By on Sep 4, 2023 in Featured, Fiction

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Stained glass window on dark brick wall

Then, finally, we came to the living room and entered through another set of heavy black doors. We sat, I upon the long elegant sofa, unchanged after so many years, and Patrick in the large red velvet armchair that I suspected had held his lonely form a great portion of the preceding years. In the brief silence that ensued, I encountered another bout of reverie. This was the largest chamber in the house, its vaulted ceiling reaching forty feet overhead. The walls were covered with paintings, and several statues stood in various poses around the room, but it was sparsely furnished, the furniture arranged around the large gray hearth on the west facing wall. Atop the fireplace was a great grey mantle, and upon the huge rough stone sat a gallery of photographs, and my memory served me well enough that I could recall each face. Forty-nine pictures in all, representing every generation of the family—and none of the subjects had resided outside the house for more than a temporary assignment. Hanging at various locations on the great oak wall were “trophies of the hunt,” remarkable specimens of taxidermy. Though I despise the sport as barbaric, I had to concede a certain nobility to the displays, so fierce were the creatures that it seemed the heads represented some sort of warfare against human civilization. The rug stretched out over the wooden floor was so graciously maintained that not a single edge was frayed nor was a single section marred by wear.

Every room we had visited had seemed barely changed, but this room in particular had the appearance of being preserved to such a degree that it might have stepped across time in a single stride. What strange force had confiscated this place and preserved it against the most natural and powerful forces?

This room was the location of many meetings of our brotherhood during our latter school years, and at such meetings, that hearth was always the central point. We sought out this room whenever a serious discussion was necessary; or if some great calamity arose, two or more of us would meet here to try to quell the pain. It was in this room where we met upon learning of the demise of one of our members, and upon discovering that suicide was the cause, we locked ourselves inside for three full days to mourn. It was also the room where we met to revel in the good times. I believe we fancied ourselves some elite society of gentlemen, agents joined by blood or some greater bond, set up to take on all the troubles of the world. The draw of this room went well beyond its charm or antiquity, beyond the value of the art that hung on the walls or the baubles of silver and gold that adorned the mantle. This room was accepting of us—it knew all of our secrets. One only needed to enter to know that a life breathed in that room, and one did not merely occupy the room so much as breathe with it. So it was no surprise that Patrick led me to the room that day for our very strangest, and indeed our last encounter.


Patrick poured a glass of brandy for each of us, and then left the decanter within easy reach. I looked at Patrick, and in his eyes sparkled a half-formed secret, as if my reverie of the past half hour had been shared discussion rather than a private recollection. He knew at least the edge of my thoughts, and thus could fathom the core of my emotions. But he was not at an advantage to me, as his eyes telegraphed his deepest feelings to me. It was a comfortable silence, reacquainting us better than any actions or words. And when I wondered to myself what has kept up apart, and how long it has lasted, Patrick directly averted his eyes as if overcome with deeper regret than was warranted.

“It has indeed been a long time,” said Patrick. “So sad.”

“Yes,” said I. “Sad and regrettable, but not fatal.”

“Indeed. So let us not ask why, and deepen any possible discord.” Here Patrick raised his glass in a toast, and once again praised my goodness in rushing to his side, and I could not disrespect the moment by denying the compliment. We then drank another sip, at my suggestion, to our respective health, and he countered with a brief nod to past friends.

After filling our glasses one more time, Patrick presented me with a black jacket with a gold-stitched crest. It matched the one he wore, the same style we had always worn during our sessions in this very room. Another bout of reverie filled my head.

“It is just a replica,” he said, “But a perfect fit, is it not?”

“Perfect,” I said as I slipped into the blazer. I noticed immediately that the fit was snug, and it seemed overly heavy, but I did not correct him. “Perfect. A wonderful gift.”

A smile touched his lips, but almost immediately a forlorn and stone-like expression stole over his face; and I dared not disturb his meditation. I, too, fell into a deeply contemplative state, and my mind filled with memories of long ago, memories I could not have churned up with conscious determination, but which flowed freely on their own. Thoughtful though it was, this was not a peaceful time of recollection, as my mind turned quickly to one of the darkest episodes of our past, the strange demise of the youngest member of our fraternity. It occurred in the last year of our schooling, and its happenstance was as sudden as it was tragic. We were kept in the dark from the particulars of the death. We even struggled through our own investigation, but we were hindered by the authorities and the request of his family for a peaceful settlement to the matter, so that poor young Ernest might rest; and so we were freed of it. But in that moment, in that room, thoughts of our frustration and helplessness spun out of nowhere, and the gloomy atmosphere of the room did nothing but nurture the sense of tragic loss, until at last it left me exhausted, and I must once again leave it to the depths of the grave, or else once again take up the investigation of the events that seemed more than ever suspicious.

“Ah, the past,” said Patrick in a loud voice, startling me out of my emerging revelry. “More and more often I find myself immersed in a past, whether one that was true or one that I just desired, and so I find my faculties neglectful of the present, and no amount of regret or sorry can alter what has gone by. The here and now is the only time that really matters.”

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Kevin Lenihan is currently a technology teacher in North Brunswick, NJ. He has always been interested in horror and science-fiction movies, as long as he can remember. He got interested in writing when he was 17, when he read "Firestarter" by Stephen King. He read everything he wrote for a long time. Now he writes books faster than Kevin can read them. Another author He became obsessed with was Robert R. McCammon. The first book he read by him was "Mystery Walk," and he was hooked. Then he read "They Thirst" and was blown away, as it took the vampire story to a whole new level, such a grand, epic scale. And, of course, Kevin loves Edgar Allan Poe. "Ligeia" was the first story he read by him, and it set the standard for all short stories after that. He loves his poems, as well, and he has memorized several of them, including “The Raven”, “The Conqueror Worm” and “Lenore."