The Shadow of Death - Part One of Two Parts

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Romance finds a frustrated married woman in the form of a mysterious masked nightly visitor. As she slowly peels away the many layers of this man who has captured her imagination, she discovers that the truth will turn her entire world topsy-turvy.

The Shadow of Death

Part One of Two Parts




Sarah Elliot stood in her backyard enjoying the cool night air.  She had recently become a night owl thanks to her husband’s obsession over his work.  He had finally published his first novel, and now there was demand for a sequel.  David had always planned on writing a second novel.  In fact, he already had eight of them under his belt before finally penning the one that was not only accepted by his publisher, but by the masses as well.  Now he was struggling with a deadline and a severe case of writer’s block.  Sarah had become a ghost during the past few months.  She found herself gradually changing her hours so she could live her life without sharing the stress that David was under.  Every day his mood grew worse.  He was feeling a strong panic, having no ideas, no further paths for his now widely famous characters to travel down.  He was taking out all of this on his wife, something he had never done before.  Sarah had watched her husband of ten years transform into an entirely different person and she did not care at all for this new man living in her home and sharing her bed.  He was abrasive, easily angered, and instead of speaking in his usually kind voice he now preferred to snap at her whenever they had a rare moment of interaction.

So the night became Sarah’s sanctuary.  Summer was nearing its end and the weather was just right for peaceful nightly strolls through her backyard.  The nearly-full moon lit up the sky, coating the silent darkness in a soft glow.  Shades of grey, blue, and purple adorned the thin clouds that wove in between the stars.  Sarah stood on the grass in her bare feet.  She wore a thin dress and held onto a soft blanket that she had wrapped herself in, her beauty sadly going unseen as her curly hair moved ever so slightly in the gentle breeze.  No eyes were upon her, or so she thought.  Her eyes darted from the skies to her neighbor’s house as she noticed a sudden movement.  She looked through the darkened windows, but did not see anything or anyone.  The house had been on the market for a long time, and the ‘For Sale’ sign had recently been removed.  Perhaps she had a new neighbor?  With her interest and imagination now turned on, Sarah continued to stroll around the yard, oddly content in her loneliness.


“She lives!”  David said jokingly as Sarah came down the stairs.  She had slept through the day as usual, and now rose to greet the sunset.  She ignored her husband’s comment and headed into the kitchen to make a cup of tea.  David watched his wife as she lit up the stove and boiled some water.  She yawned as she grabbed a box of teabags from one of the cabinets and dropped one in her favorite mug.  She liked it because it was slightly larger than a regular mug, and was decorated with a picture of her parents.  They had given her this mug as a Christmas present not long before they both died tragically, taken by an unknown carbon monoxide leak in their home.  They had gone to sleep one night, the usual routine, but unfortunately never woke up.  Sarah poured the boiling water into her mug until it was full then covered the mug with a tiny plate and left the brew to steep.

“How is the novel coming?”  She asked apathetically as her husband stood and walked toward the kitchen from his usual seat on the couch in the living room.  His laptop computer sat there, waiting patiently for its screen to be filled with the body of David’s next masterpiece.

“I’m still stuck.”  David said.  “I keep starting to write, but the words just won’t flow.  I’ve crumpled up and tossed out eleven different outlines.”

“Maybe you should take a break.”  Sarah said.  “Get some distance from the new book and think about the last one.  Then maybe the new story will come to you.”  Sarah took the plate from her mug and tossed the wet teabag onto it.  She sat down at the kitchen table.  The screech of the chair legs across the linoleum ripped through David’s brain.

“You know me and deadlines.  I panic very easily at the slightest thing.  Responsibility terrifies me.”  David moved over to Sarah and stood behind her.  “Oh Sarah,” He placed his hands on her shoulders and gently rubbed them.  “I’ve been a real asshole lately and I want to apologize.”  Sarah had nothing to say.  Nothing came to mind, so she continued to sip her tea.  “I promise I will make it up to you.  Once this book is done, we’ll both take a break.  A nice long vacation sounds nice.  Anywhere you wish to go, we’ll go.”

