The Music of the Night

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violin

Music never ceases.

Music never really dies.

If it did, the story of our life would have to end with it. Problems come when life seems to demand it always be played in a major chord.

Uplifting to the soul, music also has the ability to crush the heart. For those who are wise, music will be allowed to play its song no matter how it sounds. For those who fail, it will be the listener who dies.

For the love of all the music in the world, Meg knew the point of no return was in front of her. All that she had worked for was for nothing if she refused to seek the path that led past the curtain and the broken mirror.

Her hand caressed the velvet, but it was only fleeting as she made her choice. Meg’s feet had followed her heart and there was nothing her mother could have done to stop her. In the midst of the music being played, the angelic strains of the voice thrilled her beyond imagination.

The voices rose and fell in hollow shrieks as her followers failed to comprehend how she could have just disappeared. Stroking the item in her hand, she moved farther into the dark shadows of the night.

Was it really night, though?

Meg vaguely remembered leaving the light of day before transcending into the depths of the abyss. Here, along the haunted paths, Father Time no longer seemed to matter. All that mattered was the truth of what lay ahead.

Would it matter?

The beautiful girl with the golden curls cared for nothing but to embrace the darkness and make light out of the discordant strains of music that stung with its sharp embrace.

How long had she known?

The answer might trouble her on occasion, but neither the question nor the answer would ever be spoken aloud. Ever. Stumbling along with her delicate hand sliding across the fabled wall, the dampness called to her again as she strained to follow the wisp of light that bobbed up and down far ahead of her. At times, the light seemed to disappear, but Meg knew that it would be waiting.

Her followers had long ago given up, but the one she followed knew that she was coming. The voice grated through the darkness, but it was not meant for her.

“Why have you brought me here?”

Sobs punctuated each word and tore at her heart, but the time had not yet come. The music continued to play its somber tunes as both the followed and the follower danced to what was playing in their heart and head.

Meg stopped momentarily. Realizing the light had grown in its intensity, her mind failed to comprehend that the sight of the torch meant that she must face the music of her own choosing.

The outstretched arm of the one she followed was wrapped in black and her eyes struggled to adjust to the smoky gloom.

A whisper caressed the dank air and this time it was to Meg that the voice came, “Why do you follow me?”

No thread of fear tinged her reply, “I came for you!”

Bitterness threatened to envelop both speakers as she stared at him. “Do you like what you see, Meg? Does it not bring fear to your heart?”

The thought of any struggles that the future would bring were distant as she pondered the best response. He was already broken, but she was all he had left. Whether he could or would recognize what she was offering him would depend on his choice to die or to enjoy the music no opera had ever written.

The dark figure hissed his displeasure, but did not recoil as she touched his arm. “I have come to bring you what is yours.”

Lifting her hand, Meg held out the item she had carried for the last few hours. “The music you have sung may have been meant for another, but it is my heart that was captured many years ago.”

Bowing her head, Meg’s eyes filled with tears. There was no condemnation in her voice, only the regret of life’s minor chords that had been played for far too long.

“I have come for you. It is you alone that has filled my heart with the music of the night.”

Jerking his arm away from her, the man took a few steps down the long passageway. Turning back to face her, he quickly lifted his arm so the light would fall full upon his hideousness. In so doing, he knew that it was not just his scars that he was baring before the young woman. Every part of his heart was crushed beyond any recognition, yet she still faced him with wonder and care.

“I knew you were there when she said goodbye. You watched her leave with my heart. Why have you come? You know what I am.”

As the music of the night swelled to a new crescendo, Meg wrapped her arms carefully around his waist. Placing her head on his chest, she was certain that the music she heard beating would grow and become a glorious symphony.

Holding the flickering torch away from both of them, his free arm encircled her waist in return. Love’s melody would bring light to their darkened world.

Sobs broke from his parched throat again and he tried to speak. But a soft finger placed itself against his lips to keep him from speaking.

Meg whispered into his chest, “There is nothing that will keep me from loving you. You are my angel of music. In time, all I ask of you is that you learn to do the same with me.”

