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    Untitled Short story

    Untitled Short story

    This is a short story I wrote, obviously. I haven't though of a title yet, but I was hoping that someone might have an inspiration.
    Also, it will introduce me to those of you who don't know me.


    (c) Nathan Scott 2008

    It was an evening in mid-summer, that I remember. Please no jokes about a mid-summer’s night dream; I’ve heard them before. I remember that because the air was warm for such a late hour. My wife, then girlfriend, and I had had a pretty big fight. We were both pretty angry, and I suspected that the relationship would end that night.
    I went up to the roof of my apartment building, as I usually did when I needed some solace. There I would look at the skyline of the city, or at the street below, or, as it was this night, the sunset over the city. The old song is right in some respects; all the cares below sort of drift away from on the roof. And so, after our fight, I went up on the roof to escape the cares of the world below me, and maybe to find some answers to that alien planet at the bottom of the building.
    However, I was surprised to find that I was not quite alone on the roof as I had expected to be. There was another man here. He was dressed in a black trench coat, which, I confess, worried me a little since it was a warm day and the coat could not be for warmth. His short hair was dark, either dark brown or black. He was facing away from me, leaning on the edge of the building, looking over; I could not see his face. As much as I felt this was an intrusion of my private place, I knew the roof was open to all residents of the building. I figured he was here for the same reason I was, or something like it, and so I tried to keep to myself.
    “Some day, huh?”
    I looked around foolishly, wondering who had spoken. Now, you’ve probably guessed it already, but in the moment it was enough to leave me dumbfounded. Finally I glanced over to the stranger, but he remained unmoved.
    “I said, ‘some day, huh?’”
    Again, he remained motionless, but I supposed now that he was the one who spoke since he was the only one who could have.
    “Nothing to say?” The stranger said, still not moving.
    “Uh, sorry,” I ventured, coming over to him and leaning as he did. Here I got a look at his face. It was a sharp face, and thin, somewhat haggardly. His flesh was pale, not altogether sickly, but rather as if he had seen all the world had to offer and was quite weary of it. His eyes were a golden brown and sparkled with a strange innocence. My thoughts drifted to the prodigal son when first I saw this man’s face.
    “So, what is your name?” the man asked.
    “I’m Joshua, Joshua Clemens. You?”
    “No one,” he said with a hoarse chuckle. I thought this rude; after all he had asked me my name and would not give his?
    “Pardon?” was all I said, though.
    “I have no name; I am called nothing, and therefore I am no one.”
    “You have to have a name; everyone has a name.”
    “Then I am no one, for I have no name.”
    I could see I was getting nowhere with this, so I decided to try to change the subject. “Nice weather.”
    “Yes, and also no.” I gave him a puzzled look, but he did not venture to explain, and before I could ask, he changed the subject himself. “What brings you up here this night, Joshua?”
    “Just... things.” It was none of his business why I was there, and I felt like telling him so, except he cut me off.
    “I am here for my silent light,” he replied cryptically.
    “Silent light?”
    “Yes.” We were silent a few seconds, and when it was clear he was not going to explain, I figured I would have to ask him.
    “What is–”
    “Silent light?” he completed my sentence, “It is a bit complicated to explain, but I will try. Listen, and tell me what you hear.”
    I listened, and I could hear raised voices. I guessed it was the couple that lived below me; they quarreled frequently, and rumor was there marriage was in trouble. Much as I did not like to get involved in gossip, I felt sorry for them if it were true. They certainly fought very often, and many times I escaped to the roof because they had become so loud. “Is that the couple downstairs, the one that fights constantly?”
    “Yes, but they did not used to fight all the time.” I knew this, too. I remembered, when I first moved in, the man would come home once a week with a bouquet of roses. Come to think of it, I had not seen him bring roses recently.
    The stranger continued: “Can you guess about what they argue?” I shook my head. “They quarrel about money,” he added with a firm scoff, “Money; can you imagine throwing away love over something as fleeting as money?”
    Now, mind you, I completely understood fighting about money; my parents did it often, and I wager yours did as well. Perhaps even you and your spouse have; I know my wife and I did, once, but it was a short-lived argument because of this night. But at the moment, it sounded the most foolish thing in the world, to argue with one’s life-long love over such a thing as silly as money.
    “It is not really about money, though,” he continued, almost to himself.