“That does sound nice honey.”  Sarah said as she gave into the massage.  She leaned back and sighed contently.  Her eyes were closed.  A slight smile crossed her thin lips as her face became visible to David.  He tilted his head as he hovered above his wife, admiring the beauty that had not faded over the years.

“You know how much I love you, don’t you Sarah?”  David asked.  Sarah opened her eyes slightly and her smile grew brighter.

“I love you too.”  She said.  “I miss you.”

“I’m right here Sarah.  I always have been.”  David said. Sarah leaned forward and grabbed onto the handle of her mug.

“That’s not what I meant.”  She said before sipping some more spiced chai.  David continued to rub her back, but she was no longer responsive.

“Did you know that the first person in the United States to be arrested for speeding was a taxi driver in New York?”

“Fascinating.”  Sarah said as she stood up, taking her mug with her.

“Did you want to talk for a while?”  David asked.  “I mean, I can’t spend much time away from the book, but…”

“You just go back to work David.”  Sarah said coldly as she made her way upstairs.  “I’m going to take a shower, or maybe a nice long bath.”

“Okay honey.”  David said.  “You enjoy yourself.”  He spoke genuinely, knowing that he was constantly on thin ice.  His work often turned him into a beast.  As he heard the water turn on upstairs, he headed back over to the couch and sat down.  A box of nicotine gum stared up at him and David glared back at it.  He popped a piece into his mouth as he closed his eyes, yearning for just one cigarette.  His screensaver displayed a school of three-dimensional fish swimming around in a virtual tank.

The night fully set in and David headed upstairs to find Sarah sitting up in bed reading a book.  He stripped down to his boxer shorts and headed into the bathroom.  He brushed his teeth and sniffed his armpits, dabbing on a little extra deodorant, heading back into the bedroom.  He opened his mouth to speak, but Sarah was no longer there.  He walked over to her nightstand and picked up the book she was currently reading.

“Forbidden Obsession.”  David read the title out loud sarcastically.  On the cover was a painting of a man who was in impossibly perfect physical condition.  Laying down in wait of this Adonis was a woman with an equally immaculate body.  Both had long flowing hair which was blowing in the wind as they prepared to make passionate love on the shore of a sprawling beach underneath a purple sky.  “Maybe I should just write trashy romance novels.”  He threw the book back on Sarah’s nightstand and turned off her lamp.  He crawled under the covers on his side of the bed and closed his eyes, slipping into peaceful slumber alone.

Downstairs, Sarah stood by the couch glaring at David’s computer.  She often had urges to simply smash it against the wall, toss it into the street, or watch it melt in the fireplace.  One day it would no longer be her husband’s first love.  This thought, this hope, was the only thing that kept her from acting on one of her violent fantasies and murdering the machine.  One day life would go back to the way it used to be.  Sarah had been supportive of David’s dream for all of the years she had known him.  She still supported him, but just wished for a little bit of togetherness.  Not five minutes of pity-chat, but a day out, or in; just a single day with the most important person in her life.  Sarah’s thought’s trailed off as a light outside caught her attention.  She looked through the window facing the neighbor’s house and noticed that the light was coming from inside.  She followed her curiosity to the back door and out into the cool night.


A chill ran through Sarah’s body as the fresh air touched her damp hair.  She was in a purple gown that did not offer much warmth.  She shivered but soon adjusted to the temperature.  She slowly moved towards the mysterious house next door.  Her bare feet felt good as the soft grass of her and David’s lawn flattened beneath them.  She tried not to giggle as a few blades stood up in between her toes, tickling her.  A large bush stood between her yard and the new neighbor’s house.  The lights were still on as she reached the bush.  She peeked through it, but could not see much.  She was trying to be as stealthy as she could, but soon found herself standing beside the bush, fully exposed.  She stared into the window that was lit, but could only see was a blank wall.  Suddenly, a figure appeared.

