The park was silent, void of all its daytime glories. It almost seemed miserable, yearning for the intimate touch of lovers wrapped around the base of its oldest of trees. Its voice stripped of the innocent sounds of laughter, only to be replaced with the sound of crickets screaming out from the darkness. Each one of them begging for their song to be heard, but all of them romantics, too afraid to venture out into the night alone.
It was here that James found himself strolling on the edge of the shadows. The evening breeze swam through the autumn leaves at his feet. He moved slowly, head down, watching as one foot found its way in front of the other. The shadows at his side whispered the most horrific of secrets and promised the foulest of lies ever so sweetly into his ear. His response was a smile, because only here, in the dead of night, did he feel most alive.
He moved on alone, humming along to tune of the cricket masquerade. To himself, he could only wonder how people could fear the night like they do. Where others see emptiness, he sees salvation. He wears the darkness as a veil, covering his eyes from the world around him. Only in the daylight hours does he notice just how truly alone he really is. A world teeming with life, happiness and meaning only enrages the sadness that holds claim over his soul.
For twenty years he had wondered through this midnight Eden alone, although tonight a chill ran up his spine. Others may have taken this as a warning but he was just happy to be feeling anything at all. Suddenly, he was no longer in control of his own feet. The voices, secrets, and lies coming from the surrounding shadows seemed to be guiding him now.
He stopped, only momentarily, to light a cigarette when it caught his eye. The moon, seeing the horrors ahead, took refuge behind a passing cloud. The crickets and shadows fell silent to watch. James wasn’t alone.
Feet frozen to the ground, he tried to focus in on the silhouette floating ahead of him. Instead of walking away, he moved in closer. With each step, the air grew colder. The trees that lined the edge of the path felt like they were closing in on him, pushing him forward. Slowly, the silhouette began to come into focus.
His eyes fell onto the two pale, but beautifully shaped, legs suspended 3 feet off the ground. He moved up to her hourglass figure which was wrapped in a deep blue silk gown. The icy breeze swam through her gown causing it to ripple like the waves on an open sea. A sea that his eyes could stay adrift on forever. Yet despite his struggle against the current, his eyes moved upward. What breath he may have had was suddenly ripped way. Never before had he seen a face so beautiful; a beauty not even the deepest of darkness could hide.
Forsaken by the clouds, the moon was forced back into the night sky. The shadows fled back deeper into the darkness, revealing the horror that sat before him. Tears twenty years overdue found their way back to his face at the site of a rope wrapped tightly around her neck. With trembling hands he moved his cigarette back to his mouth. A single tear fell from his nose onto his hand. He quickly recoiled, as if it had been acid that touched his flesh. Confused by the sudden outburst of emotion, he retreated a few steps back. His beautiful Eden had now abandoned him.
The tree in which she swung tore up from the ground stretching, like a hand from hell, high into the night sky. It sat barren, naked, and alone. This skeleton hand tugged on the rope, causing the nameless beauty to dance like a puppet on a string with each passing breeze.
James fell to his knees as hundreds of questions ripped through his mind. Why would someone so beautiful take her own life? What horrors tormented her to such an end? Why was he crying? Why did he care? Question after question, he knew none could be answered.
After an episode of vomiting he managed to push himself back to his feet. Disgust was the first feeling he had, once the shock wore off. He had suffered with unspeakable pains for twenty years and yet still managed to find a way to get out of bed each morning. It hadn’t been easy. Every morning, when he opened his eyes, he was reminded just how alone he truly was. But honestly, was he much better then this swinging beauty? Was his drug abuse a better way to cope? That was a secret he had kept from many.
Slowly, his disgust moved to envy. She could have killed herself hidden away from the public eye, but instead she was here for everyone to see. He had spent his time hiding in the night’s shadows where he couldn’t be seen. Soon the sun will rise and the happiness of the world will be forced to bare witness to her. The image of her sadness will be burned into their memories forever. Tears began to fill his eyes again.
He imagined what the daylight would bring. All those faces and all those eyes pointed at her. The thoughts of the ridicule it would bring were almost too unbearable. It was in that moment he longed to be with her, to tell her that he understood. She was too young to be so alone. His body began to shake and the tears were now uncontrollable.
Again, the breeze cut deep into his ageing bones. He looked back up at her face and thought that she must be cold. Removing his jacket, he knew what he must do. He moved the bucket, which was lying on its side at the base of the tree, over so he could reach her. Steadying himself, he tied one sleeve to the same branch she swung from. After taking a moment to take in his old garden of Eden, he tied the other end tightly around his own neck. A smile crossed his face again as the beauty of his Eden returned to him. He took one last look at the angel swinging at his side. She won’t be alone anymore. And as the jacket pulled tight, the crickets began to sing.
Copyright: © 2009 Joshua DayJoshua Day is a writer living in Kentucky. He has previously been published on Flashes in the Dark and in the TOE TAGS anthology. Please visit his blog at: mykeepersweb.blogspot.com