The Beasts of Autumn – Short Story

This will be the last of my Fall themed short stories. I’m going to start leaning towards the genre that I prefer to write, which is fantasy fiction.  Thank you all of my new followers for your support.  Enjoy. 1,058 words.

The Beasts of Autumn – 10/09/13

                The term, as I’ve heard it used, is cut-flower.  Having been separated from your source of life.  In a patient state of un-living.  Receiving alms from friends with concern as the currency.  It’s a gentle and good thing they do, and I’m thankful.  Sometimes I forget the intent of their charity and focus only on how I haven’t yet found a magical potion to help forget my old unforgivens.  Jeremy hoots about that word and suggests that I look no further than alcohol for my elixir.  Alcohol is contemptible, especially this time of year.  Especially now, in the mid-morning hours, staring down the beasts of Autumn.

                But Jeremy is not a fool.  Only half that, and a splash of genuine friend for flavor.  He consoles me when I wrestle with the annual thoughts of her, that inamorata I once rightfully and proudly called my wife.  Now that I’ve struck the seven-year bell, I wonder if I may still call her that.  My wife.  Once upon a time, so the fairy tale reflects.  When they say happily ever after, they’re not speaking a full truth.  Even at its best, even in a make-believe world, sometime one of the two lovers will have to pass away.  I want to hear that part of the story, told from the voice left behind.

                In this season I have allergies.  Something in the fallen leaves sets me off, but it’s never so bad as to ruin a day.  When the first snow comes, I conveniently become allergic to driving.  A fair trade, since about that time everyone else conveniently forgets how to drive.  I make a fanciful display of pumpkins for my home, assorted on stair-step patterned shelves, directly beneath family photos from nine-some years ago.  The cinnamon candles I brandish year around suddenly make sense for a couple months, until winter decides to anathemize them again.  Nami says I should adapt my candles to the seasons and that it would help me appreciate cinnamon next year when the leaves start splitting off.  I would like to point her to any number of mental health manuals which suggest that hers is a bad idea.  Something about conditioning and associations.  Cinnamon smells like my wife, like my long lost heart.  I can hardly notice the scent anymore, but if I sent it away and in several months it suddenly returned, I imagine my reaction would be worse than frightful.

                It rains a lot during the fall months, to which I tip my hat and beg welcome.  There is nothing quite so stirring as a good long rain.  To be enameled by mother and her gentle nature.  The beasts of Autumn hush down a little bit more when the rain is here, and vanish completely at the first snowfall.  Only during this season of my life do I reflect so piercingly, and at such great sacrifice.  My world suffers without her.  Friends ask for my company and I decline, both to their displeasure and my own.  I think more about the children we never had, and whether they would like the rain or not.  Would their favorite color be yellow, like their mother?  Sickness makes Heaven seem cruel, and it steals away regardless of whether the new absence would be good for the world or not.  Maybe it’s best we had no progeny.  I would suffer to think about their lives if they’d inherited her pain.

                Things seem to get away from me, foremost of which is time.  I could have sworn the leaves were orange no more than two months ago.  To think that it has already been a year.  What even happened in the meantime?  I got laid off work.  I picked up something new, thanks be to Jeremy.  I went on one date and was soul-sick enough that my stomach caught the memo and helped me vomit once the evening was over.  I picked up a pet frog from Nami’s nephew.  Named it Jack Sparrow for absolutely no reason at all.  I think I went on vacation, but that might have been a couple years ago.  Really, I don’t like to track back too far.  The territory becomes unsteady.  Memories start returning, and they drag other things behind them.  I find it’s not worth it.  It isn’t worth the price of remembering.