It would be impossible to tell how much time passed in that hallowed tunnel, but the light soon disappeared. With the dimming light fading into darkness, two tortured souls made their way to where day would never shine. Walking arm in arm, Meg dropped the long revered item into a watery grave.

She spoke again with clarity. “With me by your side, you will have no fear. You will never have need of this again.”

It may have been but a few days later, a month, or maybe years had passed. From beneath the ground, the water brought the item to the surface. Picked up by a young lad on his way back into the city, the boy paused to consider why a phantom mask would be found in such a place.

Placing the mask on an unmarked tombstone in a nearby cemetery, the boy paused. For a moment, he thought his mind must be playing tricks on him. From beneath his feet, he was certain that he could hear beautiful music. The music rose and fell in its beauty and upon the wind, a voice echoed through the gloom of the coming night.

“Meg, my angel of music, I will always love you!”

(With apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber)

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My First Interview

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I had the privilege of being interviewed by Parker J Cole of “Write Stuff.”  This was my first interview about my book “Heroes of Courage.”  I also had the honor of being able to speak about Liberia which is still very close to my heart.

 

The Beauty and the Beast

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“The devil is in the details.”

Terry whispered to himself as he stared at the gathering storm clouds. He did not normally have an overactive imagination, but he was certain there was an ominous figure dancing over the town.

The mesmerizing clouds billowed dark while the wind swirled first in one direction, then a few seconds later in the other. Craning his neck, he looked up past the edge of the sun visor as several loud cracks of thunder accompanied an immediate display of lightning.

The storm was so close that there was no time to count “1…1000, 2…1000, etc.” between the lightning strikes and the thunder. They were simultaneous.

The 1972 Ford F250 was Terry’s pride and joy. It had originally belonged to his grandpa who had bought it brand new off the lot from Old Man McCormick. His grandpa had babied the truck and even now, it had less than 70,000 original miles on it. Terry did all the maintenance on it, and nobody was allowed to drive it, not even Maggie. Well, there was one time she drove it, but that was a different story.

Crack, crack, crack! Three more bolts hit in quick succession and the hair on the back of his head stood straight up. The F250 felt like it was going to sink into the earth as it swayed under the intense air pressure.

Off to his right, Terry heard it before he ever saw it. Even though it was only just past 2pm, the air was almost dark like twilight. A quick succession of lightning strikes revealed the origin of the sound. He knew immediately that a tornado had formed.

Through the swirling debris and hail that pelted the truck, Terry tried to look for a way out, but knew that any path of escape had come and gone a long time ago. The sound of the tornado grew louder and he could no longer even hear the sounds of the sirens in the city.

Screaming to the gods he did not believe in, Terry’s bravado melted into whimpers. “Why did we not listen to those who said this was coming?”

People were going to be hurt in this storm. As far as he could remember from all the stories, there was nothing to equal what he saw playing out before him. The figure in the clouds seemed to dance with glee and to his horror, Terry saw first one tornado, and then another, form off to the left. There were now three competing tornadoes on the ground.

Driven with despair, he no longer cared about the welfare of his grandpa’s truck. He only wanted to live.

On the far side of town, the earth exploded upwards as the fiery lightning rained down upon the town. Terry began to wretch as he smelt the sulphuric fumes assault his nose and senses. Before he could move, the road around him began to melt and crumble and all the young man had left was to briefly contemplate the memories of all that he had accomplished. Sadly, there was so much more he wanted to do with his life, but it was too late. He had waited too long.

Resigned to his fate, he stared at the clouds as they rained death upon the town. They were coming for him as well and the beauty of the storm in its beginning was now vastly more superior in its form as the beast.

Terry’s moans grew shallower as the fumes overwhelmed him. In just a few minutes, the pristine paint job was reduced to peeling paint flecks. The pings of tiny pieces of hail gave way to the thundering booms of ice that had transformed into balls the size of grapefruits.

He never saw the waves of fiery mud that crashed over the truck and soon all was quiet. The storm dissipated over the next few days and green grass began to sprout up from the destroyed earth. Flowers quickly followed and you would never have guessed that destruction had reigned on the town.

