Friday, 10 December 2010

Friday Flash - The Visitor

Soft white flakes float from the clear sky. They settle across cracked roofs, in blocked gutters, and between the cobblestones in the narrow lane. The door to the parish church stands ajar, and carols drift out into the cold night air. Only devoted worshippers venture abroad as most souls seek the refuge of the family hearth.

A solitary figure trudges down the lane, pulling the cloak of close-woven sadness tighter around her neck. Her feet drag along the slick cobbles. The gaslights flicker as she passes, and even the shadows weep, feeling a sudden wave of despair. She peers left and right at the lop-sided buildings that line the forgotten street. Frost glitters on naked beams and icicles hang from rotten eaves.

The figure stops at a cramped dwelling opposite the remains of a milliner’s shop. Light spills out of the window, painting the snow with a golden glow. The figure wipes the bottom pane of glass with her sleeve and peers inside. A family gather around a roaring fire, basking in the warmth of the crackling flames. The father sits in a rocking chair, a toddler on his knee. He leads the family in a raucous song that ends with the clinking of glasses and the exchange of well wishes. The figure sidles along the front of the house to the door, but the handle does not budge. She swears at the lock.

The figure turns away from the happy household. She flicks her cloak, sending ripples of melancholy down the lane. A scavenging alley cat howls in the shadows. The figure stops at the next house. As before, she wipes a sooty layer of frost from the window and peers inside. No fire blazes in the grate of this house. No carols are sung, and no bonhomie warms her face through the glass.

Instead, she spies a lonely figure, hunched over a writing desk. A single candle burns, casting flickering shadows across the cramped writing. The nib of the pen scratches across the paper. The writer looks up, gazing at the wall between herself and the happy family. Envy and misery chase each other across her pale face. The cloaked figure clasps her hands together, as something blossoms in the cavern where her heart should be. She feels a surge of kinship towards this writer.

The figure reaches for the handle, and finds the door unlocked. It opens easily at her touch. She casts off her cloak of sorrow and steps inside. The writer looks up, and smiles. She will welcome anyone on this lonely Christmas Day, even Melancholy herself.

* * *

29 comments:

L'Aussie said...

I loved the creepiness of this tale. Suspense from start to finish with your use of setting. Your descriptions don't waste words. I wonder what's going to happen now.

My #fridayflash is found at:

Flashquake.com

johnunknown said...

Wow that was so cool I love these types of stories but this one just raised the bar loved it

Gracie said...

I felt like I was reading Dickens there for a minute. Your descriptions are always so lush and vivid, just a pleasure to read.

Ah, that Melancholy can't enter unless invited, like a vampire. Splendid tale. :)

Icy Sedgwick said...

L'Aussie - There isn't really another installment. Just Melancholy and the writer in her small house.

John - Thank you!

Gracie - Yeah, I was thinking the other day that I wanted to have a go at something Dickensian! Sadly I can say Melancholy and I have whiled away the occasional evening together. She's awesome at Tekken.

The Four Part Land said...

Ok, this one's brilliant. And reminds me so much of writing is like. Sometimes melancholy is a wonderful companion for a writer.

John Wiswell said...

Probably my best time writing was actually one lonely Christmas. It was mostly fightscenes, though, not melancholy. I don't know what I would have done with her, or if she would have gotten along so well with Violence. I'm sure they'd met before.

Sam said...

By crikey, this is a good one! I love the whole feel of it, the voice, the setting. Melancholy is a wonderfully protrayed character, one who is not an unknown visitor to this writer's cave either. She tends to keep me awake with the sighing and wringing of hands though, maybe I should invest in Tekken to keep her occupied next time?

Jax said...

Oh, Icy, I love this! I feel like I've been that writer. Melancholy can sometimes be a welcome visitor. Beautifully written.

theothersideofdeanna said...

This is fantastic Icy! It sort of lulls you innto, well, melancholy. I love this line: "...pulling the cloak of close-woven sadness tighter around her neck." Just great imagery. Well done!

Steve Green said...

