The Night Gone By

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young boy's first experience with death, a haunting and mezmorizing occurance.

Submitted: December 22, 2011

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Submitted: December 22, 2011

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The Night Gone By

By: Christopher Hammond

 

?

?The night was dark as pitch. The moon hung high in the sky, but no light, moon or stars, could finger its way through that dense night. The house stood atop a hill, and it overlooked one hundred acres of lush, rolling hills, that rose and fell in serene succession. It was an open place, teeming with beauty and freedom. The country met with the sky here, and a boy could not help himself, but to fall to his back and be overtaken by the vastness of the country. Where all things could be done, so naturally, the only thing to do was nothing and to soak in the crispness of the new morning dew.

But now it was night, all was still: minus the soft trickle of the river that knifed its way across the property. It ran parallel to the house and lay only about a hundred yards out so it was clearly visible from the vantage point of the house. It was deep already, and in times of ominous weather it would flood and make travel nearly impossible.

It rained the night before. The house itself was simple, it had seen three generations of family reside there and it knew much life, equally it knew death. Though at its core there isn’t much difference. The house was worn, its paint fading and peeling. The old timber supports that held the awning looked strained and tired, as Atlas held the world. The porch itself was rotten, and broken, eaten away by termites and been made home by nesting birds that had long since deserted it. The windows were large set like two great glass eyes, surveying the landscape before them. Yet, still, a quaintness lay about the place, and a welcome mat beneath the door, set a punctuation mark on the homey feel.

The Family led a peaceful existence, living at once with the land. Their calloused hands gave enough proof of that. The Father and his Son tended the livestock; they had some fifty cattle, along with a small chicken coup, and several pigs. The Mother and Daughter worked the garden and kept the house. It was a small garden, but for it’s size produced a surplus of vegetables, and an assortment of berries. This left The Old Man, who was far past the age of being able to keep live stock or work the garden, to spend his days reflecting on his long life. He watched delightedly, the world he had helped build.

On the horizon, in that black night, a silhouette loomed, his stride was grace and his feet scarcely touched the ground. He was silent and moved with directive. He made his way across the river, and strode his way up to the porch where he paused. The wind raged and broke the stillness; the sky opened up and the moon and the stars ripped itself through the overcast; the world stood suddenly illuminated, and so was the visitor. The house creaked and moaned in response to the wind. The visitor made his way forward.

The wind died. The clouds overtook the moon once again. The visitor crept his way up the stairs, dodging the rotten and broken boards expertly, a grayish haze wafted in his wake. A Swallow cooed in the dark. A great fog had set upon this night. No one in the home heard the visitor enter. Other than The Old Man who heard every movement, but at this point knew this to be a common occurrence, and never bothered himself with defiance.

As it happened on this night The Boy could not sleep, he being afflicted with an assortment of nightmares. The Old Man’s room was directly adjacent to the boy’s. There were spaces where the wall was thin and natural peep holes had developed. So many times the boy was comforted, at night, by the deep snoring of the old man. On this night he heard none. Only the soft whisper of resting prayer.

The Visitor made his way to the old man’s room, he entered silently, without a word he hung his coat upon a hanger, and nodded towards the man. The Old Man, reached for his drink and drank hastily, all the while keeping his eyes fixated on The Visitor.

“Your wife sends her love,” said The Visitor, The Old Man shot a pained glance at a photograph on his end table, but knowing this set his eyes at ease. On this night the boy so happened to hear this statement, he was enamored by this, for he knew as well as any that his grandmother had passed away before he was born. Even more still, he wondered what strange voice was coming from his Grandfathers room.

He crept silently from his bed to one of the holes in the wall, he peered through.

The Visitor was tall and slender, and even in the darkness of the room his face appeared illuminated. His eyes were crystals of blue, that seemed to pool within his eyes, like some great fountain compacted and placed in each, and even in this perfect beauty it was known that no mortal man could attain it. This was left for gods (or those god ordained with his sight.) The Visitor had a kind face, a comforting smile, yet deeper still he carried with him and aura of burden.

“Is it tonight?” asked the old man, after a long silence

“Yes”

The Old Man nodded and looked down at his hands for a long time.

“What a curse, these long nights with you have been. To spend my time dreading this night, I’ve expected it’s coming; now it is here and still I am surprised. This dying is a fickle thing.”

The Visitor Observed The Old Man for a moment then replied.

“I have never quite understood the mind of man, most do not have the pleasure to know me before we meet, but those who are graced by my presence, curse me still for it. The human mind is always struggling against what it cannot control; this is the greatness and terribleness of man.”

The Old Man sighed, and laid his head back on the pillow in exhaustion. The Visitor went to his coat pocket, and withdrew from it a slender hour glass. He placed it on the night stand beside The Old Man, sand slowly began to fall to the bottom.

“This hourglass contains enough sand for exactly one hour of time, at the end of which you must come with me, in the mean time I will humor whatever requests you may have.”

The boy gazed upon them terrified, wanting to shout or somehow stop this visitor from taking his Grandfather. He was outraged, he wanted to rage against this man. He wished that: that the old man, in a sudden burst of youthful exuberance, would stand and strangle The Visitor. He did not. At first The Old Man said nothing. Then he spoke.