    “It isn’t?”
    He looked at me, a gentle look of compassion on his face, and yet it was something of condescension, “Do you honestly believe they would hate one another over money?”
    “I guess, when you put it that way, it does seem obvious. But why are they fighting, then?”
    “There are a number of reasons, but mostly is comes from fear. They fear for the future, the uncertainty of tomorrow. Because they cannot see the end of the path, they become very anxious for their own welfare. Their anxiety blinds them from their own heart, and they lose sight of what is really important to them. Their fear consumes them, and they forget their love. They lash out in fear, grasping for anything of comfort, only to find more fear.”
    This made sense to me. I remembered in college I had many fears about money and bills. I knew first hand what he meant. But that still left a question. “I see that, but why are you here?”
    “I come to remind them of their love.”
    I stared at him as if he were a madman. Perhaps I thought him so; he insists he has no name, he gave me answers with no meaning, and now he claims to be some divine messenger of love? For a good minute or two, nothing was said. I simply stared at him, and he looked and listened to the couple below.
    In a moment, I ventured to ask him what he meant, but he shushed me.
    “Listen, and tell me what you hear.”
    I listened, but I heard nothing and said so.
    “They are done their quarrel.”
    “Then–”
    “Shh,” he whispered, “I must gage the winds.” Here he drew a single rose from beneath his trench coat. It was the deepest crimson one could imagine, redder than blood and richer than a sunset. It was the most beautiful rose I had ever seen, and I was never much into flowers. He held it for a second, and then dropped it over the side. We watched as the wind, almost miraculously blew the rose into an open window; I suppose it was the window of the feuding couple. I noticed a curious smile crept across his face as the rose reached its target.
    Shortly after a woman stuck her head out and looked up, or was about to look up when she noticed her husband down on the sidewalk below. She looked at him for a moment, twirling the rose between her fingers. She rested her elbow on the sill and her head in her hand as she watched him.
    I noticed him too, and while I could not see his features, I could tell he was upset. He would run his hands through his hair frequently and would flop his arms against his side. Suddenly, his wife shouted down to him and told him to wait there. She ducked back inside and, in about a minute, was on the sidewalk with her husband. Some words were exchanged (Don’t imagine we heard them from the roof), and then they embraced, and hand-in-hand returned into the building. A large smile spread across the strangers face as he turned from the railing and walked along the roof.
    “That,” he said over his shoulder to me, “is silent light.”
    Suddenly, in my mind’s eye, this strange man transformed. For a moment, I believed here before me, on a nameless rooftop in the city, stood Cupid himself, or else St. Valentine resurrected. Such a one to expend such an energy for another’s love and none of his own; this was no mere man. “Why?” was all I could ask him.
    “It is the only joy that remains for me; I can have no such love.”
    I only stared at him as he gave another cryptic answer. However, I watched as he drew another flower from his coat. However, instead of a brilliant red rose, he took a withered black rose from under his cloak. “What is that for?” I asked.
    “There is another man who is going to commit adultery this night. I must remind him the consequences of his acts.”
    Suddenly the man changed again to me. He was no longer the angel of love; he was the angel of death. The hand which held the dark rose could quite easily hold a reaper’s sickle. I felt certain at any moment the flesh would peel away to reveal a deadly skull.
    But when it did not, and he remained there physically unchanged. I ventured another question; “Why do you do all this?”
    He turned and faced me. “I cannot have love; such a thing is beyond my reach. I must glean from the love of others. It is enough for me to know that I can defend the love of others. When I see their love, I am content.”
    You must understand the marvel and the mixed emotions I had. I felt sorry for this man without love. Then, I felt frightened, for here was a man, or not a man, who could manipulate the hearts of those he pleased.
    “There is another I must remind of his love,” he said, more as a command than a comment. “Tell me, why do you fight with your love?”
    “Well, I – I...” I hung my head. “I don’t know.”
    “Seems rather silly to dismiss your love for unknown reasons.”
    He was right; I knew it at once. Pride, however, is often the silliest thing in all the world. It does not let us see what is right, it only tells us what it wishes were right.
    “What business is it of yours to be involved in my love-life?” my voice lashed at him.
    “No business; but when your love is strengthened, I am the more happy for it. I think nothing but for your welfare.”