                I read that in a book once.  The price of remembering.  When you’ve lost somebody, you begin to notice such snippets.  You incubate them in your chest and rehearse them in your sleep.  I know that price, because I barter every August.  I barter and pray the cost will drop, and that the year will be a little less lonely than the last.  Just another beast of Autumn that makes a parade of my life.  In the rare moments that I am transparent with others –and I assure you they are few – such notions make me feel overwhelmingly melodramatic.  I am a child, complaining about child-like things.  My wife died to a common, albeit crippling sickness.  So what if she passed away?  My neighbor recently lost her daughter to the sort of actions that result from overwhelming intoxication, fraternity parties and the occasional, homicidal boyfriend.  A killing stroke like that is a million miles more devastating than whatever plagues me.  But I can’t find it in myself to care.  I don’t truly feel for her loss.  Not from my gut.  Because the worst of my grief has manifested into the image of my greatest hatred.  A writhing contradiction best known as apathy.  Apathy is cold like a stone and sweet like the rain.  It makes me sick, and weary of trying to forgive myself again.  Apathy is a beast worse than hatred.

                But I let the apathy stay, because I’d rather it remained than pay the price of remembering.  I wonder what she’d think of my selfishness?  I shouldn’t dwell on it now.  That is a paper-thin question better left to steal my midnight hours.  I’m going to be awake anyways, what with the rain and my cinnamon candles and my cut-flower spirit.  I will remain that way as long as I can.  Until finally winter might come and the beasts of Autumn will rest in hibernation, resting dutifully and gaining strength for their return.  They are my tourniquet and I expect they always will be.  At least they’re consistent.



Sooner or Later

Here is a short story that I wrote four years ago.  While I feel I’ve become much better as a writer, I refrained from modifying it at all so as to maintain its original integrity.  In respect for your time, I also want to inform you that it’s 3,079 words in length, or eight single-spaced word pages.  Enjoy.

“Sooner or Later”

I was next in line… I didn’t know what I was in line for; I just knew that my turn was coming and that I didn’t have a choice in leaving or not.  Only feet ahead of me was a door, it was rustic and droll, boring beyond all imagination, but the strangest feeling flowed from beyond it.  Something unbelievably massive was on the other side and I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out what.  With a quick glance over my shoulder I saw a line of people that stretched further back than my eyes could make out.  We were waiting, but I don’t believe that any of us knew what we were waiting for. I looked into some of their eyes, but they didn’t seem to notice me, their attention too strongly fixated on the door that they had no choice but to pass through.

A being robed in glowing vibrant colors of blue and white stood to my side; he too, made no eye contact, nor would he answer any questions that I posed to him.

He simply opened the door…

With a grace beyond understanding, the ethereal being slid its hand around the door handle and turned it slowly.  It walked past me, opening the door as it moved.  An elegant curtsey and he ushered me inside.

My throat caught as I took several reluctant steps through the mouth of the passage into a void of darkness.  The pace of my heart quickened as the door closed behind me, but out of shock and fear I didn’t move, stationary in an ocean of blindness.

After a moment, I saw a sliver of flickering in the distance; a minute sparkle that rapidly exploded into an expanse of light.  The darkness had nowhere to retreat to and was dispelled before this magnificent brilliance.

I slammed my eyes shut; they burned as if I had stared for hours upon the sun’s majesty.  Only a moment later did my eyes force themselves open, and they burned no more.  But where was once a span of formless light now stood three entities.  Two, similar to the being that had ushered me in, were found kneeling beside a third, much more fantastic figure.

Between them, and directly in front of me, facing me, was majesty countless echelons greater than any sun or star.  He shone with a unique luminosity, a face seemingly of gold and garments of a white so pure that one would think the threads were light itself.  And His eyes…they were the deepest, richest blue I had ever seen.  I was positive that in no imagination was there anybody or anything as beautiful as Him.

He towered over both I and those that kneeled beside Him, but something told me that He was far larger than this; restricting himself only for the sake of my comprehension.

His arms rested to His sides and grasped in one hand was an immense red book, the words ‘Book of Knowledge’ laced on the cover with golden thread.