Walking over the field, Madison and her team looked at the clouds gathering around the base of the mountain. If she was not careful, the rain would catch her and the last thing she wanted to do was catch a cold.

Turning back to their hover vehicles, Madison’s insistence that they escape the coming storm brought laughs from her team members. They had been with her for several years and they knew she hated storms. Each team entered their designated GeoPod and proceeded to log in the coordinates for their return to main base camp. As leader, Madison always traveled by herself, which was fine by the rest as they did not fancy being harangued by her lectures.

Madison pushed the pulsing electo-start button, but even the short delay had cost them. It was too late. With several ear-splitting cracks, the skies erupted. Electrical surges shorted out each vehicle and even though she could see them, Madison could not hear the screams emanating from each of her team members. The storm arrived so suddenly and all they could do was to sit and hope that it moved off quickly.

The earth began to quake and Madison screamed as her GeoPod began to sink into the ground. It was as if the earth had turned to water. As it continued to shift, her mind began to play tricks on her. She knew her time as a scientist was coming to an end and whatever happened now would bring no comfort.

The earth churned again and a great crevasse yawned open just a few feet in front of her pod. The fumes began to assault her senses, but as she stared at death approaching, she was shocked to see an ancient vehicle slide out of the mud in front of her. Her memory and love for history told her that it was what was called a pickup truck from the last part of the 20th century.

Gasping her last breaths, something else slid out of the mud and pressed up against the plexifiber window. The force of the pressure was causing the window to splinter and Madison knew it would be but seconds before the fiery mud swallowed her.

Strangely, her mind became coherent enough to see that the object pressing on the window of her GeoPod had an old style of English writing on it. She could barely make out the words, but they finally came to her just as the window shattered in its entirety.

“Welcome to Pompeii!”storm

An Unprepared Traveler

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iceberg

Fiume, Austro-Hungarian Empire

Allowing the strangeness of the name to roll off my tongue, I was relishing the thought of serving as an attaché to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This empire was a combination of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary. While it would not be my first trip to Europe, it would certainly be the first in my new role. Several years of serving faithfully in every situation had continuously put my name and face in front of those at higher levels. As my positions rose, so did my pay and responsibilities. I knew that serving as an attaché should put me in line for a possible Ambassadorship in another twelve years — maybe ten if I was fortunate.

My ship was leaving on March 28th, but due to the carelessness of track workers, a section of rail had caused a derailment on the route between Chicago and New York. Sitting idly on a sidetrack, I went to the radio car and prepared a telegraph to my superior.

“TRAIN DERAILMENT. STOP. TWO WEEK SHIPPING DELAY. STOP. PORT CALL TRIESTE ITALY. STOP. ARRIVE TRIUME APRIL 20. FULL STOP.”

Proud of my ability to save money for the government, I extended the yellow paper to the clerk. Noting my words, he looked at me for a moment before proceeding to tap out the message. Telegraphs had been around for several decades but the speed at which a message could be delivered still amazed me.

Eventually, we arrived at New York’s Penn Station. Sure enough, I called a special number and they told me the SS Invernia had left two days prior.

With a sigh, I paid a porter to transfer my bags to the Vanderbilt Hotel . Government workers, who were in transit, could stay in any one of the rooms that had been permanently reserved for those with appropriate clearances. There were not too many clearances higher than that of an attaché seconded to the US Embassy in Fiume.

My stay was uneventful and early in the cool, foggy New York morning. It was Thursday, April 11th. Taking a taxicab down to Pier 54, I boarded the RMS Carpathia. The ship was well equipped and it was not long before I was settled into my First Class Cabin. Nobody could say traveling as an attaché did not come with a few privileges. Of course, I felt it was about time after some of the accommodations I had lived through for the first ten years of my career.

As the ship pulled away from the dock to the normal fanfare, I looked briefly over to toward the Statue of Liberty and then back towards Manhattan. I could not help but wonder how long it would be before I ever saw the shores of America again. There was no way I could know that it would be exactly one week later.

