A Candle In The Night


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5 min
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He sat behind the desk in his office with his eyes closed, leaning slightly back into the chair. He held something in his left hand, resting it lightly against his temple. With his right hand he tapped the desk softly, nervous but steady. He glanced towards the clock— it was five twenty-seven— but his eyes passed over it unseeing as he sat there, lost in thought.

The room was silent, and it echoed deafeningly around him. But as he sat there, stiff as iron, a sound found its way to his ear. Through the silence cut the deadened beat of his heart, pulsing its gentle rhythm against his unfeeling chest. The silence towered yet the heart beat on, soft but ever present as he wrestled with his wavering mind.

***

He stepped out into the hallway and a young woman frantically waved to catch his attention. She dashed over and immediately began to speak, gasping for breath between each word. She quickly relayed the news— it was coming— and then nothing more needed to be said. He dropped his briefcase and the two sprinted down the hall, leapt down a flight of stairs, and scurried through another hallway to a room on the floor below, pausing only a moment to catch their breath before going in.

A young woman in a hospital gown lay on her back in a bed by the wall, a seated nurse holding her hand as she inhaled deeply. A young man with a shock of dirty blonde hair paced anxiously up and down the floor beside them, looking up as the doctor entered the room. Seeing him, the young man swiftly strode over to him and grasped his hand, clinging to it like a rock in a storm.

He placed his hand on the young man’s shoulder reassuringly before moving past him to the woman on the bed. He took a quick moment to evaluate the situation, then took off his coat and hung it up on a hook on the back of the now-closed door. Turning back to his patient, he rolled up his shirtsleeves, took a deep breath, and got to work.


An hour and twenty-four minutes later, mother and child slept peacefully as the new father clapped the doctor on the back in delight. The two of them stood silently for a moment, casual observers of the greatest of miracles. The doctor smiled to himself, his melancholy temporarily forgotten. After all, he thought, it wasn’t every day that the sun set over a new life in the world.


Having seen the new family off to bed safe and sound, he traded his lab coat for his overcoat and began the lonely walk home. The elms were in bloom, and as he walked several blossoms danced lightly to the ground in the light breeze. The wind danced through the flaps of his coat, and he drew it tighter around himself, buttoning it as a few raindrops began to fall.

Ahead of him, a taxi pulled up to the curb and a flustered young couple got out. As the gentleman paid the fare, his eager wife dashed up the steps of their ivy-speckled brownstone. Her husband joined her a few moments later and, doffing his hat, pulled her into a tight embrace as he kissed her passionately. The rain began to pick up, droplets dancing over the lovers’ heads as they held each other close. After a moment, they broke apart and took a quick glance at the sky above. As the sky opened up over them, the young man grinned sheepishly, swept his wife off her feet and carried over the threshold and out of the rain.

The rain pattered harder now, and he took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the crisp evening air. Wave upon wave of rain rolled over him, beating up and over his head and shoulders and dancing lightly down his back. He threw his head back and let it wash over him, cold, fresh water dripping down his forehead, trickling down his neck. His heart beat faster, pumping his thick, warm, powerful blood out into his arms and down into his legs, filling him from the inside out with a blazing warmth. He could feel the wet wool of his overcoat against the back of his neck, the firm and damp pavement beneath his feet, the cold air stinging in his chest. He felt alive, filled with vigor and warmth and life, and suddenly his mind emptied of thoughts, overcome in the rush of sensations.


The rain had abated, although not entirely, and now he walked along a wrought iron fence with a small churchyard beyond. Looking through the bars he saw an old workman struggling to move a wagon filled with dirt. He stepped through the gate, making his way over to the man, and together they pushed the cart across the yard and under the shade of a tree.

Thankful, the old man offered the doctor a drink, and the two of them sat on a low bench in silence, backs against the worn stones of the church wall. Looking across the churchyard, he noticed a place where the soil was freshly disturbed, and despite the lack of headstone, knew what lay beneath.

The two sat for a moment, the liquor burning steadily against the cold death around them. Neither spoke, but both felt it— the sense that they were foreign to this place, strangers to the hallowed ground. And yet he felt it behind him, only a veil away, a cool breath on the back of his neck.

Shaking his mind of such thoughts, he stood and thanked the workman for the drink, before making his way out to the street once more.


Home at last, he climbed the worn steps wearily, one after another, until he reached the weathered door. He unlocked it and went inside, kneeling to unlace his shoes and setting them aside, then taking off his overcoat and setting it on a hook to dry. Moving deeper into the house, he entered his study and set his briefcase on the floor next to his desk. He took a moment to look around, taking in his well-stocked bookshelves, his well-worn desk, his well-used pen. All trappings of a well-lived life, true— but what were these, apart from things? Nothing real, surely.

Even more tired now, his stockinged feet climbed the stairs to the second floor, plodding ever upwards over the smooth wooden steps. He entered his bedroom, loosened his tie and unbuttoned his shirt, and fell headlong into bed. He rolled onto his back and felt himself drifting away, slipping out of the room and the bed, falling closer and closer to sleep. He closed his eyes and felt light, almost weightless, the world growing farther and farther away. Then, mind empty, he fell asleep, and was gone.

***

He sat behind the desk in his office with his eyes closed, leaning slightly back into the chair. He held something in his left hand, resting it lightly against his temple. With his right hand he tapped the desk softly, nervous but steady. He glanced towards the clock— it was five twenty-seven— but his eyes passed over it unseeing as he sat there, lost in thought.

The room was silent, and it echoed deafeningly around him. But as he sat there, stiff as iron, a sound found its way to his ear. Through the silence cut the deadened beat of his heart, pulsing its gentle rhythm against his unfeeling chest. The silence towered yet the heart beat on, soft but ever present as he wrestled with his mind.

Slowly, little by little, he came back from his musings as his decision became clear. His shoulders gently relaxed as he released the tension that he hadn’t realized that he’d been holding in. He took a deep breath, then lowered the revolver from his temple and set it back into the open drawer. Taking his coat from the back of the chair, he drew it around his shoulders, lifted his briefcase, and headed towards the door.


And one more candle flickers, burning on into the night.
12

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