There were just the two of them and the night.
December 29, 2013
A VG Serial: Night Side of Dark
Ambrose Lincoln watched Celia wash her hair and undress in a dim light that reflected from a bronze lamp hanging on the paneled wall beside the door. Her small body cast a myriad of blurred shadows, stretching from the floor to the ceiling. She was a portrait of beauty in monochrome, beauty in blacks and grays. Poland was devoid of all colors, and the train had not yet departed Poland.
Lincoln watched her in silence.
Her movements were a dance without music.
Shadows among shadows.
She was so tiny.
There wee times when she looked like a child.
Looks could be dreadfully deceiving.
With Celia, a man could be dead before he heard the shot.
Or felt the knife.
And even then, he only felt it for an instant while he was still waiting for a kiss stained with his own blood.
Lincoln wanted to hold her tightly, feel her safely next to him.
She needed him, he thought.
He needed her.
And he did not need anyone.
It had been so long. His memory was dark.
As cold as the snow falling gently upon the fields outside.
Falling calmly as sleep at the end of a day.
A man in the arms of a woman has lost his instincts. He has lost touch with the sounds around him, sounds that can stalk him and leave him for dead. A man in love has the smell of an open grave.
He could not escape the voice.
He remembered the words when he could remember nothing else.
He concentrated on the feelings deep within him.
He searched for love.
He searched for redemption.
He searched for regret.
He found nothing.
Celia shivered in the chill and wrapped a blanket tightly around her as she crawled into the lower berth.
She rolled over on her side and crooked a finger, motioning for Lincoln to join her. There was room for only one. She would make room for two.
Lincoln stood and turned off the lamp.
There was peace in the darkness.
He placed his clothes on the back of the chair and eased into the berth.
She was waiting.
He kissed her.
He had not forgotten at all.
Her lips lingered for a moment, then pulled away.
“You were there, weren’t you?” she whispered.
“The place where we go when life ends.” She rubbed her fingers against the back of his neck.
“It obviously hasn’t ended,” Lincoln said.
“It did,” Celia said, “but not forever. I was with you then. I am with you now. I don’t understand why or what it means.” She paused a moment and let her head nestle against the bare skin of his shoulder. “You do remember me, don’t you? I saw it in your eyes the moment we met in the little cabin outside of Pulawy. You had a strange look on your voice. déjà vu, I guess you would call it.”
Lincoln lay in the darkness, carefully sorting his way through the thin, torn strips of his memory. He heard the clatter of the train on its tracks and nothing more. The night rested in silence around him.
“I did not know if the place existed,” he said at last. “I did not know if you existed. I did not know if I would ever see you again or had ever seen you at all.”
“But you remembered.”
“I cannot forget.”
“Tell me, Ambrose.”
“Was it heaven?”
“I don’t know.”
“My guess is purgatory,” he said. “Obviously there were many ways in, and only one way out.” Lincoln gently brushed the blonde hair back out of her eyes and asked, “Why didn’t you come with me when I left?”
“I had not died. My soul had been released, and it dangled in limbo between life and death, but I had not breathed my last.”
Lincoln felt a warm tear slide down her cheek.
The train was picking up speed.
The clatter grew louder.
The wind had begun to howl outside their compartment. The silence had left the night.
“You know the story,” she said. “The soldiers came. My parents died. My home was burned. My sister was tortured and killed. They were ready to do the same thing to me. A young officer shot me. He was not a murderer. He just did not want them to rape me again and again. Like a wounded animal, I was put out of my misery. They left me for dead.”
“But you survived.”
“The doctor in the village did not expect me to live,” Celia said. “He thought I would be gone before morning. He told me later that my heart had stopped twice during the night. Each time, he was ready to pronounce me dead. Each time, I began breathing again. He never knew what saved me. But I did.” Celia placed both hands on his face and asked, “Do you believe in prayer?”
“It has never worked for me,” Lincoln said.
“I prayed that night,” Celia said. “I prayed with every ounce of strength I had left. I prayed that the Lord would let me live for one reason.”
“So I could kill the bastards who had destroyed us all.”
“In the name of God?”
“In the name of my father.” Celia shuddered. “They amputated both of his legs with a handsaw before he died.”
“The Good Lord must have listened.”
“God answers prayers,” she said. Celia paused as Lincoln kissed her. “He is not a God of peace.” He words were almost lost in the darkness. “He is a God of vengeance.”
“And he chose you to carry his sword.”
“When I am gone,” she said, “he will find someone else. God can always find someone else. In the meantime, I have found you. You may be gone by morning. We may all be gone by morning. But tonight is enough if tonight is all I ever have.”
Lincoln pulled Celia close to him and began to drift into the night side of his own darkness.
He was as close to peace as he had been in a long time.
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.