With one final flourish of the ship’s horns, we headed east across the Atlantic. Being a person who likes to stay fit, I spent time each morning and evening walking around the upper and lower decks that graced the exterior of the ship. Sadly, the weather was not that conducive to enjoying some of the normal deck activities as I had on previous trips. Bundling up with my wool coat against the sharp, biting, wet cold wind that swirled across the decks like a whirling dervish, it was all I could do to speak amiably with each crew member who passed me. They always paid me with deference when they learned who I was, or rather, what my new position entailed, and even Captain Rostron had made it a point to invite me to take my evening meals with him.

Having concluded a wonderful meal on Sunday evening, I made my adieus to those sitting at my table and retired for the night. Shortly after midnight, I woke suddenly aware that something was not quite right.

Straining to see in the darkness, I got up from my bed and stumbled over to the door where I managed to find the switch that would light up my cabin. Finally coming fully awake, I realized that the ship was leaning to port and the noise of the engines had increased to a pitch I had not heard over the last 3 days of the trip.

Pulling on my clothes, I quickly grabbed my coat and walked out to the main deck. The crew acted like madmen as they scrambled around coiling ropes and removing items from each of the decks.

From the corner of my eye, I caught sight of the First Officer on the deck right above me. Dashing between crewmembers, I climbed one of the deck staircases and approached the man.

“I say man, what is happening in the middle of the night that is causing such a rush?”

Turning to face me, the First Officer’s bloodshot eyes told me that he had been too long without sleep. Speaking in his strong British accent, he responded.

“Mr. Hurley, sir, I am not at liberty to say. However, you are welcome to approach the bridge and speak to the Cap’n.”

No other words were said and I set my mind to finding the stairs that would lead to the topmost deck. Gaining permission from the Officer of the Watch, Captain Roston solemnly informed me that a sister ship was in trouble.

“May I ask which ship, Captain?”

“It is the newest ship of the White Star Line, RMS Titanic.”

“Ah, Captain Roston, I have read of this ship. It is said that she is unsinkable, and that…”

My voice trailed off as I saw the strange look that crossed the captain’s face.

“Mr. Hurley, we are steaming ahead faster than the RMS Carpathia has ever gone, but we may be too late. The radio operator for the RMS Titanic has signaled that the she is already taking on water at the bow. The unsinkable ship will sink before the night is out!”

“What can we do to help?” My voice sounded very distant even as I spoke the words.

Relaying orders, I promised to gather as many passengers as possible to help with the rescue efforts that were already underway.

Turning to leave, I hesitated to ask one more question. “Captain Roston, how many people will need to be rescued from RMS Titanic?”

“Mr. Hurley, the radio operator signaled that there are just over 2,200 souls on board. We will have our work cut out for us.”

Even as I write these words, tears fill my eyes for nobody on board the RMS Carpathia could have been prepared for what we would see over the next few hours. I had the privilege of a good position and of having seen many places. However, words fail me in a vain attempt to fully describe the scene.

It took us three and one-half hours to arrive to the last radioed location of RMS Titanic. Along the way, we steamed forcefully through massive icefields and I can remember passing at least one-half dozen full size icebergs that towered over our ship.

When we arrived, there was an eerie calm that descended over our ship. Crew and passengers realized immediately that the RMS Titanic had gone below the waves forever. Yet, there were no screams coming from the debris that floated by on both sides of our ship. Even the children and babies on board each lifeboat were mostly silent. There were a few whimpers from the freezing survivors as we pulled up beside the first lifeboat.

At 4:10am, I helped some of the crew to winch up the lifeboat. I don’t think anybody really thought about it, but no other ships made an appearance to help. For almost five bone-chilling hours, we were able to locate twenty lifeboats. Sadly, most were not even half full. There was only room though to keep thirteen of the boats and the rest were left floating empty in the North Atlantic.

Looking up at Captain Roston at one point, he was shaking his white beard sadly. I could only imagine that he was wondering why there were not more survivors. When the final tally was made by the stewards, the RMS Carpathiahad managed to rescue 706 living souls.

