While helping out a friend that was writing a collection of short stories (The Cure for Sleep) I had suggested that he write a story about his dog and its recent passing but to incorporate the legend of the Barghest and to add some personal insight and emotion to the story. I was inspired by what he wrote and decided to put my own spin on it. The following story is the only story I have submitted for publication (so far). Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.
All of us believe, or at least we hope to believe, that our existence is based on a spark of pure joy, happiness and hope. That we were created because two people somewhere and somewhen loved each other so much that they wanted to create another life to love more than they loved themselves. That this new person would be their hope to live on forever. That this new little person would validate the greatness they never achieved. That the bright spark that created us would be the spark that starts the fire in our lives. And it would be up to us to light up the world.
It’s funny how life has a different plan, it doesn’t care about your spark or your hopes and dreams. It doesn’t care that you’re burning bright and lighting up the world, it wants to see you shrouded in darkness. It wants to see your flame extinguished. It wants to prevent the spark that is you from creating other sparks. It’s funny how life even has a different plan than itself.
The patio fan in the backyard is spinning, the day is calm. Trees, unwavering, bask in the glorious sun. Birds sing songs of life and love. The fan spins ever faster, it wines, its motor working in overdrive. The house, barely waking, looks on in wonder through sleepy windows. It’s Master, already gone for the day, always checks everything before he leaves. Tucking his house in for a nap before it springs to life later in the evening. A siren screams in the distance and a dog howls, calling out to an old friend. The light on the patio fan clicks on, casting a circle of bright radiant light on the sun bathed concrete before clicking off. The fan slowly spins to a stop and the house falls fast asleep. The day lies still.
The crimson sky dies a slow death as the sun fades into memory. The Master turns his key in the lock of the front door, it sticks, he wiggles it…click! The door unlocks and he’s inside. Slowly making his way through the house, flicking on lights, smiling his way through lost thoughts. The house springs to life as windows open, you can see the rise and fall of its lungs as it takes a heavy breath to say hello. The Master turns on the television before hopping in the shower to wash away the days transgressions.
While the Master was freshening up, the House decided to prepare the night’s meal; chicken, pasta and broccoli. An ice-cold beverage, tea with a twist of lemon, sat at the table patiently. The Master sat down and quietly thanked the house for all of its hard work before becoming consumed in the technological advancements of telecommuting. Work, always calls, but never with good news. As the hours pass and the night slips into a deep sleep the Master sits plugging away at his computer, the safety of anonymity — the brilliant downfall of society.
The house has fallen asleep, it couldn’t wait for its Master to tuck it in. The Master gets up to stretch, walking around the house to make sure all of the windows that were opened are now closed, they are. Such a good obedient house. The Master peeks into the backyard where the dust has settled and a toad hops in the direction of the unknown. His gaze stops, transfixed, shadows dance on the concrete lost in the moves centuries old. Back in the here and now he decides to take a walk out in the nearby field. The night looks like it could use some company. As the front door opens and closes the patio fan spins on high, whining into the night, its light clicks on casting a concrete moon. A dog howls, calling out to an old friend.
Most people fear the darkness, they fear the unknown of complete loneliness, a depth only the brave or insane travel. The Master welcomes the night with open arms, the night responds in kind silence. The two friends walk together, enjoying the comfort of each other’s presence.
“You’re always here when I need you Night.” admits the Master.
“Well…you’ve always been here for me,” Night humbly confirms, “No one understands me, all they do is fear me. They don’t understand the comfort I can provide. Most people sleep through my presence because they can’t handle the depth of darkness I bring. But you, you sleep when I sleep, you walk when I walk. You embrace me as I have embraced you and for that I am grateful.”
“I understand your comfort. As a child I feared you, you brought wicked things my way. Looking back though, I can see that you didn’t bring those terrors to me, you saved me from them. You provided a shelter that nothing else and no one else could provide.” acknowledges the Master.
“Yes, such horrible things. I’m sorry that I couldn’t do more.” says Night.
“No need to apologize, life has led me down some interesting paths and some paths I’ve lead myself down. Maybe, this is all a joke and I’m the punchline. Maybe it’s my fate, my destiny. Any amount of light I’ve had in my life quickly and chaotically disintegrates and dies. My family gone. My loved ones gone. My life, to an extent gone. The only constant in my life is darkness, is you Night. You were there with Rocky. You were there welcoming my Grandparents into the Ever After, you took care of them in their transition and you still take care of them now. You were there during the War…the War, where men become boys and boys become men. When the darkest hours of your life can be seen in the eyes of your enemy as you take their light, as they gasp their last breath. That light brings demons, an invisible terror so tangible that you can’t help but to go mad. And I did go mad. And you were there patiently watching as I met each demon on the field of battle. They’ve all fallen, yet, here I remain, afraid of the light and embraced by the night.” reflects the Master.
