Michael’s mind was blurry and confused. He barely noticed what he was doing as took another storm candle from the plastic box, lit it with the butane lighter from the junk drawer in the kitchen, and placed it on a corner of the table. It added its light to the two at the opposite end of the table and the dozen or so on the sideboard on the north wall of the dining room. The soft orange glow in the room no longer flickered, not with so many sources to draw from, but it wavered from time to time in a fragile way. If Michael had been paying attention, he would have thought that the candles were at their darkest whenever his breath caught in his throat. Whenever his hands trembled in hesitation or a nerve twinged unexpectedly. Whenever he…
Michael snapped back to the present. He took the last candle and put it on the table’s final corner, brushing aside a fold of white bed sheet to make room. The lighter clicked impotently a few times. He shook it angrily. Michael’s stomach clenched and his breath ceased to come altogether. The darkness pressed against the candlelight again. Then the lighter sparked once, twice, and finally caught. The final candle bloomed into life. Michael, realizing he hadn’t been breathing, gulped a lungful of air and a dizzying wave of vertigo washed over him. He slid the lighter into the back pocket of his dirt caked jeans and ran his fingers through his greasy brown hair. With eyes closed he pressed his palms against the sides of his head and squeezed slightly, massaging his temples while digging into his scalp with the tips of his fingers. Slowly, the sensation of weightlessness passed. He felt a dull ache in his left hand and considered changing the bandages, but he didn’t move.
Instead he slowly but steadily increased the pressure on the sides of his head. The pain from his hand built to a persistent burning sensation. He squeezed harder. The veins in his temples throbbed painfully against his palms. Harder. The pain in his hand surged until it felt brand new. Harder! Beneath his bandages the gashes burst open and squelched. Harder! The dual pains of head and hand now pulsed in time with one another. He felt blood dripping down his wrist. HARDER!
A single tear welled up and slid down Michael’s cheek.
The pain hit a final crescendo and Michael’s arms fell to his side. He took a deep breath in and let it out with a noise that was half growl, half groan. He took a few more breaths and listened to the frantic beating of his heart, waiting until it had noticeably slowed before he opened his eyes. With new, post-cathartic clarity, he surveyed the room.
It was nearly empty. The crème colored walls were stripped bare and glowed orange in the candlelight. Tiny square divots in the carpet were all that remained of the high-backed oak dining chairs that were now lying in a disorderly pile in the living room. Michael had even ripped out the hanging lamp from the center of the room above the table. He’d thrown it on the pile of chairs, barely registering the crack and tinkle of Tiffany glass as he did so.
All that was left was the table and the sideboard, each bearing their own burden. He’d only left the sideboard in to have something to hold the candles at the proper height. He tried to ignore it. What held Michael’s attention was what was on the dining room table: the candles, the book, the bedsheet, and the body. He’d done as the book said. He had covered the body in an expensive white bed sheet that Michael had been forced to use in place of a shroud. He’d covered the sheet in writing. Sticky, red letters. His hand gave a sympathetic throb. He’d placed the old leather bound book at the feet of the corpse. Michael tried to ignore that as well, to ignore everything. All he cared about in the world was beneath the sheet in front of him. He leaned down and gently placed a kiss on the figure’s forehead, stroked where the cheek would be with his uninjured hand.
“Soon,” he whispered, knowing that words weren’t necessary. “Soon.”
(Let me know what you think