He saw the world end in her eyes.
August 29, 2013
A VG Serial: Night Side of Dark
He saw the world come to an end on the far side of her eyes before he felt the ground trembling beneath his feet. They turned from hazel to a deep purple, and in an instant changed to molten pools of black obsidian. He didn’t see the flames, but he smelled them, sharp and pungent like campfire ashes on a morning coated with ice and isolation.
The night ended with neither a whimper nor a scream, but with the sound of a final and ragged breath that reached like a poor man’s eulogy toward a broken night sky, lit by a thousand Roman candles, and they grabbed him by the throat and drew him angrily into a foreign and distant place where the silence was as cold and oppressive as the dark.
And rumors of wars.
He had heard preachers rail about them for years while they sought to save your soul for a love gift of fifty dollars a month, which came with a leather-bound copy of God’s Holy and Ancient Promises if the love happened to exceed a hundred dollars, and often it did.
That was the great war, and it was fought by mad men, and beautiful women, and the scavengers of mankind who bought an sold sin as thought it was the world’s most valuable though tainted commodity, and often it was.
That’s what the preachers said.
And if anyone knew, they did.
Some were for it.
Some were against it.
Ambrose Lincoln had never taken sides.
He had his own war to fight.
He thought he had it won.
Then he saw the end of the world etched in a pair of sad and distant eyes that had never loved him or maybe anyone else for that matter. Love can find no refuge in the psyche where fear has taken up permanent residence.
Lincoln had found her on the morning after the night when the bombs had been poured upon the streets of London. The west side of the city lay in ruin, the bricks of its buildings crumbling down upon the sidewalks, muted monuments to the dead and dying who would have no other stones above their graves.
Sounds of the lost.
Smoke and fog and cinder had placed a curtain of gray across London, and Lincoln wondered if the night might last forever. Pockets of scattered flames rose up beyond the shards of broken glass that crunched beneath his boots. Planes from some German station had roared out of the quiet skies and wrecked the city, and now they were coming again. The sounds of their engines coughing and straining in the night were growing closer.
If the pilots had one bomb left amongst them, they would leave it before returning again to the fatherland. They were drunk, drunk on power, drunk on arrogance, drunk on the Fuhrer’s finest whiskey before spreading his gospel of death and destruction on those who were fighting tenaciously like a wounded badger thrown to the dogs.
Lincoln saw the flares etch the sky with ragged streaks of red and orange, spreading across the cloudbank like holiday fireworks, full of sound and fury and worthless against the bombs. A man fights with all he has for as long as he has until he can fight no more. He heard the bombs growl and grumble long before they blasted into the earth. The staccato of machinegun fire rattled down the streets.
They were shooting at shadows. The shadows had bombs.
London was not down and out, but London was on its knees.
The scream became a wail. It was the sound of the grave.
The girl sat crying in a dark alleyway, her back pressed against a concrete wall, a crust of blood blotted just behind her left ear.
Lincoln hadn’t seen her.
He had heard the soft sounds of a woman grasping for her next breath as though it might well be her last.
Her gray, woolen coat had been soaked by the chilled night rains, and her blonde hair fell in wet ringlets upon her shoulders. She appeared to be somewhere in her mid-thirties, although the anxieties of war could age someone, and many would die of old age before their fortieth birthday.
He face was flawless, though twisted in agony.
Her fragile hands grasped the collar of her coat.
She was not afraid of the cold. Or the rain.
She feared the shadows.
A man lay beside her.
His hands were bloody. He had lost far too much blood and had died trying to stuff it back into the hole ripped open just below his chin.
The girl looked up when Lincoln knelt beside her.
Her eyes grew wide. Her hands were shaking.
“Are you coming for me?” she asked.
“Are you one of them?” she asked.
“I am an American,” he said.
“You are not coming to kill me?” she asked.
“They all want to kill me,” she said.
“You’re safe now,” he said.
Lincoln heard the hoarse whistle of the bomb just before it fell, rattling the windows above him.
They cracked, and splinters of glass fell like broken needles on his shoulders.
He took the girl’s head and buried it in his chest, holding her tightly, waiting for the next bomb to fall.
The screaming stopped.
So did the sirens.
The girl looked up and forced a smile.
“When will it stop?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Lincoln said.
“They want to kill us all,” she said.
“They won’t.” Lincoln released his grip. “There will always be someone left to fight,” he said.
“But not me,” she said.
“I won’t last that long.” The girl sighed.
“But you’ll see morning,” Lincoln said, trying to reassure her.
“There is no morning,” she said. “Not for you. Not for me. Not for any of us.”
Lincoln saw the light. It was harsh and blinding.
It lit the sky.
It bathed the world around him, and the cold became as hot as the inside of a furnace. The winds were like a thousand wildfires and they bristled down the empty streets, blowing from east to west, and the metal on the sign above them vanished in a sudden vapor.
Even the shadows fell before the winds.
The girl was still smiling when Lincoln saw the world come to an end on the far side of her eyes. A moment later, he felt the ground trembling beneath his feet. Her eyes turned from hazel to a deep purple, and in an instant changed to molten pools of black obsidian.
He didn’t see the flames, but he smelled them, sharp and pungent like campfire ashes on a morning coated with ice and isolation.
The ground erupted and swallowed him up.
He looked back the girl. She lay in a pile of flesh, blood, and gray woolens.
He didn’t even know her name. She no longer needed one.
Chapters of Night Side of Dark will be published on Saturday and Sunday.
Please click the title, Night Side of Dark, to read more about Caleb Pirtle III and his novels on Amazon.