The clock stroked midnight, yet no one heard its chimes, no ear held onto its deep ring. Just as no one saw the man emerge from the hearth. He came from the ashes and watched as the wealthy circled around beach other. Elegant ladies in extravagant ball gowns giggled to the whispers of foolish young men. Ladies flirted freely with men who smiled easily in hope of something never to come. The men smoked cigars and spoke of politics as the stranger watched. Slowly he left the shelter of the hearth out into the ballroom passing doors with a lock click. Gingerly a bony gray hand lifted from his black cloak and landed a near lady’s exposed shoulder. She crumbled below his hand onto the floor, at the feet of the man she’d been flirting with. Horror broke throughout the room as another feel to the ground. They screamed running to the doors pulling and pushing to break through. Shoulders ramming into them in hope of escape. Nails dug at the walls, scratching for a way out as more and more fell. The man moved easily through the crowd weaving between panicked figures. Tapestries fell torn, furniture lay toppled over. The figures laid upon their backs a stream of blood running from their mouths. Each pair of eyes looked up at the domed windowed ceiling and the clock stroked one. The man walked slowly back to the hearth, his job done. Without a word he vanished from view as ash feel like snow from the ceiling.