For a writer, depending on what they are writing at the time, most emotions would help, probably many stories, songs, and poems have been written with the help of Madame Melancholy.

Good story Icy.

KjM said...

Terrific descriptions throughout.

What's the expression - "Misery loves company"? :-)

I loved the tone of this, and felt quite shivery all the way through.

Well done.

Icy Sedgwick said...

James - She can be good company sometimes.

John - Ooh that would be an interesting history to explore between the two of them.

Sam - Maybe it's just me but I find Melancholy is surprisingly easy to distract!

Jax - Well the writer in this piece is certainly happy to see her. Melancholy can be a useful figure to have around at times.

Deanna - Thank you!

Steve - That's why I included John Keats' Ode to Melancholy in the accompanying image. I love that poem.

Kevin - Ah, Melancholy and Misery are estranged sisters. Melancholy's a slightly more poetic version, I think. :-)

julito77 said...

I love how you simply describe the scene and then, boom, here comes Melancholy. It felt cold, windy and Dickensian. I began to imagine what conversation would occur at the very moment when the visitor shows up.

demonesprit said...

Really lovely description and characterization. I've had Melancholy as a guest myself, probably more than I would have liked.

AidanF said...

I enjoyed this phrasing "She flicks her cloak, sending ripples of melancholy down the lane" and the way we see the world through melancholy's eyes. As writer's we invite many people in for a visit; some even stay a while.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Julio - I think this particular writer has met Melancholy before so I'm sure they'll get on well.

De Mon Esprit - Does she remember to take her shoes off at the door?

Aidan - Melancholy's a regular visitor but she can't stand being around her distant cousin, Joy.

Cecilia Dominic said...

Great descriptions and suspense! Loved the action of Melancholy wiping the windows with her sleeves. I can't help but wonder what kind of wine she drinks. ;)

CD

Maria A. Kelly said...

Wonderful! As a writer who lives alone, I invite Melencolia into my house on a regular basis! Just wish she wouldn't cause me writer's block so much! http://riskyfiction.blogspot.com/2010/07/muse-and-anti-muse-melencolia.html

Terrific descriptions and nice reveal of who the figure really is. At first, thought she was a ghost...then a demon. Great job!

daniellelapaglia said...

That was absolutely beautiful, Icy. The imagery was fantastic. Excellent job!

afullnessinbrevity said...

The writing here is beautifully luscious, so rich and textured, yet so painfully melancholic.
Adam B @revhappiness

Ruchiraa said...

Amazing. Vivid, evocative and very pictorial too. I kept wondering what was going to happen till the end.

http://magicnmiranda.blogspot.com/2010/12/waiting-one-night.html

laradunning said...

Beautifully written! You set the the stage well creating a very vivid scene. I liked the idea of the MC being an emotion, seeking out those to wrap her arms around.

~Tim said...

Lovely imagery that sent a shiver down my spine. Great reveal too. Well done!

Icy Sedgwick said...

Cecilia - I think she'd like mulled wine!

Maria - I toyed with the idea of using her name earlier but I thought it would be better to keep people guessing!

Danni - Thank you ^_^

Adam - She was standing over my shoulder as I typed.

Ruchiraa - Thank you!

Lara - I think she gets quite lonely. She's quite a social emotion, in a bizarre kind of way.

Tim - Thank you! I loved your Western this week.

Jen Brubacher said...

This is beautiful, Icy. Even if I didn't already feel a kinship with the writer, you've invited us into that moment so well. I can tell you know it intimately.

ganymeder said...

Creepy and poetic.

Rachel Blackbirdsong said...

Oh Icy I love this. It reminds me of that quote that says in a choice between grief and nothing, I'll take grief. I love how you've personified melancholy this way. Gorgeous writing.

flyingscribbler said...

I agree with the other comments: fantastic and vividly clear descriptions. I really felt the atmosphere. Great stuff!

Stephen said...

A goodly tale - it reminded me a little of (any) one of Dickens' Christmas stories, which I'm reading at the moment. I liked this line: 'Envy and misery chase each other across her pale face.' And of course, you can't go wrong when melancholy turns up.

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