Startled, Sarah leapt behind the bush and hid herself.  She soon found the courage to turn and look back towards the window through the leaves and branches that she hoped were successfully shielding here from view.  The figure was still there.  It was a man.  He looked tall and thin, though she was having a hard time making any distinctive features out.One thing caught her eye that she had to squint at in order to believe.  The man had first appeared faceless as he darted into view.  Now Sarah could see why.  He was wearing a mask.  It covered his entire face.  Above it was a fine head of soft brown hair that hung slightly over the top of the mask.  Sarah remained crouched behind the bush waiting for the man to disappear.  When he finally did, Sarah stood and made her way up the lawn towards the back door of her house.  As she fled, she was entirely unaware that the mysterious masked man had returned to the window.Once she was inside, the light in his window went out.


David stirred as Sarah climbed into bed with him.  He took a minute to make sure he was not dreaming.  It had been a while since the two had been in that bed at the same time.  He noticed that Sarah was breathing heavily, and even in the darkness was visibly shaken.  He turned over and put his hand on her thigh.

“Are you okay honey?”  He whispered.  Sarah shivered a bit from her damp hair touching the silk pillow case.

“I’m fine.”  Sarah said abruptly.  After ten years of marriage, David could read his wife far better than she could lie.

“I’m here for you. You know that, don’t you?”  David rubbed his wife’s side gently.

“Can I ask you something David?”

“Ask away.”

“Do you know anything about the people who bought the house next door?”

“Nope.”  David said.  “I noticed that the sign was gone, but that’s about it.”

“I never saw any trucks or vans parked outside. So when did they move in?”

“Maybe they haven’t yet.”  David said.  He scooted his body closer to Sarah’s.  “Why do you ask?”

“A light was on.”  Sarah said.  “It just made me curious.”

“Well, maybe we should bring them something.”  David said.  “If we go over there with a bottle of wine, we can find out if anyone is living there.  If they don’t answer the door, fine.  If they do, we’ll have an excuse for snooping.”

“I guess.”  Sarah said.  David caught a whiff of Sarah’s hair.  It smelled sweet, like lilacs.  He kissed her on the back of the neck and his hand began to wander.  He caressed her stomach and started to move north.  Sarah twitched and David retracted his arm.  The two fell into a deep silence, and David returned to his side of the bed.  Slowly sleep took them, lonely in their togetherness.


“There’s nobody home.”  David said.  He and Sarah stood at the front door of the seemingly vacant house.  The sun was high in the sky, filling the world with light and warmth.  David looked at the bottle of wine he was holding.  He pushed the ribbon that was wrapped around it up a bit and read the label.  “At least we’ll have this now for whenever they do move in.”

“Let’s go.”  Sarah said.  The man in the mask filled her mind.  She had seen him in her dreams the night before.  She wanted to get away from this house, yet felt strangely drawn to it.  She pulled herself away and stepped off of the front porch.  David followed Sarah across the driveway and back onto their front lawn.

“They may have just been checking the place out last night.”  David said.

“What?”  Sarah turned to face him and waited for him to catch up to her.

“The owners may have just dropped by last night and checked the place out.  That could explain the light being on.”  David said as he walked side by side with Sarah towards their front door.  “Or maybe they just wanted to make it look like somebody was home.”

“Maybe.”  Sarah took one last look back before she and David went inside.


Sarah awoke from her nap to find that the sun had gone down at last.  Lying next to her in the bed was David.  Sarah looked over at her nightstand and large red numbers announced that it was one o’clock in the morning.  Sarah rubbed her eyes before slowly and carefully slipping out from under the covers.  She walked silently out of the bedroom, grabbing her purple gown on the way.  She slipped the garment on as she headed down the stairs, treading cautiously in the darkness.  She found her blanket strewn over one of the chairs in the kitchen.  She drank a glass of water before picking up the blanket and headed out the back door.  She wrapped herself up as she stepped onto the grass.  It was damp from a brief August rain.  She looked over at the mystery house and found it dim, lifeless place.  Sarah made her way down a slope on the backyard and stopped by a lamp.  The short black pole let off a glow from its tip, giving Sarah a feeling of security as she stood next to it.  She tilted her head back and looked up at the sky.  The yellow glow of the moon accented the black vastness perfectly.  There were fewer clouds this night, making the stars more visible.  Sarah closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“Beautiful aren’t they?”  A soft voice said.  Sarah’s entire body jerked, her head turning to face the source of the voice.  As her eyes opened, she saw a dark silhouette standing a few feet away from her, the light from the lamp concealing him.  It was like listening to the voice of a shadow.  “The stars I mean.”  The shadow’s head looked upwards.  “The way they glow and shimmer, it’s as if all of the souls in heaven are dancing.”  The shadow’s head turned back to face Sarah.  She thought of darting as fast as she could back into her house, but found herself frozen in place.  “I’m sorry if I startled you.”  The shadow said as it stepped forward into the lamplight.  “My name is Francis.”  He said with an extended hand.