Around us in the light of day, the horrors of over 1,500 people floating in the icy waters threw a blanket of gloom over each survivor and those already on the RMS Carpathia. From my position, I observed men, women, and children floating like dolls in a bathtub. Clothes in disarray and many in bedclothes, there was nothing that could be done. All hope was lost for those who had trusted in the engineering abilities of mere man.

There were 700 of us on the RMS Carpathia when we left Pier 54 and there were now 1,406 on board. Comforts were forgotten and each of us provided food, drink, and clothes to the ragtag survivors.

The Captain called for the chaplain and a short service was held in which those who remained in death’s repose were committed to the safekeeping of God. While we maneuvered through over 25 more dangerous icebergs, the ship’s bells tolled as a death knell and the ship fell silent that freezing afternoon of April 15th.

Turning back to New York, the Captain pushed the engines as hard as they would go and on April 18th, at 9:25pm, we arrived back to the shores of Pier 54.

My heart ached as I watched each passenger disembark, I wondered at the brevity of life. First, Second, and Third Class passengers mingled on deck with almost total disregard for their social status. All of us had shed tears and sought to bring comfort to those bereaved souls, but life would never be normal for any of them ever again.

One week later, I left again on the RMS Carpathia and eventually made it to Trieste, Italy and then on to my post in Fiume in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but my life would never be the same. I never took another day for granted and life became precious to me all because I boarded a boat and arrived at an unplanned destination.

The End.

The Beauty of the Rose

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Few items evoke just about every sense of the human body in such a captivating manner, but a rose does simply by its very existence.

In Act II, Scene II, Juliet is speaking to Romeo and utters the words written by William Shakespeare in 1597, “A rose by any word would smell as sweet.”

What is a rose?

To the eyes, dark green hues caress the leaves of the rose bush. Its stem provides life-giving water as though an oasis to a weary traveler crossing the burning sands of the Sahara Desert. Without the moisture traveling up the vine and radiating out to each individual leaf and flowering bud, the bush would quickly shrivel and die.

As the eyes travel to the extremities of each slender branch, the beauty of each bud rivals the wonders of the world. In just about every imaginable shade of red, pink, orange, lavender, yellow, white, and purple, roses thrill the eye like Cairo, which is the jewel of the Nile. Lush, it stands alone in its beauty and has no need for another. Stark, its individuality reflects the beauty as if it were the only one in the world. Radiant, it commands attention whether in the humblest of arrangements or in the grandest of a wedding bower. It is like the stars where the glory of Sirius is seen as the brightest guardian of the night sky.

To the ears, every part of the symbiosis between the buds and bees is evident. The bees come to take their feel of the fragrant and sticky nectar. As the sound of their buzzing fills the air, one may take fright at their presence but the bees are only desirous of that which produces the sweet honey in the comb.

To the nose, ah, its delicate perfume cannot be duplicated. Fragrant as the spices of a Moroccan marketplace, its splendor can be detected even if no other senses could be used. Each rose graces the tip of the nose as it wafts its way through every olfactory nerve ending into the brain. The smell breathes grace into a day and brings a sense of calm to troubled nerves. Closing the eyes, the smell of a rose caresses the brain with the softness of the downy feathers of a swan. Underneath its wildly pulsating DNA that makes each leaf and bud unique, the quiet perfume gallantly suffers the bearer of a rose to enjoy the fragrance long after life has ended.

Roses on the flower market

To the fingers and the skin, there is little that can bring enjoyment yet makes no demands. The velvety petals of each flower exist from the moment the bud first opens until the moment that the last piece of the puzzle falls to the ground in obscurity. Heightened with the myriad of touch receptors that cover every part of the human body, the 200 pain receptors of a thorn found in a square centimeter will easily be muted by the handful of receptors that find enjoyment in one of the only flowers that can mimic the feel of human skin on skin.

One might easily overlook the sense of taste, but for the exquisite properties that only a rose can provide. Rose hips are rich in Vitamin C and are the basis for jams, jellies, candies, brandies, teas, wines, and even sweet baked goods in some countries. Like the nectar of a wild fruit, rose hips provide nutrition to the body and research is proving that this lovely flower is beneficial to thwart the ravages of some arthritis, osteoarthritis, and possibly some cancer preventatives.