The Night quietly walks beside the Master, contemplating life and loss and everything in between. The Master looks out at the stars and asks, “Have you noticed, there seems to be more darkness, the stars are going out? Does that make you happy? That there’s more of you out there, that you’re expanding?”
“No. Those stars were and are my friends, they’ve kept me company for a millennia and now some of them are gone.” answers Night.
“Yeah…I miss my friends too.” mumbles the Master before starting back to the house.
Slowly making his way back the Master notices that the back patio light is left on. He stops and stares, holding his breath. He looks back over his shoulder but the night has slipped away. Regaining his composure he moves towards his house, opens the door and steps inside. The House stirs from its slumber, sensing the tension and unease of its master. The light from the patio fan shines through the curtains. The Master makes his way towards the sliding glass door, he swallows his breath and pauses before pulling the curtain back.
With his eyes closed the Master stands there shaking, eyes quivering as tears struggle to breathe. He pulls the curtain back. He opens his eyes and sees the light on the patio fan shining brightly on the concrete, the empty cold concrete where unconditional love died in his arms.
The air was cool and crisp, the seasons were changing, life was a buzz and love was a sinister bitch but at least the ravens laughed at fate’s cruel misfortune. The Master took a trip, unplanned, uninformed and unaware of the who, the what, then where and the why. He only knew when, and that when was now. The where was slowly presenting itself to be a quiet suburban custom tract home that sat on two acres. Trees stood tall and proud. Birds judged from on high. The wind carried secrets only the Centuries knew. And a litter of puppies yipped and growled as they tumbled their way across the display field.
The puppies parents looked on with uncertainty as the Master approached, surely this hairless biped will not be chosen. The rambunctious pups flopped their awkward paws as they tripped over their ears, ignoring the presence of the Master. You could almost hear them talking with each other, this one will never do. Sensing the judgment, the Master looked at his watch, only four more hours until the sun sets and Night stops by for a visit. As he looked up from his watch he saw a pup sitting quietly, staring up at what appeared to be nothing. Maybe it was everything, maybe the pup was lost in thought solving the world’s problems. Or maybe the puppy was using his mind to tell the Master to “look at me.”
The Master slowly approached the puppy before sitting down at a short distance. The Master snapped and whistled but the puppy was unaware, he had too much on his mind. As the Master moved to stand up the puppy turned around and let out a yip.
“No, you stay still.” the puppy barked.
The Master smiled and patted his lap. The puppy made a similar motion before stumbling over to the Master and laying his head with big floppy ears down in the Master’s lap. The Master beamed, he’d been chosen, giving the little pup plenty of thankful pets. And in that moment a spark ignited making life burn a little brighter.
As time went on the Master and Pup, now named Eleven, went on adventures; long hikes into the hills, short trips into the fields to chase squirrels or even adventures sitting at home watching Doctor Who save the world…again. In all of the darkness of the Master’s life, Eleven was the unwavering and unconditional love the Master needed.
But life has a funny way happening. The Master was diagnosed with cancer and he was flung into darkness again. The House sat lonely, lost in its daily routine, not understanding why the meals it made were neglected. The Master cried out in silence contemplating the ultimate darkness. Life you vengeful bitch, what did he do to deserve this? The answer of course is nothing. Life has a funny way of happening.
Even when the voices inside the Master’s head were telling him that the simple solution to his problems could be found in the depth of eternal darkness, Eleven stood there strong and proud, his love and loyalty unwavering.
“You will not fold Master. I did not choose you to watch you fold. I chose you to help you fight.”
Months passed and as the darkness of cancer lost its grip Eleven licked the Master victoriously. And the Master held Eleven close and thanked him endlessly. Life has a funny way of happening.
The Master caught his breath as he stared at the concrete moon being cast by the light from the patio fan. The fan spun fast, a siren screamed and a dog howled, calling out to an old friend.
On that very same spot, months ago, where the concrete moon shone, the Master held Eleven one last time. Eleven stared off into oblivion, gasping for breath, the Master sobbed, choking back tears. At some point during the night someone had throw poisoned meat over the fence. Eleven had found it and quickly ate it. His breaths were shallow, his light was fading into the darkness, eyes dilated as they took in the world one last time.
Panicking, the Master did everything he could to save Eleven. CPR wasn’t working. Chest compressions weren’t effective. His friend, his foundation, his right hand man was dying in his hands and the Master couldn’t do anything to stop it.
“I’m sorry.” cried the Master. With tears and mucus running down his face there wasn’t anything else the Master could do except sob uncontrollably while rocking back and forth telling Eleven that everything would be okay, even though he knew it wouldn’t.
Whatever depths that Eleven had accepted he now pulled himself back and looked at the Master one last time and gave him a lick. As it was in the beginning, so it will be in the end; Eleven contemplating nothing or perhaps everything, his head resting strong and proud in his Master’s lap. The spark ignited and faded, Eleven died electric.
The Master opened the sliding glass door and walked into the concrete moon, crying he sat down, the light flickered, a dog howled saying hello to his old friend.