In 1780, French poet and author Guillaume Beaulieu wrote a play entitled, Caron et Brisbois, a tragedy about two men contemplating oncoming disaster. In the play, Caron’s son Etienne, and Brisbois’s daughter Sabine, fulfill a suicide pact after failing to receive their respective fathers’ permission to marry. A majority of the play takes place in a churchyard wherein the men’s offspring are newly buried. The two grieving men talk at length about strange events happening to themselves and to the surrounding community following the loss of their children, as well as their sensing the imminent approach of darkness, madness, and death, like an inescapable curse.
It is said that Beaulieu was inspired to write Caron et Brisbois after reading the ill-rumored Book of the Left Hand Tree. Beaulieu trafficked heavily within the occult circles of his native town of Crane during his short lifetime, and much of his poetry and other writing were influenced by these studies. The play has the reputation of being so effective, that those who read it are overcome with sadness, horror, and a creeping feeling of unavoidable doom.
Throughout the years, copies of Beaulieu’s play have been as hard to locate as the tome that reportedly inspired it. Its first publishing, by Gobelin d’Or Press, ran only eighteen copies. It is said that the press’ owner, Peter Delon, ran that small number as a test, but then refused to print more after actually reading the play following a warning from one of his printing assistants. One or two others across the years have attempted to print the play as well, but no attempt has ever been successful. The play has never been performed publicly either, although there are rumors that the Marquis de Sade once procured a copy of the play and enticed a gathering of his companions to perform it; the result was a revolt in which a number of the Marquis’ own inner circle threatened to leave the debased nobleman’s company if they were forced to endure it. Later, in the 1920’s, playwright Andre de Lorde of Le Theatre du Grand-Guignol also once boasted he would one day find a copy of the play and present it to Paris audiences; his efforts were also ill-fated.
Because of the absence of confirmed physical copies of the play (none can be found in any library or museum), many now consider Caron et Brisbois to be an urban legend many hundreds of years old. However, in June of 2012, thirty-two-year-old online book trader William Reglas of Tucumcari, New Mexico, announced to his friends that he had found a website that carried a complete, downloadable English translation of the Beaulieu play. Reglas’ friends, who were bibliophiles as well, were skeptical of the news—until they found the body of their friend hanging by the neck from an improvised noose in his bedroom closet, his computer, including the hard drive, completely smashed and destroyed. All subsequent attempts at discovering the identity of the website carrying the copy of Caron et Brisbois were met with failure, and no trace was found of any downloaded copies of the play, save for the following paper fragment found jammed in the printer, which was also smashed beyond repair:
BRISBOIS: You follow me. Stop following me, I say! I need not a dog!
CARON: But I am here.
BRISBOIS: What! And so you are.
CARON: I have left neither this marker, nor this tree.
BRISBOIS: I hear a step, feel a breath at my neck, blind plucking at my shirtsleeves--
CARON: I too feel those things. As I sit here beneath these nodding branches, I feel like a hart beneath the huntsman’s shaft.
BRISBOIS: Yes! A shaft soon loosed, and a heart soon a-bursting.
CARON: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
BRISBOIS: You laugh in this place. You are mad.
CARON: I know not why I laugh. Mayhap I am mad.
BRISBOIS: Then we are the both of us touched. The light flees, running down the face of the world, leaving only a band of red beneath a curtain of black, pooling at the horizon like the issue from a mortal wound; and here we sit, in this place, the bodies of our dear hearts beneath our feet, cold as the wind that moves the branches above our heads, casting shadows in the bloody light that none should ever see. Why, Caron? Why are we still here, if we are not mad?
CARON: Mayhap we are! Ha! Ha! He!
BRISBOIS: That laugh—it’s loathsome.
CARON: I know not why I laugh.
BRISBOIS: I’ll come stand by you beneath the moving branches, though I say I do not like ‘em.
CARON: Nor do I. The wind runs through them, muttering, muttering. I don’t like the sound of muttering in my ears, it’s been with me since I did sit down. Such a hateful voice it has. And the things it says to me—
BRISBOIS: We are both mad in this place.
CARON: It tells me we are not mad—yet. But we will be. Madness comes like a pestilence on the wind. Dark, towering clouds come to trample us. That’s what the wind in the black branches above says to me.
* "Shadowed Leaves" refers to the Book of the Left Hand Tree, Passage XIV, Verse 12:
"And from its upper branches drift, like dirtied blood,
Falling with the sound of
Something approaching from behind:
Closer, closer, closer . . ."