He opened his mouth to speak and a scent of sweet fragrance washed over me.  I breathed it in, my heart and mind seeming to open up and my chest feeling light.  But I knew not what He would do or what He would say…and that frightened me.

He called my name.

A voice that angels would envy flowed from his lips, so gentle but full of authority; it kissed my flesh with its elegance.

“Do you know who I am?”  He asked me.

His voice made me shake.  I nodded hastily, a solid affirmation of who spoke to me.  There was no doubt by now, this was, and could only be, the God of Everything.

“Do you truly?  Why then do you tremble at my voice?”

My heart skipped a beat and I could feel my legs weaken, but I knew…I knew I had to speak, to say something, “I- I am just…I’ve never experienced anything with such grandeur.  Your Presence is overwhelming.”

He paused for a moment, as if examining my words; but he showed no sign of confusion or puzzlement.  “My child, do you know why you are here?”

My child? The words felt good, a splash of water in my face, it felt wonderful.  But unfortunately, I did not like my answer, “I do not, Lord.”

“This is the passing of one stage of life to another, an eternal life.  This is the Judgment.  Do you now know why you are here?”  Unlike everyone I’ve met thus far, not only did he lock eye-contact with me, but it was unrelenting.  I could go nowhere to escape his soul-penetrating gaze.

My tongue felt numb and heavy, a clump of useless led in my mouth.  I felt like I should be confident, but before a presence so phenomenal and perfect in essence I could do nothing but feel as I was, what I was…inferior.

“To be judged.”  It didn’t come out like a question; it came out like acid; the words spilling out of my mouth as I began to lose my stability and focus.

His response was no more than a subtle nod.  He raised the crimson book closer to his golden face and cracked open its pages with a slide of hand.  Cupping it in His open palm, words made their way between his lips as He read its contents…

“Do you confirm or deny that you are guilty of sin?”  He asked with a firm but smooth tone of voice.

I hesitated for a breath before answering, “Of course I have, I am just a man, we all-,”

“Do you confess that you have not believed in me and my power?”  This question carried more force and command.  “Do you confess?”

Weight fell upon my shoulders and my knees quaked.  I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t pull myself away from His eyes.  They were a reflection of emotions, they flooded me and I couldn’t think.  All that I was began to shrink as His eyes and mine burrowed into one another.  They were full of pain, suffering, and even deeper…a great sadness.

What have I done?

In that moment I felt a brace cuff my wrist.  My eyes cut down towards it.  It was connected by many chain links that led to nowhere.  With a dry mouth I uttered sloppily, “Yes, I-,”

Only now did I notice that on all sides stood beings like the first, clothed in robes of splendor and light.  These were the Heavenly Hosts.

An audience…

Suddenly my heart wavered and I felt the chills overcoming me as countless eyes bore into my core.  “Please, stop…”

“Do you confess yourself to be a liar and thief?”

The question caught be off guard, “N-No! Well, I don’t know…maybe there was this one time…”

“How about a murderer, a taker of lives?”

I felt exposed, naked before the onslaught of questions.

“My Lord, I…” My heart began to falter and tears slowly began to well as all of my life rushed through my mind, flashes of instances where I did what I knew was not right.

Another cuff snatched me up by my other wrist and by an unseen force, the chains pulled tight, pulling my arms above my head and to the sides, spread-eagle.  It did not hurt, but it definitely was not comfortable.

The light pooled around my legs like a mist.  A soft brush against my bare feet sent a relaxing sensation through me.  I have hurt Him.  I was hurting Him even when I didn’t know…

“Upon this moment do you confess that you brought down your fellow man and did not raise him up?”  The Lord asked of me.

I swallowed as the recollections of me walking past a homeless man, paying his need no mind, made its way through my head.  Also did I see fellow students at my school, which, through cruel injustice and isolation, sat alone at lunch…ignored. Alienated. Unimportant.

