Friday 24 January 2014

#FridayFlash - 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.

* * *
I'm not well so this is a repost!


Larry Kollar said...

I was wondering if this was a Christmas-themed story. I missed it the first time, though, so I'm glad I got a chance to catch it this time.

I like the pacing. Melancholy could not enter the happy home, but found a kindred spirit with the (blocked?) writer. Maybe they'll drink some somber toasts and find a little warmth.

Hope you're feeling better soon! Daughter Dearest is pretty sick, too, she had to spend a couple days in the hospital this week.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear you aren't well Icy but am glad it brought this out because it is utterly beautiful. The imagery is so visible I felt as if I were the visitor's shadow. Outstanding work!
Get better soon!

John Wiswell said...

Thought I recognized this short one! It's still got a good methodical pace about it. Hope you begin feeling stronger soon.

Steve Green said...

Melancholy can be a very useful companion to a writer sometimes.

so sorry to hear that you are not feeling well Icy, I do hope you get better very soon.

Unknown said...

Wonderful story. I echo Wiswell's comment on the pace. Very vivid, too.

Stephen said...

Thanks for re-posting this one. The significance of the relationship between Melancholy and the writer speaks to my heart. It could easily be me in that story. Sorry you're not feeling well. I hope things turn around soon.

Helen A. Howell said...

First and foremost I hope you feel better very soon. I don't remember this one, so am glad you reposted it. I loved this line "She flicks her cloak, sending ripples of melancholy down the lane." I think you touched the nail on the head with your analogy of melancholy and the writer, for writing is a lonely business and sometimes a depressing one at that. Lovely piece of writing Icy.

Casey said...

Feel better soon :).

A great atmospheric piece. I must admit I thought it was death stalking the streets but for it to be Melancholy was a nice twist to my expectations. Welldone :)

Katherine Hajer said...

Get well soon! I hadn't read this one before! Nice twist on "misery loves company".

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