Undying Love

February 14, 2008
By Stephen Nolan, Ft. Riley, KS

It was the final day. Months ago she had made a paper chain. It seemed like it had been years. She had watched it dwindle, ever slowly, until naught remained but the single gold ring. She was staring at it intently. Upon it, the words “Day 365” had been written with loving care. The gold ring danced with the slightest breath of wind, and it seemed to move with the light of the dying firelight. The firelight fell upon more than the chain, however; it cast its light over the small living room of an apartment. Its furnishings were grubby at best, but each had been cleaned with a tender hand, in preparation for the next day.
The night wore on and the woman watched the Ebony Clock in the dining room. It was the sole possession of value in the apartment. It had been inherited from her father; he had willed it to her on his deathbed. Its eerie chime sounded throughout the kitchen, bedroom, living and dinging rooms which made up the tiny abode, every hour on the hour. Her gaze wandered over the freshly vacuumed carpets, the dusted mantelpiece, and eventually on the portraits which leaned upon it. There he was, the love of her life, sitting up straight and proud forever captured in front of that Star Spangled Banner, on the day he had joined the military.
Her restless eyes didn’t end their journey there; they moved back towards the Ebony Clock. She spent long moments staring at it. It was black as night, and carved into its face, was a crow; the herald of DEATH. Its wings were closed, and its beak opened. Its beady eyes were faceted, and seemed to follow the viewer. As if it sensed her mind beginning to wander again, the Clock began to peal its slow, deep sorrowful tune. It was nearing eleven o’clock. Hours left until she would be, at last, reunited with her husband. She got up out of her chair and wandered about the house slowly, almost indifferently. Her steps were random, as was their path. One moment she seemed to be in a hurry, in a need to be somewhere, almost desperately so, and the next, she was just plodding along.
Her aimless path led her into the tiny kitchenette. The moonlight was faintly streaming in through the window, bathing the entire room in a pale ghostly light. For a moment she was frightened of the light, irrationally so. It appealed to her, and that was what frightened her. The ghostly light, luminous yet dark, called to her. She shook off her feelings then, and as if taunting her fears, she thrust her hand into the glow.
Her hand was immersed in the moonlight. Just as her hand had once been an extension of herself, when she made contact with the moonlight, she became an extension of it. Her hand was no longer immersed in moonlight, it WAS the moonlight. She stretched for million of miles, for million of eons. She stole a glance at her arm. From the point where it entered the light, it was deathly pale. It shimmered in the pearly light. Its translucency scared her, but she was powerless to pull her hand out. She was caught deep in a reverie that would not let her mind go. The Ebony Clock began to toll the hour again. It read 11:30. The noise broke into her trance and she hurriedly withdrew her hand from the moonlight.
She wandered around aimlessly for a while. Eventually, she headed back to the living room. The fire had completely died out, and the entire room lay in semi-darkness. She walked over to the forlorn gold ring. She ripped it down, and stuffed it in her pocket. The day was nearly done. She looked up once again at the Ebony Clock. It read 11:48. She went and ran her hands along the photo of her husband. As she did so, tears abounded in her eyes, and they began to pour down her face. She only stood there for just a moment or two, but it seemed an eternity. Indeed, she stands there still today in spirit. For at that moment, staring at that picture, part of her soul was ripped out of her.
She quickly exited the room. She ran down the hallway, and into her bedroom. She lay down on her bed and continued her weeping. It was unexplainable, she felt as though she would never see her husband again. That, of course, was absurd; he was coming home the very next day. She lay down and cried some more. Her weeping tired her out. Eventually she started to drift into a fitful sleep.
At 12:25, car lights flashed across the bedroom wall. Footsteps crunched on the gravel driveway. Feet stomped on the front welcome mat. A key turned in the door, and it slowly opened. There stood a man home from the wars. He was tall, ragged, muscled, and, tired. In his eyes, a deep sadness lay. His grief had been walled up inside him. He had blocked it from coming to the surface, with mindless, trivial tasks. Now, here, back in his house, the grief that had been locked in him for so long came tumbling out.
This house had once been filled with joy and laughter. At one point in his life, the sight of the Ebony Clock after a long day at work, let alone a year long tour of duty, would have let him know he was home, and his heart would be filled with elation that knew know bounds. The bird would seem to be screeching a welcome with its open beak and his eyes gave the impression of a blissful bird. Now, however, the bird’s eyes were grim, cold and dark, they were filled with hatred and gluttony. His open beak was cawing out a message of death. It was a reminder. The house was now just that, a house, it was no longer the home he had loved and cared for. It was unbearable. He dropped his duffle bags on the immaculate floors, and walked out the door.
His eyes were streaming with tears as he got into his car and drove down the driveway. He pulled out into the street. At this point, he was driving for therapeutic needs as much as to get to where he was going. He hardly paid attention to the road. He turned the wheel and hit the gas almost automatically. He had driven down this small country road so many times, that he could drive it in his sleep. His car stopped in front of an old iron gate. Its hinges were rusty, and its antiquity reflected the age of the place he was preparing to enter. The entire area was shrouded in a thick fog. Dark clouds hung over the entire vicinity, casting the entire place in shadows. The gate shrieked as he opened it, piercing the tranquil night air. His tears were falling in large, plump drops as he made his way past undefined statues and figures. He wound his way through the figures, walking with a mindless purpose.
Just as the man began to slow his pace, the moon broke through the clouds illuminating a statue just in front of him. With an anguished cry, he dropped to his knees and let out a grief-stricken moan. Sobs racked his body as he stared at what he had come to see, what the moonlight had illuminated for him. It was a tombstone. Upon it, barley legible in the faint, yet steady, moonlight, were etched the words, “My Darling, My Sweetheart, My Wife.”

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