I paid them no mind, because I was no better than the next person to pass them by.  Where was my heart back then?  Why did I let it get so far from me?

“I could have helped them…talked to them,” I cried softly, “Anything…”

“Do you confess that you have been ignorant of those around you, folded into yourself and cold-hearted?”  His voice fell, still beautiful, but sorrowful.  I looked up to His face; His eyes were upon the text of the ‘Book of Knowledge’.

Then it crossed my mind…did it have everything about me in that book?  The realization made me shake more.  “I am guilty.” I pleaded.

There was silence before He spoke again, “Do you confess that you have envied your neighbors household?  Or do you deny the jealousy you’ve had towards many people throughout your life, being ill-content with what I’d blessed you with?”  I knew that He didn’t like saying the words any more than I liked hearing them.  Not only was my heart breaking, but so was His.

“I…am.”  I bobbed my head in shame, “Please forgive me.”

“Do you confess of having a sharp tongue and being swift to anger?  Do you confess that in your wrath you judged and demeaned those in your life, and that you sowed seeds of bitterness between you and they?”

Many memories came to mind, but I shook them off, not wanting to reflect on the foolishness of my actions.  Ignoring the half-hearted revelation towards my twenty-twenty hindsight, I simply bobbed my head slowly.

And so it continued for a time seemingly eternal… My actions and thoughts were being brought to the surface in the presence of all these magnificent hosts.  My gluttony, my shame, my hatred, how I slandered his name and had cursed that of the world, and with each one that passed, a new chain would vice me, exposing me for who I was and placing me under the bondage of my choices.  My heart was distraught and my soul was clouded with disgrace…

…but He still hadn’t mentioned those which I feared the most…

“And my child,” He slowed down, waiting for me to look at Him, something could be seen deeper in His eyes, something troubling, “do you confess that you have disrespected and lusted after those that I trusted you not to?  And do you confess that your host of prides have often blinded you to the reality of what was around you?”  He seemed to choke on the words as he read them and my heart slowly tore as the countless thoughts burned through my mind and soul.

I had nothing that I could say, too ashamed to even face Him any longer…

One final white-hot chain slammed into my back and twisted itself into my spine.  A blinding pain screamed through my body, but not even the slightest utterance left my mouth.  I was too deserving to even complain or deny that this pain belonged to me.

My body went limp, all remaining strength eluded me.  I now faced my fate.  Not only had I received this punishment, but I knew in my heart that at times throughout my life, I had asked for it.  I was guilty of all He had said, every last word of it…

I cried before the Lord, my tears landing in the beautiful light beneath my feet.  I didn’t deserve to be here, I desecrated this place, this wonderful, beautiful kingdom with my humanity.  I didn’t deserve any of this, I didn’t-

…And warmth flooded my heart as I felt a pair of gentle arms slowly wrap themselves around me, the chains immediately melting into nothingness.  My weak body fell into the embrace of whoever it was that held me as I caught a glance of God smiling back at me, tears also flowing from His eyes.  A strong outpouring of love and safety settled over me as the arms pulled me tight, “Don’t worry,” I heard a soft voice speak, “I’ve got you.”

I turned my head to see the Son’s face, and more hot tears poured down my face as I looked into eyes of true love.  He too, was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen, and he was right here…with me now…when I needed Him the most, He didn’t abandon me.

Time was irrelevant as I rested in His arms, before He finally released me and stepped forward towards the Father, the God of Everything.  “Father,” He spoke.

Jesus turned and looked me in the eye, unwavering.  “Though your child may have done all that you have said, they did much more than has been spoken as well.”  Jesus smiled a large, cheerful smile.  “Eager to be humble, reaching out a hand to those who needed help, giving up what was theirs for something bigger than themselves…

“Your child, my friend, tried their very hardest to make you proud and do what they knew would make you happy.  They were a teacher to those that you put in their life, they resisted temptation the best they could and when they failed they turned to me and asked for help and forgiveness.”