“Hello.  I’m Sarah Elliot.”  She said as she accepted his handshake, grabbing hold of a soft black leather glove that covered Francis’s hand.

“Well it’s a pleasure to meet you Sarah.”  Francis said.  Sarah looked at his mask.  It was finely crafted, half silver and half black.  It covered his entire face, having only one very thin opening at his mouth, two small nostril holes, and two holes that only revealed his eyes to the lashes.  He was tall and thin, dressed in expensive looking black slacks, a long sleeved black shirt, and a dark red vest with a matching tie.  Sarah’s examination of the rest of him was constantly interrupted by his eyes.  There was something captivating about them.  Perhaps it was the mystery of what the rest of his face looked like.  He had very long eyelashes, complementing the beautiful green color of his irises.  They seemed to glow in the lamplight.

“So, are you the new neighbor?”  Sarah asked, motioning to the house next door.  Francis turned to look at it.

“I am indeed.”  He said.  “I’m sorry to have snuck up on you, but I noticed that you are something of a night owl.”  Francis said, turning to face her once more.  “I myself prefer the company of darkness.”  He folded his arms behind his back.  “There is a magic to it that the daylight seems to forget: like the stars for instance.  Such an amazing sight should never be stolen from our view.”

“Yes, I do admire them.  I love the weather this time of year as well.  It is so hot during the day, yet so cool at night.  It’s perfect.”  Sarah smiled at Francis.  She noticed him looking at her and reached up, covering as much of her curly hair with her hand as possible.  “I must look horrible. I’m sorry, but I just woke up.  I didn’t think anyone would be out here.”

“You look fine.  We are neighbors now, so we mustn’t worry so much about vanity.”  Francis said.  “Part of being a good neighbor is affording your fellow man or woman to grab the morning paper with matted hair, dressed only in a fuzzy bathrobe or wrinkled pajamas.”  Francis had a smile in his voice.

“You’re right.”  Sarah said, smiling back.  “I just feel so out of place standing next to you.  You look like a million bucks.”

“Well, closer to a few hundred I’m afraid.”  Francis said.  “I’m a bit of an eccentric, a fact I have finally come to accept.  I’m all dressed up with no place to go, but at least I know I look decent.”  Francis said as he straightened his tie with an obvious sense of humor about himself.

“Well, now I know it too.”  Sarah said warmly.  The two of them stood in silence.  Sarah’s eyes kept finding themselves looking into his.  Francis noticed, but did not speak or take any obvious notice of her repeated gazes.  The night air gave birth to a breeze, causing Sarah to tighten her arms, pulling her blanket closer to her.  “I should go inside before I catch a cold.”  Sarah said.  Francis nodded.  There was another pause as Sarah tried to force herself to leave.  “Perhaps we’ll meet like this again.”  Sarah said hopefully.

“Perhaps we shall.”  Francis said in his soothing voice.  Sarah pulled her gaze away from his eyes and ran up to the back door, heading inside.  She quickly rushed to the window and looked back.  The lamp still glowed, but Francis had gone.  How odd, Sarah thought, that he had vanished so quickly.

She found herself lying in bed next to David soon after.  Her eyes stayed wide open, her thoughts filled by her mysterious new acquaintance.


“Good morning sweetie.”  David said as Sarah made her way down the stairs.  He looked at the clock on his computer to see that it was actually evening.  He figured that to Sarah, this was morning now.

“Hey you.”  Sarah yawned.  She headed into the kitchen and started to brew some tea.

“Guess what?”  David said with excitement in his voice.  Sarah left the water to boil and stepped into the living room.

“A guessing game huh?”  Sarah placed a finger on her chin.

