By on Sep 4, 2023 in Featured, Fiction

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Stained glass window on dark brick wall

“And what of your exploits?” I asked, gently turning the focus back to the real interest.

“Nothing, nothing at all,” Patrick lied. “Everything with me is exactly as it was.”

Just then the clock chimed six times, and our conversation was held off until the melodious chimes has ceased. After the vibrations had faded, silence also ensued between us.

This room I have described in detail, save for one thing. Over the fireplace was a round window composed of myriad colored panes, so large and glamorous that it might have adorned the altar of some great cathedral. Across the very top was a stark and turbulent sky, clouds convulsing in shades of red and purple. The bottom half was a soothing green pasture, and upon the grass below the chaos of the sky was the dominant figure of the scene: a simple scene of a man dressed in a robe, genuflecting, head bowed in supplication. Though the figure was viewed from the side, no facial expression visible, there was a sense of pain in the scene. And through my religious affiliation, I easily surmised the figure to be that of Jesus, the placement to be the Garden just prior to the summit of the man’s passion. This magnificent piece of art was set on the west wall of the house, and so for the duration of the sunset the last rays of the day would emblazon this mosaic, producing the most fantastic display of colors. We were about to be treated to this glorious display.

Patrick sat quietly for a moment, his eyes wandering around the room, and in the ensuing silence, I found myself tallying up the quantity of wine he had consumed, and further wondering if his intake were limited to the time we had been together. But I restrained myself against anything that might approach judgement.

“Patrick, tell me what trouble has befallen you. Please trust me as you once did. Please know that I will risk anything and everything to assist you.”

“It is only this,” he said. “I am simply not as happy as I once appeared to be. It is not something you are able to help me with.”

Of all the injustices, that a question of deep concern and loving compassion be rejoined with such blatant generality, and so I released my hold on my emotions, and I carefully drew upon my anger, but so quickly it escaped my control and became a living thing with its own will.

“So true,” I hissed. “So true indeed. No need for concern on my part. What a shame to have attempted to re-bridge the friendship. So much better would it have been to let the past reside in the dormancy of memories, to preserve them so that they might not be tainted by any attempt at renewal. Better that the grave or whatever lies beyond it be a fitting reunion for us.”

I immediately drew back after my tirade, physically drained by a sense of hatred that had welled up so suddenly and violently. But before I could utter an apology, or even intimate any regret with a gesture, my friend had come forward and reached out a hand and placed it on my shoulder in a gesture that could heal wounds.

“Relax, Robert,” he said with calm composure. “It is not such a desperate situation that you and I should be at odds like this. I do desire your continued company, but please understand it is not something I can easily articulate. It is something that would be better revealed of its own volition. What time is it?”

“It is quarter past six,” I said, then I immediately recognized that the glass he held contained a different colored liquid, and besides that, it entirely filled his glass, though I had not noticed him reach for the decanter. I returned my gaze to his face, the drawn, tired expression, the bloodshot eyes, the quivering hand that held the glass and its contents. It was settling in a way to recognize the symptoms, to pinpoint the ailment, though I was barely familiar with the condition. But I must offer companionship to counter the solace he sought in depressive substances.

But immediately a revelation rushed upon me and forced out the fantasy. No! Not a simple addiction. Whatever wretched calamity had invaded this house, it was far more hideous than my speculation that had relegated this issue to a mere human weakness. I looked up at the window then and saw the first strands of darkness, and noticed that night had insinuated itself into the room. When I lowered my gaze again, Patrick was staring at me with piercing attention.

“Quarter past six,” he said, looking around the room as if expecting some significant change to reveal itself. I glanced at my watch again.

“Sixteen past now,” I said, latching unexpectedly upon a preciseness to the passage of time, clinging to a significance of mere minutes. What unseen thing is creeping toward us that each tick of the clock should extinguish my comfort along with the light?

I looked at the window again. The sun had reached a point that the main force of the light was shining directly through the red portions of the sky in the window, tinting the room a vivid maroon color. I had seen this very picture many times before, but as I stared at it now, I was drawn into close inspection of the anatomy of the picture, and my mind, through no conscious effort, perceived a flaw in what I thought was a single cloud. Suddenly another perspective was revealed to my eye, and what had seemed a solid stretch of gray was now a collage of minute variations of color that I took to be random hues. But even that perception was faulty. As I continued to dissect the picture, another figure emerged, a white angelic form hovering above the other subject, one ghostly hand stretched out as if to make contact with the Earthly figure, to offer condolence or comfort. But what comfort could it truly offer, as the destiny of the event had already been determined.

“Quite an exquisite piece, is it not?” Patrick said.

“Yes, remarkable,” I said, still staring upward. The sun shifted slightly, and the light in the room changed from the pink to a gray pallor, but the shift in the target of the sun had changed more than the hue of the light in the room. The image I had glimpsed became clearer now, and the wings of the mythical creature became clearly visible, as did a human face looking down on the tortured soul with sorrow and sympathy.

When I looked across at my friend again, I was taken with a sight so different than the peaceful scene of the graceful window. Poor Patrick, so burdened with some hideous hardship which I could not even guess, much less supplant. I wanted to return my gaze to the window, but I became desperate to extract the truth of the malady that had beset my friend. I studied his face in the ruddy light that fell upon him, and though he stared back, I continued my candid examination. His skin was discolored by the tainted sunlight, and once I had discovered this to be the source of the pallor, I was presented with further evidence of his decline. His eyes were pressed with more than the suggestion of pain. His gaze however was direct and unwavering, and in his silence, he begged mercy from me. But once again, with the darkness filling the room, drawing around us like some ethereal cloak, perverse fear kept me from speaking. Some bastard instinct suddenly placed my own safety above any concern for my friend, and my sympathy was thrown clear in the exchange. And so, lifted above any pity, I plotted my exit from the grave situation.

Then suddenly his eyes slid closed, his head lolled forward (though his hand remained steady, holding the glass of brandy rigidly still) and a sudden wave of relief rejoiced over the sudden death of my friend, so that I might not have to make the dire decision to depart. But almost immediately, Patrick stirred, and his head came up, and his eyes instantly focused on me. Concern for my friend rose up in me then, but never achieved reign—this concern remained in the shadow of my fight for self-preservation.

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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."