To the mind, a rose is highly evocative. Its presence in a bouquet brings a smile to the face just as easily as does a single stem wrapped with ribbon. Roses grace weddings and funerals in abundance, yet nobody has to describe to another which flowers are roses and which are not. The presentation of an engagement ring is rivaled by the right selection of roses that will die long before the love of a relationship ever contemplates becoming sour.

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday. To celebrate another year, one of my gifts to her was the presentation of jewels in flower form. Part of the arrangement included a spray of roses. Their delicate purplish hues were a representation of my love for my own flower, Violet.

Would a rose still be as sweet were it called by another name? Without a doubt, a rose may have been called wurtinnu, ward, warda, or gul in the Semitic tongues of the distant past, but the meanings were all the same. The words of ancient civilizations called it a rose, a blossom, or beloved.

A rose is beloved. It is a blossom beyond compare. Juliet may have been wrong about Romeo, but one thing is certain.

By any other word, a rose is still as sweet.

PS — My good friend, J.L. Pattison at PattisonBlog.com has long insisted that I am the only person he knows that could describe a rose with 1,500 words. Sadly, I fell short in my attempt at brevity!

PS 2 — This is my submission for Writing Prompt on Warrior Writers.

Murder in the Bedroom

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Murderous thoughts flooded my brain until it consumed me. She should have known better than to cross paths with me, now she would pay for everything she represented.

For too many nights, I had watched her mock me. Her actions showed that she was oblivious to my feelings or my emotions. It had been a long time since I had chosen to endure the humiliation.

One would be wise to assume that I could have just asked her to move out, but in many ways I guess I am but a coward at heart.

Our relationship had started innocently enough for I was amazed at the grace she exhibited when she moved. Her long slender legs were the things of dreams, and there had been more than one of those in recent days.

Sadly, her actions had changed, almost overnight, and the dreams turned to nightmares. In these night terrors, there was no escape. Waking up in cold sweats, I could only imagine that it would be a matter of time before one of us would end up dead.

Each day, I warily sampled my breakfast, lunch, and dinner wondering whether she intended to poison me. My imagination ran wild as to what it would feel like to die such a gruesome death. All that took place was that my heart became more determined to find a way to remove her from my life.

Yet, I was also selfish. I could have allowed her to leave and live with another, but I would never be willing to share her. Looking back now, I can remember her dark eyes watched me and I knew she was waiting for me to drift off to another round of troubled dreams.

Often I would try to stay awake as long as possible fearing what the night might bring. Her stamina surpassed mine on several levels, but I was not able to stay awake for long.

We would argue incessantly, but she always managed to have the upper hand. I pleaded with her to just leave and enjoy her life with others, but she normally ignored me.

The finale came sooner than I was expecting. After a long day at work, I came home only to become entangled in another argument with her. The results terrified me, and my children screamed as they watched us face off once again.

Putting the children to bed, I prepared one last attempt to reconcile, but she refused to listen. The arguments escalated again until I thought it would wake the children. Walking into our bedroom, I shut the door, but I knew it was futile. Threats would no longer work and we both knew it.

Before I could contain my anger, I grabbed a large walking stick from the closet. Screaming at her to just leave us alone, the chase began and it was over almost before it had started. Blood splattered on the wall and my weapon as I hit her over and over again.

Collapsing in sheer exhaustion, I fell onto the bed. I knew with the deed complete, I would have to remove the body before my children woke up. For the first time in a very long time, I was free, no matter what tomorrow held.

Summoning up the courage necessary, I drifted off to a dreamless state knowing I would have a little time in the morning.

The sun was streaming through the lace that covered my bedroom when I finally awoke. My mind told me it would be a beautiful day, but then the memory of the previous night brought reality crashing down on me.

I was now fully awake. Sitting straight up in bed, my mind seemed a little fuddled as I stared at the bat in the corner and the wall. There was no blood and no evidence of the damage that I know I had inflicted.

