By on Sep 4, 2023 in Featured, Fiction

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Stained glass window on dark brick wall

“So true,” said I. “The present is the only true reality, but even the present has been formed by events and decisions of the past, and so it is already set. It is to the future we should look, for the future beckons us, while the past has released us and bids us to carry on.”

“But the present is what forms the future, and if we are to have a future, we lay the foundation in every act of the present. So the only purpose of the present moment is to construct a desirable outcome.”

“Agreed,” said I, but in the following silence I pondered the meaning of his words, and doubted that we were truly in agreement. Before I could ask for clarification, there arose in the silence a mechanical scratching sound that was the prelude to chimes of the most melodious clock I had ever heard. I turned and looked at the structure and watched the graceful swing of the pendulum as the chimes announced the hour of five o’clock. For just a brief instant I felt a sense of urgency, a feeling of time weaving a trap around me. I felt the silence was too much to bear in that moment, and so I blurted out, as delicately as I could manage, a request for the purpose of my visit. It was meant as a prompt for discussion rather than a direct inquiry, but I feared the words rang with their own motive. Patrick’s head swiveled toward me so slowly I thought it had to be the effect of the alcohol on one or the other of us, and in the last instant I dreaded contact with those eyes. Here I steeled myself to ask the particulars of the deaths of his family, but he broadcast great anxiety with his next pronouncement.

“I have disturbed the slumber of our friendship,” he said. “For what? For self pity? For some cause which should never be impressed on another?”

“No, no,” I countered. “There is no debt here. It was as I have said: just an unfortunate parting of the ways for which I share equal credit. Come, come, Patrick. All is forgivable. All is forgiven,” I said, and attempted to divert him from his despair, not so much by my persuasion, but by changing the direction of the discussion. “What of your assistants? Have they provided any companionship to you?”

I immediately saw his expression turn grimmer still, and I wondered what chord of despair I had struck this time. Had they all gone as tragically as his family?

“They are all gone,” Patrick cried out. “I dismissed them one and all. Released them with a fair dowry to sustain them, but I could no longer hold them here.” Then a wry smile crossed his features, though there was no amusement in the gesture. “I even released Yvonne, the object of many desires, even yours, is that not so, Robert?”

And once again I was thrust back into the past to a time when youth’s ardor and desire clashed so harshly with an abominable lack of confidence. Admittedly, Yvonne was the most exotic, most desirable creature I ever laid eyes upon, and with each encounter, my attraction became deeper, more fervent, but it was never to go beyond a longing from afar, due only to my own reluctance to risk a rejection that might have been as severe as death. Over the years, my focus had turned elsewhere, sought other favors to try to quell a longing that remained with me like some passive passion that I constantly fought so hard to subdue; but the mere mention of her name at that moment caused a quiver in my heart, a reawakening of a dormant hope that it could ever really be. I opened my mouth to deny that any attraction or longing still existed, or maybe to express my dismay that I would never see her again. Or would my response have been to merely express sympathy over the drastic change in my friend’s life? But before I could utter any word, my host suddenly stood up and excused himself from the room without any verbal pardon. He was gone but a very brief instant, but it was long enough it turned out for me to gather my thoughts and imprison my confusion and my distress for some later inquisition. And just before he returned, my mind suddenly snagged on the contradiction in his latest claim.

Everyone had been dismissed? If all the servants had departed, who was it that had acted the valet upon my entrance? My concern over Patrick suddenly returned, wiping away all other petty concerns. Maybe this was some devastating failure of his mental faculties.

Patrick returned presently, carrying a silver tray with a new decanter of rose-colored liquid and two glasses.

“Patrick,” said I. “What is troubling you so?” I thought for a moment I had shouldered past any reluctance to impart the true reason for his invitation, but for my straightforwardness I was not rewarded.

“It is nothing that should concern you,” said he. “I have no ailment for which you can offer remedy. In fact, these last few minutes have been the only solace I can ask, and I assure you your company has allayed my troubles greatly. And therefore, I beseech you take your leave to spare yourself the monotony of my problems.”

But it was the strength and determination of his dismissal that set my concern in stone, and I resolved not to leave that place until I had at least offered some concrete solution.

“But it is so early yet, and we have barely reached any level of comradery.”

I then proceeded to tell him of my most recent accomplishments against the goals I had set since “being turned out of college.” I made myself out to be a bit more than my actual status, but Patrick easily saw through my conceit. I told him of my family, and though there was little adventure there, he listened intently to every name I mentioned, as he knew my family as well as I knew his.

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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."