This short is actually a story within a story as it is a tale told to one of the characters in a novel I am trying and failing to write entitled Orchid Grove. I thought I'd post it here today with it being Halloween after all. I got cold feet with this particular part of the novel for awhile due to the ending and changed it considerably recently but I thought I'd put it here in it's original form so I hope you like it.
Ballad Of A Dead Heart
By Andrew G. Carson
The reason behind the loss of light had run it's assault course through his already paranoia- overloaded brain his nervous attempts to force his eyes to become accustomed to the now pitch darkness he found himself blanketed within were evidence of that. So were the cold beads of sweat that dripped slowly, teasingly down the back of his now goose bump riddled neck sending a quiet scream to the very core of his soul. Day turns to night that was a certainty but here and now night was not the certainty he feared it was what night brought along with it, what it brought was the darkness and those who creep within.
His breath heavy and shallow his heart pounding in his chest and pounded in his ears as he tried to collect what was left of his once strong resolve, a resolve that had once helped him defeat his inner demons twelve years prior. A resolve that had help him stare the reaper in the eye and kept his nerves intact as the reaper blinked first. A resolve that was now abandoning him for the threat that lay ahead was far to terrifying and far to intense for it to remain, a threat from within the darkness. He knew his own mind couldn't be trusted the years of alcohol abuse had put end to that but he had nothing left to rely upon in his moment of truth a moment when a drink was the last thing he wanted and the last thing he was thinking about but again maybe that's what his mind wanted for him to put down his guard long enough for it to take advantage. No he would have to rely solely on instinct solely on his gut if he was to survive through the night and survive long enough to see his wife's face one last time.
He hugged the floor beneath him with all the strength he had and contemplated the path ahead, did he have the strength to push on till morning? Can he find the strength within his broken body to scrape and fight his way through hell to hold his wife's hand again? He knew deep down what the answer to those questions truly was but maybe that's why he can manage to try. Maybe after all the years of pain, distrust and heartbreak his final attempt to make peace with her to risk his life and/or his sanity would be what finally could lead her to forgive him or at least not hate him, he'd settle for her not hating him anymore. It was her hate for him that he couldn't take anymore and what had led him to this dark damp place and only her forgiveness could save his soul before he met his maker.
His hands shook as he slowly raised his blood covered body to a vertical stance, his jaw quivered with the memory of defeat and he struggled to fight off his knees from buckling as he took his first step in what seemed like a lifetime. CREEK, CREEK each step was accompanied by an echoing reminder of the extra thirty pounds he was now carrying around with him. CREEK, CREEK he almost found himself begging his feet to stay quiet but the absurdity of it made him laugh, "my God" he thought, "is that my voice do I really sound that old?" How drink has aged his thirty something body he now sounding something akin to his father a man of seventy three and a man he despised for being such a hard act to follow after all when your father has accomplished more in a lifetime than most could in ten how the hell do you follow it? No matter what you do or what you become you are destined to always be a disappointment and that's how he felt every time he looked into his father's eyes rightly or wrongly a painful disappointment.
As he reached the door he outstretched his hand slowly and carefully in search of the elusive handle and hoping to find nothing else. A sigh of relief thundered from within him as his hand touched the cold metal. He slowly drew in a large gulp of tainted air before methodically pushing down on the handle and freeing the door from it's frame and sending it wide open. He was greeted by a wave of emotion as his eyes became accustomed to the candlelit room laid bare in front of him. Wall to wall decorated in blood and it was at this moment he remembered what had led him to the hallway outside in the first place. 'No, NO what have I done? NO.' His pleads faded to a silent wail as the image of his wife flashed before his eyes. He remembered that he had tried to make amends with her but she pushed him away she had pushed him down and poured the devil's blood over him sending him into an unholy rage and leaving him hours later kneeling before her now cold, wet, patchwork corpse with nothing but hate and an empty bottle for company and all he can think about is "Where can I get my next drink?" His soul unsaved, his heart broken his mind lost in the darkness with those who creep within.
The Housebound Writer