Midnight Dreary

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Written in response to the prompt "Once Upon a Midnight Dreary" for Temple Or Rishon's Writers' Group.

Submitted: October 31, 2018

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Submitted: October 31, 2018

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As the clock struck twelve, he stole into the room on silent cats’ feet, keeping his presence unknown. He slipped into a corner, wrapping his shadows around him like a mysterious cape. He spotted his intended victim, and quietly pondered her fate. Would this be a permanent departure, or merely a reminder of the inevitable? He weighed the possibilities, considering the outcome. There was no hurry. For Midnight Dreary was the ultimate determiner of time… or more precisely, time left on earth.

The innocent lay in her bed unaware of the seriousness of the situation. She shifted slightly and continued with her dreams. As she stretched, and smiled in her sleep, something in her languor appealed to Midnight. She would be fun to play with, a toy. He could prolong his own pleasure by slowly injecting her with small, but potent doses of deathly reality. The decision was made, and Midnight plotted his strategy. For the next several days, he stalked her silently and imperceptibly put his devious design into action. 

After all, she had recently had her 70th birthday. No use pretending anymore. It was her very unawareness and refusal to face the inevitable that attracted Midnight to his prey.

Every night, Helene climbed into bed, and marveled at the fact that she was really this old.

“How can that be?” she queried as she curled into a childlike ball, amazed at her actual age.

Her 70th birthday gift to herself was to start ticking off some of her bucket list and wished for items. First in store was the much dreamed of trip to her college alma mater. Fortuitously, a family event brought her to a neighboring state. A swing-by visit to her University made perfect sense.

And why not look up Judy Smitherson, her sophomore roommate? She lived a two hour drive from their college town, and a get together after all these years would surely be fun. They had exchanged Christmas cards, and occasionally talked on the phone. Helene quickly dropped her an email explaining the upcoming trip. To her befuddlement, the email bounced back undelivered. Knowing that Judy was not completely tech savvy, Helene figured she had changed emails without notifying her. She next Googled her name. To Helene’s shock, and horror, the third listed result shrieked out to her, “Judy Smitherson, Obituary.” She read the details as her heart sickened, and she tried to assimilate the news. Judy Smitherson smiled at her from her death notice photograph, the same round face, now framed in granny glasses. Her slightly curled hair style was familiar, only now completely grey.

Her next query, to her horror again, produced a similar result. Her junior year roommate had no listing, not on Facebook, email registries, or even Google. But the woman’s husband’s name quickly brought a result – another obituary. Gene Frederickson was not only gone, but had departed over 7 years ago. No wonder the lapse in correspondence.

Midnight was quite pleased with himself. A sense of mortality was seeping into Helene’s consciousness. She looked at the ages in these two obituaries and realized that these were indeed her peers. She wondered who else that she had lost contact with was now deceased. This brought to mind the many “Loss of Loved One” notices that had graced her inbox in the last several years.

“My work is almost done…for the time being,” Midnight smirked to himself. His final plan hit home even harder. Within the next week, Helene received notice of two of her very good friends losing their spouses. The first man was a colleague and friend, possibly one of the nicest persons that Helene had ever known. He had lost his wife. She was a mere 65 years old. Of course, Helene attended the memorial service.

Then, after a two year illness, a serious illness, George Black finally lost his battle with brain cancer. His wife, Evelyn, Helene’s very good friend was devastated by both the loss and the brutality of the end. Helene hoped she was a good friend, providing a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.

The timing of these circumstances and of these deaths was inexplicable to Helene and left her with a sense of inexorable sadness and an unsettling, pervasive unease about her own limited time on earth.

“Well, my work is done here…for the time being,” Midnight repeated. He had enjoyed himself immensely. The next night, he receded into the corners of the room, and watched Helene fitfully toss and turn in bed.


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