“ Death, if it is to much to ask would I be able to have a moment, if this is to be one of my last alone with myself.”

Death nodded and promptly left the room.

The Old Man Sighed, he glanced at the frame by his bed, then he began to hum to himself enthusiastically. Then in succession snap his fingers, remembering his youth, then he sang the words, a jazzy scat song that he’d hear a thousand times over in his prime. His voice rose and fell like some great overture to his life. Rising, Falling, Rising, Falling, Rising, Falling, with the precision and exuberance of youth. Living completely for that one great song, that one great moment to which all others are considered arbitrary. After he finished the song he grew silent.

The Boy waited for the visitor to return but as time went by, The Boy managed to convince himself that The Visitor would not return.

Death opened the door; he came in, and waited by the door.

“It’s alright,” said The Old Man “ you may have a seat on my bed.”

Death complied.

“What is it like, after?”

Death did not respond at first. Then he drew up his hand, and pointed towards the wall. At once, the night turned and swirled, and the wall was some great mural of light. Beaming out through the darkness and filling The Old Man whole. A light that would penetrate and radiate through the darkest heart, and no darkness could puncture it.

“It is whatever you want it to be,” Death reached out and placed his fore finger on the mans temple and the wall began to shift and shake. A great mountain formed, and it stood overlooking a valley where the grass shifted and swayed in a warm summers breeze. The Sky was clear. A woman stood in the field, she had long flowing brunette hair. Her curls bounced as she walked and they formed a frame about her full face. Her eyes were warm and welcoming.

Her eyes lay upon The Old Man, and he gazed back tears welling in his eyes, longing to reach out and feel the softness of her skin. He hadn’t been this close to her in over a decade. Dying could not compare to the old mans loss. He glanced at the photograph on his end table. Somewhere a Swallow Soared in the night.

Death removed his fingers and suddenly the room was still. Night was upon them, again.

“It’s almost time.”

The Old Man nodded. The Boy had tears steaming from his eyes, a chill ran its way down his spine, his breathing hastened. The last of the sand hurriedly trickled down each grain plummeting, and smashing to the ground with the weight of a freight train.

The Old Man laid back, crossed his arms, and instinctively closed his eyes. The boy gripped at the wall but he could not speak. Tears streamed down his face. Deaths hand reached out, and he laid it to rest upon the mans sternum. The Old Man let out a deep sigh. His eye lids fluttered then laid to rest, his hands clasped awaiting the softness of sleep, awaiting day. What seemed like years passed.

Then deaths hand passed seamlessly through into The Old Mans chest. His face went cold. Then death drew from The Old Man an entirely new form, a glowing mass of light pulsating and waving, brightest in the night. It began to grow and form until it took on remotely the shape of a man, the light intensified until it was a glowing ember of the sun. Ra standing in the form of man. Then two great cracks daggered their way down the form, smaller crevices then worked their way from the source, until the form was only broken burning glass. Then at once the form shattered and fell to the ground, the embers lying on the floor, then dissipating into the night. Left where the form had been was a man in the pinnacle of his perfection, his body lean and powerful with golden skin, and his aura shown about the room. His face the same as the man that lay in slumber, only risen renewed, a vision of his past.

He gazed at his body for a long time then turned to death and they left the room. The Boy fell back, and stumbled onto his bed, jostled by what he had witnessed. The Boy grew more and more disgruntled. His anger turned to sadness and he longed to see his Grandfather one last time. The Boy slipped out of his bedroom, into the pitch darkness of the hallway. He reached out and felt the wall, he felt his way down stairs and to the front door. He went out.

The moon suddenly broke through the night and cast an arc of light across the yard, The Boy stumbled down the porch and into the mossy grass. He could see his Grandfather and death walking in the distance, their hands embraced. The boy dashed out, in hurried defiance, one last curse against the night. He had desperation in his step.

But with each step he took, a fog descended, The Boy pushed on and on. He screamed for his Grandfather, but found no reply. The Boy stopped, he watched through the fog as two silhouettes descended upon the river bank. The fog was becoming thicker almost palpable, like some airy smoke, choking him. The two figures strode into the river waist high and were engulfed by the fog, surrounding them, returning them. The boy looked on for a long time.

The Night was silent once again

Then The Boy turned and was startled. His father was standing silently behind him, he gazed out into the mist. His eyes were clear, and from them silent tears cascaded down his cheeks and laid to rest atop his lips. His tears were as much in admiration as they were in sadness.

“A man that can walk hand in hand with death, has suffered much of life’s cruel touch, yet his faith was left unshaken.”

The Father took his son by the shoulders.

“You should never live so long, that your faith would be diminished.”

The first rays of sun began to burst out from behind the horizon, exploding into the night. Alive! Alive! Night had past and Day had finally come. The Boy’s father led him back to the house.

The Boy turned.

He listened.

Somewhere two swallows sang together.

 


© Copyright 2017 Chris Hammond. All rights reserved.

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