“I wrote.”  David could no longer contain himself.  “I finished the first two chapters of my sequel.”  He smiled. Sarah’s face lit up.  She rushed over and wrapped her arms around her husband.

“Oh honey I am so proud of you!”  Her genuine glee burst out into the room.  She kissed his cheek over and over from her position behind the couch.  She then jumped back and threw her arms out wide.  “Let’s go out and celebrate!”

“Oh, um…” David started.  Sarah read his body language and her glee quickly died out.

“Damn it!”  She suddenly squealed.  David saw her sucking on her finger and rushed into the kitchen.

“What happened?”

“I burned myself on the stupid kettle.”  Sarah complained in a voice that was muffled slightly by the injured appendage in her mouth.

“I’ll run some cold water.”  David said as he rushed to the sink.  “Come stick your finger under it.”  Sarah did as David suggested and yelped.

“Damn it David!  The water is still hot.”  Sarah yelled.

“Oh honey, I’m so sorry.”  David said.  He began to panic as he always did when he found himself in a situation beyond his control.  “Should I go get you some burn cream?”

“No!”  Sarah snapped.  “I’ll be fine.”

“It’s going to hurt, bad.”  David said as he gently grabbed her hand and examined the burn.  “I’ll be right back.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to get you some cream for that.”

“Can you get me some ice cream while you’re there?”  She asked in a slightly more cheerful tone.  David nodded and smiled.

“Cookies and cream?”  He asked. Sarah nodded and grinned.  “I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

“A ‘jiffy’?”  Sarah giggled.

“I’ll be back soon.  Is that better?”  David smiled.

Sarah kept giggling.  David took off and she went back to sucking on her wounded finger.  While she was waiting, she began to read the chapters that David had finished.  “Oh wow.” She said to herself as she read on.  “You’ve done it honey.”  Sarah felt a warmth flow through her.  It was partly due to her recent burn, but mostly it was a feeling of happiness for her husband.

David returned quickly with burn cream, bandages and a large tub of cookies and cream ice cream.The two of them sat on the couch that night.  David typed away at his computer as Sarah watched television with the sound muted.  She held her spoon gently, her injured finger carefully wrapped and feeling less pain thanks to the soothing cream David had lovingly applied.  She took tiny scoops of ice cream and savored each spoonful.  She would occasionally look over at David. He was in another world, completely cut off from reality and deeply engrossed in the lives of his characters. 

Sarah smiled as she watched her husband work.  He had broken through his writer’s block with a vengeance.  Sarah knew that this one was going to outshine the first one by leaps and bounds.  It was going to blow the readers away.

David saved his progress and gave Sarah a kiss before heading to bed.  It was nearly midnight.Sarah sat alone on the couch, her leftover ice cream melted it its bowl on the coffee table.  She took it over to the sink and filled it with water.  A strong desire had been filling her for the past hour.  She looked at her reflection in the kitchen window, making sure that she looked okay.  After fixing her hair a bit with her fingers on the uninjured hand, she grabbed her blanket, wrapped it around herself and headed out the back door.  She wandered over to the lamp in the backyard and stood next to it.  She admired the stars for a good half hour before she grew restless.  She was waiting for another encounter with the masked stranger, but he did not show up.  Sarah began to make her way further down the yard, closer to his house.  All of the lights were off inside.  Disappointment overwhelmed Sarah as she walked around the yard, heading towards the front of Francis’s house.

“Hello again.”  A soft voice called out.  Sarah looked over to Francis’s house.  There he stood, smoking a thin black cigarette with a gold filter.  Sarah smiled and sighed with relief.  She braved the stretch of weeds in her bare feet and made her way over to Francis’s driveway.

“You know that those things will kill you.”  Sarah said.  Francis exhaled a long elegant trail of smoke through the mouth hole on his mask.

“I know.”  He said very seriously.  He was once again dressed up, this time in a maroon shirt and black suit pants that had thin white stripes running down the legs.  Beneath the cuffs he had on nicely polished pair black wing-tip shoes.  “So, did you wander this way by chance, or were you looking for someone?”

