence for almost another six months as a tailor's apprentice before he started to get antsy again. By this point he had learned a bit but not near enough to go off on his own and he was making next to nothing from the old man, since his work really paid for his room, board and education. One night the old man left Heathcliff to close up the shop and that was the first time that he stole. It was not much at first but as he got more and more impatient to be moving forward with his plan to wealth he started taking more and being more careless about it.
Finally one night the old man's daughter caught him. She had never liked him and when money started to go missing she decided that she had to find out who it was. She waited in the store and saw him taking the money. When she told her father the old man kicked Heathcliff out and took all that Heathcliff had stolen. As the door was slammed in his face Heathcliff smirked. He knew that this man was not as good as he pretended to be, when it came down to it he turned on Heathcliff just like that others had tried to. Something in him knew that it was his own fault but a bigger part of him was glad to see that he was right to not trust the man who had taken him in. He definitely had some attachment issues to work through.
It was raining again as Heathcliff picked himself up off the ground where he had been pushed when the old man kicked him out. He had saved just enough money from his stash in his pocket for a drink so he started to wander down the street to find a bar where he could drown his sorrows. He had at this point wasted another year of his life on another fruitless pursuit of wealth and he was starting to run out of ideas. He was starting to think he would never get back to Wuthering Heights, to Catherine. All he wanted was to prove himself and show that he could do it, he could be worth her love. He wondered where she was, he wondered where they all were, Hindley, Edgar, Nelly, all of them. He wondered if any of them thought of him anymore. He had to come up with a plan soon.
As he ordered and sat down at the counter he caught a whispered in the back corner of the bar, or at least he thought it was coming from there, it was hard to tell who was talking as the bar was dimly lit.
“What did you say?” he called swiftly to the man in the corner in question.
“I asked if you wanted a shortcut to riches, you seem like a poor fellow I thought you might like some…...pointers” The mysterious mans face was covered by the shadow of a large brimmed hat he wore on his head but this time Heathcliff was sure that this man had spoken. Heathcliff encouraged him to continue and the man told him everything and this, this, was what Heathcliff had been looking for. He took that man's instructions and rushed out of the bar into the rain to find a crossroads.
After about an hour of searching he found a suitable one just outside of the city, deserted and out of the way, they would not be interrupted. Then he did as the man had told him, he called out in the night for Mephistopheles.
“So you went through with it then” Heathcliff jumped as a man suddenly appeared in front of him out of nowhere. “I wasn't really sure that you were going to go along with it if I’m being honest, I thought you might bail yet, here you are.” Heathcliff recognized his voice, it was the man from the bar.
“Mephistopheles?”
“The one and only, now Heathcliff right? I hear you are in the market to get rich quick, am I correct?” Heathcliff nodded. “ Good, we do have some business together then. So let's get started shall we?” He conjured a contract out of thin air and held it out for Heathcliff to see.”It's actually very simple, you give me your soul and I give you whatever you want. You live your life here, get your revenge, shame your enemies, whatever, but then when you die you belong to me and as this specific wish of yours is particularly….let's say taxing… for me for...magical demon reasons you wouldn't understand I will also be compelled to take an additional year off of your life. So, do we have a deal?”
Mephistopheles pushed a pen into Heathcliff's hand and compelled him to sign the contract. It was a lot and for a second Heathcliff started to turn back but one more thought of home and how far was was from it without this deal quieted those concerns. He signed the contract and it evaporated into flames before his eyes. Mephistopheles smiled sickeningly.
“Great, now let's loosen you up a little bit” with the snap of his fingers Heathcliff could feel his soul being forced out of his body, It was excruciatingly painful and he cried out with such terrible sounds he barely even recognized his own voice, until suddenly, everything went black. When he work up he was no longer at the crossroads, he was just outside of Wuthering Heights. He would soon find out that it was a whole year later and the demon had made good on his deal. He would also find that he not only had a bank account but that it was full. This was it, he thought, he was finally going to prove everyone wrong but then the more he thought about it the more he wondered if that was enough. He had been tortured and thrown aside by all of these people all his life, was it really good enough to prove that he was great? Didn't they deserve worse? Didn't they deserve what he had gotten? They deserve to suffer. Slowly as he walked through the yard to the house his plans changed, he wasn't just going to show them that he was better than them, he was going to make them rue the day that they ever dared to cross him. He would make them pay. He would make their children's children pay.
It was as if there was something that used to be holding him back from this and it had suddenly left him. He walked back into his childhood home to lay waste to it and somewhere in hell a demon chuckled, knowing full well what he had unleashed onto the world.