I began to smile and weep more as Jesus, my best friend, continued, “Pushing themselves to develop the gifts that you had blessed them with, being thankful for everything in their life and holding fast to keep your commands are all things that are very precious in their heart.  They loved and cared about everybody.  Even those that hurt them they loved.”

“And ultimately, they knew of what it was that I had done for them, and from the depths of their heart they asked me to forgive their sins and for my help in dedicating everything they had to give to you for the rest of their lives.”

Jesus came over and rested his hand on my shoulder, “And as it is, every time they felt overwhelmed or their heart was burdened, they turned to me out of love and asked for my help, as I promised I would give them.”  He kissed my forehead.  “This among other reasons, Father, is why I ask you now to celebrate and receive your child into our kingdom.”

I buried my head into His chest and wept tears of joy…

this was love and kindness.  “Thank you.”  I breathed.

“It is okay, I love you so much…I would do it all again if I had to,”  He pulled me in tight again, “But thankfully, my friend, that won’t be necessary.”

“My child,”  I heard God speak to me.  Slowly I turned from Son to the Father and saw the smile on His face as He tore a page from the large Book of Knowledge and threw it into an endless blank whiteness behind him.

“What did He just do?”  I asked Jesus.

“He threw it into the Sea of Forgetfulness.  Your sins are forgotten.”

Those words were so enlightening that I felt like I could fly if I tried…and for some reason, I felt like in a little while I was going to get the chance.  I sheepishly smiled at the thought…

“Come to me.”

And I did so.  He bent down to me and with a soft tap on my head, an incandescent glowing cloud of diamond dust appeared.

“Your crown,” He declared with the pride of a father.

I was literally bouncing with vibrant joy, my smile surely from ear to ear with all the happiness and love in my soul.

A gate formed behind him where the Sea of Forgetfulness once was, a gate of such astounding grandeur that I could hardly contemplate its size.  It opened to a brilliant majestic new world beyond the most vivid of wonderful dreams.

“Enter the Kingdom of God.”  Jesus gestured me inside and I went with glee.  A small dove flew through the door and landed on my shoulder.  “May the Spirit guide you.”

The dove nuzzled my neck and flew a few paces ahead of me, beckoning me into the Kingdom.  I turned to God and Jesus, wondering…

“No worries,” Jesus answered before I asked, “we are always with you, you will see us again soon.”

I simply nodded and ran through the gates, which began to close behind me.  I caught a brief glimpse of another person walking through the first door that I had come through, a look of confusion just as I had not long ago.

What will their fate be?

The Spirit led me past a beautiful creek of lightly rushing water, small children splashing about in its peaceful tranquility.  It lead me past breath-taking green hills and exuberantly colorful gardens with both people and angels tending to them, obviously enjoying themselves with the large pearly whites that were always at full spread.  In fact, I didn’t pass a single person that didn’t seem to have anything but joy on their features.   People waved to me as I passed by, I even met some new people that I had a feeling I would get to know very well with my time here.  It then occurred to me that they were worshipping God!  They were thankful and happy with what they were given, this wonderful paradise.  In all that you say and do, you can worship the Lord.

After passing much more, the Spirit lead me to a large house in a magnificent kingdom…

And I was greeted by all of the friends and relatives that left before me.  I ran up and gave them all great big hugs.  “We’re so glad to see you!”  They declared as I embraced each one of them.  “We promised we’d wait for you outside of the home that you’d be living.”

“M-my home?”  I asked only to know that I was right.

The Spirit landed on my shoulder again, and I felt its love flow through my body.

This is where I belonged, this was my home.  Here with everybody I loved, with the Spirit, with God…

And I couldn’t be more thankful to the man who gave it all so that I may be where I am right now because sooner or later you have to think about where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.  I opened the door to my humble abode and stepped into a new life, joyful and eternal, excited to see and experience everything that God had readied for us.  His children whom He loves.