“I suppose I was looking for you.”  Sarah blushed as she tilted her head down.  Francis took another drag from his cigarette and exhaled.  The smoke seemed to form different shapes as it left the lips of his mask.

“You’ve found me.”  Francis said.  He noticed her bandaged finger.  “What happened to you?”

“I burned myself on a hot teakettle.”  Sarah said.  “It’s no big deal.  I was just being careless.”

“Are you in pain?”

“A little.”  Sarah said.  “My husband got me some cream and wrapped up my finger for me.  It feels a lot better now.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”  Francis said.  “It sounds like you have quite the knight in shining armor.”

“I wouldn’t go that far.”  Sarah said.  “But he does take good care of me, when he has the time.”

“What else could possibly be occupying his time?”  Francis asked.  “A man’s wife should be his first priority, always.”

“I am, in a way.”  Sarah said.  “It’s just that he’s so focused on his new book.  There was no problem with the first one, but then it got published.  Now he is being pressured to write a sequel, but he never planned on one.”

“So his work has become his burden, or even his obsession?”

“Yes.  After the first book became a hit, I thought we were set.  I thought he could work on his other ideas.  That’s not how the people who sign his checks see it.  They feel that once you find a goldmine, you have to milk it.”

“Is that he wants?”  Francis asked as he flicked his cigarette aside.

“I’m not entirely sure.  It’s very stressful on him but he’s managing and actually, managing very well at the moment.”

“What about you?What do you want?”

“I want a life with my husband.  I want to be more than a background character in our own story who he occasionally notices.  I want my David back.”  Sarah said.  “This house was all his idea.  It’s beautiful and all, in a great neighborhood, but it isn’t where I wanted to live.It isn’t me.”

“What would be you?”

“I want a little house up in the mountains.  I want to be far away from the city, and I want a lake to gaze into rather than an empty field of foul smelling weeds.”  Sarah said.  Francis took her uninjured hand in his soft glove and began to walk her across the ten foot stretch of weeds back over to her yard.

“I want to show you something.”  Francis led her and Sarah followed.The two found themselves at the edge of her backyard overlooking the empty field.  “Tell me what you see.”

“I see weeds.”  Sarah said.

“Close your eyes.”  Francis moved around behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders.  His masked face moved in close to her ear.  He began to whisper.  “You are standing on the shore of a beautiful lake.”  He said softly.  “Now take a deep breath and tell me what you smell.”  Sarah did as he asked, breathing in the fresh night air.  Suddenly, a new smell filled her nostrils.

“It smells like water, fresh water.”

“Good.  Now breathe it in deeper.”  Francis said.  Sarah did, and the smell became stronger.  “Now imagine your lake; the rippling water bearing the reflection of the sky.”  Sarah’s mind locked onto that image.  She could see it as clearly as if it were real.  “Have you got it?”

“Yes.  Yes I can see it.”  Sarah said.

“Now open your eyes, slowly.”  Francis said.  Sarah did, and as her eyes opened, she was no longer staring out onto an ugly stretch of overgrown weeds, but rather a small beautiful lake shimmering under the moonlight.

“Oh my God,” She said, standing on the shore of the lake next to Francis.  “Is this real?”  She marveled at the reflection of the stars in the gentle ripples.

“Yes it is.”  Francis said.  “The mind is very powerful.  Reality is simply what we perceive it to be.”  Sarah looked back at her yard and house.  When her eyes returned to the lake, it was still there.

“This is amazing Francis.”  Sarah said.  “I don’t suppose I could wade in it?”

“There’s only one way to find out.”  Francis held out his arm, opening his palm toward the lake.  Sarah smiled.  She headed off, pulling her gown up slightly as she stuck her toes into the water.  She felt the cold wetness and splashed around.

“This is unbelievable.”  Sarah said happily.  She stepped further into the lake, feeling the water coming up to her knees.  “How is this possible?”

“You believe it to be.”  Francis said.  “You may have grown up Sarah, but your imagination stays with you always.  Just like your husband with his book.  Anyone can create their own reality.”

“I just can’t believe it!”  Sarah said excitedly.  The lake vanished and she found herself standing in the field of weeds.