    “Stop speaking your blamed riddles!” I spat, “Give me a straight answer for once!”
    “I am here for your happiness. If you are happy, then I am happy. Are you happy?”
    I wanted to tell him off, but my eyes met his as I was about to speak. Those cold, empty, loveless eyes. Eyes that craved warmth, a tender smile, a gentle brush of the hand. Eyes which knew they never would have any of that. Eyes which pierced my soul searching for any sign of those things. Eyes which gave no quarter for lies. Eyes which had seen all the evils in the hearts of men. Eyes which pierced my soul searching for any sign of those things.
    I stood there, mouth agape, staring, not at this stranger, but at the mirror of my soul. All the good, all the evil, everything that I was laid bare before me. My pride withered before such revelation. I knew the answer to his question.
    “No,” I said, hanging my head once more, “I’m not.”
    The stranger said nothing, but drew another rose from his cloak; it was a brilliant red one like the first. Then he spoke: “I am to give you one of these roses, but which, I wonder. Perhaps you would like to choose?”
    His hands extended. Each bore one of those fated roses. One reminded of true love, of all happiness shared between lovers, of all the happiness that could be, if only they kept remembrance of the love they shared. The other reminded of the sorrows of selfishness, of all the despair that waited for those who abandoned their heart to pride. But, as I studied them, I wondered that they had the same purpose. The one encouraged those who had forgotten their heart, the other chastened those who had abandoned it. Both for the same goal, to turn the heart to the right way.
    I looked from the roses to his face, with the stern but caring expression it bore, and said, “I don’t know which one I need more.”
    The stranger smiled. “Here,” he said, “you need this one.” He handed me the red rose, and continued, “Otherwise you shall have nothing to give your love.”
    A smile crept across my own face as I grabbed the rose carefully. However, before the strange man released it, he whispered to me: “Go to her, and never forget your love.”
    I took the rose from him and nearly ran down to my apartment. I snatched up the phone, getting the wrong number twice out of my nervous excitement.
    To make a long story short, I proposed to her that night, to which she agreed. It has been five years now, and few have been the times I have forgotten my love, and never for very long. That strange man’s advice has stayed with me any time I begin to stray. I have never seen the strange man since, nor have any mysterious roses appeared on my doorstep, but there are times my wife says she feels like someone is watching us, and though I never see anyone, I suspect, just maybe, she may be right.
    In case you were wondering, the couple who lived below me stopped fighting, or at least fought less frequently, and the husband resumed bringing home roses, although only one at a time. When my wife and I moved out, rumor was they were still having money trouble, but that they were quite happy now. I never met the recipient of the black rose, so I do not know what happened to him.
    As one final note, I have come to suspect that there is no angel of love. Or rather, I should say that Cupid and Death are one and the same. The former is no chubby, naked cherub wielding heart-shaped arrows, nor is the latter a bare skeleton robed in darkness and wielding a scythe, as the legends commonly depict. Instead, they are one man, still clothed in darkness and wrapped in shadows, but under that coat of blackness are countless roses of crimson and pitch reserved for the stray hearts of mankind. The defender of the amorous and the revenger of the unfaithful. A lone angel, wandering the realm of mortals for glimpses of what he can never have, for the quiet glow of hearts in love. And much the better, I say; for if the Reaper is also the Amorist, I should expect the harvest is well cared for.

  2. #2
    Founder Lairston is offline Lairston's Avatar
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    Re: Untitled Short story

    Re: Untitled Short story

    Very good!

    I suggest Silent Light.

    Or The Secret Stirrer of Souls

    One little typo I noticed
    and rumor was there marriage
    should be their marriage.

  3. #3
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Re: Untitled Short story

    Re: Untitled Short story

    I really enjoyed your story. I liked your depiction of the shadowy man - how he is both Love and Death. If I were Death, I'd long to see love too. I like the term "Silent Light" as well. Very interesting. Bravo, and welcome to Q&Q!
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

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  4. #4
    Founder Jason Sanborn is offline Jason Sanborn's Avatar
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    Re: Untitled Short story

    Re: Untitled Short story

    Great short story! I enjoyed reading it.
    QC1: From this day forth you shall be called "Sprinkle Berryweather".

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