On the pillow beside me, a paper fluttered in the breeze from the fan beside our bed. Picking it up, I read it twice through trying to ascertain what had transpired.

“Don’t worry, I took care of the body.”

At that moment, the door handle clicked and a hand pushed open the bedroom door. Stepping into the room, my wife spoke to me.

“Sweetheart, I see you read my message. I was afraid you would wake up before I returned from my college class, so I left the note.”

“Violet, what is going on? What did you do with her?”

“Sweetheart, I came home and cleaned up the mess. You and our children will never have to worry about her again!”

My mind whirled with the realization that my wife had covered my tracks so carefully, but then she spoke again.

“I just have one question. Did you really have to use a bat to kill the spider that lived in the corner?”

bat1

Originally Published here at Warrior Writers on Medium

The Temptation of the Door

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door1

The temptation started early. In fact, it had persisted for quite some time.

My mind whirled as I contemplated what I should do next. From my earliest memories, I recalled a time when there was no temptation accompanying the door. It existed but I was blissfully unaware of its presence.

Staring at my reflection in the mirror that hung on my bedroom wall, I recalled the dire warnings of those who had many years of life’s experience behind them.

“But what is behind that door?” I would ask innocently.

“Never you mind, laddie. That door is not for you.” It was the common response from my own parents, but their voices had long been silenced. Out of respect for their care and concern for me, my footsteps kept me walking away from the door.

Sadly, like many young people, the door ensconced in bright lights and surrounded by the allure of my broadening world beckoned me to disregard the warnings.

As I became a young man, I personally knew friends who had disobeyed. Walking through the door, their lives were forever annihilated.

Circumstances can change on a daily basis, and my mind told me that today, my circumstance was different. My situation demanded that I find a reason to open the door, but it was nothing more than a flimsy excuse that I had meticulously designed.

Refusing to look myself in the eyes, I continued preparing for my day. Like many young people, I had looked at the door. There were times I fantasized about possibly would happen should I disobey the warning. There were days that I passed the door and the agony of not knowing almost overruled the thought of any potential danger. But I still held myself in check.

Today was not really any different than any other day, but yet it was different. I, Jarrod King III, woke up knowing that today I would succumb to the temptation. There is no way to explain why or how I felt the way that I did. It was just there. Actually, that is not quite the truth. Planning my steps, I knew what I was going to do, where I was going to go, and how I would achieve my ultimate destination.

“Jarrod, you are a fool.” Walking past my mirror, I whispered the words to the reflection that only I could see.

Turning on my heel, I went back to the mirror but closed my eyes tightly. I already knew what I would see, but my mind forced me to take one final consideration. Opening my eyes, I stared back at myself and all I could focus on was the depths of my dark brown eyes.

Thoughts whirled through my brain as I contemplated my youth. Today, there would be nobody with me. Many days or weeks might pass before such a chance presented itself again. No, it had to be today. My reflection stared back at me. I turned to leave, but not before I saw that a knowing smile had crossed the lips of my reflection.

Adrenaline raced through my veins as I softly opened the door and snuck out of my home into the dreary mist of another winter’s morning.

While a few may have been able to stop me, my plans had ensured that I would not be followed. I had not even mentioned this in my diary, and there were no intentions of leaving any traces of my day should I survive whatever lay behind the door.

Startled, I stopped to reevaluate what I should do. As I walked down the cold path, three individuals merged out of the mist and boldly opened the door. There seemed to be no concern of the dangers and none of them had bothered to even look at the sign that read, “Do Not Open Under Any Circumstances.”

Squaring my shoulders, I knew I had to complete my task. Regardless of whether anybody else saw me, my mind was committed. Saying a whispered goodbye to the world as I knew it, I walked up to the door.

Grabbing with both hands, I pulled it open and was immediately overwhelmed. Lights and smells smothered my senses to the point of exhilaration.

Could my parents have been wrong about the dangers? Were the minds of my friends enlightened because of what I could see or was it all an illusion?

Stepping into the light, a voice forever changed my life.

“Welcome to Starbucks. May I take your order?”