“You must believe, or else your dreams can be taken away as quickly as they appear.”  Francis said.  Sarah closed her eyes once more and imagined her lake, but it did not return.  She stepped out of the weeds and back onto her lawn next to Francis.  She noticed that the base of her gown was still wet.  “Who are you?”


Several weeks passed.  David continued to plow through his new novel and Sarah continued her nightly visits with Francis.  The two of them spoke of many things.  She found there were many layers to Francis: a deep philosopher, a kind soul, and a man who appreciated humor more than most.  Sarah was taken aback by Francis’s knowledge of the world.  He said he had traveled all over, that his work demanded it.  When Sarah asked what he did for a living, she seemed to have struck a nerve, like opening up a wound that he could never seem to heal.  She only asked once.  One evening Sarah came downstairs to find David pacing back and forth, pulling on his hair with both hands.

“Are you okay honey?”  Sarah asked. David shook his head in agitation.

“I’ve lost it.”

“Lost what?”  Sarah grew concerned.

“I’m at the final chapter of my novel.”  David said.

“That’s wonderful honey!”  Sarah said with a smile.

“No, it’s not!”  David plopped down on the couch and hunched over.  Sarah sat by his side and held his hand.  “I don’t know how to end it.”

“Oh David, you’ve come so far.  You’ll figure it out.”

“I’ve been wracking my burnt-out imagination for an ending.”

“Maybe you should take a break?  Step back from the story and just let the ending come to you.”

“Why don’t I sleep all day just like you?”  David snapped.  “Then I’ll muster up the strength to drink some tea and wonder around the yard all night doing nothing.”  Sarah let go of his hand and stood.  “Where are you going?”

“I’m taking a step back.”  She headed upstairs.

“Goddamn it!”  David yelled as he nearly gave into an urge to flip the coffee table over.  He stood and walked into the kitchen.  He started to fumble through the cabinet that held all of the mugs and glasses.  In his fit of rage, David made a terrible mistake.  He accidentally knocked a mug out of the cabinet.  It hit the floor and burst into several pieces.  He knew which mug it was, but prayed as he knelt down that he was wrong.  There in the pieces of shattered ceramic, David saw the picture of Sarah’s mother.  On another piece he saw a picture of her father.  It was her favorite mug, the one she had been given right before her parents had died.  “Oh God,” David gently picked up the two halves of the picture and put them together.  “What have I done?”

“I heard a crash.”  Sarah came rushing back down the stairs, now fully dressed.  “Are you okay David?”  She heard a sound she had not heard in ages.  David was crying.  She found herself swiftly at his side, hovering over him as he crouched on the kitchen floor.  Then she saw the shattered mug.  She covered her mouth in shock.

“I’m so sorry honey.”  David’s voice pleaded for forgiveness.  Sarah could not think.  Her emotions fully took over.  She rushed out of the room then out of the house.  David heard the engine of her car start and her tires squealing against the asphalt as Sarah sped away.  “Please forgive me Sarah.”  David started to sob.  He picked up a jagged shard of the broken ceramic and squeezed it tightly.  A thick blob of blood emerged from his palm.  Dark crimson droplets began to hit the floor.  “God help me.”  David begged out loud.  He sat down and watched the blood flowing from his wound, wishing that his wife would come back home.

Submitted: September 03, 2007

© Copyright 2021 Alan Dale Dalby. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:



you have something there. its really great! i can see you love what you do!!! keep it up. i want to read alot more from you

Mon, September 3rd, 2007 4:16pm


Thank you! I have many other ideas for short stories, and tend to post one a you will definitely see more from me.

I hope everybody on this site keeps up the writing. It's really nice to get such a wide variety of talents in one place!

Mon, September 3rd, 2007 10:19am


This is fantastic! You describe everything so wonderful and I just couldn't stop reading. I loved it! Keep up the fantastic work.

Tue, September 11th, 2007 10:34pm


Thanks! I'm glad to see a comment on this story, out of all I've written, it is probably my favorite. I've always wanted to do a story like this, and it all finally came together in my mind when I found the silver and black mask on ebay. It's funny how inspiration just leaps at you from out of the blue.

Tue, September 11th